Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Written by John Packard

Earlier this month Steel Market Update celebrated our 13th anniversary of officially being in business. I say “officially” because I was publishing the newsletter for a few years prior to starting SMU as a legal entity.

It has been a while since I last related the history of Steel Market Update. Where did the idea behind the newsletter begin, how did it transition from one product to another, and where are we today?

galvanized coilSteel Market Update First Phase: Winner Steel

As the U.S. steel mills struggled to survive in the early part of this century, the Chinese (and other countries) were growing their steel industries to meet demand for infrastructure, housing, factories, and ports. The commodity markets (including steel) reacted with wild price swings. At the time, I was an agent for Winner Steel (now part of NLMK USA as Sharon Coatings). Winner Steel was a domestic galvanized conversion mill that ultimately included three coating lines.

The wild swings in commodity prices impacting pricing and lead times, which in turn affected my customers around the country. Price negotiations were tense, delivery dates were being missed, and my standing as a quality supplier to my customers was in jeopardy.

I decided the best way to service my clients was to be proactive by sharing information as to what was going on here in the United States and around the world. In this way, I could help my customers understand what market forces were in play, and how they could best react to them to receive the best pricing possible, and their material on time.

This almost daily newsletter was entitled: Steel Market Update.

In 2007 Winner Steel was purchased by the Duferco JV, which was a joint venture between Duferco and NLMK. I knew my time as an agent would be limited as I had worked for Duferco in the past and understood their desire to have in-house employees and to not rely upon agents. By the end 2007, all of the agents’ contracts had been ended, and I was no longer representing what was renamed Sharon Coatings.

Steel Market Update Phase Two: Search for Identity

I was now 56 years of age. I had lost my main source of income, and I had a decision to make. I could search for new employment in sales or management within the steel industry, or I could continue to write my newsletter and see if it could be a vehicle to start a company and to be successful.

Many of you may remember the end of 2007 and into mid-2008 as a time where steel prices surged, while warning signs of a pending collapse of the housing market loomed. I was worried about what ultimately became the Great Recession and did not believe the timing was good to begin a new job within the steel industry.

So, I continued to write the newsletter. Since I was no longer attached to a steel mill, this afforded me the opportunity to expand my reporting. By early 2008, Steel Market Update was being sent via email to close to 3,000 individuals who were in turn forwarding it on to thousands of others.

One of the individuals receiving the newsletter was a reporter for Steel Business Briefing. She contacted me and advised me to consider turning SMU into a for-profit company. Being 56 years of age, I had to consider what the future looked like and whether there would be an “exit strategy” if I were to take the newsletter to the greater steel community.

With 31 years of sales and management experience within the steel industry and hundreds of steel buyer contacts who I had cultivated over the years, I knew I was servicing a niche no one else could effectively.

SMU LogoSteel Market Update Phase Three: Go Time

In June 2008, I attended Steel Success Strategies conference in New York City. It was a memorable event for many reasons. However, for me that conference answered the question, “Is there an exit strategy?”

Steel Success Strategies is a joint venture between Peter Marcus of World Steel Dynamics and the American Metal Market publication. The CEO of Metal Bulletin, which owned the American Metal Market, approached me at the 2008 SSS conference and asked if Steel Market Update was potentially for sale. At that point I had my answer, there would be an exit strategy once I had built the company. I declined their offer and began the process of building my first website to house the SMU newsletter.

In early August 2008, Steel Market Update was incorporated and began selling subscriptions to what is now our Executive level newsletter.

Steel Market Update Phase Four: Expansion

I understood when I began producing Steel Market Update as a for-profit business publication that I needed differentiators between SMU and the well-established competition. This was accomplished in a number of ways.

  • I was able to leverage my past sales/purchasing relationships and developed a solid supply of pricing, supply, demand, and other data buyers and sellers of steel needed.
  • I understood what questions to ask and developed surveys to capture and memorialize the data being collected.
  • I knew it would be important to develop proprietary indices that could then be used by the greater industry to better understand what was moving pricing, and what would move price in the future.
  • I realized some clients needed more data than others and a second newsletter was necessary to address the more detailed data and analysis (Premium).

In the area of proprietary data being collected and analyzed, we have many products from the SMU Steel Buyers Sentiment Index to SMU Service Center Inventories and Shipment analysis.

I always thought of SMU not only as a tool to be utilized as one tries to make sense of the events impacting pricing but also as a way to teach more about the inner workings and nuances iof the steel industry.

We developed steel training workshops led by our Steel 101: Introduction to Steel Making & Market Fundamentals Workshop as well as our various steel hedging workshops. (For more information about our workshops, click here). We did custom steel training about sales, customer service, and other subjects. And we continue to offer custom training to those companies who have a specific need.

After having attended many steel conferences, I knew there was a better way to serve the buying and selling communities, and so we started the SMU Steel Summit Conference. We just completed our 11th conference. The 12th will be on August 22-24, 2022 at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta.

More recently, we have partnered with the Port of Tampa Bay to host the Tampa Steel Conference, which is held in Tampa in February. The 2022 event will be held on February 14-16 and more information can be found by clicking here.

SMU CRU LogoSteel Market Update Phase Five: CRU

As the company grew and prospered, it was inevitable for of competition to take notice and begin courting us. Once the SMU Steel Summit Conference overtook all of our competitors and became the largest conference of its kind in North America, the number of courting companies surged and the dance began.

SMU was ten years old, and I was now 66 years of age (almost 67).

More importantly, the company needed more expertise to finish the development and rollout of the Service Center Inventories and Shipment index I had started. The CRU Group out of London quickly became the lead horse. They were aggressive yet realistic, and they understood the path SMU was on – and it complimented their existing business.

A deal to sell SMU to CRU was closed at the end of May 2018.

Since the sale, CRU has left Steel Market Update alone to expand and develop while supporting us from their London and Pittsburgh offices. The relationship has been better than I imagined it would be when the company was initially sold.

The business continues to transition (as am I), and we continue to work on new projects to better serve the industry. Watch for announcements in the not-too-distant future.

In the meantime, if you are new to Steel Market Update, I encourage you to reach out to Paige Mayhair by emails at or by phone at at 724-720-1012 to become a new member of the SMU family of companies. You can also reach out to Paige if you are an existing member and you would like to move up to Premium or expand the number of your employees who receive our newsletter.

John Packard Summit 18SMU Events an Update

We have a couple of events on the schedule during the balance 2021 and then the large Tampa Steel Conference in early 2022.

On October 5-6, we will host our Steel 101: Introduction to Steel Making & Market Fundamentals workshop. This will be a virtual workshop, and you can learn more about the agenda, instructors, and costs to attend by clicking here.

On November 2-3, we will host one of our Introduction to Steel Hedging: Managing Price Risk workshop. This will also be a virtual workshop, and you can learn more about the agenda, our instructor, and costs to attend by clicking here.

On February 14-16, 2022, we and the Port of Tampa will host the Tampa Steel Conference at the Marriott Waterside Hotel in Tampa, Fla. This will be a live event and will include two networking cocktail parties, a golf outing, boat tours of the Port of Tampa Bay, three programs of interest to the greater steel community on Tuesday afternoon, and a full day of speakers on Wednesday. We are pleased to announce Lourenco Goncalves has agreed to be a featured speaker for this event. You can learn more about the event by clicking here.

I want to remind everyone that I will be taking an extended leave and will not be available during the entire month of September. In my absence, please contact either Tim Triplett ( or 630-234-6688) or Michael Cowden ( or 724-759-7872).

As always, your business is truly appreciated by all of us here at Steel Market Update.

John Packard, President & CEO

Latest in Final Thoughts