The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 10 months ago

Ep 160: Digitizing the Steel Industry w/ Dallas Hogensen

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Ep 160: Digitizing the Steel Industry w/ Dallas Hogensen

Part of the "Is This A Good Time?" series hosted by Brandon Barton.

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Pavilion podcast. I'm your host, Brandon Barton you're listening to Is this a good time The show where I put Pavilion members on the hot seat for 15 minutes. We hear their incredible stories, shows around Tuesdays and Thursdays. Hit subscribe. So you do not miss hearing from our experts. Our guest today is Dallas Hockenson. He's the Ceo and co founder of Felix. Incredible story, fun conversation. We talk about digitizing the steel industry, but really more how he got into this in the first place this month, sponsors Sandoz. So Sandoz, so the leading sending platform is the most effective way for revenue generating teams to stand out with new ways to engage at strategic points throughout the customer journey. Like connecting digital and physical strategies. Companies can engage, acquire and retain customers easier than ever before. All right, let's do this episode 78 Is this a good time? All right. Everyone's super psyched to have Dallas Hogan's in here with us. He's the Ceo and co founder of Felix, incredible businesses building. Just raised seed this year. Got more to come in. 2021 Dallas awesome to have you on the pod man. Yeah, thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. Yeah, I like all meat. No filler. Let's jump right in. Tell us about what you're what you're doing, the company you started and and how maybe like a couple stops on the way, how you got here. Yeah, So you know, we are a steel company, Funny enough. I never thought I would in the steel industry, but We are a B2B marketplace in the steel industry, a supply chain platform and a procurement platform, really interesting time to be in this space. B two B marketplaces are obviously pretty hot in the venture world, but essentially the thesis of the businesses were taking the entire offline industry that now is a $4 trillion industry and digitizing and bringing it online to make commerce happen is easy to buy a T shirt is basically have, you can buy steel is easy, you can buy a t shirt that's a piece of the business. How are you getting old school? You know what, I would imagine people that detest technology to buy steel online. It is...

...interesting and fascinating questions. So this industry traditionally been offline forever and really there's no digital platform to help the facilitation of commerce and so the things that we're really focused on in the beginning is actually providing workflow tools, right? How do we help them find customers transact with customers and make it easy so they can aggregate their data, understand their purchasing decisions and just really give them a platform to help facilitate one of the hardest jobs that you find uh in manufacturing or on the supply chain. So I'm really excited about the adamant of what we're doing and really interesting time to be in the space obviously with all the supply chain problems right now, so like if you haven't ordered your christmas presents already, it's probably time to think about that because they're going to be late if you don't get a head start on that. But the story is actually fascinating. So um kind of historical context, I mean it's been the last 10 years thinking about marketplaces in san Francisco, new york little time in europe before this and um, previously with some and recent bad companies hiring marketplace in the restaurant space, something you're familiar with. And then I was lucky enough to be one of the early employees on the lift business team building out that marketplace for employee travel on top of the consumer network And ultimately what ends up happening at the end of 2019, I had sold my last company which is a data company intent data, which has been pretty hot in sales and marketing over the last couple of years in gaining traction. So we sold that to our data provider, which kind of brought me to early 2020. And at a pretty simple thesis is like where is private equity rich and where is venture capital poor and what supply chains are offline. So I was doing everything from calling trailer parks to dirt farms to anything like unsexy you name it. I was trying to figure out like where does the dollar flow through like a really unsexy supply chain. And lucky enough for me, I end up getting connected with a guy, grew up playing poker with who runs a steel company and...

...my aunt had worked in the industry for 25 years and I had about a month of conversations with them is asking, you know, how does go to market work? How do you do your job? And ultimately it was the same from everybody. I talked to traditional field sales, old relationships, no technology, no data, no core analytics or analysis on purchasing decisions or behaviors. And so it's pretty evident to me that you know, there was opportunity in the space and I think this is where opera opportunity meets preparation and luck. What ended up happening is there was an executive recruiter that I used to work with a lift when I was running sales there and he said, Hey Dallas, the ceo of one of the largest steel company in the United States, wants to talk to you about marketplaces and I honestly thought it was like a joke. At first I sit down and talk to my wife and like should I take the call and she's like, yeah, take the call. And what was funny about that is they're not spending two hours with the guy on the phone the first time we talked and he was really the leader in the space. So he's a guy you see on CNBC, he's a guys in, in Washington writing policy. He's mid thirties, you know, clutch sports was incubated in his house. He has a restaurant group, like awesome entrepreneur to steal family business and you know, really started to think about how something like this could change the industry because his belief was simple. I want to build the racetrack for the steel industry to run on. And he had really, I think incredible foresight to see what was happening internally and had the relationships to make it happen. And so after spending a bunch of time with him and my other co founder who ran innovation at that steel company, I decided to join remote for the first year. And um, we went to work without even meeting each other for the first year on building a digital steel company and building a marketplace for the industry. And so it's really this fascinating journey where For me of just doing the diligence, picking up the phone calling people. Like I met a guy that was making $15 million dollars a year selling trailer skirts to...

