Farmington Hills business puts family first during COVID

When Larry Nichols founded Farmington Hills-based Member Driven Technologies (MDT) in 2003, his goal was to create a company he’d want to work for.

That strategy is paying off now more than ever, as COVID-19 has closed the doors of the business, but not its operations. MDT handles $10 billion in transactions each month for credit unions across the U.S., with data centers in Michigan and Montana.

Because of steps taken long before the pandemic, Nichols said, his business continues to provide full service – and maintain employee morale – with everyone working from home.

“I always had this vision that I wanted to make the place relaxed and fun,” said Nichols, who started out with five employees and now oversees 152 in Michigan and other states. “We are very professional with the services we deliver, but we want it to be friendly and family.”

MDT Zoomathon
With daughter Sara, MDT Implementations Analyst Carrie Dana k-popped during the company’s recent Zoomathon fundraiser. (MDT)

MDT’s headquarters on Orchard Lake Road reflects that attitude. Employees have access to a patio, fire pit, and barbecue grill outdoors, and an indoor health club and lounge. Named among Crain’s Detroit “Cool Places to Work,” the company maintains a casual office vibe, Nichols said.

With a work-from-home policy in place for four years, Nichols said, MDT easily transitioned all employees to remote work two weeks before Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home. Stay Safe.” Executive Order. The company also pays for employees’ phone and home internet service.

“When we started to see schools close, child care centers close, if they had to work from home because they were worried about child care, so be it,” he said.

Zoomathon fundraiser

Since then, staff members have kept in touch through video conferencing, with regular all-team meetings and a virtual “happy hour” on Fridays. Human Resources staff does weekly challenges via the Slack app, with topics like pets, favorite recipes, and the great outdoors.

MDT has also continued a long-standing tradition of supporting local charities. A recent “Zoomathon” talent show raised $10,000 in employee contributions, matched by the company, for four charities: #FeedTheFrontLine – ezCater; Gleaners Food Bank – Detroit; American Red Cross – Great Falls, Montana; and American Red Cross – Helena, Montana.

Nichols said the virtual event was set up like a Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, with hosts in tuxedos and staff entertaining on their own or with family members. The 90-minute event drew 111 MDT employees, and “it made everybody feel so good.”

While reaching out takes time and energy, Nichols said, those connections  matter when people aren’t coming into the office every day.

“We’re trying to keep people motivated and involved,” he said. “When you’re by yourself at home, what you miss is community… You’ve got to see that other person. You’ve got to connect.”

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