Ep. 122: Leading with Purpose with Justin Ozinga of Ozinga

Justin OzingaJustin Ozinga is president of Ozinga, a fourth-generation family business best known for its red and white striped concrete mixer trucks.

While involved in the company since a young teen, Justin moved up the ranks and was recently appointed as president of all of Ozinga operations, including ready mix concrete, aggregates and cement.

Ozinga has more than 2,000 employees, primarily in operations in the Midwest and Florida.

Justin and host Missy Scherber discuss strategic growth, making a positive impact on communities and leadership.

They also cover:

  • Passing on a company legacy to a 5th generation
  • Retaining your company culture and values as you grow
  • Infusing Amazon-style customer engagement technology in your business
  • Being less transactional and more personal
  • Investing in yourself and finding mentors

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Show Transcript:

Intro:

Welcome to CONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio, where we bring you boots on the ground perspectives from construction business owners and industry experts about their successes, challenges and whatever else is on their minds. Consider them your own personal mentors on technology implementation, equipment solutions, business management, and more, enabling you to apply their expertise to your business. Held every three years in Las Vegas, CONEXPO-CON/AGG is North America's largest construction trade show. For even more ways to connect with the industry, visit conexpoconagg.com/connect. We've got another great guest on the show today, so let's dig in.

Missy Scherber:

Thanks for joining us for another episode of Contractor Conversations on CONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio. I'm your host, Missy Scherber.

We would love to learn more about you, our listeners, so we can better align our future episodes to your wants and needs. Please take our short survey at conexpoconagg.com/radiosurvey by May 31st for a chance to win $100 Amazon gift card.

Joining us today is Justin Ozinga, president of Ozinga, a fourth generation family business, best known for its red and white striped concrete mixer trucks. While involved in the company since a young teen, Justin moved up the ranks and was recently appointed as president of all of Ozinga operations, including ready-mix concrete, aggregates, and cement.

Missy Scherber:

Ozinga has more than 2,000 employees primarily in operations in the Midwest and Florida. All right, Justin, thank you so much for joining us on the show today. It's a pleasure to have you, appreciate your time.

Justin Ozinga:

Thank you so much for having me, great to be here.

Missy Scherber:

Of course. Well, we've had some fun conversation leading up to this and I'm excited to share everything you've got with the audience, but for those who may not know you or who have not heard about Ozinga, give us a quick snapshot of the family's four generation history in the industry?

Justin Ozinga:

I would love to. My great-grandfather, Martin Ozinga Sr. started the business 1928 and it was in the coal business in Evergreen Park, Illinois. And they delivered coal to people's homes to heat their homes before natural gas was widely available that everybody used. Pretty crazy back in the day, and you could imagine that the air wasn't as clean either.

Missy Scherber:

I can imagine.

Justin Ozinga:

And then as that phased out and went to natural gas, we moved into the building materials business and started doing much more of that. And we didn't actually get into ready-mix concrete until the early '50s. There's some color along the way, so when my grandfather and his two brothers took over the business, World War II started shortly thereafter and they actually had to close the business for a couple of years while they all joined the military. And they all came back thankfully, but it was a great experience for them. And then they opened up shortly thereafter, and then not too long later, got in the ready-mix concrete business. And that just started in Evergreen Park, and the second location was also in Illinois.

Justin Ozinga:

And my dad and his two cousins started working in the family business, which is the third generation. A funny story there, my grandfather was in the banking business, it was Evergreen Bank at the time, which is no longer around now, but my grandfather told my dad, "Let me know if you're interested in this ready-mix business, otherwise I'm going to sell it." It was a fairly decent-sized company back then, maybe 50 employees. My dad was in college at the time, just graduating college, and he said, "Yes, for sure. I'm interested." I think he was only 22 or something like that, 22 years old. And he took over as a general manager of the ready-mix concrete business. Otherwise, it was going to-

Missy Scherber:

Wow. So that was your father in the video?

Justin Ozinga:

That was my father. Martin Ozinga III. Correct.

Missy Scherber:

Wow, awesome.

Justin Ozinga:

He had one brother and one sister and his brother went into the banking business at Evergreen Bank. And so he ended up growing it with his two cousins, and they started off, I think it was one or two locations. And then by the time my brothers and I came around, he was up to probably 18 to 20 locations, maybe slightly more. And one of the things that was a very memorable for me... So, we started off in the family business, my brothers and I, at a very young age, high school, we were working around in the summers and that kind of stuff. But then fast forward a little bit, when we finally took over the family business as the fourth generation, the third generation had this big sigh of relief. And they said, "We've made it, we've transitioned."

Justin Ozinga:

And that was their goal all along to pass it on down to the next generation. And they said, "If you guys screw it up, it's all your fault now."

Missy Scherber:

We're done for.

Justin Ozinga:

Right. And so, we took that very serious, and that's a burden that we carry in a good way, that we definitely want to pass it on down to the fifth generation ourselves. And that's our timeframe, horizon outlook on the business is... So there's 32 kids in the fifth generation that are 18 and under basically, and that's all the children of my five brothers, myself and my cousin, Jeff. And so we're excited. We've had three of them that have worked in the summer so far, and so we've had three of the fifth generation get paychecks from Ozinga already, which was super exciting.

Justin Ozinga:

So that's one of our goals as a family, is to continue this legacy and keep passing it on down through the generations.

Missy Scherber:

That's unbelievably impressive because, first of all, construction companies struggle just to get past the first generation. It's a lot of work to get past the first five, 10 years in business, but to carry on a company and a name and a legacy to now almost five generations is pretty remarkable. What would you attribute that to? Is that the core values? Is that the family dynamic? I know that's a big question there, but if you could narrow it down, what are some of the big things that stand out to you on how we were able to have almost five generations now take over a family business?

