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20 Things You Didn't Know About McMaster-Carr

McMaster-Carr is an industrial supply company that maintains a large inventory of hardware and accessories. It's a one-stop shop for do it yourself, enthusiasts and hobbyists.

There are some who are steady customers but surprisingly, there are still a lot of people who would benefit from using their website who have never heard of McMaster-Carr. To highlight this remarkable business, here are twenty things you didn't know about them.

1. The business is over 100 years old

McMaster-Carr was founded in 1901 in Elmhurst, Illinois. It has been in business for 117 years. This is quite remarkable, especially when you consider how many businesses have failed and closed their doors forever since the financial crisis of 2008 hit the United States. There are still companies struggling to make a profit and stay in business but McMaster-Carr is still going strong.

2. The company changed names in 1917

When this business was first founded, it was under the name of McMaster Davis. It didn't come to be known as McMaster-Carr until 1917 when the company was purchased by Harry and James Channon. It was the same business, so the 1901 founding date is accurate. This was the only time that the name of the company would be altered in its history to date.

3. The second owners were involved in the maritime industry

This is a fun piece of trivia in the history of McMaster-Carr. Harry and James Channon's father was Henry Channon who was the well-known founder of the H.Cchannon company. This was a steam engine and maritime supply distributor in Chicago and it was one of the largest in the nation at the time.

4. They catered to an elite class initially

This doesn't mean that the Channons only dealt with the very rich, but rather, their company only sold merchandise to a select group of customers. The print edition of the catalog that they sent out had a limited distribution that was only for customers who were already established. This is a tradition that is currently in force. They release a new catalog annually and it contains most of the products that the company sells, but not just anyone receives one. If you want to be on the mailing list, you have to become an established customer with them.

5. Their website has received accolades

The McMaster-Carr website has been well-crafted and the user interface is among the best on the internet. It's obvious to professional designers that a lot of thought and careful planning has gone into its development. The search engine is user-friendly and it offers easy navigation for viewers who are looking for a specific part or just browsing through the categories. Not all online retailers can say this about their sites.

6. Stanford University used the McMaster-Carr website in a study

Because of how many products the company offers, their website made an ideal study for students who were using the site to do an analysis of how a good website was designed vs poor ones that were in need of a redesign. The McMaster-Carr site passed with flying colors back in 2002 because of how well-put-together the website was. It's still as useful today as it was 16 years ago.

7. They were ranked third behind Amazon and Barnes & Noble for worthiness

The same Stanford University study that rated the design of the McMaster-Carr website also rated them in terms of trustworthiness and credibility. The company came in third place only behind the most highly rated and Barnes & Noble. This is one of the highest compliments that an online retailer can be paid, and it came from a study conducted at one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the nation.

8. McMaster-Carr is keeping up with the times

There have been a lot of changes in the way that companies and customers do business since McMaster-Carr first opened its doors for business. It all began with a brick and mortar face to face transaction which transitioned into a catalog sales approach.

Next came online sales through the internet but another important change has taken place in consumer behaviors and demands. Now with the invention of smartphones, more individuals and businesses prefer to place orders via their phones.

The operating systems are different and the way that certain websites appear on these devices is also different. The need for online companies to offer specialized mobile apps became a thing. The website must be optimized for access by this type of device and the companies that want to keep up with the times and offer what customers demand to develop special apps for smartphone access.

McMaster-Carr has excelled by keeping up with this technology and offer a phone app just for smartphone users. The app as released for the iPad in May of 2013 and in March of 2014 for Android tablets so everyone can have their preferred type of access.

9. McMaster-Car won an award in 2015

Not surprisingly, McMaster-Carr was chosen by its customers as a top B2B vendor in the nation in several different categories. VendOp is a B2B business reviewer that sent out a customer survey to discover which companies they preferred and why.

When the results of the survey came back, McMaster-Carr came out on top over many others within the industry and it wasn't just on one or two counts, they were praised for excellence in multiple categories.

10. Employees work hard there but they love the job

Customers have had great things to say about McMaster-Carr but the employees also got their turn. When asked what it was like to work for the company, they agreed that you must work hard to stay in good standing at the company.

Keeping your head down is also important, which means minding your own business and staying out of petty squabbles, but the rewards for doing this are immense. It's not easy to get a job there but if you do, and give it your all, the pay is very high and they have amazing benefits.

Employees further commented that working there allows for a good work/life balance and the job doesn't intrude into your personal life as some careers do. Workers pay no health insurance premiums and they're granted profit sharing benefits in the company. It's truly a sweet deal.

