Richard Master of MCS Industries offers sage advice
Take a look in the mirror. Chances are, the piece of glass reflecting your face back to you was made by Richard Master’s company, MCS Industries. Founded in 1980, it is one of the leading manufacturer of mirrors and frames in the nation today. Owner and CEO, Richard Master, certainly lives up to his name. A true master of business, he shared what he values and has learned along the way at a round table discussion and keynote address during the April 30 Executive-In-Residence event held on Northampton Community College’s (NCC) Bethlehem Campus.
Master sat down with students who competed in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Pitch Competition, giving them unique access to a CEO as they discussed their inventions and ideas. From a wireless charger to an ultra-violet activated eyeliner and mirror, Master was impressed with what he heard.
He stressed the importance of developing a solid prototype, while emphasizing the need for funding. “If you can't cultivate your own resources, you have to find them. But, at what cost? Venture capitalists may charge you rates of return on your product. A community loan may be a better place to start. These are developmental funds at reasonable costs,” Master stressed.
The students wanted to know the secret to designing products that get noticed. Master said that it takes a team of individuals to do this at MCS Industries. There are industrial engineers, graphic artists and product designers that help the prototype come to life. The product manager does a GAP analysis to see what's successful and selling in the marketplace. MCS Industries has sales and marketing people who work with the retailers they sell to, such as Target, Wayfair, Walmart and Amazon. Forecasters predict what amount of the product MCS Industries will need in order to service the consumers. Master explained that at MCS, most all of these things are done in house.
To put it into perspective for students, Master gave an example of how an idea can become a reality. Mirrors tend to fog up when steam hits them. As a solution to that, an anti-fog solution was created and pitched to MCS Industries. Realizing this would be perfect in a bathroom setting, Master and his team got to work on creating mirrors treated with the solution. The result: interest from one of the largest retailers of bathroom mirror, Home Depot, and $40-50 million in sales revenue.
He asked the questions, “How do we make our product innovative in a way that's unique to this retailer? For example, in order to keep space in retailers, we developed something new--inspirational sayings that are on our frames.”
After leaving his career as a lawyer to take over his father’s business, the Easton Boxing Company, he began a journey that led him to build MCS. Upon becoming successful in business, Master knew that it wasn’t just about manufacturing. He felt he had a duty to give back to his community and tackle social issues. Master found value in what he calls being a "positive disrupter, an advocate and facilitator of change."
As Master addressed a larger room full of students, faculty, staff and community members during his keynote address, he discussed what issues he takes part in changing. One issue is that of universal healthcare, something Master believes in wholeheartedly. Visiting his future daughter-in-law in Santiago, Chile, got him started on this mission. Master saw that prescriptions there cost far less than getting his or his son’s prescription re-filled at home.
He created three documentaries on the topic: Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point, Big Pharma: Market Failure, Big Money Agenda: Democracy on the Brink. Drawing from these documentaries, Master said, “We live three years less than Canadians do on average. Twenty-five percent of Americans who get a prescription filled don’t purchase it because of cost. We spend 1.3 trillion dollars in healthcare costs, and yet, 30 million Americans remain uninsured. What we’re funding is administration and profit.”
Master went on to say that data shows that a healthy population is a more productive population. “I believe that a business discipline should be utilized for social change. Entrepreneurs are analytical, data driven, and we will go anywhere in the world to study best practices. While others may be emotionally or personally driven, we’re approaching this with a business mindset. Universal healthcare is the most economic and efficient way to provide this right to everyone.”
Healthcare isn’t Master’s only cause for change. His company is largely focused on sustainability. All Styrofoam packaging materials are recycled and re-used at MCS Industries as faux woods and metals on their frames. “We also have a distribution center with solar energy on its roof in Easton,” said Master.
As Dr. Erickson asked Master for his last words of advice for the students, Master left the room with, “Trust your instincts. I saw accomplishment and enthusiasm in these students today at NCC. Just go at it with everything you have, and you will reach your goals.”