Justin Ozinga:

I would say it's several things. For the family, one of the things that's been a pillar of our family for all generations is we believe that our purpose in owning this business is to honor and glorify God and serve the crown of his creation, our fellow man. And so we live with that purpose, that the business isn't really ours, we're stewards of it, and we're here to make the most of the resources we've been given, that we've been blessed with. And for us now, that's just to make a positive impact on families and community and those that are all around us. And so that's how we really feel about it, that it's ours for a time. And we've been given this enormous blessing and we wanted to make the most of it and do the most with it, and really give back a lot to the communities that have blessed us.

Justin Ozinga:

And when we have that mentality, it's easier not to get wrapped up in the hype of how much work you accomplish or how much money you're making or not making, or how many employees you have. None of that really matters, all that really matters is the people and the impact that you're having on them, and as well as their families and the community. And so that to us is by far the largest blessing. And that's gone through all generations, we really look at that, through that lens of, how are we doing as a company in helping the world in a positive way? Is the world a better place because we were here?

Missy Scherber:

Yeah, that's absolutely incredible. And I watched the video on your website. It's about a 15 minute video that talks about the history of your company. I recommend all of our listeners listen to it. And I heard that pillar that you're talking about with every generation and every leader that spoke on that video, which was incredible. And so you attribute that to that purpose. It's a purpose, it's more than just a mission or some values, it's a purpose for the whole company.

Justin Ozinga:

For sure.

Missy Scherber:

And I think that's absolutely incredible. And I'd say 32 kids is a solid succession plan. I think you've got a good thing going there.

Justin Ozinga:

Yeah, it's quite a few. I have five daughters myself, which is fun. I'm having a blast with all my girls growing up at a house of all boys. And my wife grew up in a house of all boys as well, she had four brothers, no sisters. So that's just been tons of fun for me, but all the nephews and nieces. We try to get them together on a regular basis at least once a month, just so they grow up getting to know each other and learn how to handle different emotions from other cousins and that kind of stuff. That's all intentional, we want to keep them close in case any of them want to join the business. There's a lot of history there, it's not like they're just meeting each other for the first time.

Missy Scherber:

Right. That's awesome. So I think talking about the four generations, like I said, that video is a great sneak peek for people to go check it out. I really want to focus on your role today and your role within the company. Talk to me about your history within the company, where you started and how that's led to your role as president today.

Justin Ozinga:

Sure. So my first paycheck from Ozinga, I was a junior in high school and my dad came up to my brother, Carl and I. Carl's the second, I'm the third in the line. And he said to us, "It's about time you guys start working." And this was during the school year. And so he said, "Okay, what'd you have in mind?" And he said, "Well, you could start by cleaning my offices in the morning." And we're like, "Yeah, but we have to be in high school by 8:30." He's like, "So?" And we're like, "All right. Well, how long?" And he's like, "Well, you could start for two hours every morning."

Justin Ozinga:

So we'd get up at 4:00, 4:30 and go clean his offices and clean the toilets and mop the floors and do all that stuff. The downside to that is, I think we slept through a lot of our classes and our grade suffered quite a bit.

Missy Scherber:

The offices were clean.

Justin Ozinga:

We had a good excuse. But the offices were clean for sure. And then from there, college, I worked summers during college. I remember one summer in particular, I would start in our Chicago yard. And we were working in the barges of cement with the dust everywhere, cleaning the plants, shoveling under the conveyor belts and all that kind of stuff. We'd start 5:00 AM in Chicago with my brother, Paul now, he's the fifth in line. And then we'd take off for lunch around noon. And then all the guys, the yard guys and the drivers would be like, "Oh, early day today, huh? You guys are half days?" And we're like, "Yeah, whatever." We would just blow it off.

Justin Ozinga:

But then we'd go close up at another yard and start there like by one o'clock and we'd be there til 8:00, 10 o'clock at night sometimes. So we were putting in sometimes 14, 16-hour days all through the summer. Same there, not good for sleep, but the guys at the other yard, when we closed up at the end of the day, they'd be like, "Oh, it must be nice to sleep until noon and get here." So you're like, "Yeah, whatever."

Missy Scherber:

Sure, sure.

Justin Ozinga:

That was fun. Those are good days of hard work and just learning the value of just putting in long hours and hard work, the work that nobody else wanted to do. So graduated college, went to Westmont College in California with a business degree. And so now that I'm armed with this a business degree, I'm ready to take on the big jobs, right?

Missy Scherber:

Of course.

Justin Ozinga:

My first job was a 30-pound air hammer, chipping out concrete drums, both at the central mix plant and all the mixer drums in the shop. And so that was my job for nearly a whole summer with my cousin, Jeff.

Missy Scherber:

Fresh out of college, back to the hard work.

Justin Ozinga:

Right. Right. So 10, 12 hours a day, chipping out... We don't allow our people to chip the concrete out of the mixers anymore, it's too dangerous. We hire a specialized crew that has all the proper safety equipment and that kind of stuff. It was on the dirty job show that was televised nationally, that was one of the worst jobs in America. I enjoyed it, I didn't mind it. You just put all the right ear protection on and you just go town for a while. It was dirty and hard work, but it felt good. You see your progress at the end of the day, there's something satisfying about that.

Missy Scherber:

So you went from business degree to what was featured as one of the worst jobs in America?

Justin Ozinga:

Yeah, that's right.

Missy Scherber:

That's pretty solid post-college experience, right?

