Daniel Zabcik: Helping companies achieve success while training customers and employees

2014 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

By Marcy Marro

Dan  Zabcik

During the 40 years Daniel (Dan) D. Zabcik spent in the metal construction industry, he has worked in virtually all aspects of the industry from finance and administration to marketing, sales, engineering and customer service. Zabcik started his career as a design engineer for Metallic Building Co. in 1956 and spent his career helping Metallic and other companies grow.

A history of success

After a short break from the industry from 1958 to 1962, Zabcik rejoined Metallic as an engineer and then moved into sales where he found his true calling of working with customers and mentoring sales people. By this time, Metallic had been acquired by National Steel Corp., and was made a subsidiary of Stran-Steel Corp. Zabcik was promoted into the Stran-Steel organization and stayed with the company after Metallic was divested and sold to Marathon Products. Around 1970, Zabcik rejoined Metallic as vice president of sales.

In 1978, Zabcik left Metallic to become the executive vice president of Mid-West Steel Buildings, a company founded by Johnie Schulte. At Mid-West Steel Buildings, Zabcik says he was focused on growing and managing the company by growing and developing the staff, recruiting and retaining customers and increasing the company’s manufacturing capacity. Mid-West became a major player in the metal building industry and was acquired by American Buildings Co. A year later, American also acquired Metallic and merged them into one company, Midwest-Metallic. Zabcik was made president a year later after Schulte retired.

After a short retirement, Zabcik came back to the industry when Schulte reacquired Midwest-Metallic in 1989 and folded it into his new company, National Components Inc., which was later renamed NCI. Flourishing under Zabcik and Schulte’s leadership, NCI went public in 1991 with both on the board of directors. In 1993, Zabcik retired from NCI but remained on the board of directors until 1998. While on the board, Zabcik was crucial to NCI’s acquisition of Metal Building Components Inc.
(MBCI), which made NCI the second largest metal building company at the time.

“I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of success in the industry but the most important things to me have been the relationships I’ve developed along the way. I’ve learned something from every person I’ve ever worked with and I’ve tried to teach them things I know as well.”

Daniel Zabcik

“Wherever I went, we had the same approach: Go out and get big projects and do whatever we had to do to be successful on them,” Zabcik explains. “When you do that as a small company, you have to start with the complex projects that nobody else wants and manage them very carefully or you will get in trouble. Our approach was to out-service our competitors, but at the same time, make sure we got paid for the extra work involved. Once we got a few of those projects in the door, things would start to snowball from there.”

“He always looked at metal buildings as the natural evolution of steel construction rather than as a niche industry, and worked to increase the use of metal buildings in the low-rise commercial market by pursuing, capturing and successfully completingA dedication and passion for metal roofing high-visibility projects with a keen focus on customer service,” explains Zabcik’s son, Robert (Bob) A. Zabcik, PE, LEED AP BD+C, director, research and development at NCI Group Inc., Houston.

Teaching success

As Bob describes his father’s greatest contributions are as a teacher and mentor to as many people he could touch. He says his father has a gift in that aspect and loves empowering others to succeed. “His reputation as an intelligent and savvy businessman is only surpassed by that as a strong and fair leader who treated everyone with equal respect,” Bob explains. “He employed a unique, up-front, all-cards-on-the-table approach to business that Metallic and NCI’s customers appreciated and still talk about 17 years after his retirement.”

“Of all the things I did, training customers and employees was my favorite,” Zabcik says. “I enjoyed the camaraderie and getting to know people better. I also felt success when they were successful and that always made me happy.”

Industry involvement

Even though Metallic was one of the founding members of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA), Zabcik says he wasn’t involved right away. When he did get involved, it was with the technical committee and during the 1970’s oil embargo; he formed a small committee with other members of the technical committee to research how to make metal buildings more energy efficient. From there, Zabcik got involved with the executive committee, and served as chair in 1993.

“Dan Zabcik’s contributions to the non-residential construction and more specifically pre-engineered metal buildings has been profound,” says Norman C. Chambers, chairman, president and CEO at NCI Group. “From design standards to innovative solutions, Dan has not only influenced the industry but also inspired many young engineers who now lead our industry.”

Over the years, Zabcik has seen a number of changes throughout the industry. The biggest, he says, is the use and popularity of the rigid frame. “They work so well for a metal cladded building; it’s like a match made in heaven,” he explains. “But designing rigid frames was laborious work, involving lots of trial and error, but mostly error. If you were a really good guesser and quick with a slide rule, you might be able to design one in a day. Then, when computers came along, we knew at Metallic that was going to fix that problem and we were one of the first companies to do it. Many others followed suit and the industry really took off from there.”

A big believer in financially supporting people who do good things, Zabcik says he has tried to do whatever he could. “I really owe much of my success to my education and I have established an endowment at the University of Texas in my family’s name.” He has also supported the Parkinson’s Foundation for many years.