Last week, I embarked on a new adventure: I was a guest on Georgia Business Radio’s podcast. I’m no stranger to public speaking, but I must admit I was a bit anxious about this — it’s a huge opportunity, after all, and people from all over would be tuning in to hear me talk about my leadership experience at Pacesetter. Sometimes it can be hard to believe that your story is worth listening to; this is called “imposter syndrome,” something many women and CEOs in general deal with professionally.

No one knows my story better than me, and I have enormous confidence in my company and the changes I’ve implemented to make it stand out in the steel industry. I had started writing out answers to potential questions they might ask and struggled mightily with the answers. Then, a friend gave me the greatest piece of advice: act like you are talking to a customer or supplier.  When I talk about the business with friends and our partners, my passion just flows. I threw away what I started writing and listened to that advice.

It turned out to be useful, since the questions went in a direction I would not have guessed.  Once my nerves vanished I actually had a lot of fun, and could not have asked for a more personable host than Rich Casanova.  

You can listen to the entire exchange on Spreaker below, which turned out even better than I could have hoped. And for those of you without 23 minutes to spare — believe, me I’ve been there — I’ve summed up some of what I think were the most salient points below. Enjoy!

Me & My Background

  • I grew up with Pacesetter, my parents’ Atlanta-based steel service center, and wanted to prove I could be successful elsewhere before considering making it my career. I went to law school where I studied Juvenile criminal defense; my passion for helping kids in need continues today from a volunteer perspective.
  • When I came back to explore my future with Pacesetter, within two months I knew I’d never leave. I felt at home working along side my extended family. I love the fact that I have the ability to expand off of the great company my father built and bring it into the future. Every decision I make has the ability to positively impact our team and that is incredibly fulfilling.

27672295544_800e6c2b32_zPacesetter

  • My father started Pacesetter in 1977 after moving south with his extensive experience in steel. It was a small steel broker at the time, and has grown tremendously to approximately 160 associates spanning four locations servicing customers throughout North America.
  • When I tell people what I do they sometimes give me weird looks. But the truth is steel is in almost everything; it surrounds us and is actually a very important industry that people don’t think about.  Even so, it’s industrial and therefore more antiquated and traditionally male-dominated. Under my leadership, Pacesetter has become a realized innovator in the field.

My work as CEO

  • As a woman in the industry, and the daughter of the company’s founder, I have to work extra hard to prove myself every single day. I find this challenge incredibly empowering. It helps me to go the extra mile.
  • I don’t know everything; nobody does! To be the best leader possible, I surround myself with most talented people, read a lot of books, and constantly learn best practices in order to integrate what works into Pacesetter. We’ve made many changes that have helped our company flourish, and we recently rebranded to showcase this transformation.

 

Differentiating Pacesetter

  • The steel industry has become highly commoditized, but we don’t consider ourselves suppliers as much as we do business partners. Under this model, we provide unique things like operational analysis to find the needs of our partners and work to fulfill them, even if it means recommending ways for them to buy less steel. This has led to long-term partnerships, including some customers with us for 25 years.
  • As we grow in the mid-market, we connect with more manufacturers everyday to discuss the ways we can impact their business by getting to know who they uniquely are. We even share ideas on how they can innovate and get associates engaged. This has nothing to do with steel, but if it helps their business grow, it’s mutually beneficial.

Technology and beyond

  • Over the years, there have been innovations in new chemistries and products in the industry.
  • We’ve installed new technology to increase efficiency and improve the quality of our product.
  • We have upgraded to tablet tech throughout our facilities, which decreases paper, increases efficiency and makes it easier to manage inventory.

My philosophy

  • Companies in all industries, including steel, have to expand and innovate in order to stay relevant. You have to distinguish yourself and constantly look forward towards the future understanding what’s to come in order to thrive.
  • At Pacesetter, we are constantly looking ahead at the ripple effect of outside forces. For example, if cars end up auto-driving, they may no longer end up being made of steel, which would drastically the demand shifting the market and cost. Our value is in the fact that we think about these things and will be ahead of the curve when surprises emerge.

Thanks for listening and/or reading! I hope you enjoyed this podcast as much as I did. Now that I’ve accomplished this, I’m ready for my next challenge.

Images courtesy of Georgia Business Radio on Flickr