A personnel investment

Mark Weinstein — a lawyer by trade — had no formal business training when he founded MJW Investments in 1983. Now, more than 20 years later, one lesson he learned then still applies now.

“Surrounding yourself with the right people makes your life easier,” Weinstein says. “You should invest a lot in your employees and a lot in their training.”

By surrounding himself with the best people and creating a culture built on accountability and growth, Weinstein has expanded his Santa Monica-based company into one of the fastest-growing developers in the region. MJW’s revenue has grown from less than $45 million in 2003 to more than $70 million in 2005.

Smart Business with Weinstein, president of MJW, about how he builds a culture, inspires employees and uses community service to make himself a better leader.

Q: How can CEOs motivate their employees?

We have accountability groups and personal growth groups where we feel we have a value-added component to our company by having consultants that are working with people as individuals and as a group. They improve not only their work skills, but improve their ability to get along at home with their significant others and their family. My employees feel that that’s a value-added.

When we set the example of doing good things in the community or doing good things in our company, it inspires all the people in the company to want to do better. We encourage not only personal growth but business growth by promoting people and giving them the opportunity to have as much responsibility as they can handle.

By constantly raising the bar, communicating our goals, having an open environment and supporting them both personally and in business, it makes people want to work for you.

Q: How does your community service influence your leadership style?

I get involved in the community for two reasons: one is that doing good things is one of the values of our company, and another is that you meet other business leaders and sources that you might deal with in your business.

I lead by example of what I do in the community and by being a visionary, and I surround myself with really good people. I have a management structure that’s well-defined, and each person knows their role and we support each other.

I give a lot of feedback and behind-the-scenes support, but I try to let the other members run the day-by-day stuff. I don’t have to be so much the key person in integrating every detail of the company.

I have other great people, so I don’t have to think about whether they’re doing a good job or not. I trust them, and they get the job done, and I get the benefits of their work ethic.

Q: How do you know when you’ve found the right person for the job?

It’s more important who a person is than what a person does sometimes. People development is often not focused on, and that’s really key because you can always train people to do work, but if they’re not the right people, then it’s kind of hard.

Sometimes there are people who don’t want to work for you. They will self-select out.

If everyone else is on a certain road and training and the other person doesn’t fit in, a lot of times here they’ve self-selected out where they realize they’re not really into personal growth or business growth. There’s accountability here, and they don’t want that, so they leave.

Q: How would you describe your company culture?

Our culture is one that’s committed to growth, accountability and creativity. Those are our values, and we meet a lot and we have defined what our values are and what our goals are.

When we make decisions, we often ask whether the decision is consistent with our values, and it creates a good environment because everybody knows what our values are. Our goals are clear.

Our environment is very open to having people communicate to each other. We have group meetings where we network and brainstorm, and even if it’s not your area of expertise, everybody has good thoughts, and we try to run things by the brain trust of everybody so that we can get better ideas and be more efficient.

Q: How do you measure success?

Success is a very individual thing. We all set our own personal business goals, and when we do things both in the community and at work that achieve our goals, I think that’s success.

But what happens in most businesses is you keep raising the bar. You set certain goals for the company and as individuals, and you reach those goals and you suddenly move the bar up. So you’re always chasing the sky.

Success is an ever-changing target, but accomplishing your goals and giving back to the community and being recognized for the work that you do — that’s success.

HOW TO REACH: MJW Investments, (310) 395-3430 or www.mjwinvestments.com