Even after decades of business and community leadership, William G. Mays, founder and CEO of Mays Chemical Co. Inc., was surprised when the National Minority Supplier Development Council called to let him know that he was being considered for a MBE Clarion Leadership Award.
“I haven’t done anything more than what I think anybody who is reasonably successful should be doing to help their community, help other minority businesses, and so forth,” Mays said.
“The MBE Clarion Award honors an inspirational minority business leader with an established record of success for more than 20 years. Their achievements place them firmly among the elite class of minority suppliers and provide a platform to tout the value of minority suppliers to the global corporate supply chain,” according to NMSDC.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and an M.B.A. in marketing and finance from Indiana University, Mays turned down opportunities with Dow Chemical Co. and other firms to stay in his native Indiana and work with Cummins Inc. A few years later, he was approached to run a chemical distributorship in Indianapolis. The company wanted a minority-controlled distributorship, believing that would provide access to government contracts.
“That’s not really how it worked,” Mays chuckled.
Under his tenure, from 1977-1980, Mays took the company from $300,000 in annual sales to $3 million. Realizing he would have more freedom to run a company if he struck out on his own, Mays founded Mays Chemical in 1980, which today serves clients in the U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The firm specializes in products for the automotive, beverage, food and pharmaceutical industries. Major customers include Abbott Laboratories, Chrysler, Eli Lilly, Ford, General Mills, General Motors, Kellogg, Pharmacia, Altria Group and Procter & Gamble.
Mays Chemical and affiliates generated more than $200 million in sales in 2013 and is ranked among the largest chemical distributors in North America. The company has more than 150 employees and is ranked in the top 25 on Black Enterprise magazine’s top 100 businesses for 2013.
Mays said he was never focused on becoming a successful minority-owned company, but simply a successful company.
“Mays Chemical wants to be known as a really great chemical distributor that happens to be minority-owned and -controlled,” he said.
It’s true that the company’s employees are incredibly diverse. According to Mays, “We have a little bit of everything.” But, his attitude has always been to hire the best and to nurture talent. As a result, the average employee tenure is 10+ years, and Mays has seen some of his people go on to found their own successful businesses. He credits the latter for his NMSDC award.
“I believe the reason I’ve even been considered for the leadership award is because of other individuals who worked for Mays Chemical who have gone on to be extremely successful in their own right as minority-controlled companies,” he said. “I’m very proud of that. I’m never happy to lose good people, but I’m very pleased when there are a couple of other folks who start companies, and 10 years later, they’re in the BE 100.”
Mays retired in 2012, passing control of the company to his daughter, Kristin Mays-Corbitt, who started in the company as an intern and worked in several different capacities before being named president.
Even in retirement, Mays serves on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Indy Chamber, United Way of Central Indiana and Visit Indy. Additionally, he owns the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, which he purchased as a means to mentor young journalists and provide an outlet for the voice of the youth of Indianapolis.
More information about Mays Chemical Co. is available at http://mayschem.com.
BY MELISSA LOWERY