Mentors and Mentees excited that program
delivers a win/win.
While working on InvestUP’s strategic plan, it became increasingly clear to the leaders around the table how critical a role corporate culture plays in employee retention and overall growth. It impacts every aspect of a business, even sales. This is the first story in a series featuring UP companies that are finding innovative ways to build a strong internal culture. Strong companies result in a stronger economy, communities, growth and more jobs.
Marquette, MI (December 3, 2020) Over the past year, Longyear CEO Steve Hicks has been mentoring employees at all levels throughout the company for weekly one-on-one coaching sessions led by him and CFO Marc Blom. Each session lasts about thirty minutes. It’s a simple strategy. At Longyear, Hicks and his staff are already seeing this investment pay off in increased employee engagement and a better company-wide understanding of both day-to-day operations and the big picture.
Longyear is a 150-year-old asset management company based in Marquette, Michigan. The Longyear family of companies is diverse and includes JML Forestry, Northern Hardwoods and Able Medical Devices. Hicks and his leadership team view and operate these three entities as a single company, dedicated to supporting prosperity across the Upper Peninsula region.
At Able Medical Devices, Wade DePas, Director of Product Development and Quality and a key senior leader for Able, ensures that the company’s products meet their customers’ needs. Formerly holding a variety of engineering management positions, DePas, a Michigan Tech alumnus, also oversees the development of new products, like implants used for orthopedic surgery and the instrumentation that goes along with them. DePas, who has been meeting regularly with Hicks, believes that the mentoring helps employees get a better understanding of the focus of their jobs and how they impact the company’s top-level objectives.
DePas explains, “My time with Steve and Marc helps me get a zoomed-out perspective of the company. They help us answer questions like ‘Why are we here as a company? What are the values of the organization? How does what we do every day align with those values?’ This alignment is so important because it helps us understand the opportunities and the issues that are on the minds of company leaders. Sometimes employees can feel distanced from the big picture. These coaching sessions remind us that we’re part of a bigger whole and keep us working on the things that have real value.”
At the same time, these kinds of conversations can provide business leaders with a window into what’s happening at their companies at all levels. When trying to take the temperature of overall company culture and gain a deeper understanding of employees’ perspectives, nothing takes the place of face-to-face conversations. Just the act of reaching out to staff, from support to management, can affect morale and motivation.
DePas has seen a definite increase in employee engagement. “For someone at the highest level of the organization to take an interest in the work of individual employees is in itself an engaging process. The mentoring sessions have helped broaden the perspectives and conversations that employees are having with each other.” DePas says the process has spurred employee interest in longer-term, more visionary initiatives. They’re thinking beyond the narrower scope of their individual jobs and day-to-day issues and considering improvements that could positively affect the company long term.
Hicks has benefitted from mentoring himself, always acknowledging its value. He is coaching employees at all three of Longyear’s companies, and is already seeing another unexpected benefit. He notes, “These conversations allow me to pick up on trends across all three businesses. Although Able is a medical device company and Northern Hardwoods is a lumber company, both are in the manufacturing arena. There are many more similarities than you might initially think.”
After working for a time with the first group of employees, Hicks solicited feedback through an anonymous survey asking for positives, negatives and what he could do better. He’s now incorporating the feedback and has started working with a second group of employees. He says, “These conversations have become my favorite part of the week. I’m connecting with people and regularly hearing about the deeper parts of the organization. Every day I’m inspired by the good work, great ideas, dedication and talent of Longyear employees. I think this has been an uplifting, positive and informative experience for all of us.”
About JM Longyear
JM Longyear is Michigan-based asset management company in Marquette, Michigan. The Longyear family of business includes JML Forestry, Northern Hardwoods and Able Medical Devices. As a long-term investor and employer, Longyear has, is and will continue to support prosperity in the region with more than 150 employees, hundreds of contractors and continued investment. The company’s success is driven by a 150-year track record of long-term investment, ability to manage assets and opportunistic growth strategy.
About Able Medical Devices
Able Medical Devices is a leader in medical device manufacturing and development headquartered in Marquette, Michigan with a global reach. Able partners with companies focused on a growth-based portfolio and seeking first class, outsourced services that vary from design and development to comprehensive finished goods manufacturing.
InvestUP is a private sector-led economic development organization keenly focused on driving economic growth across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Founded by the region’s leading private sector businesses and the region’s universities, its mission is to deliver business and job growth across the peninsula.