BizTimes Milwaukee | February 17, 2020

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The Family Business issue



FEB 17 - MAR 1, 2020 » $3.25

BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee y ea r s BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee Locally owned BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee ‘ I LOVE BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee PRODUCT’ BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee Liz Uihlein…on running a BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee $5.8 billion family business BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee plus BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee BizTimesMilwaukeeBizTimesMilwaukee




» FEB 17 - MAR 1, 2020

The Family Business issue



18 Real Estate 33 Strategies



‘I LOVE PRODUCT’ Liz Uihlein…on running a $5.8 billion family business

Special Report

29 Wealth Management and Estate Planning Coverage includes a report on things to think about before selling your business.


BizTimes Milwaukee (ISSN 1095-936X & USPS # 017813) Volume 25, Number 21, February 17, 2020 – March 1, 2020. BizTimes Milwaukee is published bi-weekly, except monthly in January, July, August and December by BizTimes Media LLC at 126 N. Jefferson St., Suite 403, Milwaukee, WI 53202-6120, USA. Basic annual subscription rate is $42. Single copy price is $3.25. Back issues are $5 each. Periodicals postage paid at Milwaukee, WI and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send all UAA to CFS. NON-POSTAL AND MILITARY FACILITIES: Send address corrections to BizTimes Milwaukee, 126 N. Jefferson St., Suite 403, Milwaukee, WI 53202-6120. Entire contents copyright 2020 by BizTimes Media LLC. All rights reserved.


33 FAMILY BUSINESS David Borst 34 HUMAN RESOURCES Joe Galvin 35 BRANDING Cary Silverstein




414-273-3507 | JAY MACK President & CEO

JOHN JOHANNES Executive Vice President, Commercial Real Estate

DENNIS KRAKAU Executive Vice President, Commercial Banking / 3

Leading Edge

BIZTIMES DAILY – The day’s most significant news →


Sprecher Brewing sold to local investors By Andrew Weiland, staff writer A group of Milwaukee-based investors led by Sharad Chadha has purchased Glendale-based Sprecher Brewing Co. Inc. from its founder and chief executive officer, Randy Sprecher. Sprecher established the brewery, which has 60 employees, in 1985. “Sharad’s offer presented the ideal opportunity,” Sprecher said. “It was important to me that Sprecher stay locally owned. This has

been my life’s passion for decades and I want to see the company thrive. With this talented and experienced group, I’m sure it will.” Sprecher will continue as an investor with the new ownership group. Chadha, a former executive at GE Healthcare, Samsung Electronics, ABB and Electrolux, is the new chief executive officer of Sprecher Brewing Co.

BY THE NUMBERS Marquette University plans to build a new



home for its College of Business Administration and innovation leadership programs.

4 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

“It is my goal to make Sprecher the craft beverage icon of America,” Chadha said. Others in the new ownership group include prominent Milwaukee entrepreneurs and advisors with experience in the consumer-packaged goods and beer industries. Andy Nunemaker will serve as chairman of the board; Peter Skanavis, the owner of Homeowner Concept Realtors, will be a member of the company’s board. Brewing industry veteran Jim Kanter, a longtime marketing executive with MillerCoors, will be part of the investor group and the company leadership team. Angel investors involved in the deal include Wauwatosa-based Silicon Pastures. West Bend-based Commerce State Bank funded the debt and the investors funded significant equity for the purchase. “Much like Milwaukee, Sprecher Brewery is a little-known gem with a great future ahead of it,” Chadha said in a news release. “Sprecher not only has a diverse portfolio – craft beer, soda, cider, hard seltzer and sparkling water – it also has the best tasting products in the industry. We want to capitalize on what Randy built and share these amazing beverages with as many people as possible. Sprecher Root Beer is a craft beverage icon, and we have the potential to significantly grow the company.”

“We plan on listening to and working with our retail partners, distributor partners, employees, community and other stakeholders to bring Sprecher beverages within reach of as many people as possible,” he added. “With a great local group of investors who are Sprecher fans, we plan to do great things that make our Milwaukee community and customers proud of our history and heritage of great-tasting quality products.” In an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee, Chadha said Sprecher’s beer sales are not growing due to the highly competitive nature of the craft beer industry. Moving forward, he said the new ownership group plans to leverage Sprecher’s brand and expand distribution of its “mainstay” beverages to other states. “(Those include) our root beer, our craft soda and new sparkling water and hard seltzers,” Chadha said. “Those are the categories that are growing extremely fast.” The company needs to adapt to the changing tastes of consumers, which appear to be shifting more towards healthier beverages, Chadha said. “It’s more premium, calorie consciousness, healthy and things like that,” he said. n BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Brandon Anderegg contributed to this report.


REV UP GENOPALATE LEADERSHIP: Sherry Zhang, founder and chief executive officer H E A D Q U A R T E R S: 10437 W. Innovation Drive, Wauwatosa W H AT I T D O E S: Data-driven personalized nutrition platform F O U N D E D: 2016 E M P L OY E E S: 9 NEX T GOAL: Increase corporate partnerships and inform users on how to use GenoPalate’s nutritional analysis. FUNDING: The company recently raised $1 million in a seed funding round.

