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John McMillin: Custom Packaging Inc. gives back

jfelkins • Nov 13, 2015 at 6:00 PM

Ask managers of successful enterprises and you’ll get an array of answers, but there are some common replies; one is to have a great product. 

Someone once said whoever builds a great mousetrap will have people flocking to their door, and I think there’s something to that idea. Others might tell you it’s about having a competitive advantage while others will include market leadership and above-average management as key to success. However, I think there’s something else.

Most people with a degree in business will tell you they didn’t learn much about this notion in school, but it’s something very important to having a successful business; very simply it’s the idea of giving back. I don’t mean to United Way specifically, but giving back in general. This is a long lead-in to talk about one specific company in Wilson County, but stay with me.

Ten years ago, I started working at United Way of Wilson County. Thank goodness for Custom Packaging Inc. The employees and management at Custom Packaging were already longtime United Way supporters, but they were also more than that. The family behind Custom Packaging, the West and the Cowden family, were involved in supporting the communities they drew employees and contracts from. They understood, as they do now, the importance of being involved.

This week, Custom Packaging again launched another workplace campaign in which employees can donate through payroll deduction to United Way, the surrounding communities and specific non-profit programs close to their heart. For many years, Custom Packaging gave, by far, more than any other employer in this area. Even today, the Custom family still represents the second highest company donor.

In my position I have seen the Cowden family volunteer not just their financial gifts, but also their time serving on our board of directors and allocations committees. It’s not just United Way that benefits. Donating employees from Custom Packaging have designated financial gifts to fund non-profits all over Middle Tennessee helping thousands of children, seniors, victims of domestic violence, Girl Scouts and countless other concerns that represent, on average, an estimate one of every three households in Wilson County alone.

I also have to give my thanks to former board member, chairperson and Custom Packaging CEO Jackie Cowden who has helped to lead our United Way from humble beginnings well more than 20 years ago. Jackie spoke up to ensure Wilson County had their own United Way in the early years and then supported our organization along with giving us the benefit of her wisdom and advice whenever called upon to do so.

Jackie once told me that she saw service in terms of the old saying about whether a glass is half-full or empty. She said that she saw it as “neither half-full nor empty, but rather as a chance to meet the needs of the person behind the glass.” 

That, to me, is how you build a successful company, and we are lucky to have this particular company in our community.

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at jmunitedway@bellsouth.net.

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