Cultural revolution Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
Acouple of years ago, Marshall Waksmundzki had a choice to make. His company, Joint Construction Services, had reached a crossroads, and he had to decide whether to continue operating the business as a small-scale manufacturing company. Instead, he chose to formulate a long-term expansion plan, enlisting the assistance of a management consulting firm and, perhaps most important, overhauling the company’s culture.

JCS, an architectural specialty design, fabrication and installation company, surpassed $10 million annual revenue in 2006 and is anticipating a 35 percent growth rate this year, and Waksmundzki says there’s no doubt what was responsible for the company’s growth.

“Had we not gone through that change process, had we not forced our culture to meet our vision, we would still be back where we were revenue-wise, we’d still be back where we were attitude-wise,” Waksmundzki says. “They are directly tied to each other.”

Waksmundzki spoke with Smart Business about the power of change and how to develop the right culture for success.

Q: How would you describe your culture?

We’ve really transformed this company from what you would see as a typical mom-and-pop company into what we would expect to be a professional environment. With that, there are a lot of steps you have to learn along the way.

Our values of integrity, teamwork, respect and responsibility are really the rules now that we live by. One of the things that we preach around here is following those core values, and if you follow those core values as a leader when you make a decision, you need a decision-making process that you follow. When we started as a mom-and-pop company, you don’t usually have that discipline that you actually have a process for making a decision.

When we started this, we didn’t know what a decision-making process was. Understanding that decision-making needs a process is a very important piece for young business owners. Obviously, a lot of decisions are made by gut, but nevertheless, there needs to be an identified process for decision-making.

Q: How did you develop that culture?

It takes living those values, and the big one is integrity. That’s the one that you see a lot and you hear a lot, but really trying to live it not only when you’re walking the halls of the company, but you take it home with you so every single day when you come here, the decisions that you make have to be made following the rules. That’s what makes the biggest impact.

When you mix those values and you make your decisions based on those and you are able to carry it out, meaning you walk it every day and you live it every day, your life transforms. Now you’re living a life of excellence. You’re living a life full of integrity.

If everyone’s doing it, the organization has to follow. It’s common sense. If you’ve got 10 guys and they’re all practicing excellence, the organization is going to follow.

As the CEO, it’s a life of conflict. You’re constantly in the role of solving the next problem, whether it’s big or small, and when you’re following these core values and you follow that type of culture, people are interacting with you and they’re seeing how you make these decisions. When it goes down to the next level of management, they’re practicing those same values.

Q: Why is it important that everyone practice the same values?

If everyone doesn’t know which way you’re going, everyone can go their own separate way. You need to have that unified vision and that focused approach.

I can imagine four guys jumping into a car and saying, ‘We’re all going to go on vacation,’ but if each one wants to go somewhere else, the end result is going to be a lot of haggling and hassling and, ultimately, some compromises that might leave three of the four very unhappy.

In order to get proper satisfaction, you need to know where you’re heading, and myself, as the CEO, I’m the one who’s responsible for orchestrating that vision.

Q: What are the positive benefits of having the right culture?

The culture you create is the creation of the customer experience, meaning the culture has to be equal to the goals of the organization. If I had wanted to stay a couple-million-dollar company, I could have stayed with a less professional environment. Putting the growth model and plan in place that we did, it demanded excellence and it demanded our ability to be best in class.

Without the proper culture, your people cannot take you there. It ties back to the vision and keeping everyone on board with the vision.

If you don’t create the correct culture to attain your goals, you will not attain those goals. The culture has to be equal to what you’re trying to achieve. If it’s the right culture, it can be used to dominate any marketplace.

HOW TO REACH: Joint Construction Services, (847) 349-1580 or