GenoPalate aims to capitalize on 2019 success By Brandon Anderegg, staff writer

Sherry Zhang

GENOMIC TESTING STARTUP GenoPalate Inc. rang in the new year with a new headquarters and is poised to leverage a $1 million investor-funded seed round to grow the business. GenoPalate outgrew its location on Milwaukee’s East Side and is now in a 1,600 squarefoot office inside the Technology Innovation Center at the Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa. The company offers personalized nutritional recommendations to individuals via genomic sequencing. Chief executive officer Sherry Zhang, who has a doctorate in molecular biology and was formerly an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, founded GenoPalate in 2016. “Our mission is to help people eat nutritiously to optimize their health,” Zhang said. “Our long-term vision, by helping people eat nutritiously, is to be able to empower people to reach and maintain optimal health and prevent chronic disease.” GenoPalate’s nutritional analysis kit sells for $189 online, and the company ships the materials needed to provide a saliva sample and demographic and lifestyle survey. GenoPalate’s team, which includes bioinformatic scientists,

dieticians and analysts, uses that information to profile 38 biomarkers to provide actionable data for the customer, such as caffeine sensitivity or lactose intolerance. The company also has a line of recipes that correspond with the user’s genetic profile, while a recently launched app enables the individual to pick healthy foods while grocery shopping, Zhang said. Before moving to its new office, the company experienced its largest year of growth to date. From Black Friday 2018 to 2019, its users increased by seven times, while overall revenue grew by more than four times, Zhang said. Zhang did not disclose how many people currently use GenoPalate. However, it had about 900 users as of December 2018. With its recent seed funding round, GenoPalate hired additional clinical nutritionists and has plans to unveil new products in the coming months. The company is also spending more dollars on customer service and engagement to educate users on how to get the most out of their nutritional analysis. “Now that you have the personalized nutritional information, how do we apply that to daily life?” Zhang said. “That’s the big focus for GenoPalate in 2020.” n / 5

Leading Edge

@BIZTIMESMEDIA – Real-time news


Mighty Touch and BCycle’s 3.0 Dock




Fall 2017: Sandvold reaches out to Bublr Bikes, which operates BCycle in Milwaukee. Bublr introduces Sandvold to the BCycle team to gain an understanding of the Bublr bike share equipment, which includes the BCycle 2.0 docks and kiosk system.

Mighty Touch, a division of Menomonee Falls-based Connected Technology Solutions, teamed up with BCycle, a Waterloo, Wisconsin-based bicycle sharing company owned by Trek Bicycle, to develop an all-in-one bike dock that allows users to check out a bike using an app or membership card. Previous systems, including the 1.0 and 2.0 Docks, required the user to walk to a kiosk to pay for and unlock the bike. The new product, called the 3.0 Dock, is designed to eliminate the need for the higher-cost, kiosk-based system and allow for easier installation or relocation of the dock. “It’s easier to deploy more of (the 3.0 Docks) at a lower cost, which is really important because there is not a lot of heavy funding behind these bike share systems,” said Caleb Sandvold, enterprise account manager for Mighty Touch. “The more cost effective they can be, the larger the footprint of the bike share programs.”

Fall 2018: CTS and BCycle engage in initial project conversations regarding future options for a dock-based bikeshare with the goal of improving hardware efficiencies and reducing costs. Sean Pederson, BCycle director of product development, and Sandvold form a team and begin defining the project scope.


Early 2020: Pilot program moving to other Bcycle cities for further testing in second quarter 2020.



Early 2019: The team reviews customer feedback, defines goals and materials for the project, and begins coengineering the hardware. “One challenge is creating something that’s very durable, both to withstand the elements of snow and rust-proofing them, but also physical wear,” Sandvold said.

5 October 2019: CTS attends BCycle Customer Conference where the team introduces the 3.0 Dock to BCycle customers from across the country. The following month, the pilot program launches in Madison.

6 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

Summer 2019: CTS and BCycle complete the initial engineering of the 3.0 Dock. Tooling is completed and the first 50 samples of the 3.0 Dock are underway for use in a pilot run.


Work/life balance leads to Showtime opportunity By Arthur Thomas, staff writer

G the


Gerry Neugent, left, with “Work in Progress” director Tim Mason.

erry Neugent spent 18 years working as a professional actor. He loved the audience and the team environment of creating a story on stage. What he didn’t love was working nights and weekends as his kids got older. “I was missing a lot of things,” Neugent said. In search of a greater work/life balance, he took a job five years ago at Wauwatosa-based insurance software firm Zywave where he now works as a product trainer. The acting bug never really left and when Tim Mason, a college friend of Neugent’s, reached out to see if he was interested in a role, the answer was “yes.” After a few auditions, Neugent had a role on Showtime’s “Work in Progress” as the brother-in-law of the main character Abby. “They needed a 40-something father of two that does IT,” Neugent said. The show, directed by Mason (co-cre-

ator), aired in December and January and has since been renewed for a second season. Neugent views additional opportunities as a bonus. After five years with little acting, Neugent said the challenge wasn’t in knocking the rust off but adapting to the differences in acting for television. “I had to learn that, delivering in front of the camera, I didn’t get instant feedback from an audience; I really had to trust the director that what I was doing was correct,” he said. Filming required 10 days of work for Neugent. He praised Zywave for working with his schedule and allowing him to work remotely when needed. “Being able to have that option to go and pursue that while at the same time having the job security of my work that I do here at Zywave, that is such a blessing,” he said. n

The Joseph Family Customers since 1993 / 7

Leading Edge


m e n’s d r e s s s o c k s SPRUCE STREET CREW BY SMARTWOOL $21.95 at Chiappetta Shoes, Kenosha Ultra-light cushion sock made from 57% Merino wool, 40% nylon and 3% elastan with a supportive arch brace that adds a snug fit. It features Smartwool’s Shred Shield, which helps reduce wear from toes, and the Virtually Seamless Toe for comfort.

