By Wade Vonasek

Mark Richey, owner of Mark Richey Woodworking and Design, sat down with Wood & Wood Products to discuss his shop's green energy initiatives, strategies to motivate employees and lessons learned during his 25 plus years in the industry.

Mark Richey Woodworking serves a number of high-profile clients. This project was done for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Photo by Warren Patterson.

W&WP: Did you always envision having a career in this industry?

Mark Richey: Not really, but I always loved craft and architecture so I guess I figured I’d do something related to those trades.

W&WP: What steps led you to this point?

Richey: I started out as a carpenter after high school, and then got a job in a harpsichord shop building fine musical instruments for William Dowd. At night I studied architecture and began my own business building custom kitchens and furniture in the basement of our apartment. I made a conscious decision not to continue as an architect at that point and focused my energy on woodworking.

W&WP: What experiences have helped you to be successful?

Richey: Working in the harpsichord shop taught me quality and attention to detail. I learned speed and efficiency from some very good carpenters renovating restaurants and fine homes, and I learned to design and appreciate architecture at the Boston Architectural Center, where I was lucky to have some great professors.

My wife Teresa and business partner taught me to be a better business man. But more importantly the growth and success of our company comes form the people we’ve been able to attract and the shared vision for our company. There has always been a very strong internal pressure to grow, to improve, to challenge and to build many careers at MRW (Mark Richey Woodworking). That has unequivocally been the key to our success.

I don’t think Teresa or I ever imagined our business would grow as much as it has. Also, as an avid mountain climber and explorer, I have traveled a lot, seen many cultures and had many intense experiences. That’s given me a lot of confidence and a unique perspective that has been invaluable.

W&WP: What has been your proudest achievement as it relates to the industry?

Richey: Building a team of nearly 100 dedicated, skilled and highly motivated people that are passionate about woodworking, really care about our company and our customers and take tremendous pride in producing the best woodworking in the industry.

Our Convexity Capital project was honored with the Architectural Woodwork Institute’s 2008 Standard of Excellence Award in the Corporate category as well as the grand prize of 2008 AWI Standard of Excellence overall winner.

Lately, we are also very proud of our green and renewable energy initiatives. We are currently heating our entire facility with wood waste in a state of the art bio-mass furnace and are in the final stages of erecting a 600 kilowat wind turbine which will deliver about 85% of our total electricity needs.

We are also very proud of our community support and the charitable foundations we work with. We recently funded the construction of a school for girls in remote Afghanistan. Today 50 children are able to get an education that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

W&WP: What has been your greatest challenge and how have you overcome it?

Richey: Training our expanding workforce and maintaining our very high standards for craftsmanship, customer service and management while maintaining the culture and core company values we started with. This has included moving our business three times in 24 years. We are now in our newly renovated 130,000 square-foot Newburyport facility. For over a year we planned and designed that facility, did a major renovation and then moved our entire shop over one long weekend. We never missed a day of production. That was a challenge.

W&WP: What key strategies have helped you improve business?

Richey: Empowering our people to make decisions and take responsibility. Our shop is set up in teams with job captains. Each team will take on entire projects or complete aspects of projects from start to finish. That means our workers are cross-trained on many machines and many methods of work. In the completely custom industry we’re in, this approach has led to fewer mistakes, more accountability and better scheduling. It also makes for a more interesting and rewarding work experience for our people.

Also, we’ve created a discipline around regular meetings for all our departments which have led to better communication, better scheduling and better service.

W&WP: What would you like to see President-elect Obama do in his first year in office to help your company, and why?

Richey: I hope the Obama administration is as committed to green technology and alternative energy as they have said they will be.

I believe energy independence for this country is critical to our economy, our environment and to our national security. At our company, we have already made significant investments toward green initiatives like our bio-mass furnace and wind turbine projects. We’ve also pushed recycling and waste reduction as much as possible.

I hope Obama's policies will support our initiative more than the previous administration, and also encourage others within our industry to do same.

W&WP: What are your goals for the company over the next five to 10 years?

Richey: We hope to continue to grow our company, and provide more jobs and better service to our customers. We hope to continue to improve our training programs for all our employees and provide the best working environment and compensation in the industry. We will continue to take on challenging and high profile projects around the country and even internationally. We will continue to be a leader in green manufacturing and state of the art technology. And we hope to continue to reach out and give back to our community and those less fortunate than us.


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