As president of Hancock Lumber, Kevin Hancock is a busy man. Running one of the oldest, most distinguished family-owned lumber companies in the country, he divides his time between their three divisions: a land company, a sawmill division and a retail business. Hancock Lumber is the largest producer of Eastern White Pine in the United States with strong domestic sales along with growing international demand.
As the company diversifies, grows and thrives 164 years and six generations later, you'd be hard-pressed to find a president who cares as much about his employees as Kevin does.
He recently spoke at a chamber event about his company's values and how a well-defined employment brand has strengthened his nimble, customer-focused workforce. I caught up with Kevin for an interview to learn more.
What are the values that your employees see and live every day?
- Every job is important. Every person is important.
- Customer intimacy. We don't see markets, we see individual customers and we customize our products and services to meet their needs.
- Continuous improvement. We want to improve our products, service and operating systems continuously.
- Accuracy. Accuracy is a critical ingredient to quality. "Don't take it, make it or pass it unless you know it's right."
- Listening. We build our business plans around feedback from our customers and employees.
- No shortcuts. We take a long view of customer, employee and supplier value.
How do these values and other ones help your business?
KH: We have 400 employees and every one of them makes a lot of important decisions in the course of a single day. It is neither possible nor desirable for managers to make all the decisions that need to be made each day. We want our people, who are doing the work, to feel empowered and trusted. Our values are there to guide decision-making. We want people making decisions that support our values.
How do you encourage employees to rely on each other?
KH: Through communication. We send a lot of messages, in many different forms, to our employees. Those messages are designed to encourage them to know our values, trust each other and work together to solve problems and improve the business.
How do these values and practices ultimately affect the customer?
KH: Our values and practices hopefully combine to affect the customer by ensuring that the products and services we provide are accurate and of exceptionally high quality. In addition, when our people do their work with a smile, enthusiasm and pride it shows and our customers can see the commitment that everyone on our team has to them.
What kind of training do you offer to employees?
KH: Increasingly, we are encouraging our employees work with their supervisor to create their own Personal Development Plan (PDP). In this day and age it is difficult to sit in a central office and decide best what everyone needs to learn next. We want each employee to have a vision of where they want to go with their own growth and development and to then be responsible for finding the resources that best support their individual learning goals.
Do you have a lot of long-term employees and, if so, why do you think that is?
KH: We do have a lot of long-term employees and I think that is the case for a few reasons. First, we treat people with respect. We see employees as people, as individuals. Second, we give our people a lot of freedom and flexibility to make their own decisions. Finally, we have a work environment that is driven to improve and compete and I think we attract people who like competition and challenge.
Applying Best Practices
What makes your company a great place to work? Do you have a set of values that each employee sees and knows? What do your employees think that your values are? Check out Hancock Lumber's enhanced company profile to learn more about their employment brand.
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