Surviving adversity

Jamie Maliszewski, president of RPW Inc. and Elite Finishing LLC in Milwaukee, has guided his companies through some major downturns.

“The past 12 years of business have really made us stronger. The downturn in the economy following 9/11 and the crash of 2008 have really defined us as a company.

“My brothers, Jack and Jeff, and I have heard all the horror stories of third-generation family businesses, and that is why we are extremely determined to continue the success of this company. Our father, John Maliszewski, always told us, ‘You’re either growing or dying in business,’ and this has helped us maintain our focus and drive for success. We believe that growth comes in many forms, including sales, efficiencies, profits, buildings, people and customers.

“After 9/11, we decided that if we concentrated on continuous improvement and never being satisfied with our efficiencies, we would achieve increased sales and profits. We knew we needed more knowledge, so we enlisted the help of Wisconsin Manufacturers Extension Partnership (WMEP). With their help, we produced four Green Belts and completed lean training, all of which saved the company over $1,000,000 annually. WMEP helped us engage our employees, and having great employees made this easy.

“We treat our employees as family and have been rewarded by having many of them stay with the company for over 25 years. The current leader is at 49 years, or as John Przybylinski likes to tell me, he started two weeks before I was born. Their efforts, more importantly their results, are why and how we stayed profitable even when times were the bleakest.

“I hope that we are not just winning at poker on the Titanic and our economy and country get back to working for success and not voting for success so that we can get this ship to dock.” n

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