How Jostin Construction is Driving Growth Through Culture, Partnerships and Business Efficiencies
An interview with Liza Smitherman, Chief People Officer and Whitney Eckert, Chief Operating Officer, at Jostin Construction
Editor’s Note: In recognition of Women in Construction Week (March 6-12), Deltek is proud to support the many firms that are part of #DeltekProjectNation and help raise awareness of women's growing role in the construction industry. In this interview, two women leaders at Jostin Construction sat down with us to discuss how they are driving growth through culture, partnerships and business efficiencies at their Cincinnati-based construction firm.
For more than 23 years, Jostin Construction, a Cincinnati-based, full-service construction company, has been growing its business by providing opportunities and change. By focusing on company culture, maintaining strong partnerships like the one they have with Deltek ComputerEase and efficiently managing its business, Jostin has positioned itself for long-term success.
Thank you both for taking the time to discuss this with us. We’re really excited to be able to share your insight. Can you tell us about the Jostin Construction story and some of the significant milestones contributing to the company’s growth?
Liza Smitherman: We began as a specialty concrete company in 1998 called Jostin Concrete. The business was founded by Albert Smitherman and a couple of business partners and named after two of our sons Joshua and Justin. And in 2000, we saw a need to expand our accounting resources, and ComputerEase seemed like a natural fit for how we wanted to grow our business.
Several years later, we enlisted an advisory board, who recommended we expand the scope of services we provided, as well as the clients we supported. So in 2010, we increased our service offerings. That led to the expansion of our business, and we changed our name from Jostin Concrete to Jostin Construction.
As we sit here today, Jostin Construction has grown significantly, generating over $25 million in revenue, thanks in part to the help of a lot of great partners, including ComputerEase and now Deltek ComputerEase.
That is a tremendous growth story. But you didn’t get here without hard work, so can you share a little bit about the Jostin "WHY" and what it stands for?
Liza Smitherman: The Jostin "WHY" is all about articulating what our beliefs and values are for our business. As a business in a very competitive market, we need to differentiate ourselves in this region. Our “WHY” is designed to create and provide a diversity of opportunities for all.
Putting our "WHY" into words helps guide what we do and helps us to know who we want to align and work with. It's how we run our business and connect with our community that we serve. We get a lot from the community and we want to give back. In addition to the Jostin "WHY," we also have our company values, which are core to our business. Our six values are Diversity Wins, All in. All the time, The Golden Rule, The Best at Getting Better, Good, Old-Fashioned, Ridiculous Fun, and Go First. Together they are what we share and ingrain into everyone that is part of the Jostin family.
So how do you use the Jostin "WHY" and your core values to help Jostin attract and retain top-level talent?
Liza Smitherman: That's a great question. Attracting and retaining talent is a struggle for many organizations in general, but this is particularly true in construction. The competition is pretty fierce, especially now as we are living in a pandemic where there are a lot of reasons why people may or may not be working.
Our “WHY" helps us attract and retain people. We pride ourselves on being a diverse organization. Diversity goes hand-in-hand with our values, and it reflects in everything we do. We commit to having a team with varied backgrounds, skill sets and points-of-view to help our employees and teams grow. We commit to identifying opportunities for employees at every level to grow and succeed. We've had employees come, and employees go; we’ve even had many come back, and a lot of it has to do with our "WHY."
That really says a lot about Jostin as an organization. Switching topics, can you tell me a little bit about the software Jostin Construction was using prior to ComputerEase and what prompted the switch?
Whitney Eckert: When I joined Jostin as VP of Finance, we had just purchased ComputerEase. Prior to that, the company was using QuickBooks®. Given the nature of construction accounting and how important job costing is to the success of the construction business, we concluded that QuickBooks just didn’t have the robust capability to offer job costing. It didn’t allow us to do a deep dive into how successful each project was. As we all know, in construction accounting, we live, eat and breathe by our work-in-progress and our job costing, and as Jostin grew, it became more and more important to track our work-in-progress (WIP).
Back about 10 to 15 year ago, we were looking at WIP monthly to do our end-of-month close, and we kept pushing our operations team asking, "Where are you? What's the outlook? What's coming ahead?" We quickly realized that we needed to have integrated meetings with accounting and operations to ensure we were all aligned. Now, with the help of ComputerEase and our WIP meetings, all of our project managers can review their jobs and provide status updates on WIP, on a weekly basis.
It’s great to hear ComputerEase provided Jostin what it needed from a job costing perspective. Can you share how you're using other ComputerEase tools, specifically the QTool, to track some of your HR and employee information?
Liza Smitherman: Our workforce is what drives our business and as we continue to grow Deltek ComputerEase has been able to grow with us. The tools that are contained within the ComputerEase modules and QTool have really helped us standardize our processes.
Built into ComputerEase, and especially within QTool, is a way for us to manage our workforce, our personnel, and all the information that we need to pull in as well as put back out, in order to manage our growing business. We can communicate in a way that blends in with the work that we're doing across our operations, accounting, and payroll teams, and integrate with various aspects of HR.
QTool is so agile, it allows us to develop and customize reports the way we need them to work for our business.
Sounds like Jostin has a great process in choosing strategic partners to work with, like Deltek ComputerEase on the technology side. What does Jostin look for when choosing a strategic partner?
Whitney Eckert: Liza talked about our "WHY" statement - creating and providing a diversity of opportunities for all - it is literally the reason for our strategic partnerships. When we talk about opportunities for all, we're not just talking about within Jostin. We're talking about our suppliers, our friends, our community, our customers and of course Deltek ComputerEase. If we can provide opportunities for others, then opportunities will come back to us. A great example of this is our advisory board ─ our advisory board provides us with feedback related to our business. One thing we realized early on, through the help of this board, is to not reinvent the wheel if you have partners that can help you. We give back the same way they give to us and that has been wonderful.
We also have great strategic partnerships with our clients and those that we compete against ─ who we work together with on some projects! Competition is good - it creates growth and that all comes back to our "WHY" and our values.
One last question, what are three takeaways you would share with other businesses on what to focus on for long-term success?
Liza Smitherman: The first takeaway I would share is to maintain a team culture, especially during this time when we are living in a pandemic and interacting the way we are here today ─ on a computer screen. It's important that even if we do this remotely, that we continue to stay connected and protect our identity and who we are as a business. So how you do that? This can be done by connecting online occasionally or safely meeting while physically distant. It's important that you maintain the culture that you have established in your business.
The second takeaway I would mention is as we're all trying to continue growing our businesses during difficult times, staying connected to partners is so important. As a construction company, we did not get where we are today without the support of others. We recognize what we know and what we are good at, but we also know where we need help and how we can utilize the support of organizations like Deltek ComputerEase. Don't let those partnerships fall to the side by getting too involved in your day-to-day.
And the last takeaway is - we all need to prioritize and understand cash flow to run our respective businesses. Businesses need to be aware of how they spend money, where they spend money, and if the cash flow continues to generate and move your business forward.
If you've got the company culture, you retain those strong partnerships, and you are maintaining a good cash position, you will see the payoff.
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About Jostin Construction
Jostin Construction was founded in 1998 and is a well-established, Cincinnati-based, full-service construction company specializing in construction management, general contracting, and self-performed pump, place, finish and total package concrete construction. Using a diverse team of professionals, we are committed to owner satisfaction and project success by delivering a quality product safely, on time, within budget, and using the best practices in construction.
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