Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Mark Lee. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Mark, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Talk to us about building your team? What was it like? What were some of the key challenges and what was your process like?
I started MDMartin in 2011 essentially alone. What began as an idea between myself and a friend, after the first three months of not securing a client, he was put in a situation where he had to go back to corporate life. I struggled with his decision to essentially ditch the “project” and call it quits but I gave myself a 12 month timeframe to keep pushing and see what came of it. It was right at the 11th hour that I secured my first client, prolonging this experiment into entrepreneurship. I hired my first team member and asked a good friend of mine to help out with payroll. A year later, that friend left his day job as a financial advisor for UBS and came on full-time, assisting with ops, accounting and payroll. Today – ten years later – he operates essentially as my business partner and is involved in most facets of the business.
We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs in the last 10+ years but the biggest hurdle was overcoming a protracted litigation from 4 years ago that almost pushed us into bankruptcy. But it was because of this experience that we were able to rethink most of our internal practices – namely how we hire and treat our team members. The financial struggles and the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic really caused me to refocus our core energies internally. We started providing 100% unlimited vacation days, sick days and sad days for all team members. We’ve allowed a hybrid work environment as needed. We’ve given our team members increases in their salary and compensation to mitigate inflation risks. And we’ve provided additional “value-add” benefits. We’ve focused on the health, wealth and happiness of our team first and foremost. And it’s because of this focus that we’ve regrown the company and had 3X growth in the last trailing 12 months.
Mark, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I am a (soon to be) 40 year old Korean-American Texan.
I emigrated to the states in ’87 and have lived in North Texas all my life. I went to Jesuit College Prep for high school and then attended SMU and graduated with a finance economics degree.
I got into the staffing and consulting space in 2011 after working in finance for about seven years. Over those years I worked in various fronts, wore different hats from operations to corporate finance, distressed assets and some private equity. And yet nothing really clicked for me. It wasn’t until my last stop at a distressed asset company, that I had a rebirth of sorts. It was during the housing crisis and recession that the distressed space was booming and our company was focused in purchasing CLOs (collateralized loan obligations) from financial institutions at a steep discount and trying to collect on the debt. It was mentally draining doing the type of work we were doing and one day I came across an opportunity to go to Ghana to do missionary microfinance work. I jumped on it and spent ten days out in Accra and Yendi helping small business owners grow their businesses. It was because of this experience that I came back and swiftly resigned from my job.
I spent the next weeks and months meeting friends to come up with my next opportunity, when a friend approached me with the idea of starting a staffing company together. I took a leap of faith into entrepreneurship and never looked back.
MDMartin offers comprehensive staffing services, including temp-staffing, temp-to-hire, and direct hire services. We also provide ancillary services including janitorial, site maintenance and consulting services. Our motto is that we don’t run companies, we help companies run better – and we stand by that.
The largest problem we help our clients solve (especially in recent years) is the growing number of resignations they are seeing. We staff any and all opportunities from general labor, warehouse, light industrial work to clerical, customer service (CSR), all the way up to C-suite positions. While our core competency is temp staffing, we assist our clients on all fronts.
The main thing we want our clients and prospective clients to know if that we are analytics driven. In a world where metrics and data are king, we thrive in it and by it. Our analytics team helps put together data points that help our operations team and our clients mitigate operational and financial risks as well as saving them time.
Especially in this climate, when companies are going lean(er), time is oftentimes the most valuable asset a company has. Our analytics can help our clients make sure they have the proper workforce positioned and in place to optimize production.
Can you open up about a time when you had a really close call with the business?
We had a former client owe us over a million dollars in payroll and refuse to pay. We were running lean on credit and didn’t have enough working capital to push growth in another direction. It seemed as if everything was caving in that bankruptcy was inevitable. I spent my life’s savings back into the business for almost a year just meeting payroll and other company expenditures. One week, we got so close to missing payroll that I sat down my team and gave them a head’s up that they might not get paid. I apologized and asked that they have some patience and that I promised we would come out of this situation stronger. The next day, two team members quit.
I leaned in that moment two things: 1. no one will love your company like you 2. you are only as good as your team
That experience has changed my mindset entirely on how I run and operate my companies.
Learning and unlearning are both critical parts of growth – can you share a story of a time when you had to unlearn a lesson?
I grew up in a generation where showing weakness was almost taboo. It was engrained into you from an early age and flattered across media platforms in the 80s and 90s. To ask questions meant you were stupid at times.
But I fully accepted the fact that I didn’t know everything, sometimes that I didn’t know anything. I accepted the fact that I was heading down a road I had never gone down before, through this entrepreneur journey and let myself be completely vulnerable. I think to be vulnerable oftentimes gives you complete unabashed freedom to learn and soak things in.
My motto has always been to “push past good” and I think being vulnerable to the unknown has helped me never settle for “just good”.
The great Michael Irvin once told a story about his father saying that “great men will see farther than they can run” and I try to run my companies with that mindset.
- Website: mdmartinstaffing.com
- Instagram: norihandrollbar
- Facebook: Nori Handroll Bar
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-lee-9726795/
- Other: We also own a sushi restaurant called Nori Handroll Bar in Dallas
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