Today (25 February 2021) marks the one-year anniversary of the formal rebranding of MiTek’s global mezzanine division. Within a few weeks of the launch of MiTek Mezzanine Systems, the coronavirus pandemic rippled around the world, the effects of which are still being felt today. We asked Gene Toombs IV, President of MiTek Mezzanine Systems, to describe the challenges faced and lessons learned, as well as what the future looks like.
Gene, on the one-year anniversary for MiTek Mezzanine Systems, can you describe what it has been like bringing three providers together as one united, global mezzanine supplier?
It's been fascinating. It's been exhilarating. And it's been challenging! The biggest achievement from the rebranding perspective is that everyone feels a part of MiTek. The whole team has come together as MiTek Mezzanine Systems. That's been the neatest part of the story to see – the rallying around the MiTek name and owning that, and being responsible to that, understanding the larger legacy and the larger history of MiTek and how that applies to where we're going, what we've been doing.
People don't say that they're part of their old company names anymore. They say, "We're part of MiTek." Our customers even say, "That's MiTek." It's a huge accomplishment, based on the long history that existed with both companies, to put that past aside and move forward united as MiTek.
What a year it has been, with restructuring and rebranding the division, and then a global pandemic. Can you walk us through what this last year has been like for MiTek Mezzanine Systems?
I think the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to embrace change. Our teams are in two very different regions and different times zones. The need in the pandemic to work from home – working virtually on Microsoft Teams – has allowed for a different level of conversation than we had previously. Before, team members would have to travel eight plus hours each way to visit different locations, meet different people and see what their peers were doing across the pond. Of course, we want to get back to some degree of face-to-face communication, but the technology that we've been able to utilize over the last year has, I think, enhanced our collaboration and accelerated our pulling together as one team.
The tagline for MiTek Mezzanine Systems is 'Global Partnerships. Local Solutions.' Over the course of the last year, what have you learned about global partnerships?
We have customers in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, and they all expect the same: great customer service. And they want the wonderfully engineered products that we are able to provide. We’re continuously evaluating the processes that we use to serve our customers. There are many similarities and commonalities between the regions. We’re using a lot of the same tools and processes. What can we standardize? Let's develop the best way of doing it. That’s what I've been telling the team: "It may take a little bit longer, but the intention is that you're developing something that we can use globally."
Can you give an example of where you've been able to serve a customer better through having a global presence?
There have been several instances where a mezzanine project started in one region, with the installation taking place in another. With a global footprint, the customers – whether it's an end user, system integrator, general contractor, or dealer – benefits from a seamless experience. Being able to have a local team, with an expert understanding of the prevailing local codes, regulations and requirements is invaluable.
How has MiTek Mezzanine Systems' ability to provide local solutions changed or improved over the past year?
We have continuously improved in all steps of the process, from engineering to project management, manufacturing, delivery and installation. We looked at the broader picture and asked ourselves: "What can be done to improve a particular step, and what can we learn from each other?" So a lot of last year was spent learning. We did a lot of questioning, explaining, educating, working with each other and really getting a sense of our impact and potential in each of the different local regions. As we look ahead in 2021 and into the future, it will be about implementing and applying some of that learning to improve our business as we go forward.
People around the world have had to be innovative over this past year. Where have you witnessed innovation within MiTek Mezzanine Systems?
I would say having the mindset that innovation is important is a great starting point. Innovation is critical for our customers. It's critical for our teams internally. It's so important for the future, as we look forward.
The biggest accomplishment I would highlight in 2020 is the development of the Innovation Hub in North America. We worked closely with our team in the United Kingdom to identify key factors in their successful running of the UK Innovation Hub over the last four years and worked to apply that to the Hub in Wisconsin.
Despite all the challenges 2020 brought, MiTek Mezzanine Systems had a successful year. Can you share the year-end results?
Globally, our mezzanine division grew over 50 percent year-on-year. As you mention, that didn't come without challenges, especially with Covid in the world. We also know that we had some hiccups along the way. But generally, we were on track and able to provide what our customers were looking for, when and where they wanted it.
The overall market is growing and we are well placed to capitalize on this due to the strength of the MiTek brand, the loyalty of the customers that we have and the caliber of our team.
The growth we had led to some of the additional challenges we faced last year. Our customers gave us an impressive number of orders, so we had to work hard to meet their expectations. One realization through that process is that what got us where we are won't get us to where we need to go in the future. It’s an area we are continually working to improve on and deliver.
Do you have a message for the MiTek Mezzanine Systems team on this one-year anniversary?
As we look back on the last year, we couldn't have reached the level of success we achieved without our amazing team. They worked so hard last year. It was such an incredible effort. I'm very proud of them and just want to do the best for them as we go forward.
What are your predictions for the mezzanine industry in 2021 and beyond?
The forecast is continued aggressive growth. There are so many opportunities out there in the market, and the prospects are very strong. This cycle of very rapid growth in the e-commerce market is expected to last another five to ten years. One particular company drives a lot of that business, of course, but there are a lot of other companies that are investing to keep up with that company. It's about building out a larger e-commerce infrastructure.
COVID has changed a lot of patterns for all of us in shopping and retail. It's expected that those patterns, behaviors and habits are going to stick. We're not going to go back to shopping in the mall. We're not going to go back to browsing at the different department stores or wherever else people may have gone. It's all about moving it online. Some of the stories last year, where one year saw five years’ worth of advancement on the e-commerce trend, were amazing – just incredible acceleration. We are extremely well positioned to be a part of that and to grow with it!