A Chat with ISRI Convention Titans Stanton and Stephen Moss

Apr 1, 2024, 16:44 PM
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Arnulfo Moreno
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ISRI2024 is the eighth and final convention for ISRI Convention Chair Stephen Moss. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of his and his father’s company, Stanton A Moss Inc. Stanton Moss is no stranger to ISRI conventions as he is a former convention chair, having run conventions from 1997-2000.

ISRI News had the opportunity to speak to Stephen and Stanton about their respective time as chairs, how conventions have changed, what to expect this year and tips for everyone attending.

Stanton, how did you get involved with ISRI and ISRI Conventions?

Stanton Moss, Founder of Stanton A. Moss Inc., ISRI Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, Former ISRI Convention Chair

[Stanton] I started working for a company in 1956 and it was a smelting company in Philadelphia that melted down aluminum, copper, brass, zinc, lead and I became active in NARI, and also sort of active in ISIS. I started my own company in 1974 when I left the George Saul Metal Company because of a labor problem.
I was active in NARI [ISRI’s name at the time] and then ISRI. You guys changed your names so many times. I guess Michael Coslov was convention chairman in 1995, 1996, and he asked me to be co-chair, and I sort of ran the convention and in 1997, Jimmy Fisher asked me to be chairman of the convention. That convention was in Mirage. And then the next year was in San Francisco. And then Shelly Padnos asked me to stay on as convention chair.

[Stephen] And, you did Orlando and then Vegas, Bellagio.

What did the conventions look like back then?

[Stanton] Smaller, much smaller. If we had 3,000 attendees, we sort of set a record. The big difference in my, well the size is number one and the speakers that we had. We had presidents of the United States, we had prime ministers of England, I mean different type speakers as our main speakers. Best thing for the chairman was, and the officers, we had breakfast before the main event with the speakers. So, it was quite interesting having breakfast with presidents and the prime ministers, George Stephanopoulos, Colin Powell, Margaret Thatcher, George Bush Sr. — his comment was, why would anybody have breakfast at 6:30 a.m. before the main event. And he was wonderful. Colin Powell was wonderful. Ronald Reagan was wonderful.

Stephen Moss, Vice President and Co-Owner of Stanton A. Moss Inc, Current ISRI Convention Chair

[Stephen] I think another big difference is the size of the exhibit hall too. That has changed. It used to just be booths, mostly 10 x 10’s, maybe some 20 x 20’s in a giant ballroom. Maybe we had some heavy equipment that they had to squeeze in outside in a parking lot. Again, ISRI was happy to get to 3,000 people attending, and that was a big convention back then.

I also think another difference was that conventions were a little more formal. Most of the people walked around wearing a suit and tie all day at the convention. Now, people still put on a sports jacket for most of the day but it’s not as formal and it’s not as many family business owners there. There’s a lot more company employees there and it really attracts people of all different tiers within companies, not just the owners or the head traders like it used to.

[Stanton] I remember going to a convention, an ISIS convention, where it was formal. Closing night was formal. And I think we had Frank Sinatra. I’m not sure. If it wasn’t Frank Sinatra, it was somebody.

[Stephen] It was Frank Sinatra, Jr. [Laughs].

[Stanton] No, no. We had, I’m pretty sure we had Milton Berle once so and it was formal. The women wore long dresses and the men wore tuxedos and it was different. Whether anybody would want to pack a tuxedo today I doubt it. You’d have four people there.

Stanton, how do you feel like you left your mark with the conventions?

[Stanton] Four conventions, 1997 to 2000. The mark we celebrated our 10th.

[Stephen] 1997 was the 10th anniversary of ISRI.

[Stanton] We had Jimmy Fisher coming out of the cake at the closing event. [Laughs].

My four conventions were good conventions. We made money. We had a good attendance, everybody left enjoying it. Did we do anything different? I doubt it. It was just good conventions. Everybody left knowing they had a good time and when they went home they were able to say they had their breakfast with a speaker that was well known.

