Five tips from the Millennium Steel Service playbook on how to build a successful business with your spouse

BY Preta Peace Namasaba January 23, 2024 10:29 AM EDT
Henry and Andrea Jackson. Photo credit: Millenium Steel

Husband and wife Henry and Andrea Jackson founded Millennium Steel Service in 2001. It is a tier-one supplier specializing in processing, warehousing and storage of various types of steel. The company has expanded over the years to realize an estimated $500 million in annual revenues.

Millennium Steel also provides automotive grade outer body steel sheets to auto makers across the state of Texas. In 2017, the Indiana arm of the company generated more than $293 million in revenue while its Texas counterpart brought in over $266 million.

The spousal duo has jointly contributed to elevating Millennium Steel into one of the largest Black owned businesses in the United States. Although spousal businesses appear easy on the eye, multi-million-dollar businesses owned by spouses are rare. Most Americans are used to family-owned convenience stores run by spouses. That is the more familiar and most popular of couple-managed business.

According to the Census Bureau, family-owned businesses in the United States is estimated at about five million. In 2019, the Bureau found that about 22% of these businesses were jointly owned and operated by spouses, while nearly 8% were jointly owned but mostly operated by the husband. Only 3% of these businesses are jointly owned but operated by the wife.

At Millennium Steel, Andrea took charge as Chairperson and CEO of the mother firm Jackson Industries after the passing of Henry in 2017. But as we increasingly have come to know, what stands today as a successful business was conceptualized and brought to fruition by the pair.

As follows are five tips on how to build a successful business with your spouse from the Millennium Steel Service playbook.

1. Play to your strengths
The Jackson’s divided roles among themselves according to their differing strengths. Andrea led Synova Carpets, an automotive interior company within the Jackson Enterprise portfolio for nearly a decade. She has been responsible for growing Synova Carpets into a premier manufacturer of automotive carpets. On the other hand, Henry leveraged his experience working in manufacturing to grow the steel processor business.

2. Set goals
Henry Jackson initially started Jackson Plastics Inc., a plastic injection molder company that delivered plastics to Toyota and other auto and appliance makers. His connections with the automotive industry inspired the purchase of a small and growing, steel processor. With a view of solidifying the Jackson family’s influence in the steel industry, the couple expanded Millennium Steel from Indiana to Texas. combined, they generate approximately Combined, they generate approximately $500 million in revenue annually.
“You have to take the risk. That’s what I would tell people looking to get into any kind of business. You have to be able to sit back and analyze your strengths, decide where you are most likely to succeed. Then you have to put together a good plan and move forward. Stick to that plan. If you do that, I think you can achieve anything you set your mind to,” Henry Jackson said of what it takes to successfully grow a business.

3. Partner with other businesses
Millennium Steel came to be through a meeting between Toyota and Henry Jackson over two decades ago. This resulted in Millennium Steel Service, a Minority Owned Joint Venture with Toyota Tsusho America Inc. The company is now a a Tier 1 Raw Material supplier to Toyota and carries out blanking operations for the Toyota Texas plant. It also collaborates with Jackson Plastics to produce and deliver interior car parts to Toyota facilities in Indiana and Kentucky.

4. Capitalize on opportunities
In 2014, President Barack Obama visited Millennium Steel Services as part of Manufacturing Day. The presidential visit to the steel processing plant highlighted the strong relationships that Henry and Andrea have established within the industry. It also exposed the steel supplier to the entire nation and boosted their industry and community standing.

5. Plan for changes
Henry Jackson died in 2017 and Andrea took over as Chairwoman and CEO of Jackson Enterprises. She has leveraged the lessons she learned working alongside her her late husband to continue the organization’s success and impact across multiple industries. Andrea has established Jackson Enterprises as a pillar among minority business enterprises and built on the family business and its subsidiaries.