Mike Falaschi – Racine-based Internet entrepreneur overcomes series of back injuries

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:27 pm

Mike Falaschi – Racine-based Internet entrepreneur overcomes series of back injuries

By Andrew Weiland, SBT Reporter

For years, Mike Falaschi, president of Racine-based Wisconsin Internet Inc., lived with severe back pain.
"The pain was just excruciating," he says. "I couldn’t stand, couldn’t walk, couldn’t sit and couldn’t sleep. It can be a stabbing pain or a numbness like you hit your crazy bone."
The pain started in late 1994, and his doctors thought it could be managed with treatment. Falaschi received cortisone shots, tried taking ibuprofen, visited a chiropractor, sat in a hot tub and received acupuncture and other treatments.
"It all helped, but it was all short-term," he recalls.
Falaschi, along with his wife, Jill, and son, Joe, started Wisconsin Internet Inc. in 1995. For the first few years, the company could not afford to provide health insurance to the employees, limiting Falaschi’s options for treating his back.
Falaschi said his health declined as he spent long hours, working in a sedentary job, trying to establish his new company. In addition to the back pain, he gained about 120 lbs. and developed sleep apnea.
"I really wasn’t able to take care of my health as I should have," Falaschi says.
His doctor told him to lose weight, but Falaschi’s back pain prevented him from exercising.
In addition to starting a new business, Falaschi had a young family and had built a new home just before his department at his previous employer, Johnson Wax, was outsourced. Falaschi took a buyout from Johnson Wax and then started his company.
"I had a lot of obligations," he says. "There was just too much work to be done."
After a few years, the business gained its footing. In 1997, Falaschi and his family added an additional partner in the business, Herbert Beighley.
Finally, in 1999, the company was able to provide health insurance benefits for the employees. That year, Falaschi had surgery on his sinuses and throat to eliminate the sleep apnea problem.
"I started to actually feel better," he says. "I could get the rest I needed."
Then in 2001, Falaschi had back surgery. One of his spinal cord discs had deteriorated and was also bulging, putting pressure on his spine. The surgery attempted to stabilize the disc.
Falaschi says he probably would not have waited as long to have back surgery if he had been insured all along. But under the circumstances, he says he had little choice and does not regret the decisions he made.
"We tried to manage (the back condition) as best we could," he says.
After the back surgery, Falaschi developed a blood clot in his right lung. Doctors gave him blood thinner to eliminate the clot, but it forced him to remain in the hospital for an extra week.
However, a year and a half later, Falaschi’s back pain returned.
His disc had deteriorated more, so doctors performed a second surgery in April of 2003 to install tiny titanium metal cages in his spine. For that extensive procedure, Falaschi was cut open from the front.
"I was actually feeling really good (after that surgery)," Falaschi says. "I started to get active to lose the weight."
However, his increased activity started pulling out the cages inserted in his spine.
So in July, Falaschi had another surgery done on his back. This time, titanium rods and screws were inserted in the spine.
Falaschi now says he is feeling good and hoping to become more active in the spring, although he knows he must be careful not to overdo it. He looks forward to playing golf, taking walks and riding a motorcycle.
"From where I was to where I am now is like night and day," he says.
After each surgery, Falschi walked with crutches and wore a plastic brace for about three to five weeks.
Each back surgery has kept him away from work for about five weeks. Falaschi was able to work from home while recovering. Falaschi says he had confidence in his wife, his son, and the other employees to operate the business while he received medical attention.
"My wife and son are involved in the day-to-day business," he said. "Even at home, I pretty much know what’s going on. I can’t get away from it. It’s a big part of our lives."
Falaschi says he learned the value of teamwork at Johnson Wax.
"The business doesn’t solely revolve around me, myself and I," Falaschi said. "I believe in giving people the autonomy and ability to make the decisions they need to make things right for the customer."
In about eight years, Wisconsin Internet Inc. has grown from a startup firm to an Internet service provider with about 5,000 subscribers in southeast Wisconsin. The company has six employees.
"Being hurt, I’ve been really fortunate that it hasn’t affected my business like it could have at a lot of small businesses," Falaschi says. "I’m thankful I was able to get it taken care of. I’m thankful for the help from my family and my employees."

Dec. 26, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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