Stephen, how did you get involved with ISRI and how did you get involved with conventions?

[Stephen] I first got involved with ISRI when I started in the industry in 2000. My father really encouraged me to get involved with ISRI. There wasn’t really much support for young executives or interest in having younger people get involved in ISRI back then, but some people like Matt Levine and Mark Lewon kind of helped me get involved in the non-ferrous division. And so I was, I think, chair of the Non-Ferrous division from 2004 to 2006, which was my first taste of getting on the national board of directors. And then I got involved in the chapter, and I was president of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter from, I worked my way up the positions and became chair of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter from 2011 to 2013.

But in the meantime, I’d always been fascinated by conventions. I was at a couple of conventions growing up and was there in 2000 for Stanton’s last convention that he chaired. And I really found that part interesting in the industry. So, I kind of kept going to convention committee meetings and started talking to people and sharing ideas at those meetings and spoke up sometimes at board meetings about certain things that related to convention and then Former ISRI Chair Jerry Simms — kind of what I thought was out of the blue, but I guess I had shown my interest to him — he offered me the opportunity to be his convention chair, about three or four years before his term started. In about 2008, he called me and offered me to chair his meetings. I happily accepted and then when Mark Lewon became chair, he asked me, when he got elected, he said, “oh, you’re going to be my convention chair.” I enjoyed it. And I really enjoyed working with some of the other convention chairs. I got to be vice chair under Bruce Blue, for John Sacco’s conventions. John really gave me, was very generous and gave me an opportunity to learn and speak up and see how it all worked. I’ve been really happy that I got to do it again for Gary Champlin and Brian Henesey.

This being my eighth convention that I’ve chaired, seven of them in person, it’s been great to see the growth of our convention. I think we’ve changed it to something that companies know that they have to send people to every year. And it’s not just one person, it’s multiple people. We’ve seen continued growth in the size and the quality of exhibitors in the exhibit hall. You know, we’ve created hopefully a one-stop-shop marketplace for a lot of our members where they can come buy equipment, buy services, and also see their trading partners all in a period of three or four days. Plus, learn some stuff at some great sessions we have.

I’m really proud of the dynamic growth we’ve seen in the convention in the post-pandemic era. I think our first year back in person in 2022, people were still dealing with after effects of it. Some companies still weren’t sending people. We saw last year, we set a record in Nashville I think because of the excitement of being in Nashville, a new location within driving distance of many more members than we’ve been able to do before. Also more companies coming out of any sort of COVID restrictions.

I’m really excited to see the growth that we’re showing for this year in 2024. We are ahead of last year’s pace by about 500 to 800 registrations depending on the week and that growth curve is still continuing. I expect us to cross over 5,500 total registrants either today or early next week, which is amazing. And, you know, as we saw last year, that pace continues and we still expect to see a lot more registrations coming through in the next three or four weeks.

Foreign registrations are still pretty good this year. It averages, when you include Mexico and Canada, it ends up being around 18 to 20%. If you take out Mexico and Canada, then it becomes a much smaller number. I would say it’s probably around 5%. Because so many of these are “foreign” members who now have established businesses in North America that they run their business through. So, it’s not like they’re a foreign company coming in.

What’s setting this year apart?

[Stephen] People still love coming to Las Vegas. We still have a lot of members who Las Vegas really resonates with and it makes them excited to come back. I’ve been very impressed with the upgrades Mandalay Bay has done to the convention center. It seems a little more modern. It’s got a lot more digital signage. It’s a little bit brighter inside. They’ve kind of changed their color palette there. I think our members will see it. They’ve done some investments; some new restaurants have come online there.

Vegas is a late night culture. Everybody’s based at Mandalay Bay, which makes it easy to find. You know where everybody’s going to be at the end of the night. Normally people are either in that center bar or the casino or wandering the casino and kind of hanging out and catching up with people. So, I think that’s what makes Vegas fun.

