Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kenneth Iverson, June 11, 1999. Interview I-0083. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Risk earns reward

In this excerpt, Iverson recalls the anxieties of moving massive amounts of money as a company president. Iverson had to invest a lot of money to enter the "flat roll" business, a risk that earned great rewards for the company.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kenneth Iverson, June 11, 1999. Interview I-0083. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JM: Let me ask about your effort, as you put in your book, “to escape the box,” the one-third of the steel market that you could participate in before you went into the flat roll business. This might sound an odd angle of approach, but much of this has been covered in the book and in the business press. I hope this sounds like a serious question. I intend it is one. What sort of emotional experience was to take that gamble across those couple of years? What sort of levels of anxiety? How much concern? KI: You mean going into the flat roll business? JM: And investing. Plunking the money down to take that gamble. KI: For me it wasn't any risk. I've often joked that I slept like a baby. I'd wake up every hour and cry. Basically it was a just a thrilling experience. Every company at some point plays “bet the company.” They take a risk when they don't have the financial strength to really take that risk. This was not the case. This was something that we knew we had to do eventually. If we were going to be a steel company, we had to get into the flat roll products, and we encouraged SMS and supported their developments from 1984 until they thought it was ready to be commercialized in 1989. For me, it was a wonderful experience and just what we were looking for. I had no really big trepidations although the other steel companies did, and certainly Bethlehem had a two paged book, which they showed wouldn't work. But it was--. It did work, and I always had confidence it would. That's not true of lots of things that we've done where I didn't have that kind of confidence. JM: But your general level of comfort there was pretty high, that this would work, pan out. KI: My comfort level was what we needed to do it. It was a huge opportunity and the risk was well worth the rewards.