When Cynthia LaConte stepped up in 2009 to lead Milwaukee-based life science firm Dohmen as chief executive officer, she knew change was imminent for the company that had been in her family’s hands for more than 150 years.
“We saw the potential of building a model in support of an industry shift from one-size-fits-all therapies to more personalized, consumer-driven care,” she said. “So, we put together a long-term strategic plan to build and launch a company that could support that change.”
Since that time, Dohmen has acquired nine companies and launched Dohmen Life Science Services. It’s this kind of transformative thinking and planning – with a focus on the future – that LaConte wants organizations across Milwaukee to consider.
“How Business Can Power Change Through Leadership and Innovation” will be the theme of the 2015 BizTimes Women in Business Breakfast at the BizExpo to be held on Wednesday, May 20, at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee.
The panel discussion of those best practices will feature: LaConte; Abby Andrietsch, co-founder and executive director of Schools That Can Milwaukee; Gail Lione, adjunct professor of intellectual property law at Marquette University Law School; and Thelma Sias, vice president of local affairs at We Energies.
“Businesses may not realize the level of influence they can have on a community,” Sias said. “As business leaders, we have a tremendous opportunity to lead by example and influence positive change.”
With We Energies, Sias leads significant change to benefit her customers and her company. She says consumers today have access to more information than ever and they expect businesses to do more than sell to them. They want business to understand their needs.
That synergy is critical today, Andrietsch said. Community issues such as poverty, crime and poor education impact Milwaukee deeply, especially around the development, recruitment and retention of exceptional talent.
“As a community, we need to develop more visionary leaders in Milwaukee willing to take on and tackle the toughest issues,” Andrietsch said. “But we also have to work together and be willing to think about doing something innovative and different to solve the challenges.”
Lione takes this concept one step further.
“Sustainability will be achieved only if the innovation is integrated into the business strategy and the ideas are transformed into ongoing business value. If integration is accomplished, the innovation will evolve with the business strategy, keeping it fresh and creating sustainable shareholder value,” Lione said.
Sustainable shareholder value and community value must co-exist, LaConte said. In six years, Dohmen has put more than $10 million to work through its foundation.
“My hope is that our panel discussion will inspire attendees to imagine how their companies can more tightly integrate their core business activities with social initiatives,” LaConte said. “That will strengthen the community in lasting and meaningful ways.”