BE 100s: 6 Success Strategies for Beating the Competition

Industry leader and ChemicoMays CEO Leon Richardson shares path to growth

Leon Richardson, CEO of BE 100s company, ChemicoMays (Image: Black Enterprise)

Leon Richardson, CEO of BE 100s company, ChemicoMays (Image: Black Enterprise)

ChemicoMays CEO Leon Richardson (Image: Richardson)

Southfield, Michigan-based ChemicoMays L.L.C. was a relative newcomer to the BE 100s when it emerged on the 2010 Industrial/Service List at No. 100 with gross sales of $25 million. Today, the chemical management services firm is No. 53 on that roster Industrial/Service List with gross sales of $66.1 million.

The fact that this chemical management services company has outperformed major competitors – revenues grew 25% in the past year alone – is one of the reasons why it was named BLACK ENTERPRISE Industrial/Service Company of the Year. Leon Richardson, a born entrepreneur who helped manage his family’s convenience store at the tender age of 13 and later distinguished himself in the Marines by operating exchanges for the Corps, is the visionary who launched his firm through an alliance with Mays Chemical, another BE 100s company.

Richardson’s prowess has been responsible for ChemicoMays being designated as a General Motors Supplier of the Year for the past 5 years in a row as well as receiving similar kudos from Toyota for handling chemical management for its largest plant outside of Japan. It’s extremely rare for a company to earn supplier recognition awards from both the No. 1 and No. 2 automakers in the same year.

Employing sound business fundamentals, Richardson now has his sights set on building his business to reach the $100 million mark by 2015. Find out how you can grow your small business using his success strategies:

Form Partnerships. ChemicoMays is a prime example of two companies that came together to fill a need in a particular marketplace. By joining forces, the company gained scale faster and more efficiently than would have been possible otherwise.

Diversify Your Customer Base. Initially, virtually all of ChemicoMays’ business was in the automotive space, but Richardson saw the inherent danger in that lack of diversification even before the auto industry crisis of 2008. “We wouldn’t want any one industry to be more than 30% of our overall business,” he says. “I see the biotech and pharmaceutical arenas as potential opportunities for us, as well as agricultural manufacturing. We’re always looking for new and fertile markets.”

Present A Clear Vision. “We have a pretty clear mission statement that drives me, and we incorporated this statement into our DNA when we started the business,” says Richardson. “And that is to continue to add value to our customer supply chain, add value to the lives of our employees and associates, and add value to the communities in which we operate.”

Set Goals. Richardson says management lays out monthly, yearly, and five-year goals. “Just accomplishing those goals—that sense of achievement—drives us,” he says. “From opening our door and closing successfully every night to conquering a new contract or developing a new employee, there are always challenges in front of us and that just drives me to no end.”

Build Relationships. ChemicoMays emphasizes building and maintaining customer relationships and bringing customers what they’re looking for and ensuring that they’re satisfied. “People like to do business with people they like,” he stresses. “We just overemphasize delivering on our values and it just really pays off.”

Look To Offer Complementary Services Or Products To Existing Customers. Assuming you already have a good relationship with your customers and that they’re satisfied with what you offer, offering complementary services provides a good way to increase revenue streams. To that end, Richardson is looking to enter the facilities management business, which complements his company’s chemical management services business.  

ChemicoMays CEO Leon Richardson (Image: Courtesy of Subject)

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