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One big human family

“Why would you do that?” is a question I’m constantly being asked here at MMD.

Whether it’s our free warehouse snack bar (which the UPS guy loves), our bathroom “girl drawer,” or the launch of Flat Can Recycling, our aerosol paint can recycling program, people are oftentimes stumped by why we do a lot of the things we do.

The simple answer is, at our company, we think about the impact that our choices will have well into the future, and we try to come up with ways to do things that will benefit everyone who walks into our building, or receives a delivery from us. We’re all about doing good for our fellow humans.

For example, when we bring on a new employee or customer, we intentionally get to know them, what’s important to them, and what’s going on with their family. We want to build a long-term relationship, and what better way to ensure that?

In fact, as the Head Honcho here at MMD, I like to employ people who have families, or who want to have a family someday (even if that just means adopting a dog or cat). I want to know that sense of care and supportiveness that comes with “family” is a priority for our employees, because it means that our employees will treat each other and our customers like family, too.

Why would we take the time to get to know our coworkers’ families? Because it means that when an employee’s wife is having her pacemaker replaced, it’s not an unexpected “inconvenience” to us – and he can take the time he needs to be by his wife’s side before, during, and after her procedure. Or when another employee needs to travel out of state to attend her child’s college graduation, it goes without saying that it’s our priority to adapt in whatever way is necessary to allow her to be there on a very special day.

In these types of situations, we’re not looking at our ROI, or worrying about lost productivity. We’re being compassionate leaders who know that doing the right thing now will lead to long-term employee happiness. I would rather support my coworkers by giving them the space they need to be fully present for whatever challenges or milestones life is presenting them with. That way, when they come back to work, they are in a great state of mind, and they feel deeply valued.

Another example of a human-centric choice that we’ve made here at MMD (and one that might puzzle some people, but that’s near and dear to my heart) is connected to the products that we sell. Roughly half of MMD’s sales come from wood survey stakes and lath. 95% of our wood products are made of oak, which is air-dried.

Due to the type of drying our sawmill uses, they have to put spacers (also made of oak) between each row of bundles on a pallet of 55 stakes. Well, guess what? We save those spacers! And why do we do it? Well, it all started a few years ago, when we met Bob from Elgin, Illinois. Bob became one of the awesome people in our community who takes our empty pallets off our hands, showing up every few weeks to pick up a few and shoot the shit with us. We didn’t know what he used the pallets for, but we were always happy to see him and hear about what was new in his life.

Turns out, Bob’s wife is a two-time cancer survivor. She makes wonderful lotions and soaps that are all natural (Bob brings a few for us whenever he comes in to our office), and she lives with Bob in a house that’s heated by a wood-burning stove. One day, Bob noticed the spacers on our pallets, and asked us what we did with them. “I hope these don’t go to waste,” he said – and the rest is history!

Have you figured out what wood Bob is burning to heat his home? Ding ding ding! MMD’s oak spacers! Even though it would be easier to throw them out, and even though it doesn’t generate any revenue to do it, we take them off of the pallets, put them aside, and give them to Bob (for free). Because it feels good to do it, and contributes to his family in a positive way. Now he doesn’t have to chop up the pallets to keep his house toasty. He can just throw the spacers into his stove, and enjoy a warm home without all the manual labor.

That’s just one example of how rewarding it can be to go above and beyond what’s expected of you as a business. There are so many “why do you do that?” scenarios at MMD, and I hope I’ll continue to get this question from people until I retire, because it will mean that I’m doing what I set out to do: run our company in a way that lets us put helping others/the earth before profit.

As we head into a new decade (!), we’ll continue to be conscious of our environmental impact, what we sell, and how we ship orders. We’ll also continue with our monthly team brainstorming sessions, which are the source of all the zany MMD ideas that are ultimately designed to make everyone who comes into contact with our company feel like family.

I think the next time someone asks, “Why do you do that?” I’m going to reply with, “Why? Do you know someone else who’s doing what we’re doing?” Pretty sure the answer is No – and that’s kind of the point. 🙂


Kat Kresic
Head Honcho at MMD

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