Why do long-time industry professionals volunteer their time?
We’ve all heard it said: Volunteering for your industry is one of the most important and most needed acts a professional will ever do. But in today’s increasingly challenging global climate, finding time is harder than ever. So why do people do it?
Michael Wurzman grew up in the Cleveland area and moved to Indiana in high school. He has an engineering degree from Purdue as well as an MBA in sales and marketing from Indiana University. He relocated to Texas in 1980, and founded RSJ Technical in 1990 so he could actively raise his kids. He named his company RSJ as a daily reminder of what is most important in life: family. Rachel, Stefani, and Joshua are his three children.
Wurzman has worked in sales and sales management as an application engineer, and with mechanical products and semiconductor manufacturing and test, with a focus on manufacturability and quality. In 2000, after a gas pipe break followed by an explosion and fire destroyed his home, he became aware of the issue of toxic substance content in products. He evolved his firm to specialize in compliance regulations to help address this issue, which he believes is critical to the health and welfare of our children and our children’s children.
As our interview series continues, Wurzman, who is the founder and president of RSJ Technical Consulting, shares his perspective on why very busy people find satisfaction in volunteering.
AIAG: What are your current responsibilities at RSJ Technical Consulting?
Wurzman: I serve as the president of the company and focus on the direction and development of the services we offer to manufacturers and associations, from OEMs to the smallest companies in their supply chains. We provide services that include data collection and reporting, product risk assessments, regulatory compliance gap analysis, and implementation of integrated Regulatory Compliance Management Processes (RCMP) that assist companies in establishing compliance as a lower-cost part of their daily business routines. A key aspect is making compliance a value-added proposition to help offset the costs involved.
AIAG: How did your work life evolve into your current involvement with AIAG’s corporate responsibility team?
Wurzman: I became involved with AIAG when I noticed severe quality issues with IMDS data and raised the issue to the IMDS advisory committee. Before long, I realized the power of the collaborative efforts coordinated by AIAG and how — with participation and input — we could effectively solve the issues related to establishing corporate responsibility as a value-added function for companies.
I have found AIAG to be receptive and supportive of ideas, in particular, ideas that address looking at the need for corporate responsibility to become an integrated effort of education, training, quality processes, and data integration that allows companies to capitalize on what I call the compliance-value proposition. During my involvement with AIAG’s GHG, IMDS, and Conflict Mineral committees, I have found that my input on how this could be integrated to provide more value was always valued. Participation on committees is a great way not only to share ideas, but to get critical feedback and input from others in the industry on what real and perceived needs we need to address.
I have always felt that we each have a responsibility to contribute — both in the community and industry — to help improve our lives and help solve the problems we all face. AIAG is a great forum, and companies get out much more than they put in due to the collaborative efforts. It’s a win-win for all.
AIAG: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey.
Wurzman: It all started with a brief chat with a fireman who was tamping out the fire at my house. While thanking him for his team's efforts — and how I wish there was a way to show my appreciation — he informed me about toxic substance content in products. He said their biggest risks were exposure to carcinogenics and toxins released while fighting fires, and the best way to thank them was to help eliminate the use of toxins in building and consumer products, making their jobs far safer.
I began working on ELV in 2003 and RoHS compliance in 2005. I was fortunate to work with Harvey Stone, who introduced me to the consulting process and ZERI (the Zero Emission Research Initiative). Working with him sparked ideas of the value we could create with an integrated, systemic, and design-based approach to addressing environmental issues as value-added business processes. In 2007, I developed my first integrated concept, but found little traction until the most recent growth in compliance legislation has begun to make the value of this approach easier to understand. It also justifies the changes needed. I have since recruited Stone to be a partner in my business.
AIAG: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Wurzman: It was from my father, who in figuring out a way to grow his business, implemented the sell-or-return concept for auto parts aftermarket distribution to solve the problem of repair shops not having the parts needed after they started a job. His advice was to always look for the underlying problem and address it to make positive changes. It takes an open mind and, as he is fond of saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know, so always work to find out what you don’t know. That is where you will find the answers.” I follow that advice, and it helps keep my eyes open for what is needed for constructive change and innovative solutions.
AIAG: Is there a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
Wurzman: Raising three wonderful kids to each be successful and happy in their fields gives me my greatest pride. I have said that, as a parent, you don’t get your report card until your kids are on their own and you can see the results of your efforts in raising them.
Most recently, I’m proud to see the growing acceptance of the concepts I have been championing in industry: the need to make compliance a design-in function that starts at the substance/material creation level, as well as the opportunity to establish processes and systems to exchange integrated sustainability data along the supply chains — usable at every tier — to address product and environmental sustainability issues while improving profitability. While kids are my family legacy, this integrated approach to sustainability from the bottom up will hopefully be my business legacy.
More Stories to Come
In the future, we’ll hear more of what our most passionate volunteers have to say. Do you know someone who has been an excellent role model? Email Beverly Sturtevant at firstname.lastname@example.org.