Justin Ozinga:

I think my dad had this philosophy that, "I want to give you the worst jobs in the company to see if this is something that you really want to do," to see if we could hack it and if we were going to quit and go do something else. And we all fell in love with the business, all of us did. Ironically, all five of my brothers, so six of us and my cousin are working full-time in the business today. After that, I started doing all kinds of different jobs, basically got the tour of duty. I was in dispatch for a while, I ran plants for a while, ran all the heavy equipment.

Justin Ozinga:

I did not drive a ready-mix truck. I never got my CDL, and that's a good thing, I'm on the road behind a big truck like that, but I'll leave that to the professionals. And then from there, I started working more of an operations role and a divisional level, and then became president of one of the divisions. And then when the fourth generation took over, I took over, I was president of the entire ready-mix division at that point for all the different areas. And then this past year, 2020, I took a year off. I took one-year sabbatical with my family. Let me back up a little bit. When I was 15, my dad did that with my brothers and I, and my mom, he took a year off of work and we just traveled the world for a year.

Justin Ozinga:

We were out of the country, and he just didn't check phone calls, there wasn't emails at the time. But he just checked out and that was probably one of the biggest highlights of my life in just learning a lot about different cultures and people in different areas of the world. So I've always dreamed to do that with my family as well. I took that time off last year, and I was traveling outside the country until I couldn't, COVID put a pause on that.

Missy Scherber:

Put a little pause in it.

Justin Ozinga:

Yeah. And so we had to come back in the US in March. But I still took the rest of the year off and just had a fabulous time with my girls and my wife and did some domestic travel. And that just gave me a whole new perspective on life and recharged my batteries and stuff like that. And for me in this position, you have to look at, as an owner, especially, or a high level manager, it's a marathon. You have a 40-year career, you really have to take care of yourself, you have to take time off. Not everybody's fortunate enough to, I realize that that's a huge blessing that I was able to do that.

Justin Ozinga:

But even if you take a week or two weeks' vacation, it's just the norm now that people take their phones with them and check all their emails and keep texting people. I think that's a big disservice, and I've been encouraging all of our people, no matter what position they're in, turn your phones off. Take your vacation time, especially, but make sure you turn your phone off. Don't be a crutch for the people that work for you to just reach out to you anytime they have the least bit of pain or struggle, they need to figure that out, and that's a good thing. Give them the tools to do that, train them properly, but let them learn the hard way to make the decisions and have the onus of that.

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. I think we struggle with that ourselves in small businesses owners always being available. And Trevor, my husband, and I have been talking about some boundaries there of like... I say, "Don't answer that, he can figure it out. Just let him struggle a little, he'll learn, he'll call someone else, he'll ask the right person." I think that's so great that you'd bring that up, that one, people take vacation because we also have staff that won't use all their vacation, and I'm like, "You need that time. You need a break."

Justin Ozinga:

I'm getting to the point now to force people to take their vacations, they don't know what they're missing. You're not going to grow unless you're stretched a little bit. You create people dependent on the manager, when they don't take time off, and unless you stretch them, they're not going to grow in their own roles.

Missy Scherber:

It's almost kind of a leadership strategy in a sense for your team to step away, is what you're saying-

Justin Ozinga:

I'd say for sure.

Missy Scherber:

... and to have a break. So tell me, so you became president, was it the year before the sabbatical, presidency?

Justin Ozinga:

No. This was just in the last probably six weeks that I became president, so it's very recent. So I went from doing nothing on my sabbatical to doing almost everything now, not everything, I'm one of many wonderful... We have so many wonderful people at our company here and so many wonderful managers and just so many talented people that we're just so grateful for. So I feel like I could just be myself and live out my personal purpose and do the best I can to keep cheering people on and be a resource for anybody that needs me. Back to what I was saying earlier, not to screw things up,

Missy Scherber:

Right. No pressure as fourth generation to carry it on. What do you think, what are your most important roles? I think a lot of leaders out there identify with the role of president. What is an important role to you as a president of a company?

Justin Ozinga:

For me, I would say with the growth that we've had as a company, it's really making sure that we stay true to our culture and our values and hold people accountable to those values. For us, we still feel like we're a small family business though we've got quite a few employees that work for us now, but that's something that you just can't take for granted. When you have people that work directly around you, it's easier to rub off on what that looks like, but when you don't get to see people very often or they're in different geographic areas than you are, the company can take on a life of its own and can get away from you. And we never want to become a large company, that's just transactional that we lose our sense of purpose and reason for being in the first place.

Justin Ozinga:

And so, that's something that I have a big burden for, is to make sure that we retain our company culture and values, and that's something that we have to be very intentional about. Whether that's through print or videos or going out and about, and speaking in front of everybody, just trying to get out have as many Ozinga family to get out and about and talk to people and just let them know that we're still here, we're still family business, and we want to keep it that way, and no intention of selling or anything else like that. And so it's not something that's easy, it's a lot of work, but to us, it's the most valuable thing we could do.

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. And I imagine it's pretty easy for you and your teams to stay hands-on because you've been in all those roles.

Justin Ozinga:

For sure.

Missy Scherber:

I think as an owner, to be able to say, "I've been there, I've chipped the concrete out of the drum. I've done that," you're just so much more approachable out on the job site. How important do you think it is for owners to have that season where they are out in the field, understanding those roles?

Justin Ozinga:

I think it's very important. I think the more you could get out, the better. Especially as we enter in this new age of more and more technology where you could just be mobile anywhere, you don't really have to be anywhere in particular, I think it's more important forever that you just show up at places and be there for people. It's still a people business and you have to be in front of people. The mobile is fine and it works, and it got us through this epidemic, I would say, but there's no substitute for being face-to-face with people. And at the end of the day, for our calling as a business, if we're there to make a positive impact and really show love to people, that's going to be getting out and about, and being in front of them. And so that's something that we highly value for sure.