...trailer parks office spreadsheet. And so I just became passionate about like how do we find these opportunities? And I remember sitting next down with my wife and saying, hey, listen, I think there's a real opportunity here in this $4 trillion market where no digital solution exists. I think it's worth the next 10 years or alive to take a bet on this and, and this is this time we were pregnant with our first child and she said, let's do it. And I said, hey, by the way, there's a chance we might have to move to Cleveland, like, and um she's like, wait, hold on. But anyway, at the end of the day she's like, let's do it. I think this is real, this is what you love to do. It sounds like a perfect marriage of expertise and technology and that's what brought me to today. So I never thought I would be in this world, it's the hardest problem I've ever worked on. It's the most fun I've ever had. And you know, we think about the world is making steel sexy, like we're having so much fun telling a narrative in a space that didn't exist before. Yeah, it's pretty cool. I mean, as you alluded to, like, I work in the world of restaurants, not perhaps as old school as the steel industry, but it's always fun to kind of bring the light china light that's on the rest of the world into your corner and if that is now the steel industry, that's, I mean, that's pretty cool. Mr. Carnegie would say it's a, it's a big enough space to become, to become wealthy and right? Yeah, no, space for players, I think. Yeah, for sure. And so like obviously you've kind of answered the idea of, hey, where's serendipity and Luckman, did your, I gotta ask did the person that the recruiter at lift know that you were trying to dabble around in the steel world or was that just completely random, completely random. Well what was it was interesting here? Honestly I would get calls from him all the time around like marketplace opportunities, right? Like if people had questions about marketplace, I got calls and I've never been a person to kind of shy off from things I didn't...

...know because I have a curious mind like what does that mean? I want to learn, Let's dig in, let's find out. And so I think that is where I got lucky is that I just knew that the more I charged forward, like something was going to hit one of these days where I was like, this is what I was meant to do. That's incredible. I love it. And uh, and so I just, I mean to the extent that you want to, how's the business doing? Um, like, you know, give us a little baseball card on where things are at Yeah, baseball card numbers up, we're about in one half of our business for about 1280% year to date over last year. And then the other half were uh, closer to 500%. So there are two main drivers right now for us are um, just kind of taking off in the enterprise contract space and within the liquidity in the spot market. So, uh, right now it's the right time. It's not if it's, it's when and now is when in the steel industry around digital adoption, um, in the enterprise. So it's been a lot of fun for us to have a chance to give a different point of view to an industry that just have never seen one before. For sure. For sure. This is, I mean, it's great that you just kind of went after something you knew probably not that much about in the beginning and you know, it's the same dynamics marketplaces, marketplaces. Well, what give us some tactics, give us something that that you think, you know, people can use practically in their own, you know, day to day lives and what they're doing from a sales and marketing perspective. Yeah. So I think one of the things that, you know, we think about internal here is speed as a habit preparation and speed. So everything that we're doing right now is how do we move fast? How do we get a lot of feedback loops? And we take that to heart when it comes to marketing is we rather be prolific than perfect. And if it makes us laugh and it makes us smile, we think we're onto something great. And so like when we talk about marketing right now, the things that we're doing, we're having fun because this industry right now hasn't seen the tips and tricks that you and I know so well within the tax base, so like what we call they pick up, we send them t...

...shirts that say it makes feel sexy, right? We send them videos and we're having our customers are so engaged because we've created this human element that they've never seen before, but really from a tactical perspective, I think one of the things that we're learning and starting to see is Exume has been tough on a lot of people in these meetings and so we're trying to do like these small snippets of video, like engage with empathy and like create like a narrative over time. And so I'm all in on video right now all the time. And I think loom is like one of those tools that I know a lot of people are using it, but I think it's just under used by probably a lot of people that because it tells such a great narrative and it brings a human element into a sales process that's incredibly crowded. And so when I'm thinking about things like that, I'm trying to just build a connection. If I get in the room, like with the connection, we're going to have some fun, we're going to tell a great story and you know, we're going to become friends and partners down the road. Yeah. A couple of people have brought up video brought up bloom and like, you know, I think it was Katie kevin kevin Dorsey that was saying, you know, how many, how many times do I get reached out to a week? And I was like, I don't know, maybe like 50 or whatever. And he said, how give me what you think, how many times there's video involved and I was like seven and he was like maybe two, right? Like Less than 10% of the time. And yet even if you look at like slacks recent update where they're allowing you to post videos, you know, it kind of makes so much sense. Asynchronous video as opposed to this zoom stuff. I mean fatigue is real right now. Uh, now, I think just in general, like the way that we think about marketing tactics right now is just be different. And so I encourage all of our team members to like, you have freedom be free to try anything, have fun with it, test it out. And like if you're laughing at the end of the day, like I said before, like that is worth the time for us and return on investment because the customer is going to appreciate like your...

