We were standing in the sun on a breezy and beautiful day when Katie Bruno, the marketing supervisor at Hill & Markes, said this to me. It occurred to me that everyone I spoke to at this Amsterdam, NY-based company said some iteration of these words: We made it because we worked together.
Hill & Markes was ahead of the game when the pandemic started to break out in the early spring of 2020. CEO Jason Packer started hearing about the coronavirus back in December of 2019, and he began to take action quickly. Long before the local government set stay-at-home orders in place or required social distancing and masks in public spaces, Packer and the team at Hill & Markes were taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of their employees and the efficiency of their work.
“We started thinking about the technology and getting people out of the building. I was concerned about maintaining business. I was worried about whether or not we’d be able to sustain all of the employees in this building,” Jason explained.
His fears early on were the same fears that business owners would share across the nation in the coming months. “If a lot of people get sick all at once, how are we going to supply our customers?”
And while serving customers is at the foundation of Hill & Markes business strategy, for Jason, keeping people safe was the number one concern. “Overall, the people we work with are our family. The people that work with us have for decades. I want to keep everybody safe.”
Jason said he realized ahead of time that shortages were coming soon. He pointed out to his employees that the shortages they were witnessing with Clorox products were only the beginning. Jason and I joked about the toilet paper shortage because, as it turns out, he was one of the early adopters of pandemic-era caution and was adamant that their team keep their toilet paper supply up (it’s also a product they distribute). I asked him if he was the reason there was such a shortage, and he laughed. We both laughed quite a bit.
Here’s the thing about Hill & Markes: they care about the overall impact of their company. This extends from how they treat their employees to how they serve their customers to how they treat the planet.
They didn’t let employees go during the coronavirus pandemic and they didn’t suffer pay cuts either. They pivoted their business strategy to make sure they were providing their customers with the tools they needed to maintain safety and sanitation during the pandemic. They even went the extra mile to provide training for their customers, teaching them how to make sure things were cleaned properly.
“It’s less about selling and more about helping,” said Angie Richards, an Account Executive at Hill & Markes. She’s worked for the company for 15 years and really loves how Hill & Markes operates as a team, working together to provide customers with the resources, training, and products they need.
And Hill & Markes’ focus continues to extend beyond their team, beyond their customers, and outward to encompass the environment. They care about the impact of their business on the global community. Katie, the marketing supervisor I mentioned earlier, wanted me to understand their dedication to the environment. “That’s part of our deeper mission. We care not only about the people who are using our products, but also how it’s affecting the environment,” Katie said.
People have talked about the environmental impact of medical waste as a result of the pandemic (and as the result of years of using disposable products), and Katie said the company is working to mitigate the effects on the environment by promoting sustainability. “We care about this planet and we’ve got to give the planet some TLC, so we’re providing supplies that are sustainable and eco-friendly.”
This is what really sets Hill & Markes apart. They’re a 100-year-old business that has impacted lives for generations, and they keep this in mind in all of their work. They’re thinking about the past, the present, and the future as they operate each day.
Benjamin Cohen, CEO of Proton, was there for the Hill & Markes We Supply America docuseries shoot, and he noticed this balance between recognizing their family-focused foundation and legacy while continuing to look toward the future—the future of their products, sustainability, and the environment; and the future of technology in the industry. “I think sometimes there’s this idea that if you’re a family business then you are, by definition, old school,” He explained.
“One thing that I really appreciated about Hill & Markes was that they were able to be family-focused, but also tech-forward.”
This balance and foresight are what has brought them century-long success; it’s what helped see them through Covid-19 quarantines and supply chain shortages—and it will surely drive their continued success for the foreseeable future.
I can’t wait for you to watch their episode and hear more about how these multifaceted suppliers helped support each other and our country through the struggles of the pandemic. As we continue to see COVID-19 spikes due to the Delta Variant (I wrote a blog post about it earlier this week), it is heartening to know that there are leaders like Jason who have the foresight to plan ahead, and the compassion to support his staff.