Like many of the world’s greatest creations, one of New York’s leading steel service firms, Klein Steel Services, was born from a mistake and a spark of genius. The company was started in 1971, by Arnold Klein and his son Joe, and it actually began as a scrap yard.
As the story goes, Arnold was driving from a job and mistakenly left the arms of his truck’s rear-mounted loader up. Arnold found himself under a low hanging bridge, leaving him with minor damage to his truck which required a bent piece of steel channel to be replaced. After calling all the local service centers in search of a replacement part, Arnold was astounded to find no one who would provide a solution since he only required a single piece. Being an entrepreneur at his core, Arnold took the experience and turned it into an opportunity.
With that, Klein Steel Service was born. From a few trucks and with much hard work, the scrap metal business evolved into a small steel distributor and eventually to a national competitor. Forty-five years later, Klein Steel Service is leading the New York manufacturing sector, and its over two hundred staff offer a vast array of services and expertise. Today the company is not only a distributor but a component manufacturer with full in-house manufacturing capabilities in Rochester, and additional locations across New York, including Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany.
Throughout its changes, the company stayed true to its roots and valued people above all. With further growth on the horizon and long list of recent successes, Klein Steel offers a lesson in not only business growth, but the benefits of a people-focused approach. “We have a very strong culture of quality here which has helped us grow our business,” says President and Chief Executive Officer Todd Zyra.
Zyra explained that, at Klein Steel Services, maintaining a culture of quality is all about safely and consistently delivering what customers want, when they want it, every time. In working to meet commitments, the company has always been heavily focused on creating components that are as close to a finished product as possible.
“We evolved our business from being a distributor to a component manufacturer by really always bringing in advanced, high-end equipment,” said Zyra. In the last ten years, the company has invested significantly in itself to create an environment which is home to both the most advanced automation equipment available and the moving equipment necessary to make it count. With equipment that can process material via lasers, burn tables and water jets, the firm has all of the tools necessary to hand a customer a finished, quality product.
The company expertly provides speedy solutions to any order’s demands. It is set up to ensure that customers have products the next day, without having to carry the inventory themselves. Inventory accuracy is a critical piece of the firm’s overall process and is a feature upon which Klein has built a reputation.
“We have to have a very good grasp on what we have and how much of it we have, so that when the customer calls, we can be sure we have it in stock and get it to them quickly. We are willing to make that investment because that’s what’s right for our clients.” Although providing on-demand inventory offerings requires a substantial amount of money and space, it is a decision that keeps customers coming back for more.
“What really sets us apart are the investments we have made into both people and technology.” In recent years, the firm has taken itself one-step further by becoming nuclear compliant. As a certified nuclear compliant provider, the company has been able to take on the development of highly complex parts for its customers. “This has been the biggest change over the years and will be a major focus for us in the future.”
Manufacturing as a whole has seen many ups and downs in recent times, but Klein Steel Services has managed to grow throughout. So what is its secret to this success? According to Mr. Zyra, the firm’s ultimate competitive advantage is its in-house team.
Klein Steel has had an ongoing commitment not just to hire people, but to hire the right people. “Nothing happens without great people, and we have the absolute best people on our team that you could imagine.” The firm has a uniquely decentralized corporate culture that focuses on performance through teamwork. Klein Steel Services brings to the table an expertise founded on professional synergies. He continued, “In our business it’s about meeting commitments. We are excellent at that, but it takes the right people.”
Top staff are retained with the creation of a positive working environment, and that is something Klein Steel Services has worked diligently to maintain – with great results. Despite national labor shortages throughout the manufacturing sector, the company receives over one hundred applications a month. As a consequence, the firm can be selective about its hires, ensuring its team is built on the best and brightest.
Klein Steel Services has a forty-five-year heritage in the sector, and its future promises to be even greater. “I was told, a long time ago, that the best way to grow is to do what you do, well. Do the right things, and the right things happen. That’s what we are committed to, and that’s what will drive our future.”
Klein Steel Services has set out an ambitious growth plan built on the entrepreneurial vision begun by Arnold Klein. Zyra explained that the firm aims to double in size within the next three years. In 2016 alone, Klein Steel Services will create sixteen new jobs and promote ten percent of its existing team. Moreover, it aims to expand in all of its geographic territories and invest in emerging markets. This goal is exemplified by the construction of a new facility that will house some of Klein Steel’s most advanced equipment to date.
The company is nothing short of a success story, but in speaking with Todd Zyra, it became clear that the company’s greatest accomplishment is by far its company culture of putting people first, both clients and staff alike. In a sector which is increasingly saturated with gigantic multinationals, Klein Steel Services is proves that with a culture of quality, a tight-knit team and an entrepreneurial spirit, growth is not only possible, it is inevitable.
“I am most proud of the people I get to work beside. They are what have made this company what it is. We have a culture that is built on values, and that’s very important to me.”