Company: M&M Glass Company
Family: Wife, Penny Van Pelt, and two children: Caleb and Madeline
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Education: Attended LSU
In the news:
Since its founding 35 years ago by Robert Mitchell—Chris Van Pelt’s father-in-law—M&M Glass has expanded from four to 40 employees, while its fleet of trucks has grown from one to 14. “The one thing that has not changed over the years is our customer service philosophy,” says Van Pelt, who joined the company as manager in 2001 and assumed ownership last year.
What was your very first job, how old were you and what was the biggest takeaway from the experience?
My first job was as a lifeguard at a municipal pool at fifteen years old. I frequently worked during free swim time and as a swimming instructor. The biggest takeaway was learning at a young age what real work ethic was.
What time do you typically get up on a workday, and what’s your ideal morning routine to get it off to a great start?
I get up at five in the morning to workout, shower and eat breakfast. I arrive at work between 6 and 6:15 a.m., review the daily production schedule and discuss the workload with the managers of the company. I make it a point to tell everyone good morning and ask how they are doing as they arrive.
Your father in law, Robert Mitchell, founded M&M Glass in 1984, and you came on board as a manager in 2001 and eventually owner in 2018. How has the business evolved and grown through the years?
The company started out with a small number of offerings for residential glass work with one truck and grew into a company with a myriad of offerings and fourteen trucks. Additionally, M&M Glass Company began with four employees and is now at 40 employees. The one thing that has not changed over the years is our customer service philosophy. It has remained the same in that we provide the highest quality products, with exceptional service all at the best price possible.
What’s your strategy to ensure continued growth of M&M Glass?
Improving our infrastructure through technology, staying on top of new innovations in our industry, and focusing on providing our customers with the best experience, quality and value.
How has evolving technology changed your industry, and how has your company adapted?
There are new innovations in the glass industry every year. We attend trade shows and read industry magazines to stay on top of what new innovations exist and then determine how to best integrate those in to the M&M Glass Company process.
What’s your strategy for setting M&M Glass apart from your competitors?
We try not to focus on what our competitors are doing, instead we focus on what we can do to provide the latest innovations in residential glass work to our customers.
What’s a leadership skill you’ve learned the hard way?
Hire, train and retain the best people you can. Don’t skimp on compensating professional people.
What’s something about your job that might surprise people?
I work primarily from my vehicle every day. All day.
What are some of your hobbies or favorite things to do in your free time?
I enjoy travelling and relaxing with my family.
You’re taking me out to a business lunch in Baton Rouge. Where are you most likely to take me and what do you recommend I order?
J. Alexander’s, and I recommend that you order the cheeseburger, but I will be having the Alex’s Salad.
What kind of vehicle do you drive and what do you think it says about your personality?
I drive a jet black 2019 Dodge Ram 1500 crewcab. It says, “I’M BATMAN.”
What’s one of the smartest purchases you’ve ever made? What’s one of the dumbest?
After the August Flood in 2016, we purchased an additional building that houses our frame shop and our beveling and polishing machines. It was a smart business purchase for us because of the three-phase power that was already present in the building and the ability to immediately expand our capacity right after the flood. The dumbest purchase was purchasing equipment to start a fence company in 2008.
What’s one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to you?
Meeting and marrying my wife, Penny, of 32 years.
Can you name someone who has had a great impact on you as a leader, or someone who has been a mentor to you in your life or career? How have they changed your outlook?
Early on in my management career, I had a manager who mentored me and taught me everything I know about management and running a company. My father taught me to treat everyone with respect and the value of doing so. And my father-in-law, taught me how to be more efficient and profitable. Overall, these three men, along with many other acquaintances, have helped to mold me in to the manager I am today.
What is something you are absolutely determined to do in life?
As a company owner, you have the opportunity to impact the lives of so many people. We brighten up the lives of our customers by turning their glass dreams in to a reality. We also impact the lives of our employees by providing them a great place to work and a place that they are proud to call their work home. I want to make sure that this little piece of the world that I have the honor to manage is the best that it can possibly be.