Michael Mack of Max Pawn: How Business Leaders Can Create a Fantastic Work Environment

I’ve always told my team “we are nothing without the people that walk through the doors; we are nothing without the customers” and to “be nice to everyone.” You never know the day or life someone has had, so why not be a part of a positive experience in their life? One simple exchange can make a trusted customer for life, and really bring light to someone’s day.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Max Pawn owner Michael Mack. Max is a fourth-generation pawnbroker and native Nevadan. Michael Mack has become Las Vegas’ premier luxury reseller. Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Mack graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in finance and marketing before joining the family industry.

Mack and his brother Steve founded Super Pawn, growing the brand to a 50-store chain before it was eventually sold. Itching to return to the industry, Mack founded Max Pawn in 2009, bucking the traditional pawn model with an emphasis on customer service and community relationships. “Our asset isn’t the item, it’s the customer,” says Mack. “We’re proud to lend a hand to customers when they need it, and also offer amazing pre-loved goods in the shop.”

Since opening, Max Pawn has been a five-time Best of Las Vegas winner and National Pawn Association Community Relations Award recipient. Mack is a noted philanthropist, lending his time and talent to numerous community organizations including Make-A-Wish, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, Noah’s Animal House, and Ronald McDonald House. Mack also served as a Las Vegas City Councilman from 1999 until 2004, a time of tremendous growth for the valley.

In addition to customer service, Mack is focused on providing a balanced work environment for his team. Mack is a member of the National Pawn Association, Gemological Institute of America, and International Watch and Jewelry Guild.

When not working with customers or selling the latest Birkin bag, Mack can be found at his hot yoga and Pilates studio, spoiling his grand dogs, or spending time with his two sons — also in the pawn business.

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Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

i had a little choice! I happen to be a fourth-generation pawnbroker and shop owner, so you could say it was my path from the start.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’ve encountered a few really cool items while owning my own shop. I’ve pawned everything from a Rolls-Royce to a private jet. There’s never a dull moment at Max Pawn and being in Las Vegas adds even more excitement to the store. We have a few guests that have pawned items on a Friday and come back on Monday with their winnings to retrieve their items.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re always working on our philanthropic projects at Max Pawn. More than anything, we love to give back and create partnerships with non-profits. It doesn’t exactly make us money, but it makes us feel good and our employees love to be a part of a company that gives back and gives them opportunities to help their community.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

I think the number is so high because often management is unhappy. Workplace culture starts at the top, and I know I’m responsible for setting the tone and leading each interaction. Here at Max Pawn we really bend over backwards to make our employees happy, because happy employees are the key to success and overall wellness.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and well being?

We’ve always had the theory that people come to work and they put on a happy face. We’re in an interesting business because we’re serving people that can be in unhappy or difficult situations, so it’s important to us that our employees come to work happy and willing to help those that are not. It’s easier to make a sale, build a connection, or just lift someone’s spirits if your employees are truly happy with their job. An unhappy workforce will likely lower productivity which decreases profits, and it takes a toll on personal health and wellness.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

5 things that we do here at Max Pawn are:

  1. Four-day workweeks, so everyone has three full days off. We really encourage home life, and I think that shows when people interact with our team.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

We must continue to listen to the needs and wants of employees, as well as our clients. It sounds simple but it’s more than a motivational poster. It needs to be put into practice every day.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

Fun and supportive. I trust but verify. I try to empower my employees to make good decisions. I’m also very trusting of my management team to handle the necessary operations. I know that when I go on vacation I never need to worry — and I know that the culture we’ve built is solid and sustainable.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dawn VonMendenhall has been an employee of mine for nearly 22 years and Max Pawn would be at a loss without her. We have a great balance and she does a great job of managing the store. I trust her and just allow her to do what she needs to be successful.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As mentioned briefly before, we love working and partnering with non-profits. We believe it is so important to give back to those who need it. We hold regular shopping events to benefit local non-profits — we just finished up one for Ronald McDonald House that I’m proud to say raised $4,000 for our local house. We also donate merchandise to silent auctions for schools and local events.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve always told my team “we are nothing without the people that walk through the doors; we are nothing without the customers” and to “be nice to everyone.” You never know the day or life someone has had, so why not be a part of a positive experience in their life? One simple exchange can make a trusted customer for life, and really bring light to someone’s day.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Give back! An organization we love working with these days is Make-A-Wish. They are doing awesome things for kids around Southern Nevada and the nation.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!