Rightsize Facility's recipe for Business Excellence: Consistency and a strong ohana
Mason Awtry sounds like a businessman with a strong belief in his business principles.
Why not? They seem to be working well for the owner of Naperville's Rightsize Facility.
"In 2004, there was one guy who put up a $15,000 investment," he said, speaking of himself. "Today, we have over 150 people. And we topped this year about $40 million in revenue."
Awtry considers that statement and allows for two ways to look at it.
"Some people would call it a wild success," he said. "Other people would say, 'That's all you've done?'"
We'll go with "wild success." It explains why Awtry's Rightsize Facility is one of the winners of the Business Ledger's 2021 Annual Awards for Business Excellence.
But it's not just the results that Awtry gets with Rightsize Facility, as well as parent company Work Well Ventures. How he and his team get those results matters also.
To start, Rightsize Facility - which is an office furniture dealer that designs and completes office interiors as well as reconfiguring, relocating or decommissioning office interiors with offices in Chicago and Detroit as well as Naperville - doesn't borrow money. Awtry is proud to call himself a grass-roots entrepreneur who has never borrowed a dollar.
In fact, he said that to help avoid borrowing, he didn't take compensation the first eight years Rightsize Facility was getting off the ground.
"I'm an individual who likes to sleep well, and being debt-free and coming into the pandemic debt-free and cash-flowing through the pandemic debt-free made life a lot easier," Awtry said. "I know a lot of organizations that have closed their doors."
He knows of organizations that have closed their doors because Rightsize Facility has helped clean out those offices. In the first quarter of 2021, the company decommissioned more than 1 million square feet of office space in downtown Chicago alone.
"Some of that was from companies moving into new space, some of it was from downsizing and a lot of it was from folks who simply didn't make it," he said.
Still, he knows going debt-free isn't for everyone, and borrowing does serve a purpose. It's just not for Awtry, still the sole owner of Rightsize Facility.
"I came from a school of if you didn't have enough money, go work harder, make more money, then go out and buy it," he said. "So that has served us well from not having debt or a leverage perspective, but at the same time one might say that could have potentially inhibited our growth. But that is the choice that an entrepreneur can tend to make."
Awtry enjoys the work and the company he has built. That's important. In fact he likes it so much he can't pick out his favorite part of the business.
"I enjoy the fact that we are creating beautiful office spaces and increasing today's workers' ability to have a great workplace environment regardless of cost," he said. "We enjoy that we're able to employ the staff that we have and provide for many families. For what we do as a company, frankly I like all of it."
And he likes his employees to like it also. That's how Rightsize Facility keeps valuable employees, and that's how the company attracts new talent. The company hired five people in March, three of whom, he said, left competitors to join Rightsize Facility, and there are six open positions between the Naperville, Chicago and Detroit offices.
"Look, it's work," he said. "And it's about business. And it's about customers and vendors and profit.
"But it has to be fun. If it's not fun, it's really, why keep doing it? There's enough pain and suffering and challenges out there. If you're looking to create a culture that people want to come to on a regular basis and stay for a long time, and we have many long-term employees, you've got to have the fun in with the work."
Awtry, who grew up in a military family, likes to keep things simple and employ a team-first ethic.
"Clients want things to be repeatable, predictable and consistent. And that's how we deliver results," he said. "We have a culture that's driven on the fact of the concept of one boat, and if we are all in the same boat, rowing in the same direction, we'll all reach our goals faster and with more efficiency than in certain situations where people may be having competitive forces within the same boat. We are unified and focused on the goal."
There's more to it than that, of course. For starters, and for Lilo and Stitch fans, there's "ohana," which means family in Hawaiian.
"Our approach is to create a culture where the Ohana is strong and the feeling is of being embraced by a functioning family," Awtry said.
That's important when working in a stressful situation, as Rightsize Facility employees often find themselves in.
"It's said that the three most stressful events in life are death, divorce and moving, and we deal with the moving side of things," Awtry said. "There's emotions involved. There's finances involved. There's transition involved. There's change management involved. Some people keep calm and carry on, and others need to be sedated."
That's when it pays to fall back on doing things "repeatable, predictable and consistent." It's not so difficult then.
"If you follow a process and you have an understanding that we are the subject matter experts and this is what we do, then it actually is not very difficult," Awtry said. "Every project has its own challenges, but if you listen well, people will tell you what they need."
So far, despite the pandemic forcing so many people out of their offices and into remote working, they're not telling Awtry that they need to make major changes.
"We have not seen anything dramatic," Awtry said, "and do not anticipate seeing dramatic change."
That's the way things are at Rightsize Facility also: repeatable, predictable and consistent.