Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm
And winner, Insurance/Healthcare category
Ken Riesch wants to get bigger – not him, literally, otherwise he wouldn’t fit into the leprechaun outfit he wears to the R&R Insurance Services St. Patrick’s Day party every year. No, Riesch wants his company to keep growing by writing new business or acquiring more agencies.
It is the drive to improve, the continuous investment in employees, and the credo that in order to be successful, they must treat existing clients with the same care and dedication as they do new prospects that has made R&R Insurance the grand prize winner of the Waukesha Area Chamber of Commerce’s small business of the year award. The company also won the sub-category of insurance/health care.
"We’re being rewarded now for all of the investments that we’ve made over the last 25 years," Riesch commented when asked about how large R&R could become. "I think we’re going to have tremendous growth."
He estimated that revenue for 2002 would be $13-$14 million. He plans for it to increase to $20 million in three years. In order to do that, R&R has to follow one of Riesch’s rules for success: Treat old customers the same as you do new.
"You’ve got to treat your first customers as good as the ones you’re trying to [currently] get," Riesch says. "It’s hard to balance. And that’s why we have all of these managers."
All of those managers start with R&R’s management team consisting of Riesch, Ken Kumrow, COO, and seven others. Kumrow has worked at R&R for 25 of the 26 years R&R has been in business. He says the secret to Riesch’s success is really no secret at all: He invests a lot into the agency and the employees that staff it.
"He’s the visionary and the leader of the agency," Kumrow said. "And he’s surrounded himself with very good people. … His asset is that he found these people and recruited them, but his agency’s asset is those people."
Riesch is the first one to say that R&R’s biggest asset is the people, and he has said it repeatedly. But he doesn’t just talk-the-talk. Nineteen employees were willing to submit testimonials for the company, most of them mentioning how much they enjoy working there.
"Ken Riesch has given his employees a beautiful building to work in, state-of-the-art equipment and generous employee benefits," said personal lines agent Jeff Wolfgram in his testimonial. "He keeps his employees happy. In return, he has a very loyal workforce with a very low rate of employee turnover."
"They provide you with the opportunity to be successful," human resources coordinator Brandy Pederson said in her testimonial. "Not simply by assigning a job title and salary to your position, but by providing you with meaningful work, a positive working environment, the opportunity to give the best of yourself, and a level of respect from management and co-workers that is unmatched by other companies."
Riesch said he is particularly proud of the fact that after 26 years the agency continues to write new business while still servicing existing accounts.
"When you grow the way we have, in the big picture, we must be doing some very, very good things for our customers," Riesch said.
And the community.
R&R, from Day 1, has always followed the philosophy of giving back to the community. That commitment comes not only in financial support but in supporting employees’ volunteerism in their communities, as well.
"We get a commissioned income from this community," Riesch says. "I think it’s only right, acting as a good steward, as a good leader that we give back to the community."
Besides treating his customers consistently and investing in employees, Riesch says he has planned for his success by thinking strategically and by not allowing complacency to creep into the business. R&R has also grown by acquiring established agencies, most recently adding West Bend-based B.C. Ziegler in July last year.
No matter what the challenge – whether it is the hard market conditions dominating all facets of the insurance industry or finding qualified employees – Riesch, and the employees of R&R, appear prepared.
R&R is experimenting with its Web presence, which Riesch views as a good marketing tool and an opportunity to service existing clients better and interact with insurance companies more efficiently, but he doesn’t see sales generation in cyber space.
"People like to talk to people," he says. "People like having someone be a trusted advisor. When they have a claim, they want someone to be there and help support them."
The leprechaun suit not withstanding, it’s obvious that it didn’t take the luck of the Irish to get Riesch and R&R where they are today.
Auto Paint & Supply
Location: 1710 E. Main St., Waukesha
Year founded: 1943
Product or services offered: Automotive and light industrial refinishing products featuring Dupont, PPG and Basf
Leadership team: Doug Vanderhei, president/outside sales; John Hunkins, general manager; Lori Vanderhei, office manager; Jeff Monday, Dale Houghton, Mick Kristic, outside sales; Steve August, Patrick Morrill, store managers
Business organization memberships: Waukesha County Technical College Auto Body Council, Wisconsin Auto Body Association
Target clientele: body shops, collision centers, light industrial accounts
New products/services introduced within the last 12 months: hiring a technician to train customers on new products in their facilities
Biggest challenge your firm overcame in 2001: having to sell hard parts for the first time through the acquisition of the Walworth store
A business practice we’re particularly proud of: Excellence in customer service
Business words of wisdom: Do not take your customers for granted; always treat them like the account you’re trying to land, not the customer in your hip pocket.
