Meet Jeremy Flack, founder of Flack Steel
, a steel service center in the Warehouse District with 30 employees. The company distributes custom-processed steel products across North America to a variety of markets. Additionally, Flack Steel delivers real-time market analysis and purchasing counsel.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
By accident. Earlier in my steel career I was 50/50 with a partner in an existing business who wanted to run the business very conservatively and preserve what he had accumulated. I wanted to grow. After a struggle, the business closed.
The idea to start Flack Steel was thrust upon me by a group of my closest colleagues and advisors in the middle of the recession. Under the circumstances, it was monumental.
Did you always know you wanted to go into business for yourself?
I always wanted to be the CEO of something. I didn’t necessarily want to work for myself. If I have an idea that I know will work, I want to try it.
Why did you start your business?
I am a self-actualizing person, believing that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am a libertarian and I believe in individual freedom. Starting my own business related more to wanting freedom and the ability to self-actualize than any necessity to own a company.
How did you move from a career in finance to a career in steel?
I moved to Cleveland in 1995 to work in my family's business as CFO. It didn’t work out and I went to business school in 1997. In 1998, my father-in-law recruited me to join his steel company as a salesman. My finance background has been a fundamental building block of my career and a big reason for my success in managing steel companies. Of course, without the ability to sell, I would never be where I am today.
What is it like being a modern-day steel company in Cleveland?
I would guess that we are the first steel company to be founded in Cleveland in since 1990. Cleveland is a perfect place to be in our business. Most US-produced steel is produced in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. This puts Cleveland smack in the middle of the action.
It is a misconception that steel production and consumption no longer exist in the U.S. Manufacturing is actually thriving. There is a difference between jobs and output. Also, Cleveland is a city rich in resources: The labor pool is experienced and deep; a top-notch legal community; excellent accounting and IT; a healthy and eager banking community, experienced with commodity businesses; and real estate costs are reasonable. Why not locate in Cleveland?
What aspect of this industry do you enjoy most?
The relationships that I have made within my company and in the industry. The steel business is still an old school business where relationships matter. I also enjoy the global economic issues that are woven into our business.
What does your office do to build loyalty or blow off steam?
We are a motivated, close group at Flack Steel. We have people who are all rowing the boat in the same direction. We have a café on-site and Flack employees can often be found enjoying everything that downtown has to offer.
Why is the Warehouse District a great place for Flack Steel?
We have beautiful office space that is customized for our use. There are many dining options and we are close to the lake and the park at the Rock Hall. We work in a real neighborhood where people work, live and seek entertainment.
What advice would you give to someone starting a company in Cleveland?
Network -- this city's resources are limitless, there are organizations out there designed to help you get moving. Seek help and you will find it.
Who is your role model and why?
My biggest role model is John Galt. Mr. Galt is the principal character in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged
. The only way to really know why is to read the book.