Future 50 winners share their key strategies for surviving the economic downturn


Each year, Small Business Times asks a timely, pertinent question about operational strategies to the leaders of the Future 50 Awards. This year’s question was: "What is your company’s key strategy for surviving the economic downturn?" The following are their responses to the question:


Ron Scasny, President, Abri Health Plan Inc.

Key strategy: "Investing in technology now. We’ve recently signed an agreement with a claims clearinghouse and are looking for ways to make our website more interactive with our members and providers."

Tim Kubina, Partner, Avicom Marketing Communications

Key strategy: "During each economic downturn, we’ve invested more into our company – everything from improving operations to increasing sales staff to taking bold new marketing initiatives. The perfect time to make these moves is when you have the time and ability to fully support these investments."

Ed Brozynski, Owner, BC Adheisves LLC

Key strategy: "Looking into exploring non-petroleum based technologies."

Andrew McConnell, President, Boyle Fredrickson S.C.

Key Strategy: "Aggressive marketing coupled with internal fiscal conservancy."

Ralph Kuehn, CEO, Building Service Inc.

Key Strategy: "Anticipation and early recognition of market trends, as well as strategic planning. We carefully watch a set of key metrics on a monthly basis to identify  quarterly trends. We react within a set of pre-determined criteria developed at our annual scenario planning session."

Mark Edwards, President, Burlington Graphics Systems Inc.

Key strategy: "Expand our customer base and pursue synergistic acquisitions. Also, we are about to introduce a new product that will open new markets for us."

Christopher Coakley, President, C. Coakley Relocation Systems

Key strategy: "Diversify our business lines, even though our services are somewhat related, fluxuations in the economy will not have an equal effect on all sections of our business mix. Biggest key is to contunally make sure that we ‘do it better’ than our competition."

George Boxhorn, C.I. Banker Wire & Iron Works

Key strategy: "Diversification and a focus on product quality. If we continue to be the high-quality, low-cost provider, we’ll continue to be successful."

Christopher Carter, CEO, CCI

Key strategy: "As CCI always does, we will look out for the client and not the almighty dollar. We want our clients to keep getting the best possible services with a company that cares about them, who will use the strongest resources and in the end who will do everything they need to keep their SAP solutions running at there best!"

Mark Verhein, President, Church Metal Spinning Co.

Key strategy: "Our strategy remains consistent. We will remain conservative in our pursuit of growth and continue to be a flat organization, limiting our investment in people that do not directly serve our cusotmers."

Kim Hastings, President, CJ & Associates Inc.

Key strategy: "Focus on making more contacts to develop new business and maximize our product and service offering to our existing account base."

Michael Cleary, CEO, Cleary Gull Holdings Inc.

Key strategy: "Continue new business growth and business diversification. We advise our clients to diversify their assets and we adhere to our own advice and have a well-diversified business model split between investment advisory to individuals and families, institutional consulting and investment banking."

Norm Keene, VP of Operations, Coakley Tech

Key strategy: "Stay the course. Regardless of the economy you need to believe in and execute your business plan for growth."

Joe Fazio, CEO, Commerce State Bank

Key strategy: "Maintaining a sales-oriented culture from the top down."

Layne Meyers, President, Crosstowne Machining

Key strategy: "Product diversity: We supply parts to multiple business sectors that include food, beverage, pharmaceutical, transportation and heavy industry. This allows us to not be as relient on one sectors economic success. A second key strategy is to be very involved in Prototype work. This allows us additional oppotunities for future growth."

Joseph Doering, President, Doering Leasing Co.

Key strategy: "Grow while our competitors read about how bad business is, close offices, layoff people and downsize staff.  Be consistently better at what we do than the competition and maintain a staff of true client-focused experts to ensure clients receive the best service."

David Fritz, Managing Partner, Executive Benefits Network

Key strategy: "Diversification in our target client base and outworking our competition has served us well in the past. Our clients need to recruit and retain top talent in good times and bad so our services can become more valuable in an economic downturn."

Adrian Velasquez, President, Fi-Med Management Inc.