PAISLEY BY EDWARD ARMAH $45 at Harleys, Milwaukee These decorative socks are made in Peru, using 78% cotton, 18% nylon and 4% lycra. One size fits most, but toes and heels are positioned to help the product last longer. Available in navy, brown, argent and purple.

BINARY CODE BY SOCKSMITH $12 at Stan’s Fit For Your Feet; Brookfield, Glendale, Greenfield Black and green binary code socks, made from 70% cotton, 27% nylon and 3% spandex. Fits men’s shoe size 7 to 12.5.

SMARTASS BY SOCKSMITH $12 at Stan’s Fit For Your Feet; Brookfield, Glendale, Greenfield Put on your sarcasm with these socks, made from 70% cotton, 27% nylon and 3% spandex. Fits men’s shoe size 7 to 12.5.

8 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

NEAT BY EDWARD ARMAH $45 at Harleys, Milwaukee Same knitting composition as the Paisley design. Available in navy, navire and purple.


39 36



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Leading Edge


on my nightstand...



MICHAEL QUILL Director of marketing Affinity Strategic Marketing, Inc.

What drew you to the role? “This Tender Land” By William Kent Krueger MICHAEL QUILL, director of marketing for Racine-based Affinity Strategic Marketing, discovered novelist William Kent Krueger while searching for novels on his Kindle. “I read his first stand-alone novel, ‘Ordinary Grace,’ years ago and absolutely loved it,” Quill said. “I couldn’t wait for his next novel, ‘This Tender Land,’ to be published so I pre-ordered it.” “This Tender Land” is set in Minnesota during the Great Depression. It chronicles the journey of four

orphans after they flee the harsh treatment of the head administrator of their orphanage. “It truly is a page-turner,” Quill said. “I found myself overwhelmingly eager to learn the fate of the main characters because each new encounter on their journey was more enthralling than the previous ones. Mr. Krueger’s character development and dialogue are excellent. I read a lot of non-fiction so occasionally reading a novel like this provides a great escape.” n

Presented by the


Rebecca Ryan

Harley-Davidson Museum The Garage 500 W. Canal St. - Milwaukee

Adapt and align your business in a time when many institutions, including our government – are anything but certain. Rebecca Ryan, renowned futurist and author, will provide insights into the big questions facing our economy and nation and help bring the future into focus.

2020 Platinum Sponsors:

Favorite part about the job? “I am constantly learning more about the city and the narrative and contributions of the different Asian communities who live and work here. There is such a rich history evident in Milwaukee’s AAPI community, and I am honored to be in a position where I’m responsible for building relationships with those who have experienced it firsthand.”

What’s been challenging? “The time frame. We’re moving quickly to ensure the convention is a success for Wisconsinites and convention guests alike. Specifically, the team I work with is responsible for recruiting 15,000 volunteers in an extremely short period of time.”

Ultimate career goal?



“My background is central to who I am — both in a personal and professional capacity —and I have always been passionate about the role the AAPI community should play in civic society. The DNC presents an opportunity to bring together various Asian communities in Milwaukee, and I knew that by becoming involved with the work at the Host Committee, I could help to ensure those communities are both represented by and feel the economic impact associated with the convention.”

2020 Media Partner:

“One of my ultimate career goals is to run a venture fund that focuses exclusively on female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. I want to leave a legacy that uplifts the AAPI community and increases our visibility and representation.”

What do you like to do outside of work? “I love to travel, practice yoga, and of course, spend time with my close friends.” n

JESSICA BOLING Director of community engagement, Asian American and Pacific Islander Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee AGE: 35 HOMETOWN: Coupeville, Washington EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree from Seattle University and master’s from Boston College PREVIOUS POSITION: Director of operations at Silicon Pastures Angel Investor Network

Register at


10 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

BizTimes Media presents the 13th annual:

Thursday, March 12th, 2020 7:00 - 11:00 AM | Milwaukee Marriott Downtown

Concurrent Breakout Sessions:

BUILD LOCAL. GROW GLOBAL. NOW IS THE TIME TO BUY OR SELL. Business is strong and the greater Milwaukee region is enjoying a renaissance. Take advantage of the attention focused on Milwaukee as you consider buying a business or selling your business. The economy is still growing but with global instability and uncertainty, what should your next move be? Prepare with the right tools and knowledge. The M&A Forum will include a keynote presentation followed by a panel discussion with buy and sell side panelists. The program continues with breakout sessions focused on the hows and whys of building value, creative financing that maximizes cash flow and why cyber security is a key area of due diligence.

Keynote: Key Strategies to Build Sustainable Scale

Creative Financing that Maximizes Cash Flow In this session you’ll learn about available acquisition financing enhancements that can help overcome challenges in leveraging less expensive senior financing while minimizing the debt service strain on cash flow. This will be supported by real life examples from the perspective of the business owner, investor, SBA and banker. Session Speakers: • Gerard Berenz, Director of SBA, SVP, Old National Bank • Steve Kohl, Vice President, WBD Inc. • Frank Lotter, President, Lotter Enterprises • Tommy Olson, SVP Commercial Banking, Old National Bank • Dan Phlegar, Founding Partner, Mezzanine Investor, Oxer Capital, Inc. Moderator: Inge Plautz, Senior Vice President and Executive Business Development Officer, Old National Bank

• Paul Stillmank, Founder & CEO, 7Summits

Companies seeking capital infusion, PE partnerships or longer-term M&A outcomes should focus on building sustainable scale. Paul Stillmank, Founder and CEO of 7Summits, will discuss the importance of three key strategies within your business: 1) a focused go-to-market; 2) a defined offering set; and 3) a predictable bookings motion. Paul will describe how each of these, combined with a great company culture, set the foundation for building a local business that can reach global proportions.