Missy Scherber:

I think that's fantastic. We made that decision, this coming year to delegate all of the roles. I found myself, I hadn't been in the field almost for an entire year because I was drowning in the roles of the office in the backend. And we just hired a very talented manager and said, "Trevor and I have to be with our team. We have to be in the field, we have to be connecting with people. That's the whole mission and purpose of what we do." So I love that you've carried that as a core value for four generations, I think that's a huge success to you guys as a company, and very inspiring to companies like us who are aspiring to grow.

Missy Scherber:

Talk about your leadership style, I know you've already hinted at some of your core values as a leader, but what is your leadership style on a day-to-day basis when it comes to working with your teams?

Justin Ozinga:

I'm a dreamer, I like to think what could be an innovation and where we could be going and that kind of stuff, so I'm always a little bit out there, people call me the idea guy or whatever. And so I have to be pulled back down to earth quite a bit, but I like to push people to the limits because if things have always been done a certain way, that doesn't mean we need to do that going forward. And so I'm always encouraging folks to look at different and better ways to do what we're doing and things that we're not doing. And that comes to all areas, including safety or whatever it is not just the production side of things.

Justin Ozinga:

I started getting bored with status quo and things like Groundhog Day, doing the same thing every day, the same way, I start to lose interest. And so I definitely like to keep switching things up and moving people around into different positions like I was, that's how my brothers and I grew up in the business. That's also part of our culture, just because someone's great in a position doesn't mean they shouldn't try other areas of the company just to get a well-rounded career. And so we always say, "Change is our middle name around here, don't get too comfortable."

Justin Ozinga:

And so a lot of things along those lines, as well as I'm not a micromanager by any stretch, I like surrounding myself with self-starters that could plan their own day and that kind of stuff. My leadership style is more through questions than telling people. I like to just engage with people and ask as many questions as I can as to how they're doing, what they're working on, how's that going? And I think anytime you can lead with questions, it's much better than making statements. You're going to find out a lot more... As a leader, you have to make probably the most important decisions for the future of the company, and the more information you can have to make the best decisions the better.

Justin Ozinga:

And if you're not asking questions, people will tell you what they think you want to hear. And so you have to ask specific questions as to what you think you might need to know and that kind of stuff, and the more questions you ask, the better.

Missy Scherber:

Those are some really powerful leadership statements that I'll circle back at the end, I wrote them down. They're really good. I also liked what you said when it comes to how you feel about workforce development which is a big buzzword right now. And I think the message we're trying to put out is workforce development isn't just a buzzword, it's an action, it's something we need to be actively involved in. And you said you believe that all people are a constant work in progress, there's no such thing as perfection, which is one of your core values. Dive into that a little bit on how that's connected to workforce development for you and your teams.

Justin Ozinga:

When I was saying we're constant work in perfection, a lot of that comes from our faith as a family and our Christian belief that none of us are perfect and we're all flawed. And I think it's easy to get in the trap of, and I'm speaking of myself personally here, it's easy to have a perfectionist mentality that the days that things don't go well, whether that's in your own personal life or at work, it's easy to beat yourself up and get aggravated and irritated about it, even things that are out of your control. For me, the big challenge is making sure that I only work on things that are in my control and I try not to worry at all, but think about the things that are in your control, and those are the things that you can handle and everything else you just need to learn from it and move on and give yourself a lot of grace to not beat yourself up so much.

Justin Ozinga:

And that's difficult for a lot of leaders because you tend to be a verdict bearer and take on a lot of other people's issues and problems in the company, especially when your name's on the door, for my family, it's our names on the door of everything around here. And people can throw that in your face at times, but every day is new, and that's a blessing for us, and every day is a learning experience. And for us, we feel like we've never arrived, there's no golden plateau we're going to reach, there's no such thing as perfection, and every day, we just want to make a little bit more progress toward a better world.

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. I think that's a great mentality to carry into the workforce because we're lacking people for a reason. And if we approach people as works in progress, they don't have to be perfect, they don't have to have arrived, as you said. How can we train them? How can we cultivate them? What can we learn from them and listen, and how they want to be in our industry, I think we'd have more workforce if we had an approach that you're talking about of, we're not looking for perfection, we're looking for someone willing to work and a work in progress. So I think that's a fantastic principle to take into workforce development. So thank you for that big nugget for all of us.

Missy Scherber:

With so many years of success, I feel like this is a big question. How do you see the company changing in the next five to 10 years? And how do you see yourself creating... And obviously, you don't seem like the type of leader where it's all on you, how do you see yourself in your team and your peers creating that change for the company?

Justin Ozinga:

That's a great question. I think all businesses are haunted by Amazon, if you will, the Amazon effect and how amazing they've done at just creating such an easy, whether it's one-click purchasing or everything at your fingertips all the time, everything's mobile, and the whole world is moving to that. And so I think that the biggest change our industry will see in the next five years is moving toward a mobile platform and getting AI involved. And I just think it's expected, it's no longer a wish from a consumer or a customer, it's now the expectation, why can't you guys get with the program. So I think that's going to be a challenge for our industry in particular, in the construction side, because we're not that far along.

Justin Ozinga:

I feel like it's a lot easier to order a pizza. I do the Domino's pizza tracker and it's so simple, and I think why can't we have this in our business? Why does the customer have to place an order for a footing, and then not even a day later, call up and give all the same information for a wall that we know is going to pour on top of that footing? It's just ridiculous. And so I think over time quickly, I hope, and something that I'll be pushing is a lot more technology that we can push out really from the customer facing side. And I think we're going to have to get there.

