A letter from Kevin Hancock
We will never see a set of conditions at work like we experienced together in 2021 and 2022.
First, there was covid which brought lockdowns, masks, no school, no daycare, essential industries, remote work, fear, frustration, sickness, tension, supply chain chaos, and ‘the great resignation’. I remember in 2021 people asking me if Hancock Lumber was working remotely, to which I replied, “No, we haven’t found a way to make lumber from our couch in sweatpants yet.” Through the entirety of covid the people of Hancock Lumber went to work. That’s just what we did.
Not only did we work, we excelled. Thanks to you, Hancock Lumber grew, set records, and soared. We added stores in Augusta (Lapointe Lumber) and New Hampshire (Winnipesaukee Lumber). We launched our Hancock Online e-commerce store and our Hancock ProFinish priming, painting and staining facility. We even added a fourth white pine sawmill in New Hampshire (Madison Lumber) solidifying our position as the largest producer of eastern white pine boards in the world. Along the way we set records for sales, profitability, and employee engagement. We then used that good fortune to reinvest within our own company. Well over 95% of the after-tax profit we earned went right back into making the company better in big ways and small. In two years over $50 million dollars went back into the company to upgrade machinery, trucks, workspaces, truss assembly lines, warehouses, paving, technology, and more. All that of that was possible because we crushed the covid work environment together. And while we all had our moments and challenges, we did this record setting work with a calm, collaborative, and poised demeanor. HOW we worked was actually more important than what we did.
In huddle after huddle across the company I have heard the same feedback from members of the team:
- Hancock Lumber’s work culture has allowed me to put my life back in balance.
- Hancock Lumber’s work culture has allowed me to go home without stress and frustration.
- Hancock Lumber’s work culture has allowed me to invest more energy into my family, hobbies, and passions.
Together, we were the ones that calmed the storm. Thank you for your leading role in that.
The Hancock Lumber story is about dispersed power, shared leadership, and respect for everyone’s authentic voice. The ideas behind our shared mission are simple:
- Make it safe for people to just be themselves.
- Honor everyone as they are.
- Give everyone a respected voice.
- Put the work back in its place as important, cool, fun, and challenging—but, not all consuming— thereby restoring balance between work and life.
- Remove the tension. Remove the anger. Remove the frustration. Remove the friction. Remove the ego. None is helpful.
- Use the place of work to serve and honor the people who work there.
That’s the mission. But, merely describing the mission and giving it real life are two different endeavors. Any one of us can describe it, but only all of us can deliver it.
This is where people often misunderstand our company and our approach. Shared leadership is more of a responsibility than it is a right. Respect for all voices is more of a commitment than an entitlement. Creating an employee centric company is demanding. It takes everyone, all the time. It’s hard work. You must give it again and again to others in order to receive the benefits for yourself in return. And this is why I thank you. An amazing work culture only takes life when the front-line employees doing the core work embrace the story and decide to make it their reality. When you do this Hancock Lumber changes, the humans around you have a different experience, and humanity nudges itself forward.
On January 1, 2023, Hancock Lumber began a one-year celebration of our 175th anniversary. In 1848, before the first cannonball was fired in the Civil War, my grandfather’s grandfather invested $800 to construct a new sawmill in Casco. As late as 1970, Hancock Lumber continued in essentially that same form with a single mill, store, and office on the north end of town.
Today we are eleven lumberyards, four white pine sawmills, a truss plant, a panel plant, an online retailer, a prime, paint, and stain manufacturer, a tree growing owner of timberland, a producer of green power, and more. Today we are led by over 700 people across Maine and New Hampshire. Those people are not first and foremost employees—rather, they are human beings who happen to have jobs as part of doing their best to build meaningful lives. It is those human beings who give Hancock Lumber life. It is you who gives us a story worth living and sharing. It is you who sets us apart. It is you who allows the company to model and mentor a different approach to capitalism based first on the employee experience. A company can best soar on the wings of thriving humans at work. Humanity advances one human at a time and therefore, the work of doing so is always local in nature. It must happen first within us then beside us.
For giving life to all of this, I thank you!
Feel free to reach out to me, as always, at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you!
On we go together into our 175th year—thank you for being the ones to calm the storm!