We’ve tried to bring a little bit more of our convention to the Strip this year, where we’re having our first off-site after-hours party in Las Vegas. That’s going to be at Beer Park, which is at the Paris Hotel. And that’s right in the middle of the Strip, across from the Bellagio Fountain. So, we’re planning on trying to cater to those people who go off-site for dinner on Tuesday night. And now we have a place right in the middle of Strip for you to hang out with, from 9-11:30 p.m. to hang out with your other ISRI convention peers and see a new venue.

We’re also having a great closing night party that will be at TAO Beach. That’s going to be another place where there’s outside. Beer Park is half indoors, half outdoors. TAO Beach is totally outdoors. We’ve learned that our people really like getting some fresh air while they’re at the convention since they’re busy running around meetings. Last year there was great success with our outdoor events in Nashville with our after hours and a lot of company parties that were on private roof decks on different bars on Broadway. We’re trying to bring some of that to Las Vegas where we can.

What advice do you have for members attending this conference, both new members and established members?

[Stanton] First, the exhibit hall. I mean, you learn so much. You actually see equipment working and spend as much time as you can in the exhibit hall and the sessions. The program is loaded with good sessions and sessions that you can learn from. It’s a big convention and it’s hard to do everything, but the equipment, I know so many people are sending employees to see equipment working.

[Stephen] Well, they’re more on display. It’s not all working because we have some regulations against that, but yeah, you can see it and touch it. I think the key is, first of all, wear your badge all times because that’s how people can see your name if they don’t know it. And smile, be friendly, be open to meeting new people. You never know what that person’s role is within a company or what his company does, since a lot of names don’t make it clear. Stanton A. Moss Inc. doesn’t really tell you what our company does. Our tagline is non-ferrous metals below it, but I think it’s really, it’s such a great opportunity to talk to, to meet people. Bring your business cards, hand them out to people and engage people. Be genuine. Be open because the people you meet, you may not follow up with right away, but down the road, you’ll see somebody or something will come across your mind and you’ll say, “oh wait, I met that guy at the convention. I’m going to call him up.” And it’s really a great opportunity to network and see so many people in one place.

We’ve tried to make the exhibit hall a little more conducive to networking and people having meetings in there so that you don’t have to run back to your hotel suite or run back more to the main part of Mandalay Bay; you can spend more of your day in the exhibit hall and at our sessions. There’s space in the exhibit hall, in the back corners everywhere, we have put tables out for people where they can sit, they can have meetings, they can eat the meals, the great food we serve in the hall. In Nashville, there was so much public space in and around the convention center that made it really easy for people to stay there.

[Stanton] That’s one thing we learned in Nashville. That convention hall was amazing.

[Stephen] There’s a first-timers event [like last year] this year and we’ve put it in a bigger room than ever before. We’re hoping to accommodate more — 700-800 first timers have signed up so far. We’re going to get more as the weeks come. It’s a great place for them to make contact with some people, to meet some key ISRI operators, and to learn about the convention.

[Stanton] And there’s also a session for the old timers, the Century Club. So, there’s something for everybody.

Stanton, how did you envision the future of conventions?

[Stanton] I envisioned the industry growing, so therefore the convention would grow. For ISRI, or whatever the trade organization was called, growth was there. The shredder had a lot to do with the industry growing. So, if the industry grows, convention grows, trade organization grows.

[Stephen] I think one of the key questions that has changed now is whether the convention attendance is tied to markets as much. It used to be that when the markets were good, especially the steel markets, the ferrous markets, we would have great attendance. When they weren’t good, our attendance would drop significantly. Right now, ferrous markets are so-so. I’m hearing a lot of grousing and complaining from people that the prices are going down, but yet our attendance numbers were still climbing. I think people have realized that just because maybe the pricing isn’t great right now, doesn’t mean that it’s time to go hide and stay home. That’s a more important time to go out and try to find new revenue streams and new markets and new equipment that can bring in, recapture more of the recycled materials that you’re trying to pull out.