Missy Scherber:

We will, for sure. And I love that you're thinking about that. I think when our industry talks about tech, we instantly think about equipment, but my background was in nonprofits and also corporate, and I just felt like they were way more advanced than we were when it comes to customer and donor interface. How do we bring that into construction? And that's just great that you guys are thinking through that. And I thought that, how come they can't order the same load of dirt that they're going to order every day or the same gravel and material two clicks away? We're trying an application right now and investing in one for our dumpster business, trying to get our superintendents three to five clicks away from a dumpster swap because I'm like, "We don't need a phone call. They don't want to make a phone call."

Missy Scherber:

Like you said, we can order pizza, why can't we order our dumpster switch? So that's pretty exciting. You're really moving your company to think bigger when it comes to customer interaction, customer needs and technology, and you're thinking about Amazon, which you're the first leader I've heard really speak that way, which is fascinating. How has your team responded to that, that big thinking?

Justin Ozinga:

Well, I think everybody's on board with it, I think it's long overdue. They're excited about it. And so we're looking at seeing what we could do or investments we can make to get us there. And it's going to be a challenge, I think anything that's new and innovative in any industry is probably going to take longer and more expensive than you think it is.

Missy Scherber:

It's very expensive, tech is always expensive. You mentioned 2020 a little bit, and I know you were able to take that sabbatical, which I'm very, very inspired by that as a leader as well, but it was a challenging year for the company. What were some of the big obstacles that you guys overcame or lessons learned from 2020 aside from how important it is to take time away for the family?

Justin Ozinga:

I was out, but talking to my brothers and the experience that they went through, they did an absolutely phenomenal job navigating that whole thing. The big lessons from what they've told me coming out of that was just how much they value the people that work here and the commitment. We've always said that our greatest secret weapon or whatever you want to call it, is our people. There's no big secret there. Anybody could copy all the same equipment and assets and properties that you have, but they can't copy the people that you have. We feel like every single person in the world is unique and has a unique contribution to society that nobody else can give. And we feel like our team is the best of the best.

Justin Ozinga:

And so we're super proud of them. Everybody pulled together and really made things work. And that's basically the gist of what I got out of my brothers is how much they came to appreciate just how hardworking, and dedicated, and loyal, and excited everybody was to figure it out. And they did it. And we came through the year and we did okay, because they were telling me that when it first hit, we didn't know if we were going to stay in business or not. You heard about some industries getting totally shut down, and that was scary so, but we're just thankful that we're able to survive. And people got to spend more time with their families and figure out what's important in this world.

Justin Ozinga:

And same when I was off on my sabbatical, just spending time with my wife and kids, that was just the most amazing experience that I could have had.

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. I think the value on family and really just slowing down and spending time with the family became a huge value that so many more people saw and hopefully corporations and companies see that even more for their people. We were all forced to see that. We were forced to be together.

Justin Ozinga:

I do a lot of the onboarding, I like to go in and talk to any new hires and just introduce myself on behalf of the family and that kind of stuff. And one of the things I'd tell them is, "We feel like as a company, your family is more important than your career. And we want you to make sure that you're taking time with your family, that you have a good home life, and you're taking care of that because if you're good at home, you're going to be much better in your job here. If your home, whatever's in your control, if it's not good, that's going to leak into your work, and you're going to suffer here. And so make sure that you put your family first over the company."

Missy Scherber:

That's phenomenal that you encourage your staff with that. And this is a dangerous job to do out on the job site. We don't want, like we talk to our staff, we don't want you coming here with a tough day, and if you are, talk to us, let us know, we're here to support you. You're running equipment and big trucks, this isn't the industry for that. So I love that you're starting at the very beginning with just family first and having a good family life. So here's a big thing, Ozinga just celebrated, this is unbelievable, 93rd anniversary, and your growth has come with several acquisitions along the way. How do you know when it's time to take the next leap? And what advice do you have for other business owners looking at that?

Justin Ozinga:

I'd say over the years we've had acquisitions that were companies that we competed with and there was some new growth to other areas that we weren't in. But a lot of the acquisitions came after having relationships with some of the people we acquired for sometimes 20 or 30 years. And so it looks like, "Oh, you just had this acquisition and that one, and you bought this company here and there and it looks so easy." Sometimes those negotiations take decades, and 93 years is a long time, four generations later. So I would say my advice is, just because somebody says no, or you're looking at something and the timing isn't right, it doesn't mean it can't happen in the future. So think long-term, especially if that's your mindset with a business is things change rapidly and people's situations change.

Justin Ozinga:

And just to have good relationships with everybody, never burn a bridge. And then opportunities come along that you maybe thought were never going to happen, and then you get a phone call and they say, "Hey, I remember us talking five years ago, and I've changed my mind, can we talk?" And that happens quite a bit, believe it or not. I would say that's the norm. The times where you walk in having a conversation with someone and show interest in buying their company and you get a deal done six months later, that's very fair.

Missy Scherber:

Very rare. And that's very encouraging to hear you talk about that. We've always known in order to grow, acquisitions are going to have to be a part of our future, just in looking at our marketplace within the excavation industry. But that's great you're saying, it doesn't happen overnight, the relationships should be there now, have the conversation now, yes or no, it could be five, 10 30, like you said, 30 to 40 years in the making of just long-term relationships. That's incredible. Now, how do you ensure as you grow through acquisitions because you're taking on a whole different team of people, and I'm sure that comes with the unique challenge.

Missy Scherber:

How do you make sure that your corporate culture is being modeled and understood? Do you guys have a plan of what do you do there to bring on a whole new team of people that maybe don't know the Ozinga culture yet?

