Name: Mark Free
Title: Office Manager of Billings Branch
Tenure: 10 Years
Bio: Hose and Rubber Supply likes to think of itself as one big family, and while that may sound like a cliché, it’s still true. The men and women of Hose and Rubber Supply treat each other like family, and they do their best to treat their customers like family as well.
This is why, when a situation occurs in which actual family is involved, work takes a back seat.
That’s what happened to Mark Free. Free is the Office Manager of Hose and Rubber Supply in Billings, Montana. He’s been a part of the company for more than ten years. But almost immediately after he began working there, tragedy struck.
Free’s mother passed away. Then, a year later, his father died as well.
It was a lot for a person to deal with, and, as anybody who has lost a loved one can attest to when somebody dies, work is the last thing on your mind.
Free’s bosses at Hose and Rubber Supply knew this. And they gave him all the time he needed to grieve.
This was especially thoughtful because Free had only started working there a month prior.
Originally, Free had other aspirations. “I didn’t grow up wanting to be in this line of work,” he quipped.
In fact, before working for Hose and Rubber, Free was a minister.
“I’m a retired minister, having pastored churches in Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina, and Wyoming, and I had been teaching the Bible at a Christian college and a Christian high school here in Billings,” Free stated. “But our family, which includes my wonderful wife and now two boys in middle school, was growing and needed something more substantial. So, through a mutual friend, I heard about Hose and Rubber and that they might be hiring. So, I applied and met with them and got hired.”
That was in December 2012. Free began working in the warehouse, as most new employees do. And he slowly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the branch’s Office Manager.
“It started out as, at one of our Tuesday meetings, our branch manager mentioned that we needed somebody to do certain tasks, and I volunteered to do that,” Free remembered. “It was to count inventory and receive products – when things come in, put them into the computer. So, I volunteered to do those things and then it kind of moved into filling those roles full-time; to count inventory on a regular basis and to do all the paperwork as the product comes in.”
That’s not all he does, though.
“When we get stuff in, and there’s a discrepancy like we’re shorted or something, it falls on me to call the vendors and get things straightened out,” he said. “And that happens a lot. I also order a lot of things for the shop, through Amazon or other shops, like office supplies, shop supplies, and things we need on a regular basis. I do the filing, scanning, and take care of all of the paperwork and the sales orders for the day, as well as the packing slips.”
It’s a lot of work, a big job. But Free loves it. He loves working with his hands and body and working with his mind. This job allows him to do all three.
“I think there are two parts of this job that are a big benefit,” he said. “One is the physical aspect of working in a warehouse or a hose shop. You’re constantly lifting things, bending, and holding things. So, you’re keeping your body in shape. But that same concept applies to your mind because you’re constantly measuring things, using math when you’re cutting hoses and doing inventory, and more. And I think that’s pretty key, too. Keeping your mind lucid and getting an overall workout.”
The physical and mental aspects of the job are important. So, too, are the emotional aspects. Hose and Rubber Supply is very tight-knit. The employees are close. And they try to extend that same type of closeness to customers, as well.
“I think the hallmark of Hose and Rubber is our customer service,” Free stated. “You hear that word gets thrown around a lot, but it’s absolutely true for Hose and Rubber. Customer service is number one. We take very good care of our customers, and we go above and beyond what I would say most people do. We don’t slight anyone. If we don’t have a product, we will get online while they’re there, or we’ll try and find the thing that they need and take care of them. And sometimes, they don’t always know what they want when they call or come in. And so, we walk them through the process and just provide excellent customer service.”
Hose and Rubber Supply treats its customers with respect, dignity, and overall appreciation. It does the same with its employees. That’s one of the big reasons Free has stayed at Hose and Rubber for the past ten years. It’s because, just a month into the job, his bosses showed him exactly the type of company Hose and Rubber Supply was.
“One of the things that happened early on is that my mother passed away,” Free shared. “She passed away in January. The previous month, she had gotten really sick, and Hose and Rubber allowed me to go back to Oklahoma and see her one last time. And then, the following year, my father passed away as well. So, Hose and Rubber have been really good about allowing me to take care of family issues. When I first started, they emphasized that family is paramount. And they’ve held to that. If something’s going on, like doctor’s appointments or ball games, they allow me to be there. Or just spending time with my wife and kids on vacation; they know the importance of that. And you don’t need to worry about what’s going on at Hose and Rubber. And for that, I am very grateful!”
That was something that stuck with Free, and it has for the last ten years. Hose and Rubber Supply, even a month in, made him feel like a part of the family by allowing him to take care of his own.
“My dad always just said, ‘Do what you enjoy doing,’” Free said. “He didn’t really push us one way or another. He just wanted us to be happy and my mom as well – she was very supportive with whatever direction our life headed.”
Mark Free didn’t know that his life would lead to Hose and Rubber Supply ten years ago. But it did. And his parents can rest easy because their son, their boy, is very, very happy.