Panel discussion topics include: • • • •

Growing your workforce through strategic business acquisition Developing an effective company culture to accelerate growth Recapitalization and its advantages and lessons learned Selling to a strategic buyer and transitioning to an ESOP

Panelists: • • • •

Andrea Bukacek, CEO, Bukacek Construction (1) Paul Grunau, Chief Learning Officer, APi Group (2) Ryan Martin, CEO, Midwest Composite Technologies (3) Moderator: Ann Hanna , MBA, CPA, Managing Director & Owner, Taureau Group (4)




Secrets to Unlocking Business Value There are actions you can take today to help you realize the greatest value at market. This session will provide: • Insights on the market for private businesses • What creates value from the buyer’s perspective • Exit options • Deal structures that can maximize proceeds • Non-financial considerations Session Speakers: • Ann Hanna, MBA, CPA, Managing Director & Owner, Taureau Group • Corey Vanderpoel, MBA, Managing Director & Owner, Taureau Group


Avoiding Data Privacy Traps in the M&A Process Attend this session to learn about the importance of sound cyber security and privacy practices in maximizing the value of your business. Proper Cyber Security is a key area of diligence. You’ll hear about both - the buyer and seller perspective, and the horror stories about ransomware attacks, stolen wires and identity thefts, and what you need to do to protect yourself as a buyer or seller. Session Speakers: • Martin McLaughlin, Corporate Shareholder and the Chair of Reinhart’s Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren • Melissa Zabkowicz, Corporate Attorney and a member of Reinhart’s Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren


Event Partner:

Leading Edge


WHO’S ON THE BOARD Who’s on the Board? tive vice president and chief administrative officer of The Coca-Cola Co. • Linda Fisher, retired vice president Fisk Johnson of safety, health and environment and chief sustainability officer at DuPont • Deb Henretta, partner with G100 Companies and vice chairman of SSA & Company S.C. JOHNSON & • P. Kasper SON, INC. Jakobsen, former president and CEO of Mead • H. Fisk Johnson, chairman and Johnson Nutrition chief executive officer of SC • Helen Johnson-Leipold, chairJohnson man and CEO of Johnson Out• Gerard Arpey, partner at Emerdoors Inc., chairman of Johnson ald Creek Group LLC and retired Financial Group and chairman CEO at AMR Corp. and Ameriof The Johnson Foundation at can Airlines Wingspread • Alexander Cummings Jr., • John Jeffry Louis, chairman of chairman of Cummings Africa Gannett Co. Foundation and retired execu-


A recent survey of readers.

Are you concerned at all about the coronavirus? Yes:




MY FAVORITE TECH PATRICK YOUNG Realtor, Keller Williams Realty Milwaukee native Patrick Young, a realtor with Keller Williams Realty, relies on a few tech tools to make his life easier, both on and off the job:

OPEN TABLE “Who doesn’t love making a restaurant reservation? Open Table is a mobile app that provides a list of restaurants available within my desired time range. Click, reserve a table. Super efficient.”

KELLER WILLIAMS REALTY COMMAND “KW Command is a proprietary CRM program developed by KW to provide agents with a superior client interface app. With a few clicks, I can access my entire real estate world, from client files, deadlines and pipeline management, to the latest marketing strategies and neighborhood insights – everything I need to bring knowledge and efficiency to my client’s table.”

FLEXMLS “Flexmls is the tool used by real estate agents to manage their listings for sellers. It’s also our primary search engine for properties. Knowledge and speed are key, both in winning opportunities and in managing client expectations. Approximately 92% of initial searches by the public are through the obvious search portals. However, those sites may lag behind the real-time data of Flexmls by hours and even days.”


Share your opinion! Visit to cast your vote in the next Biz Poll. 12 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

“I love Google Maps for the same reason everyone does, but there is a cool trick I discovered for viewing properties that allows me to fly around a property like a drone. You may be familiar with this on your phone, but on a laptop or PC to do the same, hold down the control button when in 3D satellite mode. You can fly around Disneyland with your kids, historical sites, cool cities, vacation properties, or, as I use it, to scope out a listing from all angles.” n

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With over 2,400+ annual attendees, BizExpo is the place where businesses grow. Exhibitors leave feeling inspired, energized and confident to take their business to the next level of success. With the right combination of powerful business leaders and potential customers, BizExpo will give your company the brand exposure it needs to be a leader in your industry.


May 28, 2020 RESERVE YOUR BOOTH! 9:00 A.M. - 4:30 P.M. | Potawatomi Hotel & Casino |

Join past exhibitors like: 14 West 360 Direct 88Nine Radio Milwaukee AARP Community Programs AbbyChristopher CBD Oil Acuity Insurance Aflac Alliance Tax USA American Heart Association-Milwaukee Applied Tech AT&T BizTimes Media Blue Harbor Resort & Conference Center Brehmer Agency, Inc. Butters-Fetting Co., Inc. Cardinal Stritch University - College of Business Carefree Boat Club of Wisconsin Casino Party Planners Central Office Systems Share My Number Charles Schwab Citizens Bank Commerce State Bank Computer Technologies, Inc.

