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Mac Mannes, (asi/259100), Bethesda, MD
Staff celebrating the firm’s 60th anniversary dinner.
Benefits & Perks: Half-day Fridays, work from home flexibility and a relaxed, casual dress code. “We also get together a few times a year for team-building exercises like going to a ceramics class,” says Chris Huebner, president of Mac Mannes.
Workspace Highlights: About two-thirds of staffers work from home. “There’s really no advantage to having people drive an hour-and-a-half every day besides seeing their smiling faces,” says Huebner.
You won’t find foosball tables, bean bag chairs or ice cream parties at Mac Mannes. That doesn’t mean fun isn’t a priority, it’s just that the distributor’s 15 employees get more enjoyment out of creative brainstorming sessions and revisiting the company’s rich history. Nobody loves working at Mac Mannes for trendy perks – they love it because they make a difference in their clients’ lives.
“People like it here because they know where we stand,” says Chris Huebner, president of Mac Mannes. “We’re pretty transparent. They know their exact role in the company and how we all work together.”
Having celebrated its 60th year in promotional products in 2017, the Bethesda, MD-based distributor has weathered many changes in the industry due to its unwavering belief in people. Whether they’re loyal clients, efficient supplier partners or its highly dedicated and talented employees, Mac Mannes values the unlimited potential of the human spirit. “Just like the commercial says, we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two,” says Huebner, who took over the company in 2006. “We don’t look like a 61-year-old distributor. We keep improving and evolving.”
Past & Present
Mac Mannes was a real person, who started the firm as a gift shop on G Street in Washington, D.C., in 1939. A few decades later, his son John took a $2,500 order for logoed knives for a trade show, and quickly realized the promotional products business was more lucrative. Over the years, The White House, Capitol Airlines, Southern Railway and IBM all developed into large corporate accounts.
When Huebner started at Mac Mannes as a mail sorter in 1985, the office was full every day of the week. That’s drastically changed over the past 30 years, as technological advancements have allowed for employees to work remotely. Thanks to its cloud computing environment, the company doesn’t rely on daily in-person interaction. As a matter of fact, Huebner estimates that two-thirds of his staff work from home, which certainly makes their work-life balance easier and eliminates the cost and frustration of Beltway commuting. “While it makes it tougher to make a connection with people, it’s simply a way to work smarter,” he says. “There’s really no advantage to having people drive an hour and a half every day besides seeing their smiling faces.”
Chris Huebner is the president of Mac Mannes.
While Huebner believes in giving his employees autonomy, they still hop on conference calls to touch base and make sure everybody is on the same page. From apparel gurus to award and recognition experts to custom designers, the diverse team brings their individual expertise to the conversation. By the same measure, Huebner wants to make sure every employee feels important and vital to the company’s success. As opposed to isolating one or two people as the idea makers, Mac Mannes encourages everyone to contribute.
“Nobody here is an expert at everything,” Huebner says. “We make everybody feel comfortable sharing ideas and learning from our missteps. We all have our strengths and we feed off that.”
In addition to biweekly staff calls, the team gets together a few times a year for networking opportunities and client showcases. One of the biggest is part of the annual summit presented by The Partnering Group, an alliance of distributors and suppliers. As a member, Mac Mannes sends a team every year to check out the newest and most innovative products available for clients.
“We’re in an age where clients expect us to bring a project to life electronically and instantly, and want us to be able to read their minds,” Huebner says. “We know what our sweetest service is and who it’s targeted for. As a small distributor, we can’t be everything to everybody. We stick to what we do well for our clients.”
A Family Atmosphere
Huebner prides himself on running the company like a family business. The turnover rate is virtually zero, and two employees have exceeded even Huebner’s 33-year tenure. That remarkable stability stems from the hiring process, where he and his associates look for smart, unique candidates that can fill gaps rather than “cookie-cutter” sales reps.
“We look for people we can support so everybody can be successful,” Huebner says. “We have to see enough in them and they have to see enough in us. We’re not advertising for employees, but then again, we’re always on the lookout for people who may be a good fit.”
Patty Schlesinger, VP of operations, can attest to that family atmosphere. On top of the flexible work schedule and relaxed dress code, she says Huebner is always thinking of team-building exercises. In the past, they’ve gone out to a company-wide dinner, took a ceramics class and even spent a day at Glen Echo Park, riding one of the oldest carousels in the country. Before the 60th anniversary party last year, they bonded over a night at the bowling alley.
“Everybody seems happy and gets along,” Schlesinger says. “I’m lucky to work with a bunch of really good people.”
A fun night out at the bowling alley.