Catalyst: Scott Begin, talks about the intersection of tradition and transformation—leveraging technology to fortify business


January, 2024- Face Time

Q: From your vantage point, what are the existential threats to the service center industry?

A: The most significant existential challenges include the surge in international competition, the volatility of raw material prices and the urgent need for sustainable practices. However, beneath these challenges lie hidden market shifts related to leveraging technology as the catalyst for industry evolution. Steel usually takes a bit longer to catch up with the times. Still, I am starting to see forward-thinking competitive companies harnessing disruptive technologies to their advantage. More worryingly, however, are the number of companies who think everything is business as usual.

Q: What do CEOs struggle with most?

A: In my engagements with CEOs, I’ve noticed that they struggle to navigate and utilize online marketplaces. They are grappling with the complexities of these platforms and yearning for a roadmap through the maze. I’ve also noticed how leaders are hungry for better-informed, datadriven insights. But CEOs have become overwhelmed with how to harness data analytics, AI and machine learning to accelerate the speed to decisions. Along the same lines, digital commerce and the forging of strategic partnerships are increasingly becoming lifelines, yet the implementation journey remains fraught with uncertainty.

Q: In your experience, what tools have you seen that are most effective?

A: Several key things come to mind. First is the increasing importance of online marketplaces. It’s been interesting to see some progressive leaders in the industry act as early movers, pressing forward to understand and leverage the power of this global trend. Second, I’ve witnessed how using data analytics helps CEOs arrive at bett er insights, predict future demand and help solve complex business questions rapidly. It’s no longer a “nice to have”; it’s a “must-have” to survive. Third, it’s becoming more apparent that digital commerce and a robust online presence are cornerstones to compete effectively. One advantage includes keeping a younger generation of industry professionals engaged and retained. Plus, it’s more straightforward to implement than most people suspect. Last, the art of building strategic partnerships has become the secret sauce for combining services, products and interests to propel business growth. I’ve seen how many leaders think these relationships passively create themselves. Still, the leaders who intentionally and actively build strategic partnerships ultimately win big in the end. It’s so much more profitable than going it alone.

Q: What would you do if you were running a service center today?

A: Our industry has done things a certain way for a long time, and many CEOs are comfortable with how things are. But tech disruptions are real. Just think about how much our lives, businesses and parallel industries have changed in only the last 10 years. The leaders who are comfortable with opening themselves up to change and opportunity are the ones who will remain relevant and potent in the industry. I’d invest in a mentor or retain a coach to help me quickly navigate the tech landscape. The cost of hiring a professional guide is insignificant compared to the long-term cost of not getting results sooner. I often think of my grandfather who, at the turn of the century, grew up in a time when everyone owned a horse, and farriers were the guys who took care of all the horseshoes. That was the most common industry at the time. But when Henry Ford started cranking out the Model T, farriers were out of a job. I feel we are on the cusp of a similar transformation, and the leaders who are working on their mindsets, becoming open about exploring the explosive potential of tech in their business and investing in working on themselves are the ones who will remain and thrive in changing times.

Q: Is there anything else executives should consider?

A: The future of the U.S. service center industry rests upon the proactive adoption of technological advancements. From my perspective, marketplace optimization, data analytics, digital commerce and strategic partnerships are not just tech buzzwords but tools every CEO needs to have. My mission is clear to walk alongside and guide industry leaders to leverage the power of technology to fortify their businesses and legacy. Serving others in an industry I love and helping industry leaders get results is what I live for.

SCOTT BEGIN is founder and managing partner of Scott Begin Group, an advisory service to the steel industry; 214/600-5800,

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