Concordia University Wisconsin Culligan Water of Waukesha Data Holdings Datum Consulting Digital Media Lab Edelweiss Cruises and Boat Tours Employee Health Centre Engineered Security Solutions, Inc. Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Wisconsin Epic Color Everdry Waterproofing EWH University for Small Business eWomenNetwork EXACTA Corporation Family Business Leadership Partners FitTech Hosting Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Wisconsin Gibraltar Industries Inc. Granville BID Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce Green Bay Packers Greenfire Management Services GSC Hatch Staffing Services Herzing University

Make connections

Imperial Service Systems Innovative Signs, Inc. Insperity ISC Fax ITP - Information Technology Professionals J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. James Imaging Systems, Inc. JP Cullen Keystone Click Lakeside Painting, Inc. Lands’ End Business Lauber Business Partners Lumber Axe Majic Productions MalamaDoe - A Coworking Community for Women Marquette University High School MC Services Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) Midwest College of Oriental Medicine Milwaukee Bucks Milwaukee Pedal Tavern MKE Leaders, Inc. New Horizons of Wisconsin

News Talk 1130 WISN Office Furniture Resources Office Furniture Warehouse of Milwaukee Ogden & Company, Inc. Olive Promotions Optima Associates LLC Pavlic Vending & Modern Coffee|Avanti Markets Port Washington State Bank Potawatomi Hotel & Casino Profile by Sanford Promotion Pros Renewal by Anderson Milwaukee Rodizio Grill The Brazilian Steakhouse S.J. Janis Company, Inc. SafeGuard Saturn Lounge Saz’s Hospitality Group SCORE SE Wisconsin Spectrum Enterprise Spring Bank Stamm Technologies Stellar Blue Technologies Strategic Business Center Summit Credit Union

Build your network

SVA Certified Public Accountants The Delafield Hotel The Ingleside Hotel The Prudential Insurance Company of America T-Mobile Town Bank | A Wintrust Community Bank U.S. Cellular University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, College of Business and Economics Upper Iowa University Viking Communications, Inc. Vistage Vivial VR Lakes Business Group War Memorial Center Waukesha County Business Alliance Waukesha State Bank Wegner CPAs WFA Staffing Group WhirlyBall Wisconsin Institute of CPAs (WICPA) Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce Women Business Owners Network (WBON)

Grow your business



Businesses benefit from synergies as St. Paul Avenue Design District matures by Maredithe Meyer, staff writer WHEN KORKUT COLAKOGLU moved his stone fabrication company to Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley in 1999, he was one of the only business owners at the time to call the then-blighted West St. Paul Avenue home. House of Stone Inc. moved into one of the many 100-year-old industrial buildings on the street that had sat vacant for years following the decline of Milwaukee’s machine manufacturing industry. “There was nothing around,” Colakoglu said, recalling that his wife thought he was crazy for choosing a desolate part of town to operate a business. But he saw huge potential for the neighborhood. Potawatomi

Bingo (now Potawatomi Hotel & Casino) was located to the south and Marquette University was investing in development to the north. Meanwhile, the nearby Historic Third Ward neighborhood was being rebuilt with housing and new businesses. Colakoglu chose to invest in the neighborhood by purchasing the building at 1701 W. St. Paul Ave. in 2000. Two decades later, he still considers it the best decision he’s made for the business. “I knew from that point on that this valley will not go backwards, but forwards,” he said. More than 50 businesses have moved to or expanded in the Menomonee Valley since 1999,

creating 5,200 jobs, according to Menomonee Valley Partners, a nonprofit formed that same year to lead the valley’s redevelopment. Over the past five years, the organization has focused on driving growth to an underdeveloped strip now known as the West St. Paul Avenue Design District. The district, between 11th and 21st streets, is home to some of the valley’s longest-running businesses, including House of Stone, BBC Lighting and Brass Light Gallery, which provided a strong foundation for what Menomonee Valley Partners envisioned as a “one-stop shop” for both commercial and residential design. Since September 2016, 11 local

businesses have moved into West St. Paul’s 22 historic buildings, driving more foot traffic to the area. Seven of them are décorand design-related companies: Riverview Antique Market, Christopher Kidd & Associates, ProStar Surfaces, Guardian Fine Art Services, The Warehouse MKE, Bachman Furniture and Selarom Construction. “The whole idea of the Design District was brought about by convenience for customers, and instead of them running from Brookfield to Oak Creek to Mequon, everything can be done in one small area,” said Joe Bachman, the third-generation owner of Bachman Furniture. He recently moved his 100-year-old business into the neighborhood after buying and renovating a portion of the former American Radiator Company building for a new 60,000-square-foot

Understanding your industry comes from

walking in your shoes

And chances are, we’ve walked in ‘em.

construction/ real estate finance food & beverage manufacturing technology BROOKFIELD | GREEN BAY | MILWAUKEE 14 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

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Bachman Furniture’s new showroom, featuring lighting from BBC Lighting.

showroom at 1741 W. St. Paul Ave. Since opening in early November, sales have exceeded monthly expectations and have increased by “double digits” compared to the retailer’s previous location on Capitol Drive, Bachman said. An accessible location along

I-94 and the free parking lot across the street are huge advantages for shoppers, but what’s been even more beneficial for Bachman Furniture is the ability to collaborate with the district’s complementary businesses, he said. Before opening its new

showroom, Bachman dropped all previous lighting products from his inventory and replaced them exclusively with BBC Lighting products. The display allows customers to see the products in “real-life” settings and make their purchase without leaving the store. “The products we’re selling 100% make sense with what BBC is selling,” Bachman said. “If you’re buying a new bedroom set you want new living room lamps to go with it. Likewise, if you buy a new living room set, you want new lamps with it.” The partnership has been successful for both businesses, which now swap customers almost every day, Bachman said. Plans are underway to bring more BBC Lighting inventory on to the showroom floor. “Customers are coming and they’re asking for it,” he said. In a similar way, Bachman

regularly sends customers across the street to Sobelman’s Pub & Grill for a burger and Bloody Mary after a long day of shopping. He even opened an account at the restaurant so customers can buy a drink on him. In return, Sobelman’s diners have wandered into the showroom while waiting for a table. Bachman said other cities’ design districts, including Miami, Seattle, Chicago and New York, are known to be competitive and cutthroat. Milwaukee’s is far from that. “It’s really about collaboration and a mutual respect of one other’s products and clients,” he said, pointing to the large presence of family-owned businesses in the neighborhood. Two doors down at House of Stone, work is underway on a major renovation that will expand the facility’s offices and showroom area and improve the building’s façade. The project has been in the


