Two Traits Common to Honored Executives
By Dan Markham
As you have undoubtedly noticed, Bill Partalis has been named the 21st recipient of Metal Center News’ Executive of the Year honor. The Kloeckner CEO joins our illustrious list of honorees, encompassing the most significant leaders in the industry over the past quarter-century. Partalis is a worthy addition to that group, given his place heading up one of North America’s most innovative service center companies for more thana decade.
In my dozen years with MCN, this was the sixth executive I’ve had the privilege of writing about. It’s one of my favorite features of the year, as it gives us the time to explore, in a more in-depth way, what makes a distribution business successful. We get insight into the hundreds of factors, big and small, that go into a service center’s successful operation. We hear about the triumphs, and the failures, that dot an executive’s career, and what was learned from each. And we discover the process a leader, or a team, follows before it makes decisions that can alter a company’s future.
On top of that, we talk to others about our selection. And many of the most cogent observations we get about an executive’s leadership capabilities come not from the boss himself, but from the people surrounding him. Sometimes those assessments come from the management team below him, or even the employees further removed from the corner office. Other times they come from colleagues in the industry, those who have sold metal to him or those who have been on the other end of the purchase.
Looking back at the Executive of the Year features we’ve run in the time I’ve been at MCN, two traits have stood out in descriptions of our past honorees. From customers and suppliers, the term that arises again and again is integrity. Whatever other talents and skills they bring into their dealings with the supply chain, honesty and fairness are paramount. “It takes real courage to have integrity, to stick with a deal when the market changes,” Nucor Chairman John Ferriola said when discussing Partalis.
And when employees have described their boss, a second universal trait has repeatedly been identified. The leading executives, to a man, are extolled as individuals who are willing to let people below them do their jobs. These industry giants provide their employees with the tools necessary to do the work, then allow team members the freedom to do it.
Most service center executives are never going to run billion-dollar enterprises, as Bill Partalis has done. But each executive in the metals distribution industry can act with integrity in dealings with their suppliers and their end-use customers. And all can have the trust in people to perform the tasks they were hired for.