PALM DESERT, Calif. The
Association of Steel Distributors (ASD) is determined to regain
the critical mass that it has lost over the past 15 years, and
is looking to the younger generation of family held service
centers to help meet its goal.
struggling with our membership, but its on the upswing,"
ASD president Lisa Goldenberg told AMM in an interview
at the groups annual conference in Palm Desert.
Consolidation among distributors
has taken a toll on membership, but other factors also have
played a role. One of ASDs best-known benefits among
service centers previously was that business was encouraged and
actually done at meetings, where steel buy-sell lists were
circulated, but these activities were dropped due to antitrust
considerations, she said.
ASD membership peaked at 160 to
170 from 1995 to 1997, according to the association. Goldenberg
noted that membership dropped to less than 70 at one point, but
it recently breached the mid-70s with the addition of about
half a dozen new members, although it is still about "50
percent of where wed like to be."
The biggest potential for ASD
growth is in what Goldenberg calls "our core group," which are
small to medium-size service centers and a few larger family
held companies that are bringing in second and third
generations who dont have easy access to a "peer group"
outside their "fathers and uncles" who have run the companies
Goldenberg, who is president of
Fort Washington, Pa.-based distributor Delaware Steel Co.,
knows about family owned companies. A third-generation service
center executive, she was the only one of nine cousins to
choose steel distribution as a career, starting with Delaware
Steel in 1978. Her father, Jerald Brownstein, as well as her
late grandfather, Bernie Brownstein, headed Delaware Steel and
were ASD presidents, each also being named the
organizations "Steel Man of the Year."
She thinks the key to rebuilding
ASDs membership roster lies in a new generation of
managers who in the years ahead will take the reins of their
family companies and who want to meet with their counterparts
in other companies.
"My take is that theres
nothing in this world that can replace eye-to-eye contact," she
said, noting that a business where people increasingly spend
their working hours online runs the risk of reaching
whats known in her own family as "e-mail disconnect. ...
You can sit at a computer all day, but theres an element
Instead of carving out a
data-gathering role for ASD, as some other trade organizations
have done, Goldenberg wants it to become a forum for
face-to-face contact in a business environment where that is
becoming less frequent. "Were a network. In this day and
age, this is the answer," she said.
But ASD isnt ignoring the
internet. Goldenberg pointed out that about two months ago the
group established a presence on business-oriented social
networking site LinkedIn, where ASD now has 450 participants,
including a Canadian customs broker who also became an ASD
member in recent weeks.
ASDs new executive
director, Marc Saracco, who succeeds Ron Pietrzak in the role
amm.com, April 3), is expected to play a critical
role in adding new members. One of Saraccos initial tasks
is to "meet with as many service centers in the Chicago area as
possible," Goldenberg said.