dominated by white males for so long,” she says. “Burger King and Pizza Hut are not afraid to present women with that opportunity. And I haven’t been afraid to take full advantage of that.”
CEO of Thomas Madison Inc.
Ask Geralda Dodd what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she’ll tell you she had her heart set on being a schoolteacher. She had an idyllic notion of shaping the minds of tomorrow. In fact, Dodd took several teaching courses at the University of Toledo and did some student tutoring for a while. “But it didn’t take too much of that to change my mind about teaching,” she laughs.
Today Dodd is a CEO in one of the unlikeliest fields of all. She heads Thomas Madison Inc. (TMI), one of the largest black-owned steel and metal stamping companies in the country. Dodd, 41, virtually fell into the business, starting out as a 21-year-old receptionist with Heidtman Steel in Toledo, Ohio. What began as a temporary position taking messages developed into an unexpected career turn. “I always thought I’d own my own business,” she says. “But it never occurred to me it would be in this industry. I just got bit by the steel bug.”
Dodd says it was a natural progression as she started asking for greater responsibilities and was soon introduced to other aspects of the business. “I tried to absorb everything I could because I was so very hungry to learn about business.” Dodd went from working the phones into the belly of the steel company’s inventory control area. After proving her mettle there, she was named inventory control manager before moving over to the purchasing department. Several promotions later, she was appointed director of purchasing and eventually vice president of purchasing. That’s when she received a unique proposal.
In October 1990, John Bates, president of Heidtman Steel, approached Dodd about starting a joint venture called Integrated Steel (IS), in which she would own majority interest. Her equity contribution to the deal was $30,000. IS functioned as a broker of steel products until April 1991, when it moved into its own facility in Detroit and became a metal stamping firm.
Today IS is just one component of TMI. The other arms include HS Automotive, which does heavy-gauge metal stamping and designs; HSA II, which produces light- to mediumgauge parts and brake components; and S&S Cartage, a transportation company that allows Dodd to haul her steel coils wherever necessary.
Much like her fellow BE 100s CEO and steel industry counterpart David Bing of the Bing Group (No. 5 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list), Dodd has now positioned a number of companies to support her main enterprise, TMI. “The key is to try and have an organization that appears seamless to our customers. Each company is independent and has a separate function. But they all operate to the overall benefit of Thomas Madison,” she says.
Yet despite her success, Dodd is frank in saying her race and gender have played a role in