Small Business, Big Presence
Chris Huebner leads 58-year-old distributor Mac Mannes, Inc. to new heights
Chris Huebner is one of probably a handful of industry professionals who have grown up in the industry working for just one company. From the mid-1980s to the present, Huebner has had a front row seat for the evolution of Bethesda, Maryland distributor Mac Mannes, Inc. (UPIC: macmann).
“My promo career started in 1985 as a summer job after graduating from high school,” says Huebner. “I worked in the warehouse at Mac Mannes, picking and pulling orders and making deliveries, along with whatever else I was asked to do.”
Huebner returned to the distributor each summer and winter break through college, working as a bookkeeper and sales assistant among other odd jobs. “After graduating, I started as a commissioned sales rep, earning a draw less than my salary the summer before,” he says.
Fast forward to today, and Huebner is leading the company on its journey to becoming even better. Read on to learn more about a day in Huebner’s life as president and CEO.
How long has Mac Mannes been around, and how long have you led the firm?
We have a pretty neat history. Mac Mannes was founded by none other than Mac himself, in the late 1930s, as a retail gift store a couple blocks from the White House. Mac’s son, John, got into the promotional business—which he called industrial gifts at the time—in 1957, and soon he closed the retail store.
Steve Edwards was one of John’s first salespeople, and he bought the company in 1984. Steve ran the firm until he retired in 2007, when I took the reins. Both John and Steve are well respected in the industry by those who’ve been around a while. I’m thrilled to be the next generation and I strive to follow their lead.
Describe your office atmosphere.
We’ve transformed completely in the past five years, going from a single office in Washington, D.C. where every employee came to work every day, to where we are today. We now have two offices in Bethesda and Virginia Beach, and more employees who work remotely than appear at either office on a daily basis. It can be a challenge to connect with one another, but technology does a great job of bridging that gap.
What kinds of projects or tasks might you tackle on a given day?
I love the fact that you never know what your day will entail—it can be really good or really bad, but never boring. In addition to running a distributorship, overseeing sales, operations and marketing, I’mstill a salesperson at heart and I love maintaining my own book of business.
How do you collaborate with co-workers?
We take a team approach to company-wide efforts, usually setting a platform and asking for creative feedback. We also don’t have a lot of layers. If someone needs me, they can call or email anytime and I’ll address their need as soon as possible. During work hours, I expect the same in return.
How does this job challenge you?
Being able to juggle client expectations along with supplier capabilities and still remaining profitable continues to be a challenge.
What do you love about your company?
We have a wonderful corporate culture that provides us the best of both worlds. We run a serious business serving our clients and turning a profit, but we still retain the attributes of a small, family-run business.
What changes or improvements have you recently implemented, or are you planning to make in the future?
We took a lot of time this summer reflecting on where we are now, where we think the industry is going, and what we think our clients will expect from us in 2017 and beyond. Now we’re in the process of implementing those plans.
What makes Mac Mannes a valuable member of the promotional products community?
Fifty-eight years of steady success in the industry has given us a lot of well-earned respect. We’re not a one-hit wonder. We focus as much of our business as we can on a select group of top-performing suppliers. We expect to be treated both professionally and fairly, and we will do the same in return.