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Cold heat Featured

9:42am EDT June 27, 2005

Jim Bouchard spent most his career at U.S. Steel, working his way up through the organization in sales, marketing and operations management. Craig Bouchard spent 20 years at First National Bank of Chicago and also founded a software company.

In 2003, the brothers decided to combine their diverse backgrounds to start a company that would acquire and turn around the operations of troubled steel-related companies.

Jim Bouchard recognized a unique opportunity: The market for hot-rolled steel was good, while the demand for cold-rolled products was low. The industry had plenty of capacity and a very large number of competitors, as the capital requirements are significantly less than those for hot-rolled facilities. This created a fragmented industry in the cold roll segment, and numerous companies in this area were having financial difficulties.

Jim Bouchard's approach was to focus on cold roll products, with the goal of acquiring troubled companies and re-engineering operations to significantly improve efficiencies. Combining many of these companies would create a significant leverage in the industry.

Jim and Craig Bouchard developed a key strategy in which to operate: Run the plants at overcapacity by outsourcing. This provides top plant utilization vs. the industry standard and takes all the risk out of the balance sheet.

They insure all receivables and only produce based on specific purchase orders, alleviating any inventory risk. All acquisitions have been financed without debt, allowing them to operate with more capital than their competition.