Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard

On August 1st Steel Market Update celebrated our seventh (7th) anniversary and began our 8th year in operation. Some day I am going to figure out how many newsletters and articles I have written about the industry over these past seven years (not counting the articles written before I took the newsletter public in 2008 – I actually starting writing SMU in 2004 for my customers). I would venture to guess the number of typewritten pages would be in the tens of thousands.

I have to take a moment and thank all of our subscribers who have supported Steel Market Update over the years. SMU started as a one man show, Diana didn’t even work for me in the beginning. My timing was perfect – I incorporated and began selling memberships in August of 2008 – literally two months from the market crash and ensuing “Great Recession.” Between August 1, 2008 and the end of September 30, 2008 I sold enough memberships to keep the company going. After September 30th it was a struggle as companies were being hit daily with falling steel prices, being way over-inventoried and not knowing what the future held for their company (or them personally).

For those of you who complain about prices… In August 2008 I made the decision that a membership would cost $1000 and that I would give a 25 percent discount to my early customers (many of whom were former customers of mine when I was selling steel). By the time we got into September the writing was already on the wall and I knew that we were in for a difficult time. I kept our price firm for a couple of years in order to not be a strain on our customers. Eventually we had no choice but to raise our prices and we took our number to $895 which we kept firm for a couple of years before taking it to $995 in (I think) 2013 as we brought up our third website. So, our Executive newsletter at $995 for one person for one year is $5 less than where we originally meant to price the product in 2008.

Our first customer was a manufacturing company that I didn’t even know. After the Great Recession hit the company struggled. Since then we have never charged our first customer a dime. Our second customer was steel analyst Charles Bradford whom I had never met or spoken to before that day (sorry Chuck, you still have to pay…:-))

I am not the only employee any longer either. Diana, Brett, Sandy, Peter, Ray and myself are doing most of the writing and assisting in the management of what has become essentially two companies: newsletter (media/analysis) and events (conference, workshops). On the Events side of the business we have Andre Marshall, John Eckstein, Steve Painter, Mario Briccetti, Peter Wright and about to join the team: Sandy Simon & Lewis Leibowitz. Then we have a number of experts who write articles on occasion. These include Andre Marshall, Spencer Johnson, Daimon Sun, Mario Briccetti, Paul Lowrey and up until he changed companies, Bradley Clark.

But our success is really tied to those who are active in the steel industry – buyers, sellers, management, toll processors, suppliers to the industry, the financial community, traders, scrap dealers, shipping companies, ports, trade associations, attorneys and more. Over the years we have earned the trust of those who speak with us on a regular basis as they understand that we are in this for the benefit of the steel community.

Because we work for your benefit and not just our own, it has created an unusual situation as SMU has no sales staff. We don’t call and pester people to become customers. Many learn of our existence through you, our members, as you discuss the industry on a daily basis. Our newsletter is used to train, to sell, to buy, to debate and even by the domestic mills as a way of showing that the industry knew dumping suits on coated steels were coming… (go figure). We thank you for getting the word out on Steel Market Update and (as always) we encourage you to tell our story over and over again. Each and every one of you are the best sales team we could ever have.

The same thing is happening with our Steel Summit Conference. I can’t recall ever in my steel career getting a voice mail message from a customer apologizing for not being able to buy steel from me, but our conference is a different story. The word is out that we bring great speakers and a quality program that has value to those who attend and that we don’t sit on our laurels and do the same thing over and over again.

Every August 1st I become invigorated once again to bring something new, something of value to our customers and I make a promise to myself to make the next 12 months better than the last 12.

I didn’t make a promise that I wouldn’t raise the price…:-)

As always your business is truly appreciated by me personally and all of us at Steel Market Update.

John Packard, Publisher

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