Business lessons learned in 2019 – Part 2

Milwaukee-area leaders reflect on the year's biggest challenges, successes

Roxanne Baumann

Last updated on January 2nd, 2020 at 10:14 am

We asked you to send us the biggest lessons you learned, the best business decisions you made and how you navigated the challenges facing your industry in 2019. Here’s part 2 of what you had to say (click here for part 1):

Michael Lovell

Michael Lovell
President, Marquette University

“The headwinds against higher education aren’t something off on the horizon – they’re upon us now. At Marquette, we’re treating the headwinds as an opportunity to better understand ourselves and define where we want to go in the future. By being proactive and not letting the forces dictate what we become, we can help our students and community reach their fullest potential.”

 

Ellen Sexton

Ellen Sexton
Chief executive officer, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan Wisconsin

“Most organizations in the Medicaid space have realized that by focusing on the whole person and putting resources toward social services we can lower the costs of health care. At UnitedHealthcare we have been at the forefront and we really do work every day to help the communities we serve live healthier lives – that means finding solutions to provide affordable housing, getting healthy food choices in front of our members and making sure basic needs are being met … Instead of assuming we knew best – we spent this year immersing ourselves in the community and listening to the voice of our customer. It sounds simple but when you put your members first in everything you do, it’s really hard to go wrong.”

 

Dan Westrope

Dan Westrope
Chairman and chief executive officer, Ixonia Bank

“We are riding an upswing economically, a ride that has lasted longer than almost all previous upswings. But we should take precautions to ‘put a little something away’ for the inevitable downswing that gravity will command.”

 

John Hagenow

John Hagenow
President, Fusion Recruiters, LLC

“From a recruiting perspective, top talent is always challenging to find. Incorporating unemployment numbers under 3.5% only exacerbates that challenge. It’s more crucial than ever to build a strong network, build proactive talent pipelines across functional areas, and be progressive in the adoption/use of technology to ensure we’re doing everything we possibly can to bring the best possible candidates into our (and our clients) recruiting process … Business transformation/evolution and M&A activities across some of the top employers in the area has led to more cultural anxiety and reorganizations than I’ve seen in nearly 25 years. Companies once perceived as top local employers are now struggling with their employment brand. With such low unemployment, talented employees and candidates can be even more selective. As such, we’ve seen an uptick in small- to mid-sized companies hiring talent from larger employers across the area to promote continued growth.”

 

Roxanne Baumann

Roxanne Baumann
Director of global engagement, Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership

We must embrace globalization. Today, more than ever; we are affected by global developments. In Wisconsin we are embracing Foxconn, Haribo, and more foreign direct investment that will break down cultural differences and help us grow. Understanding trade, trade tariffs, win-win trade agreements will be key learnings required to manage our businesses. They affect supply chains almost more than exports; and we need to get comfortable with shifts such as USMCA, the challenges of Brexit, the EU, and China.”

 

David Balistreri

David Balistreri
President, Select Technical Staffing, Inc.

It’s an old lesson that continues to rear its ugly head, but relationships are still the key ingredient to our success, and I try to remind my sales people to continue to make relationships at your existing clients beyond your main point of contact. If no one else at your client really knows you, as soon as your point of contact leaves you are at risk of losing that customer.”

 

Toomas Mitt
Toomas Mitt

Toomas Mitt
Owner, TBG Networks LLC

Ransomware and other security issues continue to grow in importance. With no reliable way to block all types of Ransomware and with the generally poor state of security in IT – even in those companies that should know better – I see no decrease in it. We work with our clients to make sure they have excellent backups in place, since that is the only real recourse. But too many clients don’t see it is a worthwhile expense.”

 

Jennifer Buchholz

Jennifer Buchholz
Owner, Excel & Flourish

My best business decision was to grow my team. To go from solopreneur to having a team of trainers has allowed us to scale and take on more business. Without more trainers, we could only work up to my individual capacity, now we are positioned for even more growth in 2020 … The MMACs commitments to ‘Making Milwaukee a Region of Choice’ is important for my business. As more companies seek to attract and retain a diverse population, training, collaboration, and communication is essential. We are getting in on the early conversations as companies prepare for this initiative.”

 

Kevin Baker

Kevin Baker
Owner, Fitness Together

“We took some time to re-evaluate our core service providers. The outcome was the realization that the key operational components of accounting, legal, and even marketing, all of which are outsourced, were very fragmented and led to different strategies for how we needed to progress as an organization. We made the difficult decision to make some changes in these roles and have now formed a unified, cross-functional relationship that has provided more cohesive direction for our business.”

 

Cary Silverstein

Cary Silverstein
Owner, Strategic Management Associates

“I have been mentoring a number of middle and senior executives who were seeking new opportunities in the current very competitive job market. The greatest challenge was to identify ‘transferable skills’ from one industry to another. Once we did, they were able to better prepare for their interviews and present themselves in a positive manner.”

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.