11. Workers cited one drawback but its no deal breaker

One con that workers at McMaster-Carr noted is that the management could be better. It's been noted that the company only hires Ivy league graduates who tend to be snobbish to the other workers and there is a very high turnover rate.

This is one of the reasons that employees warn that it's important to keep your head down and do your job. There's also not much room for advancement because of the upper management's preference for hiring a specific type of person for management. Regardless, the pay for lower level workers is really good, according to people who occupy these positions.

12. They are a B2B company

McMaster-Carr is a business to business company that is set up to sell to businesses only. Although they do not sell to individuals, some of their innovative customers have found a way around this restriction.

They register a small business and get around it by using that information to become an established customer. The thing about McMaster-Carr that is so appealing is that it truly is a one-stop shop for many hardware items across a broad spectrum that most wholesale or retailers do not carry together. It's a place that offers convenience for many businesses and individuals alike, although it is intended to be a B2B wholesaler solely.

13. There are no minimum item restrictions

Another great thing about McMaster-Carr is that customers can place small orders without being penalized. Some of the larger wholesalers have restrictions in place that require customers to place large orders on certain categories, but this isn't the case with McMaster-Carr. Customers appreciate this aspect of their excellent customer service. It's also one of the reasons why so many individuals like to shop there.

14. They're national and international

McMaster-Carr is a giant in supply and distribution of industrial products for businesses. In addition to shipping to businesses anywhere in the United States, they also ship to most places abroad.

They do a lot of business overseas. With over a hundred years in the business, their reputation has spread to most corners of the globe, yet there are many people in the United States that haven't heard of them.

15. Contractors love McMaster-Carr

Contractors for construction truly love McMaster-Carr because it is the one place where they can find many of the things that they need in one convenient place. They sell almost any type of fastener that you can imagine, even some of the more obscure types.

They also sell equipment for polishing and abrading, grounds and building products, filtering products, joining and fastening items, products for flow and level, heating and cooling storage equipment furniture hand tools, measuring and inspecting tools and equipment, janitorial and office, pressure and temperature, power transmission, hoses, tubing, pipes, fittings and all manner of plumbing supplies.

16. The internal company culture could use an upgrade

There are many employees at McMaster-Carr who will tell you that they are happy to have the job. They'll admit to the drawbacks, but still, the pay and benefits are amazing. Others who refuse to tolerate the nonsense that goes on within management are more outspoken.

The culture of the company, in the opinion of most employees who are forthcoming, needs a lot of work. The biggest problem is with the management. It's tough on employee morale because they allege that the managers spend a lot of time playing on their phones, sending emails and refuse to engage in work that relates positively to workers.

They don't give constructive feedback because they're not actively engaged with their crews. Gossip flows like a river and the culture is one that could use a top-notch exec to come in and shape them up or ship them out and replace them with professionals who are willing to set a good example for workers by being involved, by knowing about the work, and by coaching to make the environment friendlier.

Workers have a negative perception of management and this is a shame because it's a good company but it could shift gears to move from amazing to phenomenal.

17. McMaster-Carr pays tuition

We learned something really cool we didn't know about McMaster-Carr. As a part of their benefits package, they will pay tuition for workers to help them continue their education.

This is an extremely valuable benefit, especially as the costs of college tuition are rising. It's no wonder why employees who don't like the company culture are willing to stay with the company because they say that the benefits cannot be matched anywhere else.

18. Mistakes are not taken lightly

McMaster-Carr runs a tight ship when it comes to the non-management employees. They do not tolerate mistakes easily and workers have reported that even the management whom they have little good rapport with are under the microscope to ensure that the crew performs with precision and perfection.

This is likely one of the reasons that the turnover is so high within their management. On a brighter note, most workers surveyed report that the job is enjoyable because there are a lot of nice people who work at the company beneath management level and it's a place that is easy to make friends with co-workers.

19. Their retirement package is the things that dreams are made of

Although it's a tough job, McMaster-Carr offers a dream retirement package that few could find fault with. It takes seven years to become vested in the company and for every year that you work there, you earn a percentage of the retirement.

20. High expectations make for an intelligent and competent team

One consistent remark that is made by non-management employees of McMaster-Carr is that the crew who remain with the company are all hard-working, intelligent and competent people.

The company has very high expectations and the turnover rate is high, but this weeds out people who fail to thrive in the culture and environment of the company. It takes a certain kind of person with a particular mindset to make it at McMaster-Carr but those people form strong bonds, show a commitment to providing high-quality work and it shows in the customer reviews regarding the service that they receive.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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