President, Commercial Roofing & Waterproofing
Photo: Olivier Koning
Guy Akasaki is a forward thinker.
Perhaps that is why CRW has been named as one of the nation’s fastest growing companies by Inc. 500|5000 magazine for the past two years. With projects that have included Kauai’s first LEED building at the National Botanical Research Center, Punahou School, One Waterfront Plaza, as well as operations in Shanghai, China and Guam, it’s clear Akasaki knows a thing or two about vision and how to keep up with the competition.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about growing a business?
A: The people in your organization are your greatest asset. Equipment-wise, system-wise, protocol-wise, these all add to the systemic approach in setting up your organization. But it’s actually the people who are the lifeblood. They inject the passion, the drive and the vision; they are the ones that can make growth happen. I liken it to the body: If you don’t have the blood, it doesn’t matter how much muscle you have, it doesn’t matter how strong your skeletal system is, it just isn’t going to happen.
Q: As an Island company, how do you stay on top of new products and technologies?
A: I participate in various solar and contractor associations and I’m also involved in the Chambers of Commerce in different areas. In these venues we share information; we see what is coming and going; what is up and what is not; how businesses handle situations in different arenas.
When you own a small business, you go to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or longer every day. You sit in your office, you do your job and, when you get tired, you go home. Then tomorrow you do the same thing over again.
When you join an association, or you participate on a committee, it gives you a broader spectrum of what’s happening not only in Hawaii and on the Mainland, but on a global perspective as well. Simply put, it raises your eyes to a different horizon. And you have to have a progressive motion in your thinking in order to keep things going. Otherwise, you are just moving into that same old, same old cycle.
Q: Does growth take patience?
A: Most definitely. Some people are looking to make the most money in the fastest amount of time. Some people want to be the biggest in their industry in the shortest amount of time. But if you strive to be the best at what you do, and you understand that you are providing a need to the customer, then the money and the accolades will come.
Q: What do you see as a downfall among business owners in Hawaii?
A: In a sense, there’s this Island mentality where we think that there is nothing happening except for today and what’s here. Then we wonder why businesses like Kmart come in and put out all of the mom and pops.
Three years ago, my business was very busy. Yet, we still took the time and effort to get into renewable energy, such as photovoltaic technology, because we could see that different industries were starting to blend together, and with rising energy costs, we knew it would spawn a new industry, despite the economy. Sure, it took a lot of money, research and resources to do it, but we needed to anticipate where things were going.
With this downturn, in actuality many people knew that things were shifting well ahead of time. So it’s about being able to engage in the things around you, to have that forward vision, and to not be complacent and just sit there.
It’s like the old adage, when times are good you need to prepare for the times that will be tough. And when times are tough, you need to be able to prepare, plan and extend focused resources to anticipate the good times. It’s a total paradox, so to follow this takes a lot of discipline.
Q: What’s a key component to running a successful business today?
A: The major intangible framework of a company is its core values. People talk about mission statements, but it’s not just a statement on the wall, it’s something to live by. An illustration to express this is with the threads of a fabric. Imagine that each thread is an experience; it represents a situation in which you’ve either gone in the right or the wrong direction. When the threads are woven together, you begin to build a tapestry. And in the end, when the tapestry is completed, it commands you to look back, and this becomes the banner of what your company represents.
Naturally, people will make decisions based on their own experiences. But if there is a common core value, then each decision, whether to stop or to go, will be the same, despite individual DNA.
This approach allows myself, as well as our company, to quickly engage in change and to do what we do with passion.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of doing business today?
A: We’ve all seen people make money at all costs and become successful — even if it’s temporary. But there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. And I think making money the right way can sometimes be the most difficult thing for people to do. This goes back to your company’s core values. It’s easy to scam people and tell them that they need something fixed when they don’t. But I’d like to look at myself in the mirror every day and know that I’ve never taken anybody for a ride. And, Hawaii is so small. I don’t want to have to ditch to the other aisle in the supermarket when I see someone. There are only so many Safeways!
Do you like what you read? Subscribe to Hawaii Business Magazine »