Key strategy: "Fi-Med has not experienced an economic downturn."

Gregg Eisenhardt, President, Good Electric Inc.

Key strategy: "Maintain focus!"

Ron Sjoquist, General Manager, Good Harvest Market

Key strategy: "Fortunately, we continue to grow due to our customers’ word of mouth referals. We continue to emphasize with our employees how important it is to help our customers in whatever way possible in meeting their needs. We also have a great sampling program, as many of our new shoppers are not familiar with certain products, so sampling educates them on the wonderful organic products which are available to them.

Now that we are "over the hump" and are showing a small profit, we are also re-investing in our business, expanding our product lines and improving our prepared foods. Opening our second location should also help attract new customers to both our new store and our existing location."

Henry Hurt, President, Hurt Electric Inc.

Key strategy: "Repeat business with good customers. We take care of our customers and they keep us working and refer us to new business customers."

Stephen Ziegler, CEO, InPro Corp.

Key strategy: "We are not experiencing an economic downturn as we are closing a good share of the projects we go after. We will develop tactical strategies to counter a downturn if we see one develop."

Ryan Sommers, VP, Interra Health Inc.

Key strategy: "Due to high health care costs, our industry is very healthy."

Thomas Klink, President, Jefferson Electric Inc.

Key strategy: "Even in an economic downturn, we are a small enough portion of the industry that we should continue to grow by diversifying our product line and customer base. During a downturn, adding sales people to increase our penetration of markets currently served and adding new markets would be a key piece of this strategy."

Tim Galante, CEO, Key Technical Solutions Inc.

Key strategy: "Sell our way to success, I don’t think there is any other wat to look at that issue."

Tim Rudd, President, M&M Office Interiors Inc.

Key strategy: "We are glad that several years ago in conjuntion with our major manufacturer Haworth we embarked on the journey of architectual interiors which include raised floors, moveable walls, underfloor plug & play electrical/data systems.  These things are really taking off. Also we became a OFUSA (Office Furniture USA) dealer in 2008 which is a national group of furniture dealers that provide a value driven solution in a very quick time frame. This allows us to serve this segment which includes smaller offices as well as middle sized offices that still require ‘The Space You Want and The Experience You Deserve.’"

Wayne Piontek, CEO, MasterLink Corp.

Key strategy: "Our key strategy for surviving an economic downturn begins with understanding the industry, marketplace and competition. This knowledge of our surroundings and market expectations allows us to address our service offerings and manipulate them to support the changing environment, thereby providing us stability in down cycles."

Kenneth Chybowski, President, Milwaukee Bearing and Machining

Key strategy: "Reduce outsourcing and overtime."

Michael Graverson, President, National Tissue Co. LLC

Key strategy: "We are trying to stay focused on doing our jobs efficiently so we can be a low cost producer.  We feel there will always be a demand for our products, but if the away from home demand is reduced, the low-cost producer will get the business."

Mark Grosskopf, President, New Resources Consulting

Key strategy: "We will continue to invest and innovate through the next downturn. Our belief is that there are opportunities to take advantage of in every phase of the economic cycle."

Cherylanne Marx, President, Precision Innovations Inc.

Key strategy: "Diversification of products and services."

Peter Mohrhauser, President/CEO, Retail Maintenance Service Inc.

Key strategy: "Our company excels during an economic downturn. When the economy is booming facility management often takes a back seat to construction and expansion. When the economy retracts, construction and expansion is often put on hold. The focus turning to maintaining the existing facilities and optimizing their spend."

Paul Riedl Jr., CEO, River Run Computers Inc.

Key strategy: "Stay focused on our clients and continuously ask the question:  ‘How can we create more value for our clients.’"

Jeff Wnuk, President, S3 International LLC

Key strategy: "Staying focused on our core business, which is providing our military and commercial customers excellent customer service for their aircraft fleet spares and repair solutions."


Nancy Hyndman, President, Security Personnel Inc.

