William G. Mays (BS '70, MBA '73, ScD '00)
Distinguished Entrepreneur 1993
William G. Mays (Bill), a native Hoosier, was born in Evansville, Indiana on December 4, 1945. His parents, Joy J. Mays and Theodore C. Mays, Sr. were both teachers. The youngest of three, he has two brothers, Theodore, Jr. and Robert, who are twins.
He attended Evansville Lincoln High School that was all Black until his senior year when integration was implemented. The transition was easy for him due to his participation in football and his strong academic skills. He graduated in 1963, as the number one male academically from Evansville Central High School.
At Indiana University in Bloomington, he majored in Chemistry and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1970. His father, a college chemistry professor, prompted his strong interest in the field. Initiated into the Alpha Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity in 1964, Bill Mays was an active participant holding several offices including president.
In the midst of his early professional career, he accepted a Consortium Fellowship, citing the desire for more formal business training. Majoring in Marketing and Finance, he received a Master of Business Administration degree from Indiana University in 1973.
Bill Mays has received four Honorary Doctorates, a Doctor of Laws in 1995 from Martin University, Indianapolis, Indiana; a Doctor of Science from the University of Evansville in 1997; a Doctor of Science, Indiana University-Bloomington in 2000; and a Doctor of Science from Marion College, Indianapolis, IN May 2001.
Business - Employment:
Nearing completion of his undergraduate studies, Bill Mays became a test chemist at the Linkbelt Facility in Indianapolis. He then acquired a sales position with Procter and Gamble (P&G) in Cincinnati, Ohio and a promotion to Account Manager. After three years with P&G, he accepted the Consortium Fellowship. During the Fellowship period, he worked in market planning at Eli Lilly Company in Indianapolis.
Upon completion of his graduate studies in 1973, Bill Mays accepted a position with Cummins Engine Company in Columbus, Indiana as Assistant to the President. It was there he learned and understood presentations and management as most of his interaction was with vice presidents. After completing this assignment, he moved into corporate planning with responsibilities for worldwide coordination of engine demand forecasting. This position married his training in marketing, finance and manufacturing.
After four years with Cummins, Mays was offered an opportunity to be president of a small chemical distributorship in Indianapolis. During his three years as president, sales of that company increased from $300,000 to $5 million. In 1980, he resigned from Specialty Chemicals, a division of Chemical Investors, due to a disagreement in philosophy and principle. He protested a change in the racial composition of Specialty's Board of Directors and refused to continue marketing the company as minority-run when it was not. He subsequently purchased what was left of the company in 1985.
Business - Entrepreneurial:
Mays Chemical Company, Inc.
In March 1980, Mays started Mays Chemical Company, Inc. He began as a one person operation who sold and processed orders himself. During the first year he doubled his $1 million sales objective. By 1990 (10 years), the company grew to $50 million and within the next five years, sales doubled to over $100 million. Currently, Mays Chemical has over 180 employees and over $180 million in sales. There are facilities in Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, New Jersey, Canada and Puerto Rico, with contract warehouses throughout the United States. Though the company mainly serves clients in 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico, sales are growing globally. Approximately five percent of the sales are outside of North America.
Mays Chemical serves a diversified customer base in a variety of industries. The four main industries served are food, pharmaceutical, beverage and automotive. Major customers include General Motors, Ford, Daimler Chrysler, Delphi, Eli Lilly, Abbott, Pfizer-Pharmacia, Kellogg's, General Mills, Procter and Gamble, Phillip Morris Companies, Miller Brewing and Pepsico.
Mays Chemical Company has won numerous awards for excellence including the National Minority Supplier Development Council's Largest Sales Category Supplier of the Year, twice; and six times, the General Motors Outstanding Supplier of the Year Award that is given to the one percent of their top suppliers worldwide. Mays Chemical Company is listed as one of the 15 largest chemical distribution companies in North America and is ranked in the top 20 on Black Enterprise magazine's most successful Black-owned companies roster since 1995.
In 1990, Bill Mays purchased the Indianapolis Recorder, the nation's fourth oldest surviving black newspaper. Since becoming Publisher, the newspaper has received many awards including the National Newspaper Publishers Association's Merit Award for Best Youth Section, Best Editorial Cartoon, Best Use of Photographs and Best Special Section. The Indianapolis Recorder has a solid readership greater than 100,000.
Moving into electronic media in 1993, Mays was majority owner of IBL,LLC, minority owner of Shirk, Inc., and a member of the Board of Directors of Hoosier Broadcasting Corporation. These properties were sold to Radio One, the largest minority media conglomerate in the Country in June 2000 for forty million dollars.
Other Entrepreneurial Interests
Mays owns property management and leasing companies. He had significant interest in a boat company and several golf courses which places him in the leisure sports and recreational business. He also has interests in construction companies and other small businesses.
Bill Mays serves on a wide variety of for-profit and non-profit boards and organizations. Currently, he serves as a director on the boards of Anthem Insurance, Inc.; Vectren Corporation; Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce; United Way of Central Indiana; Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association; Indiana University Foundation; Indiana University President's Council; and 1st Indiana Corporation. He is also involved with the United Negro College Fund and is co-chair of the annual Coca-Cola Circle City Classic. He has served as an Elder at Witherspoon Presbyterian Church.
Locally, his many community achievements include being the first African-American to serve as Chairman of Campaign for the United Way of Central Indiana in 1991, Chairman of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce in 1993-94; and Chairman of the Annual Campaign for the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1996. He was the first Black appointed to chair the Indiana Hoosier Lottery Commission in 1991.
Nationally, he has recently served on the boards for the National Commission on Entrepreneurship; the National Urban League; and currently serves on the boards of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management; and the National Minority Supplier Development Council.
Personal Honors and Awards:
As you might imagine, the list of honors and awards for Bill Mays is lengthy. Presently and going back six years, the list includes the National Society of Black Engineers Golden Torch Award (2003); Chicago Minority Business Development Council's Minority Business Advocate Award (2000); Indiana University's Herman B. Wells Visionaries Award (2000); IU School of Nursing Emeritus (2000); Junior Achievement Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame (1998); Wheeler Boys & Girls Club Man and Youth Award (1998); Madame C.J. Walker Life- time Achievement Award (1998); The Living Legends in Black Outstanding Entrepreneur Award (1997); Doris H. Merrit Service to Nursing Award (1997); United Negro College Fund, Inc. Distinguished Leadership Award (1997).
He was elected into the Advantage Magazine Black Business Hall of Fame in 1996 and Carried the Olympic flame during its trip through Indianapolis in 1996.
Family and Personal
Devoted family man, he is married to Dr. Rose (Cole) Mays, Associate Dean of Nursing at Indiana University in Indianapolis. They are the parents of two daughters, Heather, an elementary school teacher for nine years in Indianapolis, and Kristin, who is a manager at Mays Chemical Company. They also have a six year-old granddaughter, Ashley.
His hobbies and interest include reading and advising young Black businesses.
William Mays is Indiana's most successful Black businessman. There is a charismatic, yet laid-back, easy manner about him. He talks just like a 'plain ol' smart guy' who likes to roll up his sleeves and get down to work.' If one could translate his business sense into a mantra, it would be; substance is more important than color. He believes to be a successful entrepreneur you need education, experience and access to capital. You also must be able to sell yourself, build and maintain a strong banking relationship, plan strategically, control growth, attract and retain outstanding personnel, and balance family, business and community.