Cynthia LaConte

The Interview


Cynthia LaConte   

Chief executive officer

The Dohmen Co.

Employees: 100 (800 pre-divestiture)

It’s been a busy couple of months for The Dohmen Co. In March, the company completed the sale of its Dohmen Life Science Services business to Water Street Healthcare Partners and JLL Partners for an undisclosed price. In February, The Dohmen Co. announced the launch of a new public benefit corporation, Dohmen Constellations, following newly-enacted state legislation that’s paved the way for the new category of corporation. BizTimes reporter Lauren Anderson recently asked Cynthia LaConte, chief executive officer of The Dohmen Co., about those changes and Dohmen’s recent investment in a program that trains low-income young adults for careers in technology.

Credit: Lila Aryan Photography

Why did Dohmen decide to sell Dohmen Life Science Services?

“We steadily built the commercialization services platform we knew biopharma companies would need in order to effectively reach patients as an end consumer. The industry placed a high value on the capability we assembled, so we took the opportunity to exit biopharma and move on to our next set of ideas. That’s the benefit of being agile, but also being patient – we can incubate an idea and grow it to a business of intermediate size without having to go to the capital markets. Then we can move quickly, passing the baton to larger companies willing to scale our platform to the next level of growth.”

Dohmen had been advocating for the public benefit designation in Wisconsin. Why?

“There’s an increasing body of economic evidence that correlates societal wellbeing with greater levels of innovation and productivity. It only makes sense that people that are educated, healthy and have a high quality of life will be happier citizens, better able to fully participate as stakeholders within our economy. Business has a huge role to play here. Since the ’70s, business began to prioritize short-term profits over long-term social responsibility, and over the same period, we’ve seen increasing income inequality and decreasing rates of innovation and growth. (The designation) offers a new tool, one that prioritizes societal purpose over shareholder profit in a formal way.”

How will Dohmen Constellations work to close the health equity gap through social business investment?

“I believe the simplest way to narrow the health equity gap is to narrow the wage and wealth gap, so we started Dohmen Constellations as a way to explore using business as a catalyst for community change. Our premise is founded on the belief that if profits are used to benefit the lives of employees, we’ll end up with stronger businesses, a stronger society and ultimately, a stronger economy.”

Dohmen recently committed $1.6 million to help launch i.c. stars in Milwaukee. Why?

“It had a proven, 20-year track record of successfully closing the wage gap for participants in their Chicago-based program. The CEO and her board were looking for a way to increase their impact by scaling the program nationally. Those objectives intersected with a small group of technology leaders in Milwaukee that had heard about the program and wanted to support it. Finally, the program was credentialized, in our eyes, because this 501(c)(3) had found ways to dilute their dependency on donations and grants by introducing revenue-generating activities to their P&L.”

How do you maintain an agile approach to business?

“We’ve been unafraid to change what we do, and unwilling to change who we are. Our vision and our values keep us anchored through change, giving us a strong sense of purpose and continuity. Yet, our vision is big enough and bold enough to afford a variety of opportunities – there are lots of different ways we can realize it. This gives us room to think about Dohmen’s long-term strategic future in an evolutionary way, considering new possibilities and taking on new challenges.”

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