|▲ Gana Steel / CEO Ansoo Lee
[For My Life, My Family and My Company]
Opened business in 1984, Gana Steel has built a strong presence in manufacturing and supplying piping materials around the globe. Its stainless steel pipes and tubes, carbon alloy seamless pipes and tubes, and line steel pipes are recognized for their high quality by numerous construction and engineering big shots such as Hyundai Engineering & Construction, GS E&C and SK Ecoplant. The company is nestled in Seosan City, South Chungcheong Province, South Korea and had a turnover of 47.2 billion won ($40 million) as of 2020. Hung on the wall of the lobby is a signboard that says <For My Life, My Family and My Company>. Monthly <PowerKorea> sat down with CEO Ahsoo Lee and learned what made him steel stronger.
Q. Tell us about Gana Steel.
A. As you might guess in the name, we manufacture and supply piping materials around the globe. Apart from South Korean construction big shots, we have collaborated with Japanese NSSMC (now Nippon Steel Corporation) and played its distributor in South Korea for about 25 years. We also have worked with SeAH Changwon Integrated Special Steel Corp for the last 38 years. Since 2016, we’ve been using most of our warehouse and manufacturing facility in Seosan to specialize large caliber stainless seamless steel tubes in an effort to make bigger size products by processing the existing products. That I can say is about Gana Steel.
Q. It’s been 37 years since you opened the business. What do you think has been the power to run your business for so long?
A. I would like to value ‘patience’ above anything else. Most entrepreneurs might agree that running a business involves many unexpected situations internally and externally. Internally means conflicts between staff members, for example, and externally means national and global economic ups and downs that affect business significantly. Every problem has its own answer like both sides of the coin. But what makes the answer fulfilled is ‘patience’. It doesn’t mean like ‘be patience’ like we say unconsciously every now and then but it is more like determination that you have to press down your desire for immediate gains as they often lead to immediate losses.
Q. So, ‘patience’ that is. Is there anything you particularly do to train yourself to keep the virtue?
A. I’ve been doing kendo (Japanese fencing) for about 30 years. I’m a sixth grade which is quite high but I still enjoy it very much to keep my body and mind strong and clear. *Lee has participated in the World Kendo Championships twice as the leader of a team.
Q. We learned that Gana Steel earned a $30 Million Export Tower in 2014. What do you think made you achieve this?
A. Responding to markets and demands of clients I think is crucial. In our initial stage of business, we imported goods from Japan to supply to domestic market because back then we couldn’t be able to produce homeland. I also worked on securing as many goods as possible in stock because situations in the field are changing fast and they often need a large quantity at once and immediately. So I must be ready all the time. Securing various sizes also played advantageous. In 2015, Cheap Chinese seamless steel tubes started invading the market. The oil prices plunged, and the supply for plants and the price of raw materials dropped, and we faced the worst scenario possible. During that dark period, I put a spell on me every day like “I must be patient and I must overcome this no matter how long and how hard. I must get through!”
Q. So, again ‘patience’?
A. Yes it was. I knew that not all buyers were after cheap Chinese products. The situation opened my eyes to manufacturing from supplying and we made bold investment in facility while pioneering channels to the global market. In other words, we took the dark period as a sign for us to do something different. As a result, I can now proudly say that we have earned our unique ‘tube expander technique’. As far as I know, Gana Steel is the sole company that has this technique except China.
Q. Is the pandemic affecting your business?
A. Of course. But we have prepared well with a variety of sizes and stock. Our highly trained and skilled staff members and employees are working to perfection in every process and we are proud to have received near zero complaints. The first thing I do when I visit the warehouse and manufacturing facility in Seosan, I go straight to the working lines to check thoroughly and make sure everything runs perfectly. I also listen carefully to staff and employees for improvements. It is good news that more countries are going ‘With Corona’ from which we are ready to dispatch our special overseas operation teams around the globe.
Q. Entering the lobby of the head office, we found a signboard hung on the wall that says <For My Life, My Family and My Company>. What does that mean?
A. It means as it is written. We all are here to work for our lives, our families and our company. It is about individuals, families and society that should be in balance and we should do what we must do for keep that balance rolling. Personally, I never separated my personal life from my work and family because they all are equally important to have a balanced life.
Q. Lastly, would kindly leave a message to <PowerKorea> readers?
A. First of all, I would like to give my sincere thanks to staff members and employees who have gone through every good and bad. I feel a great responsibility as the captain of the boat. It think it is a gift from the sky that I have come this far. I believer every difficulty I have faced during the course is a good lesson and it will make you steel stronger. I wish both family home and work as well as <PowerKorea> readers a good health and good luck. Let us have patience. <PowerKorea>
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