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Army Veteran Rose from Manager to Owner of Emporia Business

Williams Towing, Inc. in Emporia, Kansas was founded on January 2, 2018 by Clint Drake when he bought the towing division of Williams Automotive. Drake had successfully managed the towing division for four years before making it his own.  

An Army Veteran and native of Emporia, Clint Drake came into the business with the experience he gained in the U.S. Army when he served in Iraq from 2010 – 2011 with the 108th Helicopter Attachment based in Kuwait.

In 2014, Clint Drake was hired to manage the towing division at Williams Automotive. He excelled at the job and within a year he was promoted to manage the garage shop that handled diesel repairs as well as the company’s newly acquired recycling business.

After acquiring the knowledge to manage the towing division well, Drake was asked by the owner of the company if he would be interested in buying the division and run it as a separate company. The owner arranged the financing with ESB Financial to sell it to Drake, but he retained ownership of the property.

Drake knew in order grow his Williams Towing operation, he would need more space and to buy the building. “The garage shop wasn’t large enough to work on all of the vehicles and keep everything under one roof. We’d have to park and reposition the trucks outside on the lot,” said Drake.

To buy the building and additional property for the lot, Drake needed to restructure his financing. In 2018, he calculated the financing projections of what he would need to purchase the building and make needed improvements. Drake approached Wayne Symmonds, President and CEO of Frontier Financial Partners, Inc. as well as Russ Bonitatibus, Senior Vice President and Commercial Lender at Lyon County State Bank about financing the purchase of the existing building, a two acre gravel parking lot and improve the security of the property with an eight foot steel fence.

Russ Bonitatibus of Lyon County State Bank also introduced Drake to Lisa Brumbaugh, Regional Director of the Kansas SBDC at Emporia State University to go over his financials and valuations. “Lisa’s evaluation of my financials made me more confident with my assessment. She helped validate what I was projecting,” said Drake. 

Dream Come True

After Drake’s initial purchase of the business in January of 2018, it did not take long to finalize the financing and purchase of the building and additional property. The loan processing, that included an environmental study, was finalized in late 2018. Drake closed the loan on February 15, 2019. “The loan could have been closed earlier, but the government shutdown delayed things,” added Drake.

“Buying the building and property made economic sense as the terms were less expensive than the previous lease, and that improved our cash flow,” said Drake.  Williams Towing increased its revenues by double digits over three years and went from three employees in 2018 to nine full-time and 3 part-time employees in early 2020.

When asked what advice he would give to an entrepreneur, Drake emphasized how fluid running a business can be. “There are always new challenges to deal with as a business owner. Stick with your gut feeling, your hands-on knowledge, and reach out to experts at the Kansas Small Business Development Center to validate your plans and numbers. If you are taking over an existing business, you definitely need to have a good business valuation done to understand what you’re getting into,” concluded Drake.

Company Name: 
Williams Towing, Inc.
Emporia, Kansas