My Toughest Challenge: Jerry Jendusa

Last updated on June 20th, 2019 at 10:44 am

Position: Co-founder and partner

Company: Stuck LLC

What it does: Business coaching

Career: Jendusa founded Emteq Inc. in 1995 and grew it to a $100 million company based in New Berlin. He sold Emteq in 2014, and the same year co-founded Stuck with Jim Harasha and Paul Schulls.

The challenge

In 2008, the Great Recession hit the aviation market hard. More than 50 percent of Jerry Jendusa’s New Berlin-based aerospace manufacturing firm Emteq Inc.’s business was in corporate aviation, and those aircraft came to be seen as an unnecessary extravagance. The shift was amplified when a number of CEOs were criticized for flying to Washington, D.C. on corporate jets for a meeting with the federal government on a bailout for the auto industry.

“With this bad publicity, the business aviation industry in and of itself was crashing. Just listening to customers, they literally went overnight where people were just canceling orders,” Jendusa said. “In a matter of a week we had to reduce (our) budget from $92 million down to $65 million.”

The resolution

It ended up being one of the most satisfying times in his career, Jendusa said, because Emteq became focused on continuous improvement and gainsharing.

“We worked with the salespeople on redoing our budget and our forecast,” Jendusa said. “We communicated to staff: form teams and get their teams generating shared financials as to how we could cut expenses. I moved my corner office to a cubicle right near the sales staff so I could help, I could listen to what was going on.”

Fringe benefits were eliminated, top executives took pay cuts and Emteq focused on a thematic goal of “capturing our unfair share.” 

The takeaway

Among the learnings from the experience were that Jendusa had to be more transparent and visible with his employees, follow a process, engage people, have a consistent message, and work on must-do, can’t-miss items such as innovation and continuous improvement.

“We can’t be fat, dumb and happy,” he said. “It led us to get more involved in (manufacturers) promoting corporate aircraft as offices in the sky.”

Emteq came out of the downturn stronger and hit the ground running because it had continued to invest in research and development. Its processes were streamlined, inventory costs were lower and efficiencies had been gained.

“It’s amazing what you can do when the going gets tough if you involve people, and I think staff ended up appreciating more what we did and our genuine concern about getting them involved, getting their input,” Jendusa said.

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