Charles Reade Turns 80! A Look Back At The Business He’s Built
For more than 40 years, Reade Advanced Materials has been a leader in the advanced materials sourcing industry. A large part of the reason why this company has been so successful is due to the leadership of Charles Reade. He had a vision to expand the dormant specialty chemical side of the long-established family business and took it from a dream to an ISO certified distributor serving customers across the world through its offices in the United States and Central America. As Charlie turns 80 this month, we wanted to look back on how he built Reade Advanced Materials into the thriving business that it is today.
A THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE
Right from the start of Reade Advanced Materials, Charlie has always put an emphasis on knowing the products because he has always understood the importance of sourcing the correct materials for customers. “He knew his products,” Friedrich Winters, president and CEO of F.W. Winter Inc. & Co. recalled from his time working with Charlie. “You only get so far on superficial knowledge. This is very serious business, and if you make mistakes with the chemistry and the processing, you can run into disastrous situations. You have to be up to par and know what you’re talking about.”
Where most people might specialize in one area, such as copper powders or filtration mediums, Charlie has always sought to be an expert in the application of every single material he sells. “Because he supplies so many different products, he knows a ton of different metals,” Neil Bizzaro of Novamet told us, “he doesn’t have expertise in one product. He has an in-depth knowledge of many raw materials and their usage and performance.”
“He was always on the edge.” Bethany Satterfield, Vice President of Reade Advanced Materials, recalls of Charlie in the business’s early days. “He was a voracious reader. He probably read 100 magazines a week, and he would pull out and file articles to stay on top of the industry.”
That focus on industry knowledge is something Charlie has always instilled in his staff as well. “He always pushes his managers to really understand why they were getting the materials they were getting,” Gary Hemphill from Technic Inc. told us. And that mentality shows in the success of Reade Advanced Materials today. Each member of the sales staff intimately knows their products and can help customers navigate the complexities of sourcing, processing, and toll packaging.
Charlie not only focuses on his employees, but he is also always happy to talk material science with anyone in the industry, especially those who are new to material manufacturing and have an eagerness to learn more. When Neil Bizzaro first started out as a 22-year-old sales associate for Novamet, Charlie was his second new business meeting. “Charlie put me at ease. He was very educational, he took the time to tell me about the industry, the main things people focus on. He was very professional. He didn’t make me feel stupid. He just talked to me like a regular person.”
For Charlie, it isn’t about protecting knowledge or coming across as an expert. He genuinely cares about advanced materials and their applications in manufacturing and R&D. He has a true passion for it. And when he meets someone who is also passionate about it, he sees a kindred spirit, not a competitor.
A BUSINESS OF PEOPLE
One of the most important aspects of the way Charlie does business is with an emphasis on the fact we are all people. It sounds simple enough, but in the world of business and deals, it can be a difficult practice. Friedrich Winters told us Charlie “understood people, he was a student of the university of life, he had something to offer everyone.”
In the office, Charlie emphasizes the materials industry should be fun. Bethany told us he’s always said, “If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be doing it.” He took that same energy to trade shows and conferences where he always tried to make people smile and brighten their day. Emily Reade, Reade Advanced Materials’ President and Charlie’s wife, recalls their early days of working together and being a 24/7 couple, “I was very excited to join READE in 1989 and take over the administrative side of the business so I could let Charlie do what he does best, which was selling. His energy has always been contagious and it infused enthusiasm for all of us.”
Elisabeth Law, Reade Advanced Materials’ Director of Marketing and Charlie’s daughter, recalls one trade show in particular where he went out of his way to make people laugh. “He would pull his chair out from the exhibit booth and sit in the middle of the walkway. People couldn’t just walk by without saying hi. He would say to them ‘Hey how’s it going? I’m Charles Reade. Do you wish your paycheck was bigger?’ Then he’d hand them a READE branded magnifying glass and say, ‘now it can be.’ And that was it.”
Charlie has always tried to put a personal touch in everything he does at Reade Advanced Materials, and no one has been a bigger cheerleader of their staff than he has been. “He’s always such a breath of fresh air,” Bethany told us, “He’s very inspiring and has made the workplace fun.” Amanda Sturgeon, Controller at Reade Advanced Materials and Charlie’s daughter, said “He is a true example of, if you believe it, you can make it happen.” And he makes sure his staff knows he believes in them as well.
The Yahoo! button was a perfect example of the value Charlie places on his people. “Yahoo! Business sent us a READE Yahoo! button” Elisabeth recalled. “It was purple and had Yahoo! written on it, and when you smacked it, it would go ‘YAHOOOOOO!’ Well, my dad’s thing was to put that in the account manager’s office that had the biggest sale of the week. He’d put it on the desk and smack it and congratulate them. It’s part of his personality and part of how he runs his business. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due.”
LOOKING AT THE ROAD AHEAD
Each sale isn’t just a number; it’s an interaction. There’s a relationship forged behind the math, and it’s those relationships Charlie values more than the numbers themselves. Those human connections are what have built Reade Advanced Materials into the trusted and well-known brand it is today.
As we move into this new world driven by additive manufacturing and advanced technologies, Reade Advanced Materials remains on the cutting edge of material supply for R&D and manufacturing because of the values Charlie has built his business around. As technology advances and spaces become defined by automation and AI, Reade Advanced Materials will continue to be a pioneer, just as it has been from its early days.
However, at the core of the business will be a foundation of expert knowledge, a love and passion for materials science, and a desire to foster human connections and relationships with real people across the industry. That’s the legacy Charles Reade has built here at Reade Advanced Materials.
Happy Birthday, Charlie, and we wish you many more!