“We don’t do rocket science. We make tall grass short and make white stuff go away. You can train that. We hire for attitude and personal pride.”
- Joe Kujawa, Vice President, KEI, Milwaukee, WI
Employee engagement: The KEI team works hard but it also plays hard. The Kujawa family strives to extend that dynamics of family to its employees. Continuous learning is encouraged and integrity and a positive attitude is required. But their commitment is rewarded with flexibility, good pay and fun.
Kujawa Enterprises, inc. Vice President Joe Kujawa sums up the company’s culture in one word: Family. “We look out for each other, praise each other, correct each other, and tease each other - just like family,” he says. “It’s all about supporting our employees, helping them, and doing whatever we can to give them what they need to succeed. That leads directly into what’s right for the client.”
KEI focuses on supporting the whole person, believing that happy at home equals happy at work and vice versa. What that means varies by person, but the management team strives to be flexible, fair and consistent.
When Kujawa joined KEI in 2003, he helped refine the company’s culture and make it actionable and accountable while still keeping that family dynamic.
“When I was younger and our company was smaller, on payday everyone would head to the local bar and celebrate. When I joined the company 14 years ago, some of those people were still here,” he says. “Some had the idea that promotion meant they had to do less work. A sense of self-entitlement had set in and they weren’t interested in growing or changing - and that’s not what we mean by family.”
Using MAGIS and The Orange Standard as a guide, Joe and his brother and partner Chris Kujawa pushed the reset button. “We moved away from that mindset and saw an upward swing in getting people moving forward in a positive direction. We realized we had to do better, and that resulted in letting people go who were great at their jobs but did not fit our culture. It was tough but it reinforced our culture, and people appreciated it.”
The company prides itself on being a learning organization and focuses on training and innovation to motivate its team. “Faster and cheaper is not a sustainable business advantage. Culture is. Being able to keep people for the long-term. You need to have them engaged, and that’s where culture comes in.”
Kujawa says KEI’s culture is a work in progress, but it is taken seriously and they strive to show their loyalty and appreciation even as the company grows.
“We are a big company but our work is done in small groups. We dispatch from four locations. We have to look beyond the day to day to see everyone and get to know each other. You have to foster it and empower your management team to replicate the culture outside the main office,” he says.
KEI is guided by a philosophy built on MAGIS and values outlined in the KEI Orange Standard.
“We struggle with having to always focus on culture, but you need to really always be thinking about it and coming back to it. That’s really the most important,” says Joe Kujawa. “Something you might try is going to fail, and that’s OK. Trying to keep working on culture is what’s most important. We’re not perfect and that’s important for our team to know, but they will recognize and appreciate the effort.”
“MAGIS inspires everyone at KEI to reach their highest potential. Being average is easy. Being great at what you do is hard work, but the rewards are immeasurable. In everything we do, at home, at work and in our community, MAGIS guides us. We believe that to better serve our families, our customers, our neighbors and ultimately ourselves, we must lead with vision and character. We strive to exceed expectations and work hard to achieve excellence in all things. We believe we should always make the most of our talents and abilities.”
The Orange Standard
“Wherever we are and in whatever we do, we are committed to bettering the lives of our clients, our team and our community. We do this by heeding the CALL of the Orange Standard: Care Relentlessly, Act Graciously, Lead Courageously, Learn Continuously.”
Read the rest of the Culture article series here