Key strategy: "SPI’s strategy for surviving our current economic downturn draws on the most basic principals of effective business management.  Fiscal responsiblity that does not compromise quality of operations is paramount. Many organizations make the mistake of focusing solely on reducing expenses, but if a company is going to maintain its’ standing in the marketplace, a healthy balance must be struck between cost and performance."

Matt Snyder, President, Sigma Exteriors

Key strategy: "Great People!"

Kyle Weatherly, VP Operations, Solaris Inc.

Key strategy: "Make lemonade from the lemon economy. We have tripled are sales calls to our current and potential customers,as others are cutting out sales calls we feel there is a huge whole in customer service that we will fill.  I am personally traveling to the customers 2-1/2 weeks a month. Excellence in customer service. No recorded answering machines, or indifferent script reading staff, we enjoy our customer relationships and welcome any and all opportunities to develop these relationships. Attention to the details, in all aspects of the company. We are expanding our product line to larger markets and introducing our current product line into new niche markets."

Jeff Dubofsky, President, Staff Up America

Key strategy: "A friendly business associate of mine said during a recent CEO Roundtable session that he has chosen to NOT participate in this ‘recession.’ It’s a great statement. We are concentrating, as we always do, on sales. sales, sales, sales! The ‘gloom and doom’ that we watch and read each day can be overwhelming, and I feel if I and/or my sales personnel ‘choose to participate’ we will lose valuable marketing/sell time in the sectors that aren’t as hard hit. We may also be forgotten by the target clients that may be waiting for better times when they will be in need of our services. The answer to the question is pushing sales and staying positive."

Kirk Tuson, President, Stay-Lite Lighting Inc.

Key strategy: "Continue to help customers reduce their operating costs with better lighting management."

Mike Thelen, President, Steele Solutions

Key strategy: "Our strategy is to remain diligent on controlling costs and improving the efficiency of all our processes.  We will also agressively pursue additional markets we do not currently serve."

Dan Wilhelms, President, Symmetry Corp.

Key strategy: "Our out-sourcing (managed services) offerings for SAP technical operations are about 30-percent less in annual costs than traditional internal staffing. We can help clients save money while raising quality of service to their end-users. All based in Milwaukee, without going off-shore!"

Jim Long, CEO, The Novo Group

Key strategy: "In the spirit of a start-up Novo is always willing to go the extra mile for clients while remaining flexible and scalable for their needs. Combined with a strong sales team and top notch delivery people Novo’s ability to flex with the ups and downs has allowed continued growth and will allow Novo to manage and grow during this and future economic downturns."

Craig Muri, Clinical director, The Sleep Wellness Institute Inc.

Key strategy: "Creating new markets and being able to make changes fast."

Werner Holentunder, President, Triad Construction Inc.

Key strategy: "Treating every project with the highest level of customer satisfaction, which has led to numerous referrals and repeat customers through positive past experiences that they have had with Triad Construction. We will continue to focus on building relationships as well as bidding on projects that fit into our company structure."

Keith Korsi, CEO, Trissential

Key strategy: "Continue delighting our clients and helping them realize more value from having us engaged than not. We recently helped a client see a 4.5M bottom line improvement after 1 year with us. They paid 260K for this. Those kind of results are needed more than ever in tough economic times."

Tim Rigsby, President, Uihlein Electric Co. Inc.

Key strategy: "Diversification and expansion into new markets."


Robert Toeppe, President, Wisconsin Plating Works of Racine Inc.

Key strategy: "The ability to reduce expenses while maintaining high ratings in quality and customer service."

Matt Davidson, CEO, Xten Industries

Key strategy: "The key strategy for Xten to survive the economic downturn is to continue that which we are already doing – getting the job done, right, anyway we can. We will keep our customers happy. First-class engineering, manufacturing, assembly and fulfillment sets Xten apart from the rest of the industry and our customers know this. Hard work, dedication, reaching out to new customers and satisfying our current ones will create Xten’s recipe for success."

Rupesh Agrawal, President, Zeon Solutions Inc.

Key strategy: "Our key strategy is to drive a customer centric culture throughout the organization. We will continue to adapt to our clients’ needs and add services or products that help them achieve their business objectives."


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