Small Business Spotlight: El Dorado Metals

First Financial Bank
Feb 3, 2022
William “Willie” McNabb, CEO/President of El Dorado Metals shares his experiences and insights into growing a successful business in a specialized, highly regulated set of industries.

Can you tell us about El Dorado Metals and the business’ background?

El Dorado Metals was incorporated in May 1995 by my late father, Richard McNabb. His back story in the industry is working as a supervisor for various general contractors in related fields. He was here in El Dorado working for a local chemical manufacturer through a contractor and the opportunity presented itself to open his own business. We are in a very niche specialized industry. In March 1997, I became the vice president and was charged with growing our customer bases, even if it meant expansion into new markets. After my father’s passing in 2001, my younger brother Jeff moved into the VP position, and I became CEO/President. Through engineering and design services, we’ve evolved into a multi-faceted fabrication, construction and field services company specializing in products for the specialty chemicals, mining, refining, healthcare and industrial radiation shielding markets.

You evolved the company for these new industries. What was your original industry that you served?

We were doing specifically parts and products for specialty chemicals such as bromine or sulfuric acid. They require specialty types of equipment and tanks for containment. So we were lining tanks and equipment for those niche industries.

Your family has had many years of success in an industry and working with industries that are all heavily regulated – and the regulations are imposed from many different sources/entities. How do you keep up with requirements?

Due to the nature of the materials we use and the industries we serve, we have a strict medical surveillance program which is dictated by OSHA. Any changes by OSHA or any other regulatory bodies we are required to implement, and also provide an annual employee safety program with refresher courses, similar to continuing education. Some of the training is conducted by our internal staff and some by third party instructors who keep up-to-date on changes in laws that could affect us. We follow all the industry’s standards to keep our employees safe. We do rely on partners, some we’ve had for 25+ years, to help us keep everything in compliance. There is no way we could do it on our own without them. Even the large companies we work with can’t do it without help.

I understand you and your brother are partners in and lead the company. How did you and your brother learn the business? How do you divide and conquer responsibilities today? Is there another generation yet of McNabb’s planning to join the family business?

The McNabb family has been involved in some aspect of this industry since 1895. When we were in college, we’d work during summer or other breaks with our father and travel around the country on jobs. When I graduated from college, I moved to Arkansas where my father was working and I already had 4-5 years of experience. I had grown up around it. Although the industry had changed a lot, I still had a solid foundation for understanding the business.

As far as dividing business responsibilities, I always had more business acumen for contracts, financial planning, accounting, forecasting, negotiating, etc. My brother’s strengths have always been his in-depth understanding of product lines, job site planning, engineering and human resource management/personnel management. Our skills have always complemented each other well. We understand our roles and have had a lot of experience.

Our next generation is represented by my brother’s oldest son. He graduated from Louisiana Tech and is now with the company. While he was in school, he worked with us during the summer and learned the product while working on job sites. He represents the 6th generation of McNabbs in this field.

“No matter what type of financial questions or hurdles we had, First Financial got us through them. They’ve been a great central partner for us, and quite frankly, we wouldn’t be where we are without them. They wanted to understand our business and that is very, very important in a partnership.”

How do you approach making overarching decisions about the business? How do you leverage outside advisors/partners in making those decisions?

Working with advisors and partners in making decisions is important. The short answer is we couldn’t have grown the company without partners. A friend told me right after my father died that he’d like to give me some advice. He’s actually a competitor in the same field as me but has a friendly nature. He told me “You need to have what I call a 3-legged stool: a good lawyer, a good accountant and a great relationship with your bank or you won’t make it”. I agree with that. I have great partners in all three of those and have had them for more than 20 years. I consider all of those friends as well and they offer great advice even when it may not necessarily be what I want to hear. They have to give you an honest assessment of where you are. You have to be able to trust them.

Regarding First Financial bank, when my father passed and I went out and started talking to banks. I met Scott Walker (of First Financial Bank) and even 20 years later he is still my primary point of contact. The great thing about First Financial and Scott is that when we first met he wanted to understand what we did, how we operated, what our roles are – he really vetted our company. I think he did that so he could really understand what we did so he could explain what the bank could do for us based on our business. It took several visits back and forth. No one else did that – no other bank took the time to visit and sit down and listen. They just made their standard offer. That’s not the way First Financial approached it. How did that help us? At the time our facility was about 2000 sq feet and now it’s almost 30,000 sq feet. They extended a line of credit that allowed us to operate during the great recession of 2007/2008 and even during poor cash flow moments, which can happen when you have rapid growth. Whether it was equipment purchases or bonding questions or what type of surety companies we should consider. No matter what type of financial questions or hurdles we had, First Financial got us through them. They’ve been a great central partner for us, and quite frankly, we wouldn’t be where we are without them. They wanted to understand our business and that is very, very important in a partnership. They took the time to know who we are and what we did, then they were able to offer what was best suited for our needs. Nothing but great things to say about them – and we wouldn’t be who we are today without them.

With the impact of the last year on things like logistics and supply chain, any creative tips you could give a less experienced business owner about handling challenges?

An overall of being a business owner – I would tell people, if you ever think “Am I doing enough? Am I working hard enough?” you are probably not. It takes a lot to get a business off the ground and get going. Nothing beats hard work. Leadership is a top down thing. Your employees have to know and believe that you care about the company and their futures. If they see you coming in late, leaving early, taking long lunches – being disengaged – they notice and so do your customers. Don’t take credit for everything good that happens because it takes everyone to make things happen. Be humble. Be giving and involved in your community. Be attentive. And listen. That is extremely important. Listen to your employees. Listen to your customers and prospective customers. Be willing to adapt to an ever changing marketplace. Don’t take past success as an indicator of future success. You need to surround yourself with good people and partners. When looking for employees, look for experience but also those that have good character. Good people will help your company grow. You may find a great candidate that you don’t have a specific job opening for, but you know that they have great character and will help you in some capacity. If you can, bring them on because they’ll help you when times get hard – and times will get hard – they do for all companies. It is rewarding to surround yourself with good people.

What else would you like to share about El Dorado Metals and successfully growing a business?

We want people who want to be here. We want people who want to grow their career – and the company. We don’t want someone who is apathetic about their career. We want someone who is truly engaged. They are the ones who do well here for themselves and the company.

Group of workmen taking a break.We started 26 years ago with four guys in the bed of a pickup truck and just wanted to make a living. That was as far as our aspirations went at the time. Now we are a multi-faceted company doing work on a global scale. It is not lost on my brother and I how truly blessed we are. The old adage that hard work and determination pays off is true. Don’t give up on whatever your dreams may be. If you are a first time business owner, don’t limit yourself to what your company can be. Be willing to recognize when those changes in the marketplace are coming along, as well as the risk involved. If you believe in yourself and your company, don’t be afraid to take that risk.

We try our best to give back to the community. Our client base is global with only a couple of clients locally. Most folks don’t know us except through local involvement in things like Main Street El Dorado or the Boys’ and Girls’ Club. We sponsor things here in the town and that’s how we get our name out there. Just like our banking partner First Financial, we give back in all kinds of ways in the community. We needed to give back to our community because that’s where our people live and work. Sponsoring Little League, a church or social event are some of the ways that we try to contribute. You have to give and support the community where you live and work in.

Learn more about El Dorado Metals on their website or on Instagram.

Want to discuss your business’ needs? Give us a call at 800-562-6896.

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