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Who Was Bob McNichols?

April 5, 2021, would have been our founder Bob's 99th birthday. To celebrate, we're sharing a bit about his experiences, values, and legacy.

 |  4 min read

April 5, 1922 – July 24, 1981

Service, Quality, and Performance – these are just a few of the values that McNICHOLS CO. associates strive to embody. In fact, many of our foundational values were determined long before we became the nation’s leading supplier of “Hole Products.” Our founder, Robert L. “Bob” McNichols, was a man of strong character, and throughout his life, he practiced many of the principles that influence and inspire us to this day.

Drive & Perseverance

Bob grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, with his younger brother Charles (“Chuck”) and parents Charles and Francis McNichols. As a kid, Bob was taught the value of discipline and good old-fashioned hard work. He applied that strong work ethic to his studies and maintained various jobs from a young age.

A defining part of Bob's youth was earning the position of drum major in his high school band. Bob's determination was fundamental in achieving this role; he spent his free time memorizing the band’s choreography, directing rehearsals, guiding other members, and leading the band in many memorable performances.

Between fulfilling this position, keeping up with chores at home, and maintaining whatever job he occupied at the time, Bob always put forth his best effort. Being a hard worker was ingrained in Bob's character and would serve him well throughout his life.

Bob McNichols in his U.S. Army Air Corps uniform
Bob McNichols in his U.S. Army Air Corps uniform

An Enterprising Spirit

If you've read The Hole Story, you're familiar with Bob's service as a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps and the miraculous story of his survival. Throughout the war, Bob consistently demonstrated an eagerness to serve his country and compatriots. But in addition to his bravery and service, Bob also learned many important lessons from his experience in the Air Corps.

During World War II, the United States faced a crisis of scarcity. Soldiers rationed supplies and found different uses for whatever materials were available to them. This scarcity instilled resourcefulness in Bob, and as a result, he learned in real time how to make something, out of what appeared to be nothing. For example, while being a prisoner in a German concentration camp, Bob was designated as the camp’s cook and created numerous recipes with a well-known main ingredient - SPAM!

After the war ended, Bob began his career with the support of his wife Phyllis, his determination, a home telephone, and his faith in God. Bob used whatever assets he had to make progress in his field of work. From his previous life experiences, Bob made the conscious choice to see opportunity regardless of his circumstances.

A Pioneer for Progress

After his military service, Bob worked as a sales rep, and one of his product lines just happened to be Perforated Metal. While the manufacturing company had the machinery to produce plenty of Perforated Metal, Bob could somehow see more. His vision was to go above and beyond, striving to offer a higher level of service and value than customers were accustomed to receiving. Over time, Bob continued to work hard, putting himself in a position to buy the manufacturer’s Perforated Metal product line when it became available for purchase. He then began circulating it from his home, building personal relationships with customers in a way that was uncommon. With his tireless commitment to service, McNICHOLS CO. was born.

By the grace of God and by that good old fashioned hard work, Bob would eventually grow out of his garage and into the Company's first Metals Service Center in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Never seeming to rest, Bob continued to pursue advancement, saving funds until he could acquire more material, expand his specialty metal product line, and acquire the latest technology and machinery to serve his customers.

In the early days of the business, Bob served in a multitude of roles from sales to delivery to accounting. Bob continued to trust his vision, alter the recipe, and therefore, the future of McNICHOLS. When Cleveland's economy hit a slump in the 1970s, Bob was well ahead of that reality too, and foresaw the advantages a second location (and economy) could provide. He expanded the company with an additional branch in Tampa, Florida, and it was there a Hole Network of branches was born. Hustling and pursuing progress were not options for Bob; they were ingredients to his success and ability to leave a lasting legacy.

Bob's vision of the "Hole Network"
Bob's vision of the "Hole Network"

Bob's Lasting Legacy

While Bob may not have known what McNICHOLS would become, his past experiences certainly prepared him to do great things. He also prepared his son Gene to lead and grow the family business after his passing in 1981. Today, the third generation of the McNichols family helps lead nearly 400 associates in 19 different cities across America. With Bob's example as a regular reminder, we aim to match his drive, resourcefulness, innovation, and most importantly, the unmatchable service he provided his customers. If we have earned the opportunity to serve you, we trust your experience reflected the values Bob made a promise to keep. We hope you enjoyed discovering a little more about Bob and the foundation our company was built upon. Today, April 5, 2020, would have been his 98th birthday! Please join us in honoring his memory and legacy. If you would like to learn more about McNICHOLS® Hole Products and Value-Added Services, our associates are eager to share and, as always, are ready and Inspired to Serve® you!

Bob McNichols and his son Gene McNichols
Bob with son Gene McNichols
Who Was Bob McNichols?
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