ATLANTA — MTI Baths celebrated its 25th anniversary recently, a milestone that highlights the transformation of a small family business into one of today’s leading bath manufacturers.
It all started with one man’s dream to create a better bathtub. The company was founded in 1988 by J.C. Henry, a factory machinist with an entrepreneurial spirit who wanted to make the best whirlpool tubs in the market. He named his company “Mr. Tubs” and began buying tubs from other manufacturers and plumbing them with his own whirlpool systems. It wasn’t long before he decided to take matters into his own hands by purchasing a defunct bathtub manufacturing facility and started to produce his own tubs.
Within a few short years, his company was creating a higher quality acrylic tub than was commonly available at the time. Henry wasn’t satisfied though. He was bothered by the build-up of soap residue and other deposits left behind in the whirlpool plumbing lines. After a great deal of trial and error, Henry created a self-cleaning whirlpool. He obtained a patent for his design, and as the years passed, the company grew under his leadership, offering an unprecedented degree of customizations for tubs and pursuing high-end showroom sales and hotel projects.
When Henry decided to retire in 2002, he wanted to leave the company in trusted hands that would continue his legacy of quality and service. He refused several outside offers and opted to sell the company to a group of 25 employees who mortgaged all they had to raise the cash. At that time, the company was renamed MTI Whirlpools and embarked on its current mission to become the best in the world.
In 2003, MTI became one of the first tub manufacturers to offer a Lifetime Warranty that is still the most comprehensive in the industry. Since then, the company has obtained multiple new patents, earned dozens of awards for new products and design excellence, and has been featured countless times on popular HGTV and DIY programs. In 2011, MTI’s name was changed to MTI Baths to more clearly communicate the variety of its product offerings, which are available through an exclusive network of kitchen, bath and plumbing showrooms across the country.
Today, the Atlanta-based company has 144 employees and more than $20 million in revenue. It is respected throughout the industry as an innovator of custom and handcrafted bath products with a laser-like focus on impeccable quality and customer satisfaction. The company’s stated goal is simple and straight-forward – to be the best in the world at what they do.
As a curator of fine bath products – from tubs to sinks to shower pans– MTI can attribute its success to its unmatched degree of quality and craftsmanship. Each product is built to order and handcrafted by artisans here in the U.S. There are no robots in MTI’s production facilities – only real people creating exceptional products, one careful step at a time. Each product is made to individual specifications and is manufactured only after the order is placed.
From the type of hydrotherapy to the placements of jets to all manner of available options, the possibilities for customization are nearly limitless. Remarkably, even with this advanced degree of personalization, most MTI products ship within seven business days, the fastest in the industry.
Over the past quarter century, MTI has won top awards for innovative design, including nine prestigious ADEX awards last year alone. Among the most recent examples of their success on the design side of the business is the steady chorus of accolades generated by the new Juliet tub. Created by designer Audrey Newsome in partnership with MTI’s President and Chief of Design Russell Adams, the Juliet has a sculpture-like silhouette that was inspired by a vintage candy bowl. Its versatile shape, which changes depending on the viewing angle, fits in well in a traditional or contemporary space. The tub has been featured in numerous design blogs and was named as a finalist in Interior Design magazine’s eighth annual “Best of Year” awards.
MTI prides itself on being customer-focused. Solving a customer’s problem is just one more opportunity to make MTI a positive experience. They have even gone to such lengths as to fly an employee to another country to help make sure a large installation project went smoothly.
Being adaptable to change is the hallmark of a successful business, and one that certainly holds true for MTI. Once specializing primarily in whirlpool tubs, the company has greatly expanded its offerings over the years, shifting with consumer preferences to add a line of shower bases, bath furniture, bathroom sinks, renewable teak bath products and more, all while continuing to feature advanced bathing hydrotherapies.
MTI is also in tune with evolving design trends, offering products that are on the edge of emerging styles. The Designer Collection includes more than 100 bath models in styles ranging from elegant and traditional to contemporary and minimalist. Most can be specified as a soaker, air bath, whirlpool or combination, complemented by a wide range of options and accessories. In fact, MTI is known for its willingness to change or customize its tubs, often regarding the original design as merely a starting point.
As MTI makes plans for continued growth – including a new manufacturing plant to allow room for new product lines – CEO Kathy Adams underscores the importance of balancing ‘big picture’ planning with the immediacy of the daily functions of running a business.
“The process of running a long-term sustainable business involves knowing when and how to change big items, such as product offerings, targeted distribution channels and marketing campaigns,” Adams said. “We need to keep doing well all those things we are doing well. This is more than maintaining the status quo. It is about continually improving and the natural consequence of that process is change.”
It stands to reason that in an employee-owned company, employee input is highly valued. During the recent recession, MTI employees were encouraged to bring their ideas to the table – and management implemented many of them. Company mantras include “continual improvement” and “zero defects” – philosophies that encourage cross-training for all employees. Each employee is urged to view him or herself as a leader and as part of a team, and all are fully trained to provide the best products and service. Pride in workmanship is intrinsic to the culture, and more than 76 percent of employees have an ownership stake in the company. MTI was recognized as a Top Workplace by the Atlanta Constitution-Journal for creating a work environment that encourages employee feedback and fosters growth by taking ideas from every department, not just upper management.
Recycling is big, from the materials used in manufacturing and shipping to everyday office supplies. Approximately 65 percent of the materials used in ESS are organic, and over 40 percent of the materials used in acrylic products is post-industrial recycled material. MTI uses the newest chemicals that offer the lowest emissions, and the teak used in their bath products is harvested only after a replacement tree had been planted 20 years earlier.
The company also designs products that enable consumers to be more environmentally responsible. The Jentle Jet jetted laundry sink launders fine washables using only about five gallons of water, compared to 35+ gallons in a washing machine set to the delicate cycle. MTI’s whirlpool cleaning system uses less than 10 gallons of water, far less than that required by other manufacturers’ cleaning procedures.