Juch-Tech Inc.: “To survive, I had to be like Gumby”

Written by Jack Kohane

Walt Juchniewicz never gives up. Though the president of Hamilton-based Juch-Tech Inc. has stiff competition like Teleglobe and Telesat, he’s confident his firm can continue to thrive.

What began in 1987 as a truck-and-a-toolbox operation is today a thriving telecommunications firm. Biggest accomplishment: Juch-Tech built the Hamilton Teleport, a facility that receives and transmits satellite Internet Protocol multimedia digital platforms — the only privately-owned international teleport of its kind in Canada. The facility has gained a global reputation and is now the primary North American monitoring station for Eutelsat, one of the world’s leading providers of satellite infrastructure. The firm recently received some local attention: the Hamilton Chamber Commerce named Juch-Tech the city’s top communications technology company.

Juchniewicz, a trained engineer who began his career as a broadcast engineer at various Ontario stations, chalks up his success to three principals: flexibility, fearlessness and customer focus.

“To survive, I’ve had to be like Gumby,” he quips. He’s had to re-focus his business plan as the technological environment changed. “I’m the company’s board of directors, so I work quickly, making decisions on a dime,” he says. “I’ve made mistakes, but can turn them into a solution — fast.”

Case in point: Juch-Tech launched a North American satellite service several years ago. It never took off. Rather than abandon it, Juchniewicz tweaked the technology, turning the service into a satellite hub for Africa. “It’s a winner over there,” he says. Today, about 80% of the firm’s business is international, and emerging markets are its target. “[Africa] is a sparse market now, but in about five years, the continent’s Internet and video usage will explode. Our service will be there first.”

And there, he’ll likely gain a reputation for being very open to customer’s requests. It’s part of his strategy. “I’ve moved this enterprise forward by being anything to anybody,” he says. “To do that, you can’t avoid making some bad decisions. But, the way I see it, if you’re not making some mistakes, you’re just not making enough hard decisions.”

Building and nurturing relationships with customers and potential partners is key for Juchniewicz. He’d pass that advice on to any startup: “Forge as many business relationships as you can. Don’t ask what amount you can invoice a customer, rather ask what more you can do for them. Plant the seeds and nurture respect. Then reap the rewards of your hard work.”

Read about other Winners — promising Canadian businesses or business people.

© 2003 Jack Kohane

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