Justin Ozinga:

It goes back to when I was talking about before, when we grow, it's just being very intentional about talking a lot about our family history, where we came from, how we got here, what our family values are, what our company values are, what we think is important. And a lot of that is not about numbers and income statements and that kind of stuff, it's the people. And so we really focus on talking about the most important thing, being the people and the impact and that kind of stuff and the community. It sounds I'm sounding repetitive or redundant.

Missy Scherber:

No. Not at all.

Justin Ozinga:

But it's really not complicated in that sense because it's easy to get hyped up in, "Okay, we're going to take on this new acquisition or move into this new area and bring equipment out there." And you can get excited about doing things like tasks or completing projects. And you step over all the people that are involved in it, or don't pay attention to them. And if you take care of your people, everything else falls in line, it all works. So that's by far the most important thing to do as a leader.

Missy Scherber:

And I think it's good that you are being repetitive with some of these principles because they're unique to our industry. It's not a norm. Our industry, at least I came from a very people programs, raising money for kids in the neighborhood, very feely to construction, and I was like, "Are all the fields gone here?" And it's been very new to try to bring service and support to the earth moving industry for me. And it just didn't exist. I was shocked that people first and values, I didn't see that. So I think what you're saying is important and it needs to be repeated because it's the way our industry used to be, and I feel like we've maybe gotten away from that, become very transactional, production versus people.

Missy Scherber:

And so I appreciate that you're repeating family values and people first, and leadership through listening. It's great.

Justin Ozinga:

Well, I'll give you a quick story. Back in 2019, I felt like I was maybe obsessing too much about work. So I was thinking about work 24/7 and just busy, and checking my emails, and texting, and phone calls late into the night and that kind of stuff. And it took over my mind to the point where I wasn't really present in conversations with my family or friends or that kind of stuff, I had a hard time concentrating and very like ADD distracted. And it got to the point where my wife was like, "You need to get some help, this isn't good. You need to go get some executive coaching or something because you're here, but you're not." And the funny story was, we had a fishbowl in our counter, in my kitchen, and I came home one day and I said to my wife, "Annie," I said, "When did you get that fish? When did we get that?"

Justin Ozinga:

And she goes, "Ah, that's been there for like six months, and its name is Bubbles. And we got them at the fair." And I was like, "You got to be kidding me." I'm like, "All right, I'm going to go get some coaching and get some help with this." And I think between that and then taking this sabbatical and that kind of stuff, it just really set my mind straight to be a lot less transactional and to be a lot more purposeful about when you're sitting across from someone in a conversation, be present with them. There's nothing more important than people, than having a good... You're not going to have a positive impact with someone if you're not showing any interest and you're like, "Okay, are you almost done talking, I have some emails to answer." Or you're on your phone when they're trying to talk to you.

Justin Ozinga:

That's an easy trap to get into and you don't even realize it, but you're missing out on the most beautiful part of life, and that's the person right in front of you, especially if it's your family, for crying out loud. And I'm talking about myself, I was guilty of it. That's something that I'm working very hard at now.

Missy Scherber:

It's something you have to work at, I know. I just took a step away from social media and I have people reaching out, like, "What are you thinking? And you built this big platform and you have all these people." And I'm like, "What about the people right in front of me? What about my team? What about my family?" I've found it very difficult to be present when you're constantly scrolling. And there's just something in the scroll of emails, or calendar, or text, or social that keeps you disconnected from the most important things in front of you that to me build a better you.

Justin Ozinga:

Yeah, for sure. There's a lot of really smart people spending billions of dollars to have you addicted to your phone.

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. They would love that, to keep us disconnected. So I'm inspired and continue to feel like, I think I made the right decision there to be more present with our business and our family.

Justin Ozinga:

And you can delegate that stuff. You don't have to do it necessarily.

Missy Scherber:

No. We just hired a company to take over social channels and I'm very excited to see what they do. Like you said, they're experts, delegate it to the experts, let them do what they do best. Now, talk about the executive coaching, that's fascinating to me because that's another conversation I've heard among a lot of owners is in the construction industry, who do you go to for coaching? And how did you find your coach, was it through a service you'd recommend or talk to me about that experience real quick, if you would mind?

Justin Ozinga:

Sure. This came out of necessity and I would recommend coaching to anybody, even if you don't think you need it because I think it's good, whether that's learning more about yourself, like you mentioned, find out what your strengths are, whether that's like a string finder 2.0. I think anytime you can just learn more about yourself and especially your team and see where your strengths and weaknesses are and how you work together, that's a good thing. And so we've been doing a lot of that at work as well, with development, with all of our folks. But mine came out of more of necessity, I wasn't really handling things very well.

Justin Ozinga:

And so that introduction came through my pastor at my church to an executive coach, and he sat down and asked me really, what are your core values as a person? What's important to you? And to me, it goes back to having a positive impact, making sure my life counted for something, making sure that I was obedient to the calling of what God wants me to do in my life. And another value was hard work. And he's like, "Well, one of the things you said to me is, you're going to have a hard time making a positive impact if you're stressed out, full of anxiety, grumpy to people, you're not paying attention to what they say. If that's one of your personal core values, you're not going to be doing very well at that, so you need to take care of yourself."

Justin Ozinga:

And I was like, "Yeah, you got a good point there."

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. Solid point, solid connection. That's been a really valuable thing. Now, did he have experience in business as a business owner or is this kind of his...