Professional Services Category
Location: 10404 N. Baehr Rd., Mequon 53092
Year founded: 1987
Web site: www.wi.flexben.com
Product or service offered: Employee-benefit administration, including flexible spending account administration, automated benefit enrollment, COBRA/HIPAA administration, benefit eligibility tracking, billing reconciliation, benefit call center, cafeteria plan design, retiree billing
Business organization memberships: The Executive Committee (TEC), Council of Growing Companies, Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC), advisory board to ECFC
Target clientele: Any employer with 50 or more employees wishing to outsource its benefit administration
Biggest challenge your firm overcame in 2001: Implemented 120 new customers on Jan. 1, 2002
How your firm overcame the challenge: Teamwork, planning, contingent seasonal labor
New products/services introduced within the last 12 months: Debit-card technology for flexible spending account participants, integrated Web/IVR enrollment services
A business practice we’re particularly proud of: Monthly staff meetings to keep employees informed regarding items of importance including sharing financial information
Business words of wisdom: When making a decision whether or not to do something, ask is it good for the company, customer and team. If yes, then do it!
IBC Engineering Services
Location: 217 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 300, Waukesha 53186
Web site: www.ibcengineering.com
Year founded: 1990
Services offered: mechanical, electrical and plumbing design; energy modeling and commissioning services
Leadership team: Fieena M. Zvenyach, president and CEO; Lev H. Zvenyach, vice president
Business Organization Memberships: Waukesha Area Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, Society for Marketing Professional Services, National Society of Professional Engineers, American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, National Fire Protection Association, American Society of Plumbing Engineers, International Facility Management Association, United States Green Building Council, Illuminating Engineering Society
Target clientele: The architectural community, commercial and institutional facility owners and managers
New products/services introduced within the last 12 months: Expanded commissioning services, LEED certification
Biggest challenge your firm overcame in 2001: Maintaining quality during a period of rapid growth
How your firm overcame that challenge: We developed quality control standards and procedures, hired a quality control manager, and improved communication with our clients as well as within the company
A business practice we’re particularly proud of: Involving our employees in the development of the company. We value everyone’s contribution to the business – it is important that everyone feels they have a personal stake in the company’s success, and that anyone can feel comfortable bringing in new ideas and giving feedback
Business words of wisdom: The success of any business depends upon the development and maintenance of long-term partnerships with your clients.
Little Swiss Clock Shop
Location: 270 W. Main St., Waukesha, WI 53186
Year founded: 1968
Product or service offered: time pieces including pocket, pendant and wrist watches, and grandfather, wall, mantel and chime clocks; music boxes, barometers, curio cabinets, jewelry chests, collectible miniature clocks, sports team clocks, Music in Motion clocks, and watch bands; watch and clock repair
Business organization memberships: Wisconsin Jewelers Association, National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors, A.W.I., Waukesha Area Chamber of Commerce
Target clientele: adults, ages 25-55; new home owners
New products/services introduced within the last 12 months: expansion of "Music in Motion" wall clocks that come to life on the hour
Biggest challenge your firm overcame in 2001: Downturn of the economy
How your firm overcame that challenge: Increased customer service and more selective on inventory
A business practice we’re particularly proud of: Having the technical staff on the premises to help customers select their purchases knowledgeably.
Business words of wisdom: Treat customers the way you’d like to be treated.
Olympia Resort and Conference Center
Location: 1350 Royale Mile Road, Oconomowoc 53066
Web site: www.olympiaresort.com
Year founded: 1995
Product or service offered: resort and conference center, full service spa
Leadership team: Paul Krejci, vice president and general manager; Bob Butschke, executive vice president; Lori Fuhrmann, director of sales and marketing; Britton Bruss, director of catering; Laura Duff, catering manager; Kim Hooper, senior sales manager; Susan Grillaert, sales manager; Mary Grubor, sales manager
Business organization memberships: Oconomowoc Chamber of Commerce, Waukesha Area Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, Sales & Marketing Executives, Wisconsin Society of Association Executives
Target clientele: corporate, association, state/federal, meetings and incentives, leisure travelers, and golf, skiing and spa groups
New products/services introduced within the last 12 months: Swan Club, corporate rate program; martini and cigar menu in the Lounge; hot rock treatments and aromatherapy products in the spa
Biggest challenge your firm overcame in 2001: Declining sales in Tour and Travel due to softening economy
How your firm overcame that challenge: All departments pooled together, cut expenses, cross-trained and refocused sales efforts.
Seroka Healthcare Marketing
Professional Services II Category
Location: N17 W24222 Riverwood Dr., Suite 170, Waukesha
Web site: www.seroka.com
Year founded: 2000
Product or services offered: Marketing, public relations, advertising and consulting
Leadership team: Division was created and is headed by Sara Stanton. Patrick Seroka heads up the overall agency.
