I can still remember my Grandfather’s words ringing in my ears, “If you take care of something… it lasts.” This broad, yet succinct statement can relate to relationships, cars, cashmere sweaters, and even employees. As an owner, if you are going to scale any business, at some point you will be forced to seek out the best possible help you can find to further your company’s interests. It is on the onus of the company to attract and to retain the pieces of the puzzle required to coalesce the grander vision. People must be treated as a valued asset with needs and emotions, as opposed to interchangeable parts of an assembly line. There is a new way, a right way of doing things, the entire corporate ecosystem is shifting towards employee-centric corporate cultures.
I had an opportunity to discuss this new age of capitalism with a young entrepreneur by the name of Justin Strong. He is a shining example of how it is possible to use kindness, transparency, and empathy as modern tools to forge true fealty from his clients and within his organizations.
Let’s briefly retrace how he arrived here. Strong began his journey with his own driveway sealing company, he took over his father’s business in 2012 and never looked back, growing it into a multi-million dollar entity. Mr. Strong Senior operated his own heating and cooling company, the business is still family-owned 50 years later. That singular trade evolved into his current portfolio consisting of JP Strong Enterprises Inc., J Strong Real Estate Holdings, Strong Bros General Contracting, Seaway Construction & Management, and more recently branched into the completely digital Social Giveaways. Strong’s current life goal is to brick by brick lay the foundation to becoming recognized as one of the largest construction companies in the nation. Lofty ambitions by any standard, at 32 years old there are a lot of runways to accomplish that and much more.
Contrary to popular belief, it is still okay to be a “really nice guy” in civilian life and still be a killer when it comes to closing business. Thankfully, being authentic never goes out of style. There has been a great awakening spurred by the recent global calamities, class disparities, racial tension, and increased access to information. This has instilled a general sense of awareness in these times. People are becoming less thankful to settle for just any job, simply a paycheck doesn’t cut it anymore. They are searching for a healthy environment that perpetuates an air of equality, openness, and instills a sense of purpose. The first health revolution was physical health, the second one is mental health. A large portion of one’s life is spent at work, it makes logical sense that people are becoming aware of how they are valued in the workplace and more importantly, how they feel while at work. Strong has taken a progressive approach within his organizations and his clients, it could be defined as a full transparency relationship grounded in mutual respect.
“Delivering service and quality starts with instilling the overall vision, everyone working with us knows they are part of something. If an employee is treated as a family member, they will perform better, it’s that simple.” – Justin Strong
Having his employees feel respected and important is crucial to employee and client retention. One employee has tenure that has lasted the entire 50 years since the inception of his father’s original business. An impressive statistic that really personifies the return a business owner receives when he invests in his employees. Cultivating deep relationships is an integral aspect of Justin’s business strategy. Establish clear roles, define all the deliverables, allow specific personality types to work within whatever capacity that allows them to perform at their best. Strong phrased it like this: “If you provide the tools and empower your people, you’re actually supplying the momentum for an individual to begin living up to their full human potential… this directly aligns with furthering the interests of any company.” This internal process has yielded results, the finished product speaks for itself. Efficient project management and adherence to proper business practices have landed Strong high level industrial, commercial, and government contracts. Maintaining an impeccable public image starts with the employees, they are the ambassadors of the company that are interacting with the public every day. As a president of a nation or a company, the last thing you want is disgruntled ambassadors going out in the world disgracing your reputation. You have to nurture and care for your staff and clients the same way you would any personal relationship you hold value to.
“Scaling a business is often dependent on bringing together your people and making sure they see, understand and believe in your vision.” – Justin Strong
Strong does not just talk for the sake of talking, he practices what he preaches. Currently, he is in the process of moving his staff into a state-of-the-art flagship head office that will boast 16,000-square-feet with numerous workspaces and document safeguarding designed rooms for his construction business Strong Bros. General, Contracting Ltd. “We believe that if we create the space that fosters a healthy environment we will attract and retain top talent, our people are our competitive advantage.”
There are many things done differently in Strong’s companies, from applying thoughtful disagreement, open forum discussions, to turning down business when it isn’t in the best interest of both the client and employees. “We know what we do best, and as much as we wish it’s the best fit, it’s not always the case. We have to look out for the longevity of our reputation.”
It is common practice for honesty to not always be chosen over profit, but long term Strong is a firm believer that full transparency always brings a good return. With success comes responsibility, positions of affluence and power come with a level of accountability. This includes being active in the community, working with various charities, mentoring, acting on employee concerns, and as a general rule of thumb to use empathy wherever it can be applied. Times are changing, it is no longer considered weak to be kind, it is an era of eco-friendly initiatives and universal equality. The irony of the quintessential ‘nice’ guy being interpreted as weak is truly comedic when you literally have the last name Strong.