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Featured Success Stories of Companies Certified by NWBOC

Meet Elizabeth (Betsy) McGee of ADI Metal (Aluminum Distributing, Inc.) in Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Meet Elizabeth (Betsy) McGee of ADI Metal (Aluminum Distributing, Inc.) in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Every family business owner wishes for a 13-year-old like Betsy. At that age, she decided she wanted to be in the family business, and was methodical about making it happen. "I started gearing my high school classes toward economics and math, and my college classes around business management," Ms. McGee recalls. She graduated with a degree in business administration and promptly joined the family business in 1988. Aluminum Distributing, Inc. was started by Ms. McGee's father and uncle in 1958. By the year 1998 her had dad retired and put Ms. McGee in charge of the company; she was in business with her mother, brother and a cousin, since the other founder had previously passed away. In 2002 she bought out the other family members, and her mother stayed on but has recently retired.

The name Aluminum Distributing said it all in the early days. Today, the company, renamed ADI Metal, distributes a wide range of metals and raw materials to fabricators: sheets and pre-formed shapes of aluminum, stainless steel, copper, nickel, steel titanium, and brass. Typically, the company buys from the mills in large quantities, and sells in smaller quantities to metal fabricators. However, the most significant change was Ms. McGee's decision to move away from general-use metals to marine-specific metals. She says, "I had been looking for a way to compete with other service centers, and I always wanted to get into marine-grade metals because it is a lucrative market," she says.

For this dream to happen, two opportunities had to intersect. First, the fact that over the years a huge marine industry grew up around the company's location. "It was a logical market to focus on because our company, still in its original location, now sits in the middle of one of the biggest marine areas in the country. Next to Ft. Lauderdale airport, the yacht repair yards. This is where the marine fabricators are."  Second, in 2004 a large corporation decided to close its marine division, which gave Ms. McGee an opportunity to purchase their materials at a greatly reduced price. "I got the phone call because I had a good relationship with one of their salespeople; he called me as soon as he found out. In fact, he and I worked together to have the parent company support me in the transaction," she says. "I was able to beat out any competition because I acted quickly and had the personal relationship." This salesperson is still with Aluminum Distributing Inc.

The company is in a rather unique position, being female-owned in a heavily male-dominated industry. "I recognized this and wanted to capitalize on it as much as possible to set us apart. So we applied and got WBE certification," Ms. McGee states. She also started pursuing government contracts more aggressively, especially with the big downturn in the economy. "Having WBE certification has definitely opened the door for us. I can think of quite a few orders we've gotten that the contractor commented that our certification gave us a leg up," she says.

Also important for business expansion into larger contracts has been getting ISO certification, an international standard of quality management that requires certain continual processes for improvement, like customer feedback and satisfaction. "It is a lot of paperwork but in the long run it is a good investment for us. It really enables you to go after the bigger clients, and in fact many now require it. And that's okay," she says. "They can see you are putting out the effort for top quality, and it does make a difference."

Company website:  www.adimetal.com


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