Greater New Haven Business Person of the Year 2009
I’d like to thank Business New Haven for naming me Businessperson of the year. Thank you very much. I’d also like to congratulate the other winners, and thank the sponsors. It’s a great honor, and a reflection not only on my career but on my team and my company. And I’d like to thank my wife Wendy and my family for their love and support.
As many of you know Basement Systems fixes wet basements and vented dirt crawl spaces, we finish basements, and we have networks of hundreds of contractors who fix wet basements, dirt crawl spaces, and finish basements all over North America and the UK whom we train and sell our materials to.
I was self employed right out of high school – starting with nothing but self confidence and a willingness to learn. Today we have 150 employees, a 168,000 square foot corporate campus with two large beautiful buildings in Seymour, and 150 great people who like, and many cases, love where they work. At least that’s what they tell me.
But these employees voted us one of the 10 best places to work in 2006, so they mean it.
We did have record sales last year, and see a lot more room to run in the future.
People tell me I have a great story – I’m not so sure. It seemed fairly logical as it unfolded in the 27 years since I graduated high school.
So how did I do it? Well, I’m going to call it like I see it.
#1- Hard work. It’s not easy. And those who look for it to be easy will not make it – and will be disappointed. Discipline is a indispensible quality that seems old fashioned. We need to talk to our kids about it. We need to tell them that if you discipline yourself to do the things you should do when you should do them, the day will come when you can do the things you want to do when you want to do them.
Discipline is doing what you have to when you have to whether you like it or not. There is no free lunch.
I think mental toughness is a good thing and we need more of it.
#2 – Innovation. Provide something to your customers that is better than any alternative they have now. Innovation is important. Whether the new idea be a product, a service, a way of doing things, an experience, an environment, or just something that has never been done in YOUR industry – you must be different in a way the customer perceives is better.
#3 – Be a lifetime Learner. Most Americans are educated by television and radio and pop
culture. This is how you get dumb, not smart. This is how you lose your morals, not how you build character.
School is not the complete answer either. We teach our kids stuff in school they’ll never use, and forget the important qualities of character, or how to increase their earning ability, or how to get along with people. You have to take your education into your own hands on a daily basis.
#4 – Self Responsibility. If it is to be, it’s up to me. Sure, you need a team, you need a peaceful civil society governed by the rule of law. But if you want to be successful, nobody else is going to come along and make it happen for you. It’s up to you. We need more people who take full responsibility for who they are, and what they are what where they are.
#5 – Focus on what is important. Take action every day on high value activities.
I coined the term “legacy project.” Is what I am doing going to matter next month? Is what I am doing going to make a difference to my customers or employees far into the future? If not, then why am I, as the owner, doing it?
#6 – Be nice. Nobody wants to do business with a jerk or work for one. Be fair, and firm, but be nice about it.
#7 – Be financially conservative. I never borrowed money to grow my business except for real estate purchases. Bootstrappers don’t waste money, and tend to make better decisions. Don’t spend money you don’t have yet, because the fact of the matter is, you don’t really know if it will be there when you predict it will in the future
#8 – Have a nice place to work. What does your facility say to others about you? What does it say about where you are going? What does it say about innovation, quality, cleanliness, and how much you care and are committed to what you are doing?
#9 – Never rest on your laurels. Even when you are doing well, it’s only a matter of time before the bad guys catch up by copying you. You must improve with both incremental improvements and category shifting, earth shaking, industry changing developments all the time.
#10 – Don’t be afraid. Believe in yourself. Have faith. Be prudent, but don’t be afraid to jump. Without action, nothing happens. Fortune favors the bold. If you screw it up, fix it fast and move on.
Show me someone who has never screwed it up and I’ll show you a boring person that has never done anything worthwhile.
Let me tell you what I don’t do.
- I don’t spend money I don’t have. I don’t spend 1.75 trillion of my constituents money that I don’t have, let alone in a single year.
- I don’t make commitments to give my customers or employees benefits in the future with income I do not know I will have.
- I don’t reward failure. If my child behaves badly I don’t give them a cookie. If a company does stupid things, I don’t bail them out.
- I don’t punish success. If someone does a great job, I pay them more, not less.
- I don’t bite the hand that feeds me.
In the midst of a cash crunch and/or debt problem in my company, I would not propose massive new spending on the part of my organization.
And if you want to be successful, you certainly don’t lie. Lying, deception, exaggeration, hiding things, making poor behavior acceptable, and even expected has become such a part of our way of life in business, politics and in society at large, that soon we deceive even ourselves.
We don’t even recognize right from wrong when we see it.
So, my friends, my advice is to be honest, tell the truth with customers and employees and suppliers, and have integrity as your number one value. For if that were the case for all, in my estimation, we would not be in the predicament we are in now.
I am not perfect, but on this count I strive to be.
For those of you that think the end of my speech was political, I can assure you it is not. I am not a Democrat, I am not a Republican, although I am registered as one of them.
I don’t do group think. I am simply an individual. Larry Janesky. American. Free man. Free thinker.
I believe in free enterprise, free trade, common sense, two and two is four, and above all – liberty.
I believe that character is what counts, and it is the surest way to success.