Business lessons learned in 2019 – Part 3

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

Elzie Flenard

Last updated on January 2nd, 2020 at 12:34 pm

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 3 of what you had to say (click here for part 1 and part 2):

Suzanne Powers

Suzanne Powers
Founder and broker owner, Powers Realty Group

“We established a rental arm to cater to the DNC that’s coming to Milwaukee next summer. We have a specialist who’s heading up that division within Powers Realty Group. We saw an opportunity and tapped into our market knowledge and housing expertise and were able to respond quickly to meet that need. We connected with the DNC and are on their preferred vendor list … Securing the DNC is a game changer for Milwaukee and its impact on housing is huge. For sellers who are having trouble selling, they can instead rent their home on a short-term basis. They’ll get some income and will be able to put their home back on the market once the rental is complete. I love Milwaukee and am excited to show off our city to a national audience next summer. Milwaukee is truly a great place with great people.”

 

Frank Krejci

Frank Krejci
President and chief executive officer, STRATTEC Security Corp.

“STRATTEC faced the challenge of a much longer than anticipated five week strike at General Motors, one of our largest customers. We avoided layoffs by continuing to build and balance inventory, minimizing overtime, allowing employees to voluntarily take unpaid time off, and using time to focus on process improvements and training. While it hurt our short term sales, we are a better company after the experience.”

 

Vicki Martin

Vicki Martin
President, Milwaukee Area Technical College

“In response to employers’ need for an educated workforce and residents’ need for family-sustaining wages, we offered a new program to attract former students. We temporarily waived small amounts of debt which had prevented access to financial aid. This Start Fresh program helps them return to college, graduate with a degree or certificate and enter the workforce with a family-sustaining wage. To date we have 90 applicants in our pilot with 30 registered for the spring semester.”

 

Quin Brunette

Quin Brunette
Owner, Quin Brunette Pro Painting

With the tight labor market for skilled craftsmen, it was time to give substantial raises and performance bonuses. I had to pass the increase to my customers. Material prices also increased a bit but not enough to change my pricing.”

 

Ian Favill

Ian Favill
President, Caravela

Milwaukee’s big news this year for us is the continued investment and development in the city. We long for more development and expansion of projects such as The Hop to keep driving the city forwards. Frankly, that optimism, and the overall atmosphere of positive change, has driven much of the product development we have done in 2019. We aim to be a part of that positivity and be part of that rising tide.”

 

Allison Quartuccio

Allison Quartuccio
Broker/partner, Denali Realty Group

“Two words: limited inventory. In every price point and market. Interest rates are low, rents are rising and buyers were scrambling to find houses and many times getting into a bidding war. This presented its own set of problems that wasn’t reported with buyer’s remorse as the excitement of the “win” happened and homes not appraising to value. Emphasizing reasonable expectations of process and pricing for both sellers and buyers alike resulted in us having smooth transactions and happy clients.”

 

Johnathan Martin
Johnathan Martin

Johnathan Martin
Founder, FitTech Hosting

“Stop being so stringent with the budget. I tended to be a person that would avoid using a tool if there was even a minimal cost associated with it, even if it’d cut labor hours in half. I see this with other startups as well; they’re scared to invest money into their own business. They’re more apt to choose something for free that barely works, than pay for something that works well. You’ve got to spend money to make money.”

 

Lorna Mueller

Lorna Mueller
Managing broker, The Realty Company LLC

Business is all about relationships with clients. I am finding there is less and less face-to-face time with clients due to the ease of electronic communication. It is so easy to hide behind your computer or texting on the phone instead of having a conversation with others. We are making an effort to visit clients with information they may need instead of emailing or texting.”

 

Elzie Flenard

Elzie Flenard
Founder and chief executive officer, Enterprise NOW!

“2019 is being called ‘The Year of Podcasting’ and for good reason. We’ve seen major brands getting into the podcast game. Spotify increased its podcast inventory through acquisition and podcast networks are being acquired at sizable sums. This creates a challenge for independent podcasters as it is creating increased competition and pressure to improve production value (cost) in order to differentiate.”

 

Matt McCoy

Matt McCoy
President, Lanex, LLC

“Business leaders and owners often face dark and overwhelming issues with running their companies that are difficult for other people to understand. Relying first on your faith, then teaming up with solid advisors and people who you can share your trials and successes with is critically important. Your company exists for a reason as it fills a need. Communicating your message to the customers who may need you is the most important thing you can do as a business.”

 

Arthur Flater
Arthur Flater

Art Flater
Vice president and principal, Central Office Systems

“Finding and hiring qualified team members has been a challenge for everyone. Central Office Systems improved our culture of growth, integrity, positive attitudes, and gratefulness in order to attract the best team members. Organizational culture is becoming more important to potential team members, and it is crucial to making your company an employer of choice. We also offered all of our team members a four-day/three-night all-inclusive trip to Cancun in January 2020 for hitting our company goals.”

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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.