Editor’s note: We asked Milwaukee-area business leaders to reflect on how they navigated their businesses through the challenges of 2021, what lessons they learned along the way, and what’s on the horizon in 2022. We are running their responses throughout the week in a multi-part series. This is the third part of the series. Click here for part 1 and here for part 2.
What business lesson did you learn in 2021?
"If 2021 taught us anything, it’s that resilience, agility and sustainability are the building blocks of a healthy organization. Companies that could change course and ramp production up and down quickly were most successful during the pandemic. As the world moves forward, we see uncertainties around labor and the supply chain demanding that mindset. Volatility, uncertainty, and ambiguity are the new normal. By approaching the future with resilience, agility and sustainability top of mind, our businesses and communities will thrive."
-- BlakeMoret, chairman and chief executive officer, Rockwell Automation
"Carrying over some lessons we were forced to learn very quickly in 2020, this year was all about remaining flexible and resilient. At the Marcus Performing Arts Center, our motto became 'make lemonade out of lemons.' One of the most noticeable ways we pivoted was by taking advantage of the 12-month venue closure to make much needed facility upgrades that wouldn’t have been possible during a season of live performances, such as renovating Uihlein Hall."
-- Kendra Whitlock Ingram, president and CEO, Marcus Performing Arts Center
"Leaders must lead in times of crisis. At Vivent we led by holding to a clear vision of service to our clients that included moving into new markets and expanding offerings in the markets that we already serve. Mergers and acquisitions are delicate negotiations, and the restrictions on travel and in-person meetings complicated matters further. Despite this, our team completed seven mergers or acquisitions during the pandemic, growing in Colorado and opening new HIV Medical Homes in Texas and Missouri."
-- Mike Gifford, president and CEO, Vivent Health
"We learned the value of perseverance, partnership and creativity. These attributes are core to our Save the Soldiers effort, which celebrated a tremendous success with the rehabilitation of six buildings into 101 housing units for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Without the mix of strategic partnerships, creative funding and perseverance, we would not have been able to invite veterans to once again call the Soldiers Home their home."
-- JeremyEbersole, executive director, Milwaukee Preservation Alliance
What do you see as the biggest concern and the biggest opportunity for the Milwaukee/southeastern Wisconsin business community heading into 2022?
Moret: "I was recently asked what keeps me up at night, and without flinching I said talent – keeping and hiring the best. I’m sure other CEOs share my concern as they look at their talent needs and the challenges facing Milwaukee and the region. Together, we must invest in training programs that equip workers to succeed in jobs of the future. We must be relentless about making Milwaukee a destination of choice for the broadest possible population of diverse talent."
Whitlock Ingram: "As the community remains concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, the public health crisis continues to challenge the arts and entertainment industry going into 2022. We’re used to being flexible and resilient at the Marcus Performing Arts Center after the past two years, and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon. We will have to continue to adapt and learn how to navigate the constantly changing public health challenge."
Gifford: "The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated both the strengths and weaknesses of our country’s health care system. Unfortunately, the system’s shortcomings fall heavily on low income Americans and people of color, failing the patients it was designed to serve. We now have the opportunity to learn the lessons of both the COVID-19 and HIV pandemics and begin addressing the social determinants of health. Our HIV Medical Homes have proven this works, resulting in the most positive HIV health outcomes in America."
Ebersole: "A unique and exciting opportunity for our community in 2022 will be to identify new uses for the remaining threatened Soldiers Home buildings, including the Chapel, Ward Theater and the Governor’s Mansion. There is also a tremendous opportunity to preserve the iconic Mitchell Park Domes through strategic partnerships in a way that could create 300+ jobs by transforming the park into a learning, wellness and horticultural campus, creating a culture of health and urban agriculture throughout the region."
Other lessons learned this year?
Moret: "This year crystallized our charge to help companies be more efficient users of resources. While we've long been focused on helping customers become more productive and sustainable, we're picking up the pace. We're growing our focus on renewable energy, water treatment and waste reduction, and started bringing in more talent with related expertise. We’re excited about our role contributing to a more sustainable planet and what moving the needle in these areas means to our customers, employees and investors."
Gifford: "Corporations have power to change the world, for better or worse, and it is incumbent on leaders to use that power to address systemic social and racial injustice. We need to raise our individual and corporate voices to call for change and invest our resources into working for that change. At Vivent that has meant hiring, training and promoting a diverse workforce, diversifying our board and leadership team and lending our support to the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion."
Ebersole: "One lesson other business leaders can take into 2022 is to embrace the historic sites of Milwaukee. These places, such as the Domes and the Soldiers Home, among others, are incredibly valuable not just for the stories they hold and the environmental impact of their reuse, but for their economic value as well. Historic preservation can and should be a priority to leaders who want to attract and retain visitors, employees and residents to our great city."
Check back tomorrow to see more reflections on the year from area business leaders.