Justin Ozinga:

He was a psychologist doctor and he worked with a lot of executives and various people. He worked with medical doctors. I was telling him how I had a hard time dealing with certain things that didn't go how I expected at work or big jobs, whether you had an accident or you bid it wrong or the stuff I would lay awake at night just frustrated with things not going the way I want them to, which is a little bit prideful. I'll just call it for what it is. And so he was saying that he works with some doctors that when they screw up, somebody dies on the table in front of them and they have to go tell the family, "I'm sorry, but your loved one didn't make it through the surgery or whatever it was."

Justin Ozinga:

And he said, "Just for perspective sake, when you get really upset about a job or something that's not really has to do with someone's life, and it's just more an economic issue or whatever the case is, try not to get too worked up about it. There's more important things in the world. You need to let stuff roll off your back more and breathe or find ways to whether it's meditation, just chill out a little bit."

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. That's a great perspective to carry. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist with the work and how we execute.

Justin Ozinga:

Give yourself break.

Missy Scherber:

And that's a great scenario to think about, did someone die with a small mistake? You talked a little bit about positive impact and I want to close out on that. Your company states its purpose is making a positive impact on individuals, their families, and the community for generations. And that's a really powerful statement. Why is this so important to your mission and how does it drive you and the business?

Justin Ozinga:

I would say that if we weren't making a positive impact anymore, if our company say, "The culture got away from us or we're getting constantly feedback that we're disservice to society," or whatever the case is, I think we would just sell the business at that point because that is not who we are, that's not what we want to do. And so that's really how we look at it, that's the lens we look at the way we do everything is are we making the world a better place? And so that comes through various things, that could be small things, large things, but one of the things that we do, and we don't advertise this on our website or anything, but we give away a minimum 10% of our income every year pre-Tax.

Justin Ozinga:

And so we do a ton of charity work to various organizations that we love to support. And to us, that's just another form of giving back to the communities that have blessed us. And that's a big reason we're in business is to help others. And sometimes people think you can only help others if join a nonprofit or you're a pastor of a church or whatever the case is, but for us and the people that work here, they'll know that we're all working for a bigger mission and purpose to help others. And so it's really a rallying cry, just doing your work every day. I'll give an example if you're staying in quality control and you're testing concrete and you're doing the same thing, the same test day in and day out, you say, "Well, what positive impact am I having on the greater community? I'm just doing the same thing and it's monotonous."

Justin Ozinga:

And so I would say that don't look at what you're doing, don't let that define you, what you do does not define you, it's who you are, and it's your interactions with your customers, with the community, with your coworkers, you could have an enormous impact. And sometimes you might not ever know what impact you're going to have or do have, but you are having an impact. There's no one that's the same as you, there's no one with the exact skills and abilities that you have. And so embrace that and find your purpose and who you talk to and who you communicate with and that kind of stuff. It's not about what you do. And by the way, you're a massive part of this big group, we're all in the boat rowing together.

Justin Ozinga:

We need you, we couldn't do this without you and look at what we're doing as a company to help the community around us.

Missy Scherber:

Absolutely. And the work you're doing for that quality control person, it's like, you're the roads that families drive on every day. I know you guys were awarded that big contract for a highway there in Chicago, I was reading on your website. That's significant, you're a significant part of society with the work you do, and that's really amazing. I love your mentality and your approach, I think it's important to go through it, but really quick, you talked here your favorite business book or podcast, and what's the most valuable thing that it's taught you, real quick share with the community.

Justin Ozinga:

One of my neighbors introduced me to How I Built This with Guy Raz. I'm a voracious reader and in sponge with learning things, I'm constantly reading different books and listening to different things. I like to read through The Wall Street Journal in the morning and about all kinds of different industries. And I probably read, between reading and listening four, five, six hours a day sometimes, from morning to night. But the podcast, How I Built This, I just absolutely... And he does a great job with the editing and putting the stories together, and you really start to feel like you're getting a good idea of that person's life and struggling, that kind of stuff.

Justin Ozinga:

But a lot of the people that he has on as guests, their stories, some of them are just absolutely tragic and how they lose everything and get it back and then lose it again and go through all kinds of personal struggles. And then eventually, a lot of the people that he's interviewing for a reason, they have like these hundreds of millions or billion-dollar business, but they're looked at as the end product of like, "Wow, look at that success, and it was just overnight." But when you start from the beginning, it's just like, "Oh my gosh, I don't know how many people would actually keep going through that [crosstalk 00:49:01] of getting to where you got to.

Justin Ozinga:

I love it because there's no such thing as a shortcut or an easy road or easy path, if there was, everybody would be doing it and then there'd be no benefit to doing it yourself. And so if you have something that's special and unique and a big value, you didn't come about that easily. That takes a lot of hard work and perseverance, and that's good. Look at challenges as something that's going to improve you and make it better, don't look at it as a nuisance or it's too hard, or we can never make that happen, because a lot of people before you have done it and they make it happen, and just make that all part of the adventure. It's not about the destination, it's about every day just going through it and the impact you have on people through the process.

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. I think that's great. And I'm going to add that to my podcast list. I'm an avid listener of podcasts, I just love consuming them. How I Built This, you said is called?

Justin Ozinga:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Missy Scherber:

Who's it by?

Justin Ozinga:

Guy Raz, R-A-Z, I believe it's spelled.

Missy Scherber:

Awesome. I will check that one out. So here's my takeaways from this interview, and I always like to do this at the end of an episode. You were repetitive with some principles and I think it's important to really tune in to the principles of you and your family because as a fourth generation company preparing to hand off to fifth already, clearly the principles are working, and I want to listen to. I liked as a leader you surround yourself with self-starters. I think a lot of leaders identify with being a dreamer, being a visionary, what's next, and I think it was interesting to me that you like to surround yourself with self-starters and that's an important thing to put with a leader that's a dreamer.