[Stanton] I think the venues have changed. Nashville was a perfect example. In 2000, we weren’t thinking about going to Nashville. And yet, it turned out to be one of the best conventions we’ve ever run. And San Francisco, well, we can’t go there because the convention ceilings aren’t high enough. I was with the mayor and the crane was being brought in. I would say it was three inches from the ceiling. And he said, you’ll never come back here.

[Stephen] It is really challenging with the growth of the show and the growth of vendors wanting to bring heavy equipment in, finding cities that will host us. There’s maybe about 10 or 12 venues in all of North America that can really handle an ISRI convention. And then some of those don’t have the quality of hotels and other things. As we continue to grow and evolve, we’re seeking out other cities that can handle us and constantly exploring to see what’s out there. But we know Mandalay Bay is definitely one of the best places to go.
Thinking back when I was growing up, I remember we went to, must have been a NARI meeting that was in Nashville, and it was out at the Opryland Hotels because Nashville didn’t even have a downtown back then. It’s really nice to see us able to explore cities that have revitalized downtowns. I know San Diego has come a long way and their downtown is amazing and vibrant and it’s going to be another great convention there in 2025. We’re always looking for newer and better venues.

What are you both looking forward to this year?

[Stanton] I’m looking forward to seeing so many people, and so many people that we do business with, and ones we don’t do business with. And I’m looking forward to Former ISRI Chair Joel Denbo getting the Lifetime Achievement Award. It’s just a good time to see people, not just to have fun, but to go home and have a good feeling that you were at a good convention.

[Stephen] I mean, personally, I find that going to the convention and seeing my friends, seeing other business partners, it sends me back home inspired. It reminds me, you know, it’s kind of an annual reset or sometimes like the quarterly board meetings, it’s seeing the people you know in the industry, being able to spend some time connecting with them over meals, meetings or sessions. Also, we’re looking forward to celebrating our company’s 50th anniversary with people there. It’s going to be really nice.

Since it’s my last year to chair conventions, I’m bringing my family out and my wife and daughters will get to see my convention. I think my oldest, Madelyn, was at the first convention I chaired and I was carrying her around the exhibit hall and she looked so small compared to the heavy equipment in there. I know she doesn’t remember it, but I’m really looking forward to being able to show them some of the things that go on at our convention since they’re going to be the next generation maybe.

Anything else to add?

[Stephen] ISRI2024 is going to be great. I hope everybody that hears this is coming. And I also want to tell people how rewarding it’s been for, I think, both of us being involved in the trade association. How for our business, it’s been great, but also personally. I have a friend group from the industry now who are all people who are active and involved that I really look forward to seeing at all of these meetings. Most of them aren’t people I do business with, but they’re peers, they have their own companies, and it’s just great to have that peer group within the industry now. I think that makes my life working in metals even more rewarding, knowing these people and getting to work with other leaders through it.

[Stanton] I have developed friendships with third and fourth generations of families. Of course a lot of my friends have retired and they’re jealous that I haven’t. But you develop friendships and relationships. I always told any of my kids that if they were in a town and they had a flat tire or they had to borrow money, go to this local scrap dealer and they’ll know me and they’ll loan you the money, or they’ll help you. It’s relationships that don’t develop in other industries.

[Stephen] That relationship doesn’t develop instantly. You know, it’s something that develops over time. It’s not just coming to one convention. If this is your first convention and you don’t walk out of there with 20 new friends, it’s not a failure. These things take time. I think there’s a lot of people who are in in a hurry and don’t realize that it’s a long-term investment. But I think it’s a long-term investment that really pays off.

[Stanton] It’s also good to see people that have changed positions and change job. Shame that happens but it’s good to develop new friendships and new positions.

[Stephen] Yeah, the industry recycles a lot of people too, along with metal and other recyclable materials. [Laughs].

ISRI2024 is the eighth and final convention for ISRI Convention Chair Stephen Moss. It also...
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