The Kloeckner Los Angeles Branch has adopted a Silicon Valley office environment to spur innovation and improve company culture. Stand up desks, an open floor plan, and piped in background music are just a few of the things that make this Flat-Rolled branch unique. The charge has been led by General Manager Sergio Torres, who participated in the recent Emerging Leaders Program, and the entire staff has gotten 100% behind it.
“We have adopted a ‘driver of change’ attitude,” Sergio says. “We’ve seen everybody within their own capacity make an impact.”
The entire vibe of the office is casual, which makes people happy to come to work. Things like walking meetings help foster a team environment. The open floor plan has additional practical benefits, encouraging collaboration.
“When you have cubicles and people not communicating, I think it makes it tough,” Sergio says. “If I hear that my colleague is splitting a coil that I need a little bit of, it’s easier for me to just shout and say, ‘Listen, on this coil can you add this cut for me?’”
With the majority of branch customers being contractual, it is important for inside sales to be active and organized. The entrepreneurial spirit of the branch has also shown in the adoption of digital platforms such as Part Manager. The L.A. branch provides a great deal of inventory and asset management services, and these tools are just one way to keep on top of orders and maintain open communication with customers.
“From a contract perspective, customers like to be able to log in to see their inventory live and pull what they need out of it,” Sergio says. “Once we build enough history, we are able to have a good idea of what they are going to use. There are a lot of times where we have a better idea than they do themselves.”
The branch offers a variety of products, including stainless, prepainted, and aluminum. Over the years, they have expanded services to include fabrication and other value-added services. The branch has adapted to meet new customer needs.
“When it comes to a contract they want a one-stop-shop,” Sergio says. “We have a well-trained staff where we have all these various products in our wheelhouse. So that helps us.”
The changes in the steel market as well as at the branch have helped the team in L.A. develop a diverse skill set. As the way of doing business evolves, so too must the service centers. The ability to think outside the box and take on calculated risk is crucial in gaining new potential customers in a variety of markets.
“Right now Tesla is on our radar and we’re trying to find the correct person to talk to about procurement,” Sergio says. “We’ve gotten to a point where we’re going to send an email to Elon Musk to point us in the right direction. As crazy as that sounds, that might work. That’s the type of thinking that you have to have.”
Sergio’s philosophy is that leaders are better than managers. While managers only manage problems, leaders eliminate them and find new ways forward. The ability to work collectively as a team is also important. That gives you the ability to see problems from different angles and find solutions you may not have thought of individually.
“We’re more than a steel company and very proud of that,” Sergio says. “We’re trying to evolve a culture here where it allows us to grow, and we want our people to better themselves. You have to give them the tools, and you have to give them the platform for growth.”