Contractor to Contractor: Jansen Group
For more than 70 years, the Jansen Group has been serving southeast Wisconsin with quality masonry construction and management. With more than 60 awards to its name, the company has earned a reputation as an honest, hard-working company. Ron Zoltak, division president for the Jansen Group, talked with Masonry magazine about his company's success, his corporate philosophy and where he sees the future of the masonry industry heading.
Masonry: Tell us a little about the Jansen Group's history.
Zoltak: The history of our firm began in 1930 when Joseph Jansen started his own construction company. In 1932, Joseph moved into his first office and shop. Joseph's son joined the company while attending school. The firm responded to industry challenges and grew.
Our current senior management, with Thomas Miotke as president, assumed leadership in the mid 1980s. Management formulated a business philosophy that concentrated solely on the delivery of construction. On Jan. 1, 1990, The Jansen Group Inc. was formed. The corporation is employee-owned and -operated.
Masonry: To what do you attribute the company's longevity and success?
Zoltak: Jansen has a longstanding reputation of honesty and fair dealing. When we make a commitment, no matter how large or small, we deliver to the client's full satisfaction. Also, our workforce, in the field and office, is responsible for our success. Their commitment and dedication sets us apart.
Masonry: Tell us a little about the corporate philosophy that runs your business.
Zoltak: Our vision statement explains our philosophy. We are a unique group of professionals, recognized by incorporation, who are guided and bonded by moral codes, citizenship and vision. We bring together both the art and the science of construction; Jansen delivers the best construction solutions for our clients and our marketplace. Now and always, we must produce success, keyed with client satisfaction, industry leadership and just plain fun.
Masonry: The Jansen Group is organized into independent divisions. Explain those divisions and how this structure benefits the customer.
Zoltak: The Jansen Group Inc. is organized with the customer in mind. Traditionally, construction firms are one large group providing several types of services. At Jansen, we have organized our services into independent divisions, or 'delivery systems,' that provide the client with the resources of a large firm and the expertise, personal attention and focus of a small firm.
J.P. Jansen is the flagship of Jansen as one of southeast Wisconsin's oldest and best general contractors. This division handles projects that require a general contractor or managing general contractor. The team consists of seasoned project managers and some of the best superintendents in the business.
CMA of Milwaukee is the state's premier construction manager. The division has expertise in educational facilities, public and institutional buildings, and worship facilities. Often, clients that require the contractor's participation starting in the design phase through construction utilize CMA. This division provides agent-type management and at-risk management where financial responsibility is assumed for the construction of the project.
Signature Group Inc. is the division that fulfills the needs of our clients who have projects that do not require a full general contracting service. Services provided include excavation, concrete work, masonry work, rough and finish carpentry, and tilt-up concrete panels. Our field staff provides the owner with seasoned professionals who take pride in their work. We not only self-perform work in-house, but we also bid to other construction managers, general contractors and developers.
Masonry: You have a comprehensive website that offers testimonials, press releases and case studies. How has this tool helped grow and market your business?
Zoltak: Today, having a website is essential for almost every business. Our website allows our potential customers to find us and our credentials. We also create project websites for some owners. Owners can track their project's construction process in real-time on the Internet.
Masonry: In the past year alone, your company has won five awards. To what do you attribute these awards?
Zoltak: Ultimately, we receive awards because of our involvement with our clients. We offer services as the "best construction solutions." Our company has a wealth of professional experience that we offer to our clients. We are truly dedicated to the success of each project. We drive ourselves to sustain perfection and detail, and constantly work as a team.
Masonry: What is one of the most difficult projects you've worked on and how did you overcome these obstacles?
Zoltak: A recent project that proved to be challenging was the remodeling and new addition to St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Menomonee Falls. The church was originally built in 1867. Most of the interior stonework was covered with joints, lath and plaster, and had to be stripped. The stone was tuckpointed, ground, sandblasted and sealed to achieve the 100-year-old look. The salvaged stone, at random sizes of eight inches to 12 inches, had to be cut to veneer size.
Another large challenge was the locations of the new building. The existing structure was neither level, plumb, nor square. The entire structure seemed quite contorted. This made field measurement for the roof trusses very difficult. We also installed eight- to 12-inch tie rods into the existing structure to help stabilize the existing chapel and bell tower to the new church.
This project required a competent masonry foreman to work with the construction manager, project engineer and architect.
Masonry: What advice would you give to a budding mason contractor?
Zoltak: Cheap advice to a future mason contractor would be never cheat on workmanship. Bid plans and specifications with a capability to be able to complete a project on time and without problems. Educate your employees, and know how to eliminate the No.1 problem — flashing failures.
Masonry: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the masonry industry?
Zoltak: Cost is probably the biggest misconception we as contractors hear about the masonry industry. Unfortunately, developers, architects and owners are often competing to reduce budgets and ultimately final costs of projects. Many times, they settle for unproven building products to get a job.
Masonry: What would you do to change that misconception?
Zoltak: Ancient pyramids were made of mud, straw and stone. We must continue to educate owners and architects, with help from MCAA and IMI, that brick, block and stone have beauty and longevity. With proper design and installation most masonry is maintenance free.
Masonry: What are your three biggest concerns in keeping your company successful?
Zoltak: Success requires continuous work for our teams of highly successful management, and working with a core of trained and talented superintendents and foremen, followed by journey tradesmen.
Safety. Accidents are not acceptable; they result in loss of production. Sometimes trained employees and higher insurance premiums take us out of competitive bidding.
Training. Buildings are built with a set of hands. Our employees need to be trained for leadership, motivations and continued skills.
Masonry: What do you feel is the industry's biggest challenge in the near future?
Zoltak: Building materials are a huge challenge for the masonry industry. We are constantly competing against cheaper synthetic finishes, new sidings, metal panels and precast. We need to continue to develop new surface finishes and the use of lighter materials.
Masonry: Where do you think the masonry industry is going to be 10 years from now?
Zoltak: Ten years from now, we will be continuing to rebuild our industry and our future. We need to get young people back and involved into the trades. We must continue to protect our rights, standards and building codes, which could affect the future of our masonry industry.
Masonry: What do think will be the masonry industry's biggest competitor in 10 years?
Zoltak: Our present and future market losses will continue to be caused by the heavy loss of residential basement walls and the completion of panelized wall systems of precast and tilt-up panels.
Masonry: What do you feel are the most critical issues you'll face with future government regulations?
Zoltak: I believe that there will be much more involvement with government in regulating safety, recycling and the need to construct green buildings.
Masonry: Which group do you feel has a bigger impact on masonry's future: architects, engineers or general contractors?
Zoltak: Architects definitely have the greatest impact on the masonry industry. They are the agents of the owners. They design the owners' thoughts. We need architects to recognize the beauty that exists in masonry.
Masonry: What do you like most about being a member of the MCAA?
Zoltak: Some of the benefits available to an MCAA member are members-only online resource guides, discounts on publications, and updates on government agencies and OSHA.
The tool Signature Group uses the most is the technical support and assistance from their director of engineering. Oftentimes, we check out designs and flashing details to eliminate any unnecessary problems that could occur.
About the Author
Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at www.masonrymagazine.com.