After almost 13 years as executive director and president of EPI-HAB Phoenix, Inc., Matt Redmann retired in December, leaving behind a host of accomplishments and a path for continued progress.
Redmann, a self-proclaimed “die-hard cheesehead,” was born and raised in Weyauwega, WI and attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. He graduated with a BS in General Engineering and later earned his MBA in Management from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
In 2006, Redmann joined EPI-HAB as the organization’s first executive director and was responsible for all facets of the company’s planning and operation, including personnel, safety, quality, sales, finances, facilities, and equipment. Redmann says he was drawn to the organization because of its unique mission and business model.
“EPI-HAB represents an ideal combination of ‘helping individuals who need help’ while assisting businesses in need of our flexible services, all without government or taxpayer expense…a true WIN, WIN, WIN,” explained Redmann.
In his time at EPI-HAB, Redmann shepherded the organization through a financial recession while keeping it vibrant, relevant, and financially solvent more than 60 years since it was founded as a totally self-sufficient, not-for-profit organization.
“Throughout EPI-HAB’s history, we’ve seen boom times and lean years, growth and economic downturns,” Redmann said. “But together, as a family, EPI-HAB weathered the good and bad, and today, our organization is strong and poised to grow.”
Before his departure, Redmann sat down with EPI-HAB’s communication team to discuss memorable moments from his years of leadership, future plans and his hopes for EPI-HAB moving forward.
The following remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What prompted you to pursue a career within the non-profit sector? What brought you to EPI-HAB?
A: It was completely by accident. When I was 46 or 47, I moved back to Wisconsin and found an opportunity at Valley Packaging. I told company leadership I had no non-profit experience, but they said that’s what made me a good hire. The opportunity at EPI-HAB opened up in 2006. It felt like the perfect fit because I’ve always loved the Southwest—so that’s why I’ve been here for the last 13 years.
Q: What stands out as your biggest accomplishment in your 13 years as president?
A: Sustaining success at EPI-HAB! We’ve remained debt free, own everything we have in-house, operate with about 35 people at about $1,000,500, annually, and we have money in the bank as a cushion against a potential bad month. All that is what gives me a sense of satisfaction. I’ve handed over the keys with EPI-HAB in a very positive financial and operational position.
Q: What was your biggest challenge you faced in your time as president of EPI-HAB?
A: The gentleman I took over for had been here for 25 years, and he had done a great job. So, it was challenging taking over for somebody so well loved. Also, selling EPI-HAB’s services, primarily the “hand labor” services. As EPI-HAB’s employees continue to improve efficiencies, more sales are required to provide employment for the same number of workers. In order to increase the number of EPI-HAB employees, even more work is needed.
Q: What qualities, expertise or experience make Torrey Rogers, EPI-HAB’s current president, the best person to be your successor?
A: It’s two-fold: He’s a very people-oriented person. That’s essential here because our employees have such a wide variety of backgrounds, abilities and needs. And he’s certainly detail-oriented from an accountant and cost-control standpoint. Torrey’s eight years of experience at EPI-HAB will also make the transition easier and help EPI-HAB advance from this point.
Q: How have you been preparing and planning with Torrey for this transition?
A: In October of 2017, we hired a controller to give Torrey the time to train in all areas that were necessary for an eventual leadership transition. At that point, he had never driven a fork truck, interacted in the warehouse, done anything from a production standpoint, or estimated a job from the manufacturing side—those kinds of things. So, we set up a training plan from August of 2018 through January of 2019.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge EPI-HAB faces in the next decade?
A: Four years ago, Proposition 206 was passed by popular vote in Arizona, and minimum wage increased to $10 an hour, a nearly 25% jump. I think the work we do is very, very valuable, but hand labor is still hand labor. At some point, when the price is too high, you lose customers as well as the ability to serve people with job opportunities. The ballot measure also called for the minimum wage to continue increasing in 50-cent increments to $12 by January 1, 2020. That’s a big pill for businesses of all sizes to swallow.
Q: How do you think Torrey is uniquely prepared to overcome these challenges?
A: He has experience now in all facets of our operation. And after interacting with almost all of EPI-HAB’s customers, he’s now a familiar face as well as somebody to call on, somebody to respond to questions.
Q: What do you think you’ll miss the most in retirement?
A: I’ll miss the work as well as the EPI-HAB employees, caregivers, board members, customers and support service providers. The people here are as much a family as you could imagine. And even the brand-new people quickly embrace the normal mentality of helping each other out and working with each other.
Q: What’s next for you? What are your plans for retirement?
A: I’m moving to Fort Myers, Florida. I’ve researched the area, and they have a need for adjunct professors–so I may do something like that or just find a place to volunteer, like an EPI-HAB or someplace else in the not-for-profit world. I also plan to be in Wisconsin for some periods of time, as long as I have family there.
Q: What advice do you have for Torrey?
A: Don’t panic. There will always be challenges you can’t anticipate, and you can’t panic when they happen. You have to take them one step at a time, implement a strategy, draw on resources you have from the board and other connections, and give clear directions so the team can have confidence moving forward. Just stay calm, and take your time. Always take a deep breath before you react.
About EPI-HAB Phoenix, Inc.
EPI-HAB brings more than 60 years of experience and energy to fulfillment, assembly and inspection, full-service bulk mail processing, and storage. The organization was founded in 1958 when a group of business and medical professionals came together to provide meaningful employment to individuals with epilepsy. As the medical industry made strides in the control of epileptic seizures, EPI-HAB (Epileptic Habitat) welcomed individuals with other challenges. Over the years, EPI-HAB has always focused on the abilities of its employees, not their disabilities. Its team performs valued work for businesses, large and small, assisting them with a wide variety of jobs.