The holidays have arrived, the office is buzzing with plans to see loved ones, and many of us have long since began shifting focus to the big picture in 2022. As for me, I can’t help but reflect on the incredible year we’ve had, just one more time.
As part of an industry that was hit hard by a global pandemic, which continues to rear its ugly head in new forms, I am proud of the agility that all our teams adopted in the face of the many changes it forced on us. At times, we had to completely rethink our entire business strategy from the ground up, and the results of having our most successful financial year in Kloeckner history are ours to own as a team.
It’s the kind of work that wasn’t realized in a single day and can’t be recognized with a simple ‘thank you’ to one department; these spoils were hard-earned across the board, and I will attempt to do them justice by highlighting three key opportunities we seized in 2021.
In the spirit of Kloeckner’s “Safety Always” culture, I can’t begin to talk about hard hats and hazard awareness without first recognizing our vigilance in fighting the spread of Covid-19. I’m sure companies everywhere shared the relief we felt in the early months of this year. People felt confident about planning their futures again, announcing engagements, booking weddings, and sharing new arrivals. Then, along came July, ushering in a brand new variant.
It was tough, but all our people understood that we are responsible for each other’s well-being. In the interest of protecting one another and our families, we doubled down on everything we had done in the beginning: reinstating masks, social distancing, limiting in-office visitors, observing travel restrictions, and encouraging vaccinations.
As we recommitted ourselves to the extra hurdles we had hoped to be done with, we also upped the ante on our internal safety protocols by laying the groundwork on a comprehensive company-wide safety program – Top Dog – officially set to roll out January 1, 2022. We were also trying to surmount several other byproducts of the pandemic, including finding and retaining new hires in a continuously shifting labor shortage. We had to deeply consider that part when we set out to design this program.
One pivotal assurance we had was in the abilities of our veteran workforce, rich with individuals who have been at our company for decades and understand that safety is paramount. The advantage of seasoned attention to detail and commitment to identifying hazards before they happen, while mentoring the next generation to do it even better, is a huge part of what drives LTAs to steadily improve in all our plants. All these pieces that come together make me confident we’ll only continue to see outstanding numbers in Q1 of 2022 alone. Truly, our frontline’s diligent efforts are what gets everyone home safe to be with their families at the end of the day.
2. Supply Operations
I can’t mention the ongoing labor shortage without speaking to the operational challenges attached to it. That means trucks have been scarce and production runs at the mills have taken longer than we’d like, smack dab in the middle of one of the strongest demand periods we’ve ever seen. It means a lot of people we have the privilege of employing, worked hard hours to make up the difference and get it done.
The operational teams in every branch found a way to keep reaching further, while also implementing evolving crisis management processes. They not only got orders out the door on respectable timelines, they did it without sacrificing an ounce of the quality we promise to all of our clients and partners. This doesn’t just set us up for a successful year, it paints one hell of a picture for potential new business.
Outside of the phenomenal work ethic demonstrated at our mills and plants, to meet a dizzying supply demand, our commercial teams were the teeth that pulled the meat off the bone. They spent long hours on phones and behind computers, flawlessly coordinating and executing every strategy in our book. But hey, that’s just another type of dog we’ve got in our pack.
While we’ve seen prices surge on every product we sell, our operational and commercial teams are full of people who dedicated themselves to keeping us ahead of the game, and even outperforming our own work in previous years. Their unwavering loyalty and talents exemplify the very excellence that defines Kloeckner.
3. Strategic Relationships
Kloeckner Metals has been around for over 100 years, and one fundamental piece of our business is simple: we invest in our relationships. Practicing of social responsibility and being human is why we take care of each other, in pandemics or just day-to-day work safety. The consideration we pay to each of our people is why they’re willing to put in the long hours and relentlessly shake the work week like a ragdoll. So when it comes to the bottom line, the extra mile we’re all willing to go to take care of each other is why people want to work with us.
In this industry, there’s always going to be competition trying to do what we do, but the difference is that we don’t just want today’s client; if you’ll allow me one trucker pun, we want contracts for the long haul. We establish connections with our clients and partners based on the potential for mutual growth.
I could cite several case studies during my almost 17 years at Kloeckner, such as taking on a leading producer of aluminum walk-in vans back in 2015. The fact is, we got that lead from an existing joint tool partner, who just happened to know we’d be the right large-scale manufacturer to fit the van company’s needs for a new project. Over the course of six years, we consistently delivered and nurtured that relationship in a way that brought success to all parties. After seeing through countless value-added processing opportunities, they’re ready to take us with them to the next level of their business.
I guess I could also mention the huge medical equipment company who reached out in 2018 through our website. Our team immediately responded and, at every touchpoint, we invested the time and resources to make the mutual success irrefutable. This year, we’re more excited than ever about this particular partnership, because we’ve got some serious projections for growth together, not just in 2022, but all the way out to 2025.
While I’m at it, I might as well mention our latest strategic expansion – a brand new branch in central Mexico created for the sole purpose of meeting the needs of our automotive clients nearby, and the ever-expanding sector in general.
I could go into detail, at great length, about any of these big company wins, but I’d rather leave you with a word about the philanthropies and communities we’ve supported. Yes, we are proud to have made a large donation, but I want everyone to think about how many pop tabs our people consciously saved for donation over the years (feel free to make a guess in the comments of my post), making it possible for us to be honored as an official Ronald McDonald Corporate House Champion this October. Why end on this?
Because it’s just another prime example of how our business and these strategic relationships are built on little, granular details. When we make conscious, deliberate decisions, as small as collecting pop tabs or as big as breaking ground on a whole new branch; that’s when we are living our values. Living the values every day, even on longer days when we wanted to log off at 5 o’clock, allows us to shine as a team and a family. When we think about each other as family, we’re connected in a way that will always guide us through what seems like the impossible, and that’s exactly what we accomplished this year. Proud is an understatement.