NORFOLK, NE – "We don't just make cabinets. Our team helps people fulfill their dreams of a comfortable, inviting home that brings family and friends together." This is what prospective employees can expect to experience at Master Brand, North America’s largest manufacturer of kitchen cabinets and bathroom cabinetry.
The company, based in the rural southern Indiana community of Jasper, is hoping its new generation of employees feel the same way; to build employee opportunity, purpose, and reward into everything it does.
Two representatives of Master Brand brought the message to Northeast Community College recently. They were not here looking for craftsman, but instead spent time speaking with students in the College’s information technology program.
And they didn’t come to Norfolk to only look at new hires.
“We really want to understand you, as well,” said Jeff Hassfurther, senior director of business transformation. “We want to know what are you looking for in a career that maybe we haven’t even thought about.”
Master Brand is a division of Fortune Brand, which also owns Moen faucets, Therma-Tru doors, SentrySafe and Master Lock, among others. Master Brand is the number one cabinet manufacturer in North America, with $2.4 billion in sales last year, half of Fortune’s total sales. It sells cabinets that range in price from
$80-$1,500 through 80-plus brands, including Aristokraft, Homecrest, Diamond, Kitchen Craft, Kemper, Decora, Omega, Thomasville, and Martha Stewart’s private label.
Hassfurther leads Master Brand’s Enterprise Resource Planning, the 17 main business management systems the company uses. He said he and his team will spend the next several years upgrading the systems to create a better management tool for the company and its customers.
“I have nine RPG developers and contractors and they are all getting older. I have to figure out how to build my next generation of RPG developers. I got here (Northeast) after I started ‘googling’ RPG degrees and found Northeast.”
RPG is a high-level programming language for business applications. Northeast offers courses in the field that allows students to earn an IBMi application development certificate, which is part of the application development concentration.
Hassfurther said Master Brand wants to continue expanding its technology capabilities to create a more robust experience for its customers.
“Kitchen remodel projects are not easy and our company continues to look for ways to make the process easy for our customers, including using better technology through the use of virtual reality and holograms, which allow customers a better visualization of a new kitchen.”
Hassfurther described Master Brand as an innovative company, which comes to focus each and every week in its IT division. He said the company’s chief information officer sees the value in becoming more innovative.
“Every Friday, from 2-4 p.m., our company’s 125 employees in IT discuss nothing but and think about innovation. This a huge investment on the part of the company. This may be something like using Google for hours researching and finding new technology, then going to a conference and learning about it. People are finding things that we didn’t know even know existed. We want them to push the limits until we tell them to stop.”
Hassfurther said finding new innovations is similar to continuous improvement.
“Make your job better every day. Even if it’s just a different technique, that counts as innovation.”
Master Brand has a formula called Six (Keys) for Success; areas that it looks at in hiring and retaining its employees. They are, be trustworthy, commit to your team, listen to understand, serve your customer, prepare and plan, and deliver the result.
Hassfurther said these are skills necessary in any occupation.
“It gets back to our ‘Six for Success.’ Integrity, hard work….all those things that we have talked about. We’re really looking for all those things. This is what you need to have. Excellent written and verbal communication skills are a must. It’s not always easy to get up and speak in front of others, but you have to do it. And just think about the number of emails that you write. Since you don’t always have time to talk to all those people, your written skills become so critical.”
Entry level programmers at Master Brand can earn $40-$50,000 annually, depending on their skillsets, abilities, as well as their communication and written skills.
Hassfurther called applying for a job as a ‘competition.’
“Just because you turned in a resume, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get a job. It goes on stack with many others. You really need to have that (resume) polished. You really need to make sure you sell yourself. You are selling yourself, if you want to call it that or not. You have to make me want to ‘buy’ you, like I’m here today trying to sell me to you.”
Jeff Hassfurther, senior director of business transformation, and Sean Perlman, corporate recruiter for Master Brand Cabinets, speak with information technology students at Northeast Community College.