TZL 932



Forward-looking business attains success

This Hot Firm leader is a believer, in more than one way. T he subtle tone of a response dur- ing a face-to-face meeting could telltale whether a deal is won or if more coaxing may be needed. Joseph Chiczewski, the president of ESI Consultants, Ltd. (Naperville, IL), a planning, design, construction, infrastructure, environmental, and en- gineering services firm, is a firm believ- er that face-to-face interactions are im- mensely more effective in the business world. That strategy partly explains the success of ESI Consultants, No. 150 in The Zweig Letter 2011 Hot Firm List. Diversification, a forward-looking business plan, and meeting client ex- pectations, are other ways ESI Consul- tants has attained success, as Chicze- wski explains in the interview below. The Zweig Letter: What does it mean to be a Hot Firm? Joseph Chiczewski: Being a Hot Firm three years in a row is a great ba- rometer to get a relative idea of how we are performing. That is a positive for employee morale, for owners and for clients. TZL: How did you get where you are today? JC: Our company is as successful as it is today because of some hard work, some great people to work with, some flexibility in how we define and mar- ket ourselves, and a lot of blessings. It would be shortsighted to think I knew all the answers. TZL: Do you remember your first paid job? What did you learn then that still influences the way you work today? JC: I think my first paid job was as a bagger (groceries). I learned that it did not matter what I did before – in school or in sports – I had to perform on my job every day. And I learned that it did not matter what my position was, I needed to work hard.

TZL: What is it in your DNA that drives you to success? Is it audacity and risk- taking; a can-do atti- tude and a relentless pursuit of perfec- tion; something else more abstract? JC: I think my work DNA that drives me is a combination of be- ing driven to build and a bit of a fear factor.

TZL: Where do you see this indus- try in 10 or 20 years? What trends are influencing it? What about your company? JC: Clearly, the midsize generalist firm (of which we are one) is going to have struggles over the next 10 to 20 years. Global markets are an increasing influence and government regulations are clearly tilted toward large nation- al/international firms and D/M/WBE firms with set asides. New forms of communications are already greatly in- fluencing our business and will contin- ue to do so. I believe that our business (like most) is a people business. Chang- ing technologies allow communica- tion without personal contact, such as emails and video conferencing (instead

Joseph Chiczewski, President, ESI Consultants, Ltd.

Like most people, I truly enjoy many aspects of this business. Whether it is building a new road or building a team or business, being able to see how the pieces can fit together and being a part

of building it is very rewarding. At the same time, I have learned to acknowledge that some of what pushes

“Today’s market makes it essential that all your eggs are not in one basket.”

me is a fear of failing. That is not al- ways a good thing, but it does drive me at times. TZL: In today’s difficult business climate, what does it take to suc- ceed? Is the spectrum of failure a motivator? JC: Today’s market makes it essential that all your eggs are not in one bas- ket. It means you cannot take any cli- ent, employee or partner for granted. It is even more important than ever that any business leader is looking for con- stant improvement and new opportu- nities. Yes, failure can certainly be a motiva- tor. And it can be humbling. The chal- lenging times we are going through have shown that it is not enough to work hard and to work smart. There are factors that can knock out even a good business plan – it seems to me that the phrase “man proposes and God dispos- es” is an adaption of several different Bible verses (Proverbs 19::21 for exam- ple) and rings especially true in chal- lenging times. We have been a Hot Firm three years in a row, and yet I am more concerned with the future than ever. Businesses always need to look forward, adapt and grow.

of a personal visit) and webinars (in- stead of attendance at a group semi- nar). Certainly, in one sense this change is more cost-effective and efficient. But that misses the big picture. Business networking does not take place at a we- binar. An email does not allow you to see a person’s reaction to a question or hear subtle tones of a response. For ex- ample, this interview (which is not in- person or even over the phone) does not allow for follow-up questions and responses or meeting face-to-face to know each other and learn from that. Also, flexibility is a very critical issue moving forward. Public clients are con- stantly under pressure and therefore constantly changing requirements. Private clients tend to be under even greater pressure. Like society in general that can no longer wait for microwaved food, our industry is shortening sched- ules while increasing expectations. TZL: Do you hold someone as a special mentor? How did this per- son influence who you are? JC: I don’t have a simple answer for this. Certainly my father held a great deal of influence and mentoring. And since he died young (age 47) when I

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