Special opportunity for women in business

    Milwaukee business leaders will have an outstanding opportunity to learn from one of the most dynamic business leaders of our time when Marilyn Carlson Nelson kicks off the fifth annual BizTech Conference & Expo on Wednesday, April 29.

    I mean, how often do you get a chance to hear a keynote speech from someone deemed by Forbes magazine as one of "The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women?"

    Marilyn will headline the CEO Strategies Breakfast at the Expo, which will be held at Wisconsin State Fair Park.

    You may not know Marilyn by name, but chances are you’ve stayed in one of her hotels, eaten in one of her restaurants or booked a trip through one of her travel agencies. She is the chairman and former chief executive officer of Carlson, one of the largest privately held companies in the United States. Carlson is the parent corporation of Radisson Hotels, Country Inn & Suites, Regent Hotels, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and TGI Friday’s restaurants.

    With headquarters in Minneapolis, Carlson-owned and franchised operations employ about 160,000 people in more than 150 countries.

    As the cover story of this week’s BizTimes Milwaukee documents, Marilyn recently finished writing her first book, "How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership" (McGraw-Hill), which debuted at No. 1 on the 800-CEO-Read list of best-selling business books.

    At the Expo, Marilyn will share her insights about leadership. She says effective corporate leadership is always important, but it is even more critical during a recession.

    A special invitation to see her goes out to southeastern Wisconsin’s female executives – both company owners and those climbing the corporate ladder. Marilyn transformed her company’s leadership team, 40 percent of whom are now women.

    Marilyn’s book recounts moments in her career and her life, including the early stages of her career, when she was instructed to sign her name as "M. Carlson" to disguise the fact that she was a woman. When she became CEO of Carlson, she built the firm from a $22 billion company into a global force of nearly $40 billion, with locations and employees throughout the world.

    The foreward in Marilyn’s book is written by David Gergen, professor of public service director at the Harvard University Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and a political commentator on CNN.
    "Anyone who has had the privilege of hearing Marilyn’s speeches knows that she often inserts a personal story … stories you aren’t used to hearing from a CEO," Gergen wrote. "But the unifying, underlying message in all her speeches is: How we lead matters."

    Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic, wrote, "When she took over Carlson … Marilyn inherited a demoralized organization suffering from decades of top-down rule She immediately set about changing things, expressing empathy for her employees and compassion for her customers. The result: a remarkable turnaround with record levels of growth and new heights in employee and customer satisfaction."

    Well, we all could stand to learn some more about how she did that. Each attendee of the CEO Strategies Breakfast will receive a copy of Marilyn’s book. She also will sign copies of the book and talk to readers at the BizTimes Milwaukee booth at the Expo, which is the largest business-to-business trade show in the state. Additional information about the CEO Strategies Breakfast is available at www.biztimes.com/ceo_strategies.

    Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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