Business lessons learned in 2019 – Part 1

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

Steve Maahs, president and chief operating officer of Alto-Shaam

Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:32 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 1 of what you had to say (click here for part 2):

Gene Guszkowski

Gene Guszkowski
Chief executive officer, AG Architecture

“Through our leadership training program, I have had a number of a-ha moments. The most important being that leadership within a company is less about implementing a larger strategic plan and more about immediate attention to the myriad of day-to-day challenges. By focusing on addressing daily problems quicker with less confrontational conversations, you have a greater ability to support the long term success of the company. Issues that are ignored or put on the back burner have the potential to become bigger problems later. Team members appreciate direct and timely communication. It is this type of responsiveness that supports the development of a more positive and supportive work environment.”

 

Michael Dover

Michael Dover
President, R&B Wagner, Inc.

“(Our biggest challenge was) tariffs that were put in place that affected our supply chain in a significant way for metal products. Taking the ‘wait and see’ approach at first seemed prudent as many thought they would come and go within months. We had to quickly move to find domestic sources for key products and work with our customer base on the impact this tariff action was having. We developed a cohesive plan implemented that re-sourced product and addressed competitive pricing issues.”

Christina Steder

Christina Steder
Executive vice president, Trivera

“Our best business decision has been to invest in our team. We have the best digital marketing team in the city and we are committed to keeping that way.”

 

Stephen Johnson

Stephen Johnson
Regional president, BMO Wealth Management

“We made the strategic decision to grow our client-facing teams to better advance our business. The addition of new seasoned wealth advisors and professionals has increased our competitive advantage in Milwaukee. Our local teams are the best in the business and are leading our growth journey in the region … Our industry is always changing. We continue to invest boldly to simplify our business with advanced technology to support our client’s wealth management goals. We are digitizing our platforms to provide clarity and upgrading capabilities that our clients value. Everything we do is centered on our clients, and we provide an unparalleled combination of sector expertise and tools they need to make smart decisions. Driving growth through innovation continues to be our focus looking forward to 2020 and beyond.”

Erin Levzow
Vice president of marketing, Marcus Hotels and Resorts

“The increased hotel supply growth in Milwaukee continues to be a challenge. We work to overcome this challenge by leveraging our advantages as the market leader. We have three distinctive properties – The Pfister, Hilton Milwaukee and the exciting new Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel, as well as popular restaurants that appeal to locals and travelers alike. But what truly sets our properties apart is our outstanding associates who create extraordinary guest experiences every day.”

Mark Wild

Mark Wild
Executive vice president, OwnersEdge Inc.

“Spending the time necessary to define key differentiators for each of our businesses was our best strategic planning investment in 2019. Doing so was foundational and fundamental to scaling our operating companies going forward.”

 

Steve Maahs

Steve Maahs
President and chief operating officer, Alto-Shaam

“Wisconsin continues to have a strong manufacturing industry; however, there is a hiring gap that poses some challenges. Alto-Shaam prides itself in being a workplace that empowers employees and allows them to make a difference in a safe, team-oriented environment. To navigate the current job market, we continue to focus on evolving our continuous education opportunities, providing opportunities for career growth and recognizing and rewarding employees for their hard work … An important investment that is often overlooked is the investment in your people. Putting our people first was one of our initiatives in 2019. I am proud of what we put in place—from enhanced training to flexible work times, career ladders and streamlined communication. As a business leader, it is important to share success with employees. For more than a decade, employees have received a gain share bonus on company gross earnings for the year.”

Chad Ritterbusch

Chad Ritterbusch
President, TRG Marketing

“As marketing continues to swing toward the digital sphere and online opportunities, we are deepening our efforts to further educate our clients in this area.”

 

Check back next week for more lessons from area business leaders.

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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.

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