Steel Products

Why I Sold Steel Market Update to the CRU Group

Written by John Packard

This is not a “kiss and tell story” but rather an explanation of why I, John Packard, founder and owner of Steel Market Update, decided to sell my business to the CRU Group. CRU, known globally for its news, analysis and pricing information, was not the only suitor interested in SMU, but they were the logical fit.

I decided to sell SMU not for personal monetary gain, but for the benefit of SMU’s customers. I think this is one of the reasons why SMU has grown over the years. We care about our customers and understand their need for quality information as only someone like me who sold steel for 30 years could.

As SMU grew over the years, I became aware there was a need for data that probed deeper than what was being offered by the existing trade publications. Information, especially timely and trusted information, was critical to those who buy and sell steel. I also discovered it is critical to those who invest in companies that buy and sell steel.

I originally conceived of our SMU newsletter when I was selling steel to help my customers understand the moving parts impacting prices and supply. In 2008, SMU was incorporated as a company with the following mission statement: “It is the mission of Steel Market Update to inform, educate, and motivate our readers on the ever-changing steel market. We have a responsibility to provide our subscribers with accurate and timely insights into the key market forces and trends affecting price and supply of steel and related commodities….”

Our mission has not changed. In fact, we have been so successful as an industry information provider that we’ve outgrown our small organization. As I looked at our newsletters, conferences and workshops, I realized we needed a partner who understands the value of our products and can provide a wider foundation from which we can grow even further.

Data has become the key to the decision-making process for many companies. The best decisions come from understanding the various nuances of the data. Big data will be one of the focuses at this year’s SMU Steel Summit Conference. I understood from very early in the creation of SMU that we needed to develop data that was not available elsewhere.

SMU was only a few months old when in November 2008 we began our flat rolled market trends survey. We didn’t know at the time it was going to become as deep and wide as it has evolved. But we did know that the industry was thirsting for better and different data.

Our very first focus was on our SMU Steel Buyers Sentiment Index. I wanted to better understand how buyers and sellers of steel felt about their company’s ability to be successful in the current market conditions, as well as conditions expected three to six months in the future. The result was our Current and Future SMU Steel Buyers Sentiment Index.

Over time, we refined and developed new analytical tools: SMU Lead Times, SMU Steel Mill Negotiations, SMU Service Center Spot Pricing, SMU Price Momentum Indicator and more. We began discovering trends in our data that proved to be good forward-looking indicators.

In July 2017, SMU began perhaps our most ambitious project, which was to develop a new flat rolled and plate steel service center inventories report. This report has been well-received by the steel community, as well as the financial community.

Over the last six to seven months, it has become obvious to me that I needed to partner with a company that understands working with data, how to produce it effectively, analyze it, and then package it so it can be easily understood and consumed.

I am in Memphis, Tenn., conducting one of our highly successful Steel 101: Introduction to Steel Making & Market Fundamentals workshops. Our workshops are in high demand and have been selling out for a number of years. We have been working on other workshops – on hedging and a higher-end steel training, for example. We also have done custom workshops in sales, customer service and steel production. SMU would like to do more of these in the future.

Last year, growth of the SMU Steel Summit Conference outpaced all other steel conferences of its kind. As we move closer to our 8th steel summit in August, we still have a small staff. Much of my personal time is dedicated to developing a cutting-edge program and then finding highly qualified and interesting speakers to match our expectations. SMU is driven to grow our conferences and to make them even better in the future. With CRU’s help, we can add strength to our team. Waiting to do so was no longer a smart option.

After last year’s conference, I was approached by a number of companies wishing to purchase or partner with Steel Market Update. From the first meeting with CRU’s CEO Nick Morgan, I knew I had found a company that understood the value in what we have and recognized the opportunity in products either under development or in the concept stage. CRU Group Chairman Robert Perlman and everyone from CRU that I met with were supportive and dedicated to getting the deal done.

It was not easy to sell something I created out of nothing. I feel enormous pride for what Steel Market Update has become. At the same time, I’m excited to have the opportunity to create new products, to have the time to look at the industry in new ways, and to have a strong company support those efforts.

For those who are concerned, I have signed a three-year contract to stay and run Steel Market Update. With the CRU Group’s support, I’m confident Steel Market Update will offer the most widely read and respected newsletters, workshops and conferences in the North American steel industry. You will be the judge of our ultimate success.

As always, your business and support has been truly appreciated over the past 10 years. I look forward to working with you in the future.

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