Persistence and vision

Michael Zimmerman
President and Chief Executive Officer
Zimmerman Ventures LLC
4600 Loomis Road, Franklin

Growing up in a family of eight, Michael Zimmerman remembers moving the picnic table into the basement to act as his father’s desk for work. He watched his entrepreneurial father at work, and traveled with him on business trips so he could learn more about what he did and how he did it.

Now, at age 35, Zimmerman is the owner of Zimmerman Ventures, LLC, which operates five successful health care companies and his latest venture, The Rock Sports Complex in Franklin.

“That’s when it started for me, growing up watching my father,” Zimmerman said.

In 1995, Zimmerman started as a consultant for his father’s business while he attended school.

“I was traveling, going to client sites and helping them improve the financial side of their business and then going to school all day Saturday,” Zimmerman said. “I knew nothing about the business then. I started out just getting coffee for people. I hated it. I thought I was better than that, that I should be like the COO or something, but my father knew better.”

Zimmerman learned the ropes of his business and worked his way up. His father knew he needed to learn the intricacies before he would be able to lead.

“My father agreed to sell me the business in 2000,” he said.

That transaction was completed in 2003, and Zimmerman served as CEO during that time.

Zimmerman formed several health care-related businesses in the years following, including Accretive Health Inc., in 2002. The company, now based in Chicago, went public in 2010.

Accretive provides services for health care providers, including revenue management services to improve operating margins and health care quality. Zimmerman sold his entire stake.

The Rock Sports Complex is a joint initiative between Zimmerman Ventures, Milwaukee County and The City of Franklin. The goal of the project is to promote community development through sports and recreation.

“A little more than a year ago, my wife and I really started thinking about how we could give back to the community where we live,” Zimmerman said. “The Rock really became that project for us. I also wanted to do something involving my real passion – baseball.”

He called the deal his “perfect storm.”

“We were looking for a piece of property to build some baseball fields, and Milwaukee County wanted something done with the Crystal Ridge Ski Hill. I could have done something with a much easier piece of property, but I knew this was it.”

The first phase of The Rock project has included improvements to the lodge building and new snowmaking and grooming equipment.

Zimmerman, along with his general manager, Tom Johns, has added a new snow tube area and six new baseball fields with more planned for the future. Zimmerman has plans to upgrade the bike facilities on site as well, and hopes to attract some of the National BMX competitions to the area.

“This project is an entrepreneur’s dream,” he said. “I have six or seven unique businesses in one here. It’s great.”

Zimmerman is proud of the project even though it’s still in its infancy.

“We’re offering a great alternative to playing video games, we’re helping to keep kids active and we’re putting a lot of young people in the area to work,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, and I’m learning a great deal in the process as well.”

Persistence and vision are two things he credits for his success.

“You just can’t quit. You have to keep believing in what you’re doing,” he said. “On top of that, you have to surround yourself with the right people.”

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