STUCK and The Paranet Group Inc. are partnering on a new program aimed at helping small manufacturers capitalize on opportunities to growth their business.
Officially, the program will be a Paranet Business Strategy Group powered by STUCK’s platform. Leaders from both Wauwatosa-based companies said the approach adds elements that their own offerings do not include.
Paranet, a professional development membership organization, has traditionally focused on individual members working at manufacturers with at least 100 employees. The new program will instead focus on helping companies and will target those with fewer than 100 employees.
“We know there’s a huge part of the manufacturing population we have not been able to address,” said Linda Kiedrowski, chief executive officer and owner of The Paranet group.
She added that it can be hard to get the attention of smaller manufacturers because the company leaders are often handling several responsibilities. At the same time, those companies stand to potentially benefit more than others from strategic planning and professional development.
“They’re in learning mode, they’re in growth mode,” she said.
STUCK, which provides business advising services, normally helps companies develop a single-page strategic plan. Partnering with Paranet will allow for an element of peer accountability as manufacturers share their experiences with others in their group.
Jerry Jendusa, co-founder of STUCK, said his conversations with Paranet Group focused on finding a way to help smaller manufacturers making business a little less complicated and more focused on innovation and serving customers.
“It’s these companies that are these hidden gems that are all over Wisconsin and they may only have 10 employees or 20 employees, but they have this potential to grow and they don’t quite know how to do it,” he said.
Jendusa said growing from a small to a medium-sized company often requires a mindset shift for owners to become more focused on customers and growth.
“In some ways, the leader could be the limiting factor to the growth of the organization through his or her own ego or through the fact that they don’t know what they don’t know,” Jendusa said.
Employment in Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry grew around 8.5% from 2010 through 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, but much of that growth has been concentrated at larger firms. The number of people working at companies with 50 or fewer employees has dropped 4.2% over that same period.
Kelly Rudy, president of The Paranet Group, said the entrepreneurs running smaller manufacturers are often forward-thinking and willing to take risks, but may not have the tools to lead a medium-sized company.
“They work their butts off, but it’s an entirely different skillset than when they get bigger and have to keep track of some of these things to sustain their movement of growth,” she said.
Jendusa noted many small companies want to act like big ones but the reality is the characteristics that help companies succeed do not need to turn into big systems, policies or procedures. Instead, business should focus on providing guidelines, engaging with employees and measuring company success.
Paranet’s normal business groups have 12 to 15 members. Kiedrowski said the small business version will be a little bit smaller. The goal is to have two groups up and running by the end of the year and then start two new groups each quarter moving forward.
"One of the interesting things about the manufacturing industry is you can get them together and they all want to support each other and it is about leveraging that power to help make an industry that really is a huge pillar of our economy in the Midwest and in Wisconsin, to make it stronger," Rudy said.