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BizNews FEATURE works for years, Colakoglu said, but was delayed as the company took on major commercial projects at Potawatomi Hotel, Wrigley Field, Fiserv Forum and Lambeau Field. But with the recent surge of new design businesses on the street, he couldn’t put it off any longer. “We figured we needed to be more presentable and more attractive for the neighborhood, and to bring in more foot traffic,” he said. When the project wraps by midMay, the new showroom will feature six full-size kitchen displays with home and commercial products. House of Stone is also adding a designated space, called the Designer’s Locker Room, where designers of all specialties can meet with clients, reserve lockers to store their samples and materials and access Wi-Fi, all free of charge. They can also use portions of the new showroom to display their own products.

Colakoglu said the new space fills a need among independent designers for designated office or showroom space. But it’s also a way to bring more potential clients into the store. “We are hoping that while they’re talking about their own design concepts with other products, we might also fall into the conversation,” he said. Colakoglu described the valley’s 20-year growth as steady, but slow. He recalls spending more than a few nights down the street at Sobelman’s with friend and owner Dave Sobelman, chatting about the future of the neighborhood. Sobelman opened his business at 1900 W. St. Paul Ave. also in 1999. The restaurant has long been considered a Milwaukee icon and destination. It currently has five area locations and serves its food at Fiserv Forum. Despite the valley’s growth,

Sobelman’s West St. Paul location has faced challenges of its own as Milwaukee’s restaurant scene has evolved and diners have many more options, said Sobelman. “You don’t have to get in your car and drive to Sobelman’s for burgers and Bloody Marys,” he said. “Everybody’s making good burgers, everybody’s making good Bloody Marys and everybody’s making good food.” The rise of the Design District has helped fill the restaurant on already busy weekends as neighboring businesses send over hungry shoppers, but weeknight business remains slow. “We’re in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “After Bachman Furniture closes at 7 p.m., there’s nothing open on St. Paul Avenue.” Sobelman has made his own efforts to champion the area, whether it’s by sprucing up his and others’ sidewalk and with potted

plants and flowers or personally reaching out to local businesses, such as microbreweries and retailers, about available space. “A lot of the companies that come to the valley are really by word of mouth from either the real estate community or businesses that are already there that are rooting for the district,” said Michelle Kramer, director of marketing and business development at Menomonee Valley Partners. She said remaining available space in the district is limited, but the organization is working to recruit complementary businesses, specifically those specializing in kitchen and bath fixtures, tile, flooring, cabinetry and appliances. “We have put out feelers to different companies that we know are outgrowing their space,” she said. “If they’re going to relocate, we’d love to see them relocate in the valley.” n

Bold Leaders. Bright Ideas. Apply Today. Accepting nominations for the 16th annual

Ideal Bravo! Entrepreneur nominees are individuals who demonstrate the best traits of entrepreneurship, including willingness to take risk, drive, perseverance, and more! Ideal I.Q. (innovation quotient) nominees are companies who develop innovative products or services, or those with notably unique and innovative processes, operational structures and/or market strategies.

To submit your nomination visit Past Bravo! Entrepreneur Lifetime Achievement award winners have included: Donald Baumgartner, Tim Keane, Carol Schneider, George and Julie Mosher, Gary Grunau, Michael Cudahy, Sheldon Lubar, Fritz and Debra Usinger, Stephen Marcus and George Dalton Past I.Q. award winners have included: Chasing Paper, DeltaHawk Engines, HellermannTyton, Jason Inc./Janesville Acoustics, Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute, MARS IT Corp., PartsBadger, Riverwater Partners, TAI Diagnostics and TechCanary Presented By:

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Sprecher Brewing Co. Inc. announced recently that its founder and owner Randy Sprecher has sold the business to a local investment group. The group that purchased the company is led by SHARAD CHADHA, a former executive at GE Healthcare, Samsung Electronics, ABB and Electrolux. Chadha and his business partners, some of whom are members of Wauwatosa-based angel investment group Silicon Pastures, have ambitious plans for growing Sprecher, including a larger distribution footprint, new products and an additional local location in a highly-visible area. BizTimes reporter Brandon Anderegg recently spoke with Chadha about his background and plans for the business. What drove you to purchase Sprecher Brewing? “I’ve always dabbled in entrepreneurial ventures as an angel investor and otherwise. I’m originally from India and my great grandfather had a soda bottling plant, distribution and retail in British India. This was in the early 1900s. He died before I was born, but I had always heard stories about this Banta bottle. That’s just the style of bottle. It’s a little marble on the top and you push it down and the gas comes and you can drink it. It’s a pretty cool looking bottle. All glass. My father was in the military and I never did any of that. I was an executive at different companies but always dabbled in angel investing and entrepreneurial little things. This is the greatest opportunity. It’s like an American dream coming true. This is my American dream coming true.”