Business organization memberships: Waukesha Chamber of Commerce, American Health Information Management Association, Wisconsin Assisted Living Association, Wisconsin Health and Hospital Association, Wisconsin Healthcare Association, Illinois Hospital and Health Systems Association, Illinois Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations, Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Association, Wisconsin Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, Wisconsin Rural Health Association, Wisconsin Medical Group Management Association, Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development of the American Hospital Association
Target clientele: Health-care providers and health-care related organizations
Biggest challenge your firm overcame in 2001: Establishing a client base.
How you firm overcame that challenge: By using diversification strategy in client selection.
A business practice we’re particularly proud of: We build relationships with clients.
Words of wisdom: Strategy combined with tenacity brings results.
Technology Consulting Corp.
Location: N16 W23233 Stone Ridge Dr., Waukesha 53186
Web site: www.tcc-usa.com
Year founded: 1978
Product or service provided: professional IT staffing, network solution team, e-business development services, direct hire services, hardware and software sales
Leadership team: John Markworth, founder and CEO; Cindy Streitenberger, president; Gary Ruszkiewicz, executive vice president
Business organization memberships: Microsoft Certified Partner, IBM Business Partner, NACCB, WMCPA, WDUG (founding member), AITP, SIMS, BNI
Biggest challenge your firm overcame in 2001: the recession in our economy
How your firm overcame the challenge: TCC has been in business for more than 24 years. This is not the first recession we have been through. Our industry is known for its rapid change in products and required skill sets. In challenging times, we constantly evaluate the skills our customers require and confirm that those are the skills we are offering. Supply and demand are what dictate today’s market and the key to our success is how we anticipate the demand and position ourselves with the supply. Our industry is still in the process of overcoming the turn in the economy.
A business practice we’re particularly proud of: Our dedication to ethical business practices. Of course it is our goal to continue to be a successful business, but we will not sacrifice ethics to achieve that goal.
Business words of wisdom: A key component in our industry is relationships, both with our customers and employees. Through our many years of business, we have experienced a wide range of economic climates. Positive relationships have been instrumental in the good times and the bad.
United Press & Graphics
Company name: United Press & Graphics
Location: 505 Industrial Dr., Hartland 53029
Web site: www.unitedpress.org
Year founded: 1972
Product or service offered: Design, offset printing, bindery, warehousing, fulfillment
Business organization memberships: National Association of Printers and Lithographers, Printing Industries of Wisconsin, Waukesha Area Chamber of Commerce
Leadership Team: Daryl D. Zigan, president; Larry M. Caya, production manager; Joyce Marie Foy, sales manager
Target clientele: United Press & Graphics works with a wide variety of clients ranging from start-up businesses to international corporations. We pride ourselves on still working with our original customers, which we have partnered with for more than 30 years. We remain flexible in realizing what direction the marketplace is heading, and focus on new business to lead us in that direction. Due to our focus on relationships and exceptional customer service, we work particularly well with clients who are not necessarily familiar with the printing process. We are firm believers in educating our customers about the economies of printing. An educated and informed customer is better able to make intelligent decisions that effect their bottom line.
New products/services in the last 12 months: Perhaps the newest service that United Press & Graphics has developed is that of inventory management. By warehousing and managing our customers printed literature, we have allowed our customers to concentrate on more important matters within their companies. Studies are conducted to determine usage. With this information, reorder points are established and put into affect. As inventories are delivered or drop shipped, an automatic replenishment order is placed. The customer is notified of this replenishment order and with their approval new inventory is printed. This new service has been extremely successful with our customers.
Biggest challenge your firm overcame in 2001: The recession of 2001 became our biggest challenge. With a shrinking economy, it was very difficult to compete with print firms that sold strictly on price. The cheapest price became the most important issue.
How your firm overcame that challenge: United Press & Graphics sells on value added. The least expensive printer is not necessarily the most cost-effective printer. United Press & Graphics has always looked at each job and suggested ways to save money while not jeopardizing the integrity or performance of the printed piece. Different papers could be recommended, alternative sizes to maximize the efficiency of the parent sheet of paper might also be looked at. Many options to save money while increasing the appearance of the printed piece are often possible. These possibilities are discussed with the customer as a way of saving money while actually increasing the performance of their printed piece. These business practices have helped us weather the recession of 2001.
A business practice we’re particularly proud of: United Press & Graphics believes that our customers’ bottom line is just as important as our own. We sell and print with integrity and honesty. If our customers are successful, we will be successful. Therefore, it is important that our customers’ printed pieces are efficiently and effectively communicating their printed message in the market place.
Business words of wisdom: At United Press & Graphics, these are the words we live by. Never compromise your moral values, in the name of "business", for greed. If you are happy with the reflection staring back at you in the mirror, then you have succeeded. What really matters in life is not the recognition you may have received, but rather who you have helped along the way.
June 7, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee