It was more than 42 years ago when Paragon Steel's President Jim Stavis had started his first automotive aftermarket business called Pace Setter Industries. It grew to become the largest muffler manufacturer west of the Mississippi. In addition to business concepts, the one thing he had to become knowledgeable with was steel. The company had bought an incredible amount of tubing, aluminized steel and steel coils of all varieties. They found themselves frustrated with the vendors on the supply side of steel distribution. To fulfill all of their processes, they needed more than a dozen different types of steel vendors. Since they ran a production line, getting just-in-time vendors was critical to their success.
After 16 years in business, Jim eventually sold his interest in the muffler company and joined Doug Carpenter, who was a close vendor and friend. Together, they formed Paragon Steel in 1988 in Long Beach. The lessons Jim had learned in his prior business in meeting the needs of manufacturing became the blueprint for the new company. Paragon Steel's sole focus was to provide higher levels of quality and service to customers. When customers would ask what Paragon Steel could provide, they would respond with, “Whatever you need.” They broke the barrier of specialization. For years, steel distributors would only carry one type of commodity, such as structural shapes, or plates, or flat rolled or stainless and aluminum products. Paragon Steel can provide any product, in any size or specification. The boundaries are endless. There was a time when steel distributors dictated to their customers when deliveries could be made or how many pieces were in a bundle of steel. Paragon Steel looked at that as an old paradigm. Why not provide delivery when the customer wanted it in the quantities they desired? It sounds simple today, but back in 1988, it was revolutionary thinking.
So now, some 26 years later, Paragon Steel is still evolving. Customer needs have certainly changed. Customers now have technology at their disposal to source online, send out requisitions via e-mail and do not require the face-to-face contact that used to be a fundamental part of developing relationships. As a vendor, it is much harder to foster those relationships, and Paragon Steel finds that it is still a vital part of business. Paragon Steel views itself as an extension of a customer’s purchasing department. If Paragon Steel cannot provide value, then there really would be no reason for the company to exist, let alone prosper.
So enough about the past…what about the future? Paragon Steel sees a changing landscape. The continuing trend of mergers and consolidation with steel service centers will make companies like Paragon Steel more unique and special. Bigger companies cannot shift in and out of markets as Paragon Steel can. They become too structured and bureaucratic to provide the levels of service that customers now demand. There is no going back on that. And even though communication has changed and markets have changed, and continue to change, it still boils down to people doing business with people they can trust. Paragon Steel welcomes the opportunity to earn yours.