WOODLAWN, Ohio – For the last eight years of her 29-year career at the Procter & Gamble Co., Icy Williams worked with minority and women business owners as the corporation’s supplier diversity leader.
Now she’s one of P&G’s suppliers as owner and president of PAK/TEEM, Inc. , an engineering, design and manufacturing firm based in Woodlawn.
Williams and her husband, Clarence, a former NFL player turned entrepreneur, acquired the 25-year-old PAK/TEEM from its founders late last year. They wanted to put their retirement savings to work, she said, and purchase the company to build a legacy for their children and grandchildren.
“We as a nation of people of color, we do a lot of consuming,” Williams said. “But how much do we own? And how much of a product do we make?”
As president of PAK/TEEM, Williams is working to grow the company’s customer base and expand its sales to the point that it can hire more people.
The company specializes in designing and manufacturing dust containment and collection systems for such corporate customers as P&G, Kellogg Co., Post Foods, Monsanto Co. and Kroger Co.
Goal: Double Annual Revenue In Three Years
The company currently employs 55 people at its headquarters in Woodlawn and its satellite locations in Appleton, Wisc., and Fort Mill, S.C. Annual revenue has ranged from $12 million to $15 million each of the past three years.
Williams is looking to double those revenues over the next three years. As ambitious as that sounds, Williams said she believes it can be done.
“We believe the foundation is here with the skills and capabilities,” she said. “Now it’s how do you get this company known and put a strong sales team in place.”
PAK/TEEM already has been certified as a minority-owned business, which Williams said could open doors for more contracts with existing customers and new opportunities with other big corporations.
“It gets your foot in the door for a company to take a look at you, but then you’ve got to bring the skills and the capability and match what your customer is looking for,” she said. “I look at this as an added tool in the tool box as we approach companies.”
The four previous owners of PAK/TEEM thought so highly of Icy and Clarence Williams that three of them have stayed on with the company to help with the transition, said Jonathan Sams, a partner with Sams, Fischer, Packard & Schuessler, LLC who has been PAK/TEEM’s lawyer for more than a decade.
The fourth owner has retired, said Sams, who represented the previous owners in the sale of the company and still represents PAK/TEEM.
“The company knows there’s a new sheriff in town,” Sams said. “Icy has this company, and it’s her vision. It’s her direction.”
The four previous owners felt Williams had the expertise and vision to take the company to the next level, Sams said. They also figured that being a certified minority-owned business might help differentiate the company from its competitors, he said.
“You can’t survive just on being a minority-owned business. You have to be an organization of substance,” Sams said. “We are hopeful that will be an additional differentiator.”
From a financing perspective, First Financial Bank never gave much consideration to race or gender, said Shawn Byerly, vice president of First Financial Bank' s Specialty Finance Group.
First Financial helped finance the acquisition because Williams had extensive experience managing larger business units within P&G and because PAK/TEEM already was a successful business, Byerly said.
“We feel like she’s going to be able to leverage her experience and her contacts into sales,” Byerly said. “The sky is the limit for Icy and Clarence.”
Williams also has the right combination of industry know-how and people sense, said Jon Hiltz, a partner with Keating, Muething & Klekamp PLL , who represented the Williamses in the acquisition.
“Icy is business-minded and very relationship oriented,” he said. “The key to her success with this acquisition was her ability to work with the existing management team and kind of initiate change while at the same time leveraging their resources.”
For Williams, who is 66, the business represents an opportunity to put her money where her mouth was for years in the supplier diversity world.
Now she’s the boss of a small, minority-owned company, and she’s working to take the advice she gave to other minority business owners for so many years: To diversify the company’s client base.
Following Her Own Advice
Williams wants to expand the industries that PAK/TEEM serves and market the company’s services to new divisions within its current corporate clients.
She also sees more retail potential for PAK/TEEM. The company has specialized in designing and selling comprehensive dust containment and collection systems for manufacturing clients.
But PAK/TEEM has various parts and components of those systems that could be marketed and sold on their own, she said.
Williams said she thinks marketing that “menu of services” could open up more potential sales for PAK/TEEM,
eventually generating more revenue and requiring more employees in Woodlawn.
During a tour of PAK/TEEM’s 50,000 square-foot manufacturing floor, Williams noted that the company has one shift working now but could easily accommodate three.
The company does fabrication, she said, and has a full machine shop. It needs skilled workers, and Williams wants to help educate young people about the kinds of jobs at companies like PAK/TEEM.
Williams acknowledged that running a business and being responsible for 55 employees is not exactly the kind of retirement project most people envision after a long, successful career with one of the world’s largest corporations.
“Sometimes you sit back and say, ‘Why are you doing this, are you crazy? Should you be doing this at this age in your life?’” she said.
But since retiring from P&G, Williams said, she couldn’t shake the idea that she needed to be part of creating jobs for her community and a business legacy for her family.
“It’s your turn, Icy,” she has said to herself, “to not only preach about it but to be an active participant in helping to make it happen.”
For more stories by Lucy May, go to www.wcpo.com/may . Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.