How did the deal come together with Randy Sprecher? “I’ve known Randy for about 12 years now. I was going back and forth from New Jersey working for Samsung, and this was back in June. We just chatted when I was visiting here and he said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ I said, ‘I’m going to help buy it, put a deal together with investors. I’m going to put everything I’ve got, all my savings, mortgage my house to buy the company.’ That’s how it happened. I’ve been working on it for the last eight months.”

How do you plan to grow the company in such a competitive industry? “In all honesty, our beer sales are not growing because the craft beer industry is tough. But our mainstay (includes) our soda, which continues to grow. Our root beer, our craft soda, our new water and hard seltzer – those are categories that are growing extremely fast.”

“(Sprecher Brewing has) not focused as much on sales and marketing and I think that’s where (the new ownership group) can help. Myself and the leadership team and some of the board members, with our experience, we’re going to focus on marketing, sales and national distribution. Play with our distributors and be good with our retail partners and not just believe in the old mantra, ‘if you build it, they’ll come.’ Of course, that happens, it’s a good product, but you gotta sell it too. It’s available, but we’re not actively pursuing and selling.”

Where do you see the business five or 10 years from now? “We’ve got to be much, much bigger than we are today. We’ve got to be nationally distributed and sold and recognized as a craft beverage. But our roots are always going to be premium craft, local, good quality ingredients. But we want to be national, if not international. We’re going to try to go international as well.” n


How will you help the company evolve?

Sharad Chadha Chief executive officer, Sprecher Brewing Co. 701 W. Glendale Ave., Milwaukee Employees: 60 / 17

Real Estate

REAL ESTATE WEEKLY – The week’s most significant real estate news →

Central Standard Craft Distillery plans to open a tasting room and event venue at 320 E. Clybourn St., across the street from the under-construction Huron Building at 511 N. Broadway.

Clybourn coming alive By Alex Zank, staff writer

FOR YEARS, Clybourn Street has been one of downtown Milwaukee’s most forgettable streets, dominated by surface parking lots and parking structures. But its reputation is changing due to a handful of high-profile developments happening near

or along the street that sits in the shadow of the I-794 freeway. In January, Milwaukee-based Central Standard Craft Distillery announced plans to redevelop the former Wisconsin Leather Co. building at 320 E. Clybourn St. Plans for the building include

a first-floor tasting room and welcome center, distillation and production space in the basement, a second-floor private event venue, third-floor office space and outdoor rooftop area with views of Lake Michigan. “We’re very excited about this next chapter for our business,” said Evan Hughes, Central Standard co-founder. The Central Standard development joins a growing list of recently completed projects, under construction or planned along Clybourn Street. Just across the street, at 511 N. Broadway, is the Huron Building being developed by developer J. Jeffers & Co. One block north, developer Charles Bailey is working to convert the building at 600 N. Broadway into his second Kinn MKE Guesthouse boutique hotel. At the northwest corner of Clybourn and Jefferson streets is a two-building, three-hotel development set to open later this year. Even farther east is the site of the planned Couture high-rise at the northwest corner of Clybourn Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive. To the west is the Cambria


S M O K E S H AC K B U I L D I N G I N M I LWAU K E E ’ S H I S T O R I C T H I R D WA R D Sandwiched between two tall brick buildings on Milwaukee Street in the Historic Third Ward is a small tavern-style building, a bit unusual for a neighborhood filled with redeveloped former warehouses. Milwaukee developer Robert Joseph bought the building in 2010, thinking it would make for an interesting restaurant or office spot. Working with Hospitality Democracy and Flux Design, he completely gutted and rebuilt it in part using reclaimed materials from an old barn – a contribution from one of Flux’s owners. Hospitality Democracy now operates the Smoke Shack there. “It was a lot of fun to be a part of that project because it was so tastefully done,” Joseph said. But the best part about owning the building? “The baby back ribs,” he said.

Smoke Shack, located 332 N. Milwaukee St.

18 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

ADDRESS: 332 N. Milwaukee St. OWNER: 332 Milwaukee LLC, registered to Robert Joseph ASSESSED: $572,100

Marcoux also points to Jeffers’ projects, which include the renovation of the Mackie and Mitchell buildings and construction of the Huron Building. Marcoux said law firm Husch Blackwell’s decision to move its Milwaukee office to the Huron Building gave both the project and that particular part of downtown “tremendous credibility.” Then there was the reconfiguration of the Lake Interchange freeway ramps at Lincoln Memorial Drive as part of the Lakefront Gateway project. Before that, the view looking eastbound on Clybourn consisted of a berm, a snow fence and trash that piled up on the snow fence, said Marcoux. Only the roof of Discovery World, just a block over, was visible. “We’ve now turned Clybourn from a back alley to a boulevard,” he said. Marcoux predicted good things are ahead for Clybourn. He expressed confidence in the Couture project eventually moving forward, which would include a transit center for both the city’s lakefront line extension of The Hop streetcar as well as Milwaukee County’s planned bus rapid-transit service. Then there’s the rare development opportunity presented in the Lakefront Gateway site, a stateowned parcel that was freed up following the ramp reconfiguration work. Marcoux said nothing short of a high-rise should go there. Marcoux added he expects development in the area to continue, particularly along Clybourn as well as the northeast side of the Third Ward. n


