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Fabricator's POV

Sticking together

By Lauren Duensing

Above: From left, Tim McMahan, Steve Rupp, Dennis Hobbs, Traci Warner and Garrett Warner lead the family owned fabrication operation.

FFJournal talks with the Steffani Metals team about why relationships are critical and family comes first

March 2022 - Houston-based Steffani Metals has been in business for 40 years. At the start, the company received hand renderings for quotes and orders by phone and fax—items that are all electronic today. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the personal attention every customer receives.

Q: Traci, why did you want to be in the metals industry and take over the family business?

Traci Warner, treasurer: In 2001, my father’s partner in Steffani, Odie Jones, had just passed away, and I was in the process of changing jobs. My dad asked me to come work at Steffani to help him with the transition. I didn’t intend on staying at Steffani long-term. After a few months, I really started to love the company, its culture, its vision and, most importantly, the people. I was so fortunate to work alongside my father for 17 years. He taught me so much about running a family owned business. Now, I get to honor his memory by making Steffani Metals a successful business and a great place to work.

My son, Garrett Warner, and cousin Darwin Gross both work for the company, as business development manager and shipping and receiving, but the family extends into our employees. Some have been with us for 30 years, and the average time of employment is 21 years. Their loyalty and dedication to Steffani’s success is what has made our company’s reputation as one of the best in the business.

Q: What was the biggest test you faced after you assumed the helm of the company?

Warner: Assuring my customers and my employees that Steffani Metals was going to be the same company that they had always known and respected. Change can be frightening, and they needed reassurance that things were going to continue without disruption, that I was going to still make their needs a priority and that the quality of our work was going to remain high. Similarly, our employees needed to see that their jobs were secure and that they were going to have the same work environment.

FFJ 0322 pov image1

An ornamental fabrication for a stained glass window at St. Martin’s Episcopal church in downtown Houston.

Q: Has your WBENC Certification brought new opportunities?

Warner: We obtained WOB and HUB certifications last year but have not yet been able to utilize them as much as we would like. Because of our role as a miscellaneous and specialty fabricator, we typically do not bid on contracts. Our customers are the ones who would bid on a project, and we would be their subcontractor for the miscellaneous steel. We would like to get the word out that we have these certifications so that our customers contemplating a bid on a project that requires or prefers HUB certification can use our certifications and fabrication services.

Q: What have been the keys to Steffani Metals’ success over the years?

Steve Rupp, shop manager: Along with our service and quality, treating the small customers like they are our biggest customer is how we have built such a strong reputation.

Tim McMahan, inside sales manager: Honesty to the customer and dedication to providing the highest quality fabrication in the industry.

Mike Paschall, inside sales manager: Being able to retain long-lasting relationships in a competitive industry, the drive to go after new business and the ability to find great people.

Dennis Hobbs, A/R Manager: Respect, work quality and always making things right for the customer, no matter what.

Q: What are your future expansion plans?

Warner: We are currently adding 15,000 square feet of shop space and two new machines to our business. We bought a Swebend 8-in. angle roll and a Davi plate roller that will be operational in March. We currently have two smaller angle roll machines, but this new machine will give us the opportunity to better serve our current customers as well as attract new customers that need larger rolling capabilities. With the addition of the plate roller, we are entering into a whole new segment of steel fabrication. It is a big step up for us, and we are excited to be able to offer this service.

Q: What are the keys to maintaining long-term customer relationships?

Rupp: The majority of our customers have been doing business with us for a long time. It has been exciting to watch each of them grow and progress through this industry. Professional communication, service, quality and the ability to expedite jobs when needed has been central to our customer relationship management.

McMahan: The quality of our work and the customer service that we strive to offer is how we are able to retain long-term relationships with these companies.

Paschall: Ninety percent of our customers are considered long-term, while 10 percent of new customers come from outbound marketing, referrals from other businesses, our website and walk-in visits to our shop.

Q: How have you managed the recent market challenges with the demands of your business?

Warner: In the last two years, steel prices reached unprecedented highs, and the pandemic posed so many new challenges for keeping our employees healthy. We were fortunate to have reserve funds to access when we saw good prices on material and we had the area to store it until it was needed. Instead of having to buy material for each job, we were able to maintain pricing structures at largely consistent levels.

We also made safety and the health of our employees a priority. We increased all our disinfecting and sanitation protocols, offered paid time off to get vaccinations or COVID testing, as well as paid sick time.

Q: Steve, Tim and Mike, what does being a part of Steffani Metals mean to you?

Rupp: Being treated like family.

McMahan: It’s been fun and rewarding.

Hobbs: Steffani Metals is a family. It’s nice to be part of a group that looks out for each other. I’ve worked with this family twice over the past 46 years, and this is where I plan to retire.

Paschall: It means a great deal that I work for a company that cares and supports their employees. I also feel very secure knowing that Steffani Metals has been in business for 40 years and has retained a staff that understands the business, which will keep us moving forward for the next 40 years.  FFJ

Sources

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