Just a Minute with Andy Nunemaker, CEO, EMSystems

Company address:  135 S. 84th St., Suite 150, Milwaukee

Company Web site: emsystems.com

Industry:  Emergency Preparedness

Number of employees: 25-50

Education: Bachelor of science in electrical engineering – Valparaiso University, master of science in electrical engineering – Georgia Tech, MBA – Harvard Business School.

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year? 

“We brought on a private equity firm last October who has helped accelerate our growth strategy. They have turned out to be incredible partners. We were fortunate to have received initial funding from the Marquette Golden Angels Network in 2004. Members of the Golden Angels Network served on our original board of directors and helped fuel our growth during a crucial period for our company. We made a smooth transition to our new partners and are excited about the M&A expertise they bring to the table.”

What’s new at your company? 

“We just acquired Vital Data Technology’s Electronic Patient Care Reporting business out of Orange County, Calif. The product line basically tracks everything that happens to a patient from the time first responders arrive to the time they are dropped off at a hospital. This business is a natural extension to our existing product lines and will serve as a future growth platform for our company.”

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

“We hope to make several acquisitions per year as we continue to grow the business organically. We plan on keeping Milwaukee as our corporate headquarters, although most of our acquisition targets are located in other regions.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?

“As we acquire companies, we will need to focus on integrating those businesses and make sure we don’t lose the company culture that has served us so well. Our culture is perhaps the single most important aspect of our company. When we screen job applicants, we focus most of our attention on making sure they fit into our culture. They have to be team players capable of working in ambiguous situations. People who need rigid guidelines don’t do very well at our company. We take a similar approach to screening potential acquisition candidates. We don’t want to end up with two or three different clashing cultures.”

What’s the hottest trend in your industry?

“I believe our industry is ripe for a consolidation. We hope to be the roll-up platform for that consolidation. Since we already serve 35 percent of the hospitals and ambulance services in the country, we feel we have a solid market presence that would allow us to easily sell other services to our current customers. Our growth strategy includes buying competitors in our current markets and also expanding our product offerings within the larger industry.”

Do you have a business mantra?

“We try to treat everyone as we would like to be treated. I’m also a big fan of getting out of people’s way and letting them do their jobs.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?

“I really look up to Tim Keane. Tim is the entrepreneur in residence at the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship at Marquette University. He successfully founded and ran several companies. He is the main reason I left the corporate world to do my own thing, and I will always look up to him as a mentor.”

What was the best advice you ever received?

“Hire people who are smarter than you.”

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?

 “I was rejected from GE in 1988 and again in 1993. When I finally got hired in 1998, I became best friends with Amy Lazarus, the recruiting coordinator in charge of my rejection. We still laugh about her thorough screening process.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I like to run along the lake every morning. I travel quite a bit in the job, but I try to stay in Milwaukee for Jazz in the Park most Summer Thursdays. I’m also a big fan of giving back to the community. Milwaukee is a great place, and I think we have so much going for us as a region. We have one of the best symphonies in the country, and our art museum draws visitors from around the world. I spend about 20 hours a week on community-related activities and get so much personal satisfaction knowing that I’m making a difference.”

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