Beyond The Bottom Line

Is it possible? Can a global, public company turn a profit while focusing on the biblical principles of caring for people and serving communities? If Matt McKenzie, 31, is the example, then the answer is an absolute “Yes.”

by Michael Richeson

McKenzie, who graduated from George Fox in 2002 with a degree in Christian Ministries, is the president of CUI, Inc., a company his father founded in 1989. The company has mainly been a distributor of power supply products but is shifting into developing its own technology. CUI’s revenue last year was $40 million, up from $25 million the year before.

“That’s great in a bad economy,” McKenzie said.

As a teenager in the mid-90s, McKenzie worked in the warehouse of his father’s business. Then he taught himself AutoCAD and created technical drawings of their products. He worked his way up from the warehouse to a sales secretary to the sales manager for one of CUI’s divisions. Although he was steeped in the family business, his plan was to become a youth pastor after graduation from George Fox. McKenzie did both for a while, working 30 hours a week leading youth groups and 40 hours a week at CUI.

“I got more and more involved and became my dad’s right hand man,” he said.

Beyond The Bottom Line

CUI employees spend the day planting trees. McKenzie said give-back efforts fit at least one of three criteria: life needs, educational, locally focused.

All the while, his father was teaching him the importance of giving back. “He was intentional about treating the business like a person,” McKenzie said. “Every Christian should tithe and give as much as possible. The business is no different. Our core statement said everything in life is a gift, and it’s our responsibility to do good. We’ve always had this principle of giving.”

Eventually, McKenzie transitioned into full-time work at CUI, and when his father sold the company in 2008 to a company that took CUI public, McKenzie became the president of CUI, Inc. and the chief operating officer of CUI Global.

“We’ve always seen work as our family, the community we care about most,” he said. “I’m passionate about the people here. Working here instead of a church was an easy transition. I didn’t stop being a pastor. And if you can lead a room full of junior high students, you can do anything. You can manage anyone after that.”

McKenzie, who earned an MBA from George Fox in 2007, began to develop further his father’s commitment to using the business to make the world a better place.

“The principles of the Bible are great, but average, secular people might write that off,” McKenzie said. “We took language from the Bible and translated it into good business practices. People are going to get the gospel whether they know it or not.”

People who might not respond positively to the Christian message as a whole still agree that living with integrity is a good business practice. “No one’s going to honestly argue against that,” he said.

Beyond The Bottom Line

McKenzie implemented a company-wide Serve Day to let CUI employees be a part of the company’s efforts to help the community. “[It’s] a much stronger lesson than anything I could ever teach,” he said.

CUI had always given a lot of money to local charities, but McKenzie wanted to do something more. Reaching back to his days at George Fox, McKenzie created a Serve Day for his company. Once a year, all 60 employees perform some act of service. In addition, each division within CUI takes another day each year for its own Serve Day.

“We can talk about how it’s important to be involved, but when you are painting a room in a mental hospital, and you hear people screaming because they’re dealing with something very difficult – that’s a much stronger lesson than anything I could ever teach,” McKenzie said. “The Serve Days also created a point of interaction that our employees haven’t seen before. People’s perspectives are changed. It creates a tolerant and caring atmosphere.”

McKenzie didn’t stop there, though. He implemented a program for his nationwide network of sales reps. CUI calculates a percentage of their sales and gives them a bonus check, which the sales reps must then spend in their own communities to help others. The money has gone to disabled veterans, hospital donations, relief efforts after the BP oil spill, and dozens of other causes.

Within CUI’s doors, a 60,000-square-foot building in Tualatin, Ore., employees nominate one another for successful implementation of the company’s values. The nominated employees are then recognized at monthly meetings and given prizes.

Within CUI’s doors, a 60,000-square-foot building in Tualatin, Ore., employees nominate one another for successful implementation of the company’s values. The nominated employees are then recognized at monthly meetings and given prizes.

“I’d like to think that what we do here shows our employees we care,” McKenzie said.

Other companies are taking notice of CUI’s “human first” business model and following suit. CUI’s biggest customer, DigiKey, recently adopted its own Serve Day program after McKenzie spoke with the DigiKey CEO. DigiKey now has more than 4,000 employees doing service projects in the Midwest.

A Wall Street investor recently told McKenzie that few companies in the world operate like CUI – but more should. The business world has plenty of room for leaders in white hats – the good guys.

“Our growth path is really big,” McKenzie said. “That means our impact will be even bigger.”

Beyond The Bottom Line

McKenzie converted a large empty space above the first-floor offices into a recording studio for him and his friends. While giving a tour of the building, McKenzie proudly pointed out that they had “rocked the sheets off” of the insulation. “It’s definitely an after hours activity,” he said.

Beyond The Bottom Line

During the summer, the massive bay door on one wall of the break room goes up, and CUI hosts monthly barbecues for all the employees. Occasionally, the company shuts down at 4 p.m. and brings in catered food for a private happy hour.

CUI’s Mission Statement

CUI believes that there is more to business than making a profit. We recognize that we have been given a gift and strive to utilize our resources to invest in our employees, customers and global community.

Core Values

Integrity: Be honest and forthright
Opportunity: Recognize and enhance
Generosity: Give more
Appreciation: Live gratitude
Accountability: Be responsible; stay answerable
Relationship: People are most important
Respect: Look for the best in others