CEO Jason Packer started preparing their business for the coronavirus pandemic months before their local government-issued stay-at-home orders. As challenges mounted, Hill & Markes stood on the foundation of their value system—persistently supporting their community, customers, and staff. While so many other companies had to lay off staff and make pay cuts to stay in business, Hill & Markes went out of their way to retain all of their staff without pay cuts and to amp up their already supportive culture.
It’s this type of family-oriented support system that I wanted to showcase during this journey. Now that the tour is over, I reached back out to Katie Bruno who is the marketing supervisor at Hill & Markes. We discussed the team’s experience and I got to hear her take on the stories we shared in their episode.
Dirk Beveridge: What compelled you to be a part of We Supply America?
Katie Bruno: We were asked to join the We Supply America docuseries—we were recommended and introduced to you by three of your sponsors: ISSA, Proton, and Infor all of which we work with. We then had a call with you and heard all about this mission and the storytelling that you wanted to share about distributors across New York and the country. You told us how you wanted to shine a light on what distributors do, how we have helped facilities operate—especially during the pandemic and afterward.
We were really excited to share our story because we’re so passionate about distribution. We’ve been operating for over a hundred years now, 115 years, and we’re a third-generation family-owned business.
DB: What was your experience like while filming?
KB: It was an exciting day for the office. Everyone was decked out in their Hill & Markes gear. We had a fully booked schedule. We started out the day on the Mohawk Bridge in Amsterdam. Then, we headed here to the office, and everyone was excited to see the We Supply America RV and the camera crews. It was just really exciting for everyone here to get some coverage.
Typically, I take videos in the office for our own marketing, but for an outside business to come in, it was really exciting for everyone in the company. You were super friendly to everyone, and we had lunch catered for the team. It was just a really fun day.
DB: Do you have any stories or takeaways from the filming?
KB: One of the most fun parts for the company was when we did the drone shot, and we all participated together in the, “We Supply America” cheer. That was really fun for everyone, our team was really excited to be a part of that moment. You could really feel the comradery between all of us. It just really finalized the day and made it really feel like we’re all a tight-knit unit. It was great to celebrate that our story was going to be shared. I think another takeaway I have is just how comfortable you made everyone feel when you were talking to them, and how great and professional the camera crew was.
DB: Do you think the episode accurately depicted you and your team?
KB: I think it really showcased how much our company and our team care about each other and support each other. We make sure that we’re all helping each other reach the end goal of supporting our customers for what they need. The episode also tapped into the community aspect and how we really care about our community.
I really loved the conversation between you and Jason about freedom. Jason discussed how, for him, his goal is that his employees feel the freedom to not only do their job here but also follow their passions, support their families, and evolve their lives outside of the office as well. I think that really showcased how Jason is as a leader and the overall culture of Hill & Markes. It starts with him, and we all do feel that freedom, which encourages us to work harder and support each other more. I think that was my favorite part of the episode.
DB: Is there anything you want the viewers to know about your company that wasn’t clearly illustrated in the episode?
KB: I want to emphasize how hard we work to be able to supply and source hard-to-get products for businesses and frontline employees during the pandemic. We worked during the height of the COVID pandemic to supply frontline workers—we sponsored lunches, we sponsored giveaway campaigns for the foodservice industry so that people would buy takeout because they couldn’t have service in-person.
We really rallied around each other to support the frontline workers that were working during the height of the pandemic. We provided webinars for people with information about how to open safely. We just gave all of our heart and soul to our customers and community. We always have, but we really rallied during that time and felt like we were making a difference. We will continue to work and serve with that dedication.
DB: What was your team’s reaction to the episode?
KB: Everyone loved it. They thought it was a great production and really showcased the story of who we are. They loved to see their fellow employees on camera talking about work and their passion for what they do. Everyone was really excited.
DB: How has being part of We Supply America impacted you and your team?
KB: It was great for our team to get some recognition for what we do as a company from a completely objective, outside source. I think it felt really good for them to get spotlighted by something like this. They all thought it was really cool and exciting. It made us feel like we are doing something great here.
DB: How have things been going since the filming and since the airing of the episode?
KB: It’s so busy all the time. Schools have reopened. Still supporting and supplying our customers and community. Some exciting upcoming marketing we have is we’re going to do a day-in-the-life of a driver series and more video campaigns. We’re also launching a podcast called “Since1906”, and that’ll be launched in October. It’s going to be conversations with people that work here, industry insiders, all sharing the story of how we became a powerhouse distributor and a well-known industry name. It will include all of the stories and trials and tribulations that come along with that.
DB: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
KB: Thank you to you and your team for choosing us to spotlight and thinking our story was worth sharing. Overall, just shining a light on distribution because it’s so ingrained in everyone’s day-to-day. People don’t realize how important distribution is, especially small distributors like us. It was really great to be highlighted and we’re so grateful.
If you haven’t watched the episode yet, you’re missing out! This family-owned business is so inspirational, and there are so many lessons to be learned from how they cultivate a family-focused culture. I had a longer CEO interview with Jason Packer about his experience leading the company through the pandemic, and it’s a must-see look at how Hill & Markes persevered to support their customers and staff.