...personality and spin on that and that sticks out. Yeah. And so it's more like strategic tactic. But um, you know those type of things and conversations that we're having internally right now is like, if we're gonna do this, we're gonna have fun. Our customers are going to have fun and let's just not be the same. Love it. Love it. Well look, I mean, it sounds like you guys are growing like nuts. You must be hiring any position, key positions are hiring for and do they have to move to Cleveland? Uh, no, they don't have to move to Cleveland. So we are headquartered in Cleveland. I moved here actually in june, it's an amazing city and it feels good to be back on the east coast a little bit. But uh, we are hiring a bunch on the engineering side, the product side, the sales side. Um, sales Ops strategy. Ops rev, ops I need somebody, I want somebody grades the hardest challenge you ever worked on from a revenue options rev Ops perspective. So like that's the things I'm focused on right now is how do we get like smart people who are working on really hard big problems that I know it's going to take years to figure out like it, man, That's very cool. All right, Well, I'm sure, I'm sure somebody will get one lead for you Out right now. one x 1. All right. Um, and who some shout outs. I mean, you know, I would imagine that there are people out there that would say they follow your content. You know, you're active on, on all the platforms and put up some good stuff and I've always appreciated your writing and you're thinking, who else do you look to and say, hey man, like this person, this, this woman does a great job at, you know, thought leadership. You know, I think one of the person I've had a lot of appreciation for and like, I don't think this is anything new, but it is obviously like what devin read is doing that gong as like the head of content strategy there. I think that I had a chance to do a conference with him. We both spoke at an outreach conference a couple years ago and I just like you when you see people who just get it tell a great story and are like in it for the customer, those type of people to me are like we're spending time with and like understanding like their strategy and so I spent a lot of time...

...reading what he does or just like making sure I'm checking in on what he does. But you know, other than that right now, I think where I spend most of my free podcast time is obviously like on all in podcast like that to me right now is from like a macro view is like I'm loving the conversation dynamic and obviously it's not like a secret anymore but that's the one go to for me where I make sure I listen every week. Yeah, it's uh it definitely, I mean you know their their banter back and forth can be annoying perhaps but like fine but you are getting you are getting the tip of the, the tip of the pin view of like what's to come perhaps. Yeah. I think from a macro level there's probably not many people that are smarter collectively that our understanding what's happening from multi parts of the world right now. So it is a fascinating conversation, but a lot of banter. I agree. Yeah, that's all right. All right, well look, all those other questions while fascinating for everyone else. This is for me, give me a spot that you loved that we should go eat. It could be in Cleveland. I know you haven't been there too long. Could be any of your former homes, West coast, east coast, whatever. Yeah. So, so I'll start in new york close to home. West village is Joe's pizza is my go to, I was in the delivery range so many of nights on a $20 cheese pizza for me was to go to and I've also used gold belly to order it out a few times. Yeah, I know, I know. I don't know if you're a joe's guy or not, but 100% on to like a straight up regular slice. For sure. I mean I grew up really, Jafari's was like the defining slice, although then then it became like famous and whatever, but like joe's is like, like it's an A all the time, all the time. Other spot that I missed the most right now that I haven't had in years, Kazunori, my favorite hand roll in the country. I don't know if you've been there or not. Of course one of my, one of my favorites and then two in Cleveland that I'm loving right now. So one of my co founders has a restaurant group and he has one of the top restaurants in Cleveland called the last page. It's...

...fantastic. Kind of this fusion cuisine and then there's a delicatessen here. That was a James Beard winner called Larter that I'm obsessed with right now on the harder. Yeah, love it man, this is great. All right, we're going to all these places when we get up to Cleveland, we'll go catch a, catch a hoops game, catch something and baseball game, whatever and go to larger. I love it, awesome man, It's so great to chat. Like I'm so pumped for what you're building. It sounds incredible and like keep at it man, you got it, you got a big dream ahead. Thanks man, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on. All right, that's our show. Thank you so much for listening. If you love the show or even if you're just like kind of like it, don't have to love not to be all the way. Just rate it. Give me five stars. Tell ever. Tell everyone else in your, in your house, in your, in your family, send it to some friends, maybe think about it as as you can't get your holiday gifts. Maybe think about gifting the gift of the pavilion podcasts. A reminder of this episode was brought to you by Cindy. So they deliver modern direct mail, personalized gifts and other physical impressions that make your outreach more personal. All right. I had so much fun today. I hope you did it. To now go crush your numbers. Say something. Mhm.

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