Missy Scherber:

I like your leadership principle leading with questions, the more information you have, the better leader that you are. One of these principles that repeats with the family and you is paying attention to your people and really taking pride in your people. Not just being a people first business, but asking your people to be a family first business. I think that's just so powerful and clearly why you've been able to really build such a legacy company. And then are we making the world a better place? Is our company our values? Are we making the world a better place?

Missy Scherber:

And then your faith, that your faith has been passed through four generations, it's so inspiring. And I think it's so easy to get away from that, like you said, the business, the transaction, what's happening, but the faith and the people and the listening, and you just really hit us with some great longstanding principles. And I am so grateful that you shared that with us, I'm inspired and our listeners will be as well. We like to end with a fun, rapid fire round, just to give the listeners a little bit of a taste on the side of who you are outside the business.

Missy Scherber:

Tell us your first job, which you already touched on, was it Ozinga, or did you have like a lawn mowing business or anything on the side before that happened?

Justin Ozinga:

No. I had some other construction jobs with some folks that knew my dad, whether it's hauling plywood up to the top of a roof or a lot of other dirty jobs, just manual labor, digging trenches, sweeping floors. My dad, we have a place up in Northern Wisconsin and he used to make us work for half a day before we go out and play on vacation. And so we'd be doing lumber-jacking and cutting down trees and splitting wood. And we absolutely loved it. It was just as fun as going out and swimming. So there was always like this hard work mentality growing up, for sure.

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. So you've probably had a job since you were five years old similar to my husband.

Justin Ozinga:

Right. Right.

Missy Scherber:

What was your very first car?

Justin Ozinga:

Probably like a minivan or something. After I got married with kids, being a part of the company, where's always a pickup truck laying around or my dad had a vehicle for us when we're in high school and stuff, but probably something very unexciting.

Missy Scherber:

I like it. And if you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?

Justin Ozinga:

I've thought about that. I'm not quite so sure, I think maybe something in the ocean. I like swimming in the ocean, and snorkeling, and free diving, and being on a boat, being in the sunshine, I don't know, probably something along those lines.

Missy Scherber:

I like it. Is there a song that gets you pumped up in the morning?

Justin Ozinga:

In the morning? I listen to a lot of EDM, that gets me pumped up. I don't know, maybe I'm a little too old for that.

Missy Scherber:

No. I do too. I'm not the only one. That alone inspired me to continue to be myself.

Justin Ozinga:

Yeah. Go for it.

Missy Scherber:

I love it, EDM. Who is the person you wish you could have dinner with?

Justin Ozinga:

That's easy. That would be my wife, Annie.

Missy Scherber:

Annie, are you listening?

Justin Ozinga:

I think she's the coolest person in the world, and I look forward to every meal with her.

Missy Scherber:

It's awesome.

Justin Ozinga:

Beyond that, I would say, this is a tall ask, but Jesus Christ. I'd like to sit down at his dinner table. Well, someday, but anytime soon we'll be good too.

Missy Scherber:

Yeah. A lot of questions there, right?

Justin Ozinga:

Right.

Missy Scherber:

What is your dream piece of equipment?

Justin Ozinga:

One that's not built yet. I've been dreaming about it for a while, a different way to deliver ready-mix concrete, and we'll see, I'm working on it.

Missy Scherber:

So it's in your mind?

Justin Ozinga:

It's in my mind, I'm spending money on it foolishly, but it's a work in progress.

Missy Scherber:

Keep us posted.

Justin Ozinga:

Yeah.

Missy Scherber:

What do you predict will be the biggest disruptor for your business in the next five years? And I think we talked about that.

Justin Ozinga:

I think mobile. I think if you don't embrace technology, you're going to have a hard time competing in the new world. Back to that pizza analogy, Domino's pizza is not my favorite pizza by any stretch, but when I have to call the local pizza company and be put on hold for two minutes just when I call, and then give all the same information I give every time, my kids really don't care what brand I get. And so I opened this, the Domino's Pizza tracker app, all my information is on there. It shows like an Uber, like the car coming, the payment's all in there, everything's in there, your last order is in there. It's just brain dead. It takes about 10 seconds, and then it says, "Joe is showing up with your pizza, he just pulled into your neighborhood."

Justin Ozinga:

And it's just like, why would I ever order... And since they've launched that product deck, actually I think their sales went up something like 30%. It was a boom for their business.

Missy Scherber:

Really? So the data for mobile is there?

Justin Ozinga:

Oh yeah, that's a no-brainer. And so I just think we need to get there as an industry.

Missy Scherber:

I love it. And last one I added because I think part of being in construction is eating at the gas station, what is your gas station go-to when you got to stop, headed out to the site, meet someone, obviously at the gas station?

Justin Ozinga:

Not so much food anymore, I try to stay away from gas station food, but I would say like a Bai, B-A-I. It's a somewhat healthy drink, it's all natural, and there's two cups worth of caffeine in it, and it keeps me awake and it tastes good. So that's usually what I get at a gas station.

Missy Scherber:

I appreciate your solid attempt to stay healthy at a gas station, I think that's great. Well, thank you again, Justin. This time was full of learning and inspiration and really core values that I think the listeners who are in the field and listeners who are company owners, or leaders, there's so many takeaways for both sides of the spectrum. So I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom and your knowledge today.

Justin Ozinga:

Yes. It was great talking with you. Thank you so much.

Missy Scherber:

Of course.

Outro:

And that's going to wrap up this edition of CONEXPO-CON/AGG Radio. If you liked the show and think other people should listen too, make sure to subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. We'll be back next time with another great guest. Until that time, be sure to visit conexpoconagg.com/connect for even more ways to connect with the industry.

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