Wright Service Corp.
There’s a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time. Just ask Jacqueline Patterson, who launched her civil-trackwork engineering firm, J.L. Patterson & Associates (JLP), in 1990. Based in Orange, Calif., the minority-owned company started off with a bang, landing substantial public-funded subcontracting positions that enabled comfortable, annual growth. Specifically, Patterson and her team consistently capitalized on its proximity to the West Coast’s booming import/export business, managing trade-related and community-serving projects that, to this day, have repeatedly pushed the boundaries of expectations and imaginations alike. But after a few years, Patterson got the itch to change her business model so that JLP could bid as the primary consultant for both public and private jobs alike. It was a tough decision – to do it, she had to let go of her DBE certification, which had limitations on annual receipts that JLP could make as a minority/woman-owned business. She also needed to create a strategic plan capable of growing the company in a smart, sustainable manner.
Patterson took the leap – but not blindly. After attending MAP’s 2.5 day executive workshop in 1996, she signed up to work with a consultant who worked with MAP at the time. On and off over the next seven years, Patterson and her associates, who also attended the MAP workshop, worked carefully with this MAP coach. Together, they developed a strategic plan for growth, established the goals and controls to achieve the plan’s mission, and started holding monthly Vital Factors® System meetings to create accountability and alignment among the leadership and staff. As well, Patterson worked closely with this consultant, who helped her to realize that she needed to choose between being either the president of the booming engineering business she had built or a top engineer for the firm – but she couldn’t successfully or sanely do both. When the consultant came down with a sudden illness, however, he was no longer able to continue working with JLP. So the firm signed on with another MAP coach, who Patterson found very engaging and level-headed – a perfect fit for her team. He easily picked up the work where the former consultant left off and for the past nine years, he has been helping JLP further strengthen strategic planning through the power and consistency of the Vital Factors meetings. Notably, he has routinely asked critical, yet empowering questions that have guided the firm’s actions and driven results, more recently steering management in its objectives to improve profitability. He has also been guiding Patterson in letting go of her “servant-leader” management style by delegating and holding others equally accountable to the firm’s success.
Patterson first started to see big changes in not only the workplace culture but also the firm’s goal achievement when she started assigning more responsibility to others and, importantly, holding them accountable through the Vital Factors System. The more positive results she saw, the greater faith she had in the methodology and realized the importance of having those regular meetings for checking in, measuring the goals and controls, strengthening staff accountability, and communicating with other key management on the strategic planning process. With MAP as a planning partner, J.L. Patterson has successfully achieved its goals to become a primary consultant for major projects in its field, plus it has experienced significant, consistent growth in revenues, cash flow, overall workload cases and staff numbers. Now at nearly $20 million in annual sales and with a 100+ person staff, the company has developed a methodology for sustainable achievement, as well as positioned itself for its next, great objective: beefing up profitability through a number of innovative, strategic goals. And Patterson has no doubt this can be done. With a solid, team-initiated and supported blueprint in hand, JLP’s goals aren’t simply dreams, she says with confidence. They’re attainable and very real successes that each and every one of her staff members is capable of achieving. Having the MAP system in place will undeniably help direct and drive that crucial, controlled growth.
1996: J.L. Patterson’s president, Jacqueline Patterson attends first MAP workshop and starts working with MAP’s consultant, John Carroll.
1997: In its first year of working with MAP, J.L. Patterson achieves 40 percent growth.
2003: J.L. Patterson revisits and amends strategic plan with first MAP consultant, and increases both billings and staff.
2006: MAP coach Steve Behunin takes over as JLP’s personal consultant.
2009: J.L. Patterson revisits and amends strategic plan with Behunin, and increases both billings and staff.