Robert Kenney Celebrates Metsa's 40th Anniversary
The Metsa Tanks CEO talks the company's origins, key trends to watch & the value of trade associations
Friday, April 28, 2023
Describe your current role at your company.
My current role is securing the future of our company while also guiding the vision of our company in the present. We are laser-focused on producing high-quality tanks, innovating methods to improve functionality and aesthetics, and driving better ways to serve our customers. I spend a lot of time listening to customers, industry partners and our team to put the puzzle together for the best possible offering. I am also overseeing our growth plan, which focuses on sustainable organic growth and aims to keep our identity while rising to meet customer needs.
What was the genesis for your company’s beginning?
Metsa was founded in 1983 by Humberto Garza in southeastern Monterrey, Mexico. The company was developed due to the fact that there was not a dependable source of tanks in Mexico for his family’s propane operation. He started the company with one welding machine, a plate bender and two employees.
Metsa celebrates its 40th anniversary this year — congratulations! How has the company evolved or adapted over its four decades in business?
As Metsa grew, it quickly evolved from a shop-style operation of building spec tanks for industrial applications into developing our own propane tank line that would go directly to market. While we have made many changes to keep up with market preferences and demands, we have always strived to remain faithful to what makes us special. We have maintained our short and stubby design, which results in a shorter footprint during the install and also allows for more tanks to be shipped at once. We have focused on customization as a manner of helping out specific segments of the industry, listening to their feedback to improve our offering.
We have grown from a shop that employed two operators to a company with a top-of-the-line assembly line with 160 employees. As we continued to gain traction in this market, we needed to grow to ensure our loyal customers were taken care of. We continue to invest in our capacity to provide for this industry.
What key industry trends is the Metsa team paying attention to currently?
As a manufacturer, our first focus is on the fluctuations in the steel market, as it’s our main cost driver and usually is a pretty good indicator of general economic temperature. Within the industry, we look for customer preferences. This helps inform us of where best to assign our resources to best support our areas of influence.
What changes in the industry do you hope will happen in the next few years?
I love seeing the growth and adoption of tank monitoring. I am very excited to see how that continues its trajectory and the impact it will have on our industry going forward — especially how it affects the way we do business and how we can be more efficient in our processes. I would like to see how monitoring and metering can lead to propane becoming almost a utility-based service.
What advice do you have for someone coming into the industry?
Trade associations are your best friend. Join them, participate and meet as many of the great people that are in this industry as you can. I cannot overstate how much the relationships that you will forge in propane move you forward. You are not only in it for the business contacts, but you make a lot of friends as well.
What skill do you think everyone in your role or a similar one should learn?
Be curious and inquisitive about every process of the business. Learn what you can and speak the language of your peers. Then, LISTEN. As people grow in business and become more successful, it is easy to think that they have all the answers because they were successful in previous roles.
But truth be told, leaders who maintain a great level of humility go further because of the way they engage their teams and propel themselves with collective effort. A team that is empowered to fulfill their roles to the best of their abilities and is accountable for their actions is a powerful ally to any leader.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am a big-time morning person, even though everyone in my life hates me for it.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned from a mentor/manager?
As a self-aware procrastinator, my last boss gave me a great piece of advice as I was transitioning into a new role: “Aim for better! Everyone wants things to be perfect, but what we really need is to be better than before.”
Sometimes I deal with anxiety of inaction due to my desire to tinker with something until I think it is perfect; then I remind myself that all I need to be is better, and I focus and get it done. That phrase is written on the wall in front of my desk as a constant reminder that acting on what I believe in will be a step in the right direction.
What are you reading or watching right now?
I have read some excellent books recently that I loved. “Quench Your Own Thirst” by Jim Koch, the founder of my favorite beverage, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, taught me lessons about sales strategy, upselling value and not playing by the rules of your competitors, but better yet, making your own rules and working tirelessly to achieve your goals. I am fascinated by the intense and unwavering curiosity of Malcolm Gladwell and am currently plowing through his entire library. Right now I am reading “Blink,” my fourth book in his collection.