A new breed of CEO

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

1. Eliminated traditional titles and corporate hierarchy.
2. Holds quarterly meetings with the entire company to boost morale and to keep employees involved as stakeholders.
3. Launched open-door policy with all employees to build teamwork and unify the corporate culture.
RedPrairie Corp. had been unprofitable for about five years and was in need of a corporate cultural change when John Jazwiec was hired in 2002 as president and chief executive officer.
"When I joined RedPrairie, I stopped the use of company titles," Jazwiec said. "I changed that when I joined because everyone was complaining about wanting to be vice president, senior vice president, deputy general manager, senior class president. I said if you want to say that you’re the biggest person on the block, then show me results."
In the company’s literature and internal communications, Jazwiec is now referred to as "company leader."
In part because of changes to the company’s culture and execution instituted by Jazwiec, RedPrairie is well on its way to its 10th record quarter.
"RedPrairie has a heritage of serving customers very well. What was missing was execution, specifically financial execution, and that is why I was brought in," Jazwiec said. "I think culture and execution are intertwined. We try to create a culture where everyone is responsible for the execution of business."
The Waukesha-based company, which has 11 offices around the world, provides supply-chain technology solutions to global companies. As a leading developer of radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies and strategies, privately held RedPrairie is poised for substantial future growth.
RedPrairie employees began to understand how they related to the business and the goals they needed to achieve when Jazwiec enforced a program where exemplary business teams would receive bonuses for executions, Jazwiec said.
His company slogan, "autonomy with accountability," encompasses the open-door community Jazwiec has built throughout all of the company’s worldwide locations, thanks to Web conferencing and quarterly meetings.
Jazwiec is dedicated to his 600 employees, so that in turn, everyone together can serve the most important aspect of RedPrairie – the customers.
Jazwiec kicks off every year by traveling around the world to visit every RedPrairie location. Every employee attends the quarterly meetings, whether live or via Web conferencing.
"I have to approach being a CEO as it is my job to be a supporter and to provide a vision so that everyone can do their job. It is my job to have a good relationship with our investors, our board of directors, the media, our customers and our prospects," Jazwiec said. "When it gets down to it, if you do the job right, it is pretty humbling. There is really no place for an ego. Leaders have to have a mix of being passionate about results and being relatively modest with their egos."
In addition to quarterly celebrations, bonuses, employee awards and appreciation days, Jazwiec’s open-door policy encourages communication, especially with himself.
"You have to be careful in a business that gets so hierarchical that you can’t have a director that has to report to the vice president," Jazwiec said. "In fact, I really like to change things up, depending on what business problem they’re having."
Any customer can e-mail Jazwiec personally, and he has promised himself and the company that he will respond within 24 hours.
Jazwiec also established a system way for employees to contact him anonymously through e-mail, which he said that option has not yet been utilized.
"In my job, you really want to be respected, you want people to think you have a high degree of integrity. But at the same time you don’t want people to feel uncomfortable around you, and I try to make people feel comfortable," Jazwiec said.
In addition to creating a culture team within the RedPrairie community, every Friday Jazwiec sends out "John’s Journal," an assessment of the business, whether for that week, month or looking toward the future.
Jazwiec said the journal is a straightforward, honest assessment of the company, and the weekly reminder keeps employees focused on execution. The culture team measures the cultural satisfaction yearly, and Jazwiec said the numbers keep improving.
The main drive behind Jazwiec’s business philosophy stems from his own beliefs, but also from the way his business works. Jazwiec said the customers are by far the most important aspect of business, mainly because some customer relationships can last more than 10 or 15 years.
A company with a good sense of community and respect will in turn be a good company to clients because the employees care to execute, according to Jazwiec.
"You learn in business school that there are Theory X and Theory Y managers. Theory X managers believe people are inherently lazy and that they have to whip them into shape," Jazwiec said. "Then you have Theory Y managers, who believe that all people really want is to be inspired and they will do great things. I fall in the latter, and I think a lot of CEOs fall in the former. I also think that a lot of people in a CEO position think there is a big self-importance to it, and that can really hurt the company."
Jazwiec said he believes southeastern Wisconsin has too many old-school managers and CEOs who still operate within a rigid hierarchy in their companies. Such leaders eventually will have trouble with their businesses because of that approach in era of the mobile workforce, Jazwiec said.
"You need to let the other people step out and be stars. In almost every case where I’ve seen a CEO who is arrogant, they end up not having people that want to work for them," Jazwiec said. "I just believe that if you can inspire people, if you can create a great working environment where people want to work there and they feel that they have autonomy but accountability, I usually find that they will run through brick walls for you."
RedPrairie Corp.
First quarter 2004 highlights
– Completed the acquisition of LIS, a leading European supply chain execution (SCE) solutions provider.
– Formed partnerships with RF Code, Mesa, Ariz., and TriEnda, a plastics manufacturer in the material handling and packaging industry, Portage, to further RFID initiatives.
– Released a new distributed order management application that enables companies to order fulfillment and allocate inventory across extended distribution networks.
– Total revenue of $25.2 million, up 42% from the prior year’s quarter.
RedPrairie Corp.
Just one month in the life
May 4: Company announces it is leading the RFID pilot for Unilever North America that will enable Unilever to implement and test RFID technology in its supply chain. Unilever is preparing for compliance with mandates from Wal-Mart, other top retailers and the U.S. Department of Defense to ship products using RFID at the pallet and case level next year.
May 6: Company announces inclusion of significant new functionality for extended enterprise logistics operations with enhancements to its DigitaLogistix program. The new program enables companies to gain greater control over enterprise-wide and extended supply chain logistics operations to reduce costs and provide improved customer service.
May 7: Company announces a suite of RFID applications and services called RFID 360SM, designed to ensure retail compliance and RFID-enabled supply chain technology solutions to deliver real return on investment throughout the supply chain.
May 17: Company debuts a new optimized and integrated platform for adaptive supply chains at RedShift 2004, its annual User Conference and Logistics Industry Summit in Orlando.
May 19: Company announces the release of DLx MRM, a Web-based solution for the tracking and management of mobile assets.
May 19: Company announces a strategic partnership enabling RadiantWave LLC, to resell the RedPrairie DigitaLogistix suite of RFID-enabled warehouse, transportation and asset management systems. The partnership also will enable RedPrairie to leverage RadiantWave’s solution integration delivery capabilities to RedPrairie’s customer base.
John G. Jazwiec
Title: Company leader of RedPrairie Corp.
Age: 44
Education: Bachelor of science degree in management, Northern Illinois University, 1982; MBA, Depaul University, 1989.
Previous professional experience: Founder, president and CEO of Nuclio Corp., one of the top three managed service providers for network infrastructure in the United States; president of outsourcing division of May & Speh, Inc.; executive positions with Fiserv, Inc., and Siebe PLC.

May 28, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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