The Mays file Featured

11:25am EDT March 17, 2004
The Mays files

William Mays

Born: Evansville, Ind., Dec. 4, 1945

Education: Bachelor of arts in chemistry, Indiana University; MBA Indiana University; four honorary doctorate degrees

First job: Test chemist at the Linkbelt Facility, Indianapolis

Career moves: A sales position with Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati and a promotion to account manager; market planning at Eli Lilly Co.; assistant to the president, Cummins Engine Co., Columbus, Ind.; president, Specialty Chemicals, Indianapolis.


What has been your biggest challenge in business?


The greatest challenge I had in the beginning and even now is attracting, retaining and motivating good employees. Many business owners would talk about access to capital or getting sales opportunities. While these are sometimes a challenge, they don't consistently impact [the company] like the people challenges.


Past or present, whom do you admire most in business and why?


I have several people that I have admired from the business world; Madame CJ Walker's super success as a black female entrepreneur in the early 1900s. I have watched John Johnson of Ebony Magazine as he created and developed a business empire that includes publishing, cosmetics and media interests. He now has very successfully transitioned this thriving empire when he turned over the CEO reins to his daughter.

I have the utmost respect for Robert Johnson of BET because he found a niche within entertainment which ultimately would allow him to become the first African-American billionaire.


What is the greatest lesson you've learned in business?


The greatest lessons in business that I have learned are to always treat people the way you would want to be treated, and that success is measured in more ways than how much money you have.