Hotel, which opened in August 2019 at 503 N. Plankinton Ave. But not long ago there wasn’t much happening on Clybourn, Hughes said. “It was kind of like a street-level freeway; people were really using it like an access road,” he said. People are now starting to pay more attention to the street. Hughes said the Huron Building, the Kinn and the three-hotel development will draw the very type of people Central Standard is targeting with its project. This includes guests staying overnight in downtown as well as professionals looking for a watering hole post-work. “We’re smack dab in the middle of tourism, and we’re proud of that,” Hughes said. Clybourn Street hadn’t always been an under-utilized downtown corridor. Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of Milwaukee’s Department of City Development, said the street had at one point been near the epicenter of downtown Milwaukee commerce. Before the rise of the railroads when grain was mostly transported by boat, Milwaukee was the grain trading capital of the U.S., if not the world, he said. And much of Milwaukee’s businesses were in the area around the Mackie and Mitchell buildings, near the intersection of Michigan Street and Broadway. “That was the center of the central business district,” he said. The center of commercial activity eventually moved northward around the 1950s and ’60s, as new office buildings went up along Water Street. And the installation of I-794 only made matters worse by disconnecting Clybourn from the Historic Third Ward, he said. For Clybourn’s turnaround, Marcoux credited a few things. He said architect David Uihlein led the charge in redeveloping the former central business district area after moving his firm into the McGeoch Building at 322 E. Michigan St. Now called Uihlein/Wilson – Ramlow/Stein Architects, the firm still remains there today.

FESTIVAL FOODS BUYS FORMER GREENFIELD TARGET De Pere-based grocery store operator Festival Foods recently purchased the former Target store building at 4777 S. 27th St., Greenfield. According to state records, an affiliate of Festival acquired the vacant 130,000-square-foot building from Target Corp. in late January for $4 million. Festival purchased the 21.9-acre site for well under its assessed value of $7.1 million. Representatives of Festival did not return calls seeking comment on the transaction. The building was constructed in 1970. Target closed its store there about a year ago along with five other under-performing stores across the U.S. Festival Foods, meanwhile, entered the Milwaukee market in November when it opened a new location in Hales Corners. That 67,000-square-foot store was built on the site of a former Kmart store.

ADDRESS: 4777 S. 27th St. BUYER: MKB Greenfield LLC

SELLER: Target Corp. PRICE: $4 million

Advertise in these upcoming special reports and get your message in front of area business executives.

M&A: Big Deals March 16, 2020 Space Reservation: February 28, 2020

Higher Education & Research

March 30, 2020 Space Reservation: March 13, 2020 ALEX ZANK Reporter

P / 414-336-7116 E / T / @AlexZank

Contact Linda Crawford today! Phone: 414.336.7112 Email: / 19


The Uline corporate headquarters in Pleasant Prairie. 20 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

‘ I LOVE PRODUCT’ Liz Uihlein…on running a $5.8 billion family business

BY ARTHUR THOMAS, staff writer



very family member in a family business comes with their own personality, strengths and skills that help a company grow. Pleasant Prairie-based packaging distributor and supplier Uline is no different. “It turns out – I didn’t know it – I’m a merchant. I love product,” said Liz Uihlein, president and chief executive officer of the company. “It’s weird to develop a love of corrugated boxes and shipping supplies, but I really enjoy (it). It’s very exciting to get a product, write the copy, put it in 11 locations in North America, and so I really like the creative part.” Uihlein said brother-in-law Steve Uihlein, a company vice president, brings finance expertise to the business, while Dick, her husband and the company chairman, is the one with big picture vision who suggests new areas or markets for the company. Phil Hunt, executive vice president at Uline, described Dick as “the pusher, the driver to keep us growing and moving forward.” “‘You should be here, you should be there,’ but he wouldn’t do the work,” Liz Uihlein said during an interview in her office. “We did the work, but on our own we wouldn’t have done a lot because we are little busy bee workers and we’re happy where we are.” Uline has been doing a lot of growing in the 10 years since the company moved its headquarters from Waukegan to Pleasant Prairie in 2010. Back then, the company had 2,400 employees across North America. The company’s 2010 move started with a 1-million-square-foot warehouse and a 275,000-squarefoot corporate headquarters office building. In 2014, Uline announced it would double the size of the Pleasant Prairie headquarters, adding a second, similar-sized corporate office building and another 1 million-square warehouse. In 2017, Uline added an 800,000-square-foot distribution facility in Kenosha and completed a second facility of the same size on the Kenosha campus in late 2019. / 21


As far as corporate relocations go, the Uline story is a massive success. Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. records credit the company with $147 million of investment and more than double the amount of planned job creation. Then in late 2019, Uline announced plans for two more new buildings, a nearly 1.1-million-square-foot warehouse facility and a 643,800-square-foot fulfillment facility at the Kenosha campus, a $130 million investment. The latest expansion plans would take the company to more than 2,400 employees in Kenosha County alone. By the end of 2019, the company had nearly 6,700 employees across North America and $5.8 billion in revenue.

22 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020


The LakeView Corporate Park in Pleasant Prairie had been developed for years by the time Uline came to Wisconsin, and the company wasn’t the first to make the jump across the border from Illinois. That said, Uline’s decision to pick Pleasant Prairie was an inflection point for development along the I-94 corridor. “That was really one of the first dominos that led to what we’re now seeing, which is a filling in of the corridor between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line,” said Jim Paetsch, vice president for corporate relocation, expansion and attraction at Milwaukee 7. Paetsch and M7, a regional economic development organization, didn’t work on the deal to bring Uline to Wisconsin, but their corporate attraction work has benefited from the company’s decision. “It really has helped us in terms of credibility and it has gotten us into some discussions that maybe we wouldn’t have been in,” he said. The company’s initial investment helped open eyes to the region, but the continued investment is what has helped convince other companies that they can capitalize on the assets of southeastern Wisconsin. “It speaks very loudly to a prospect,” Paetsch said of Uline’s investments. Had Uline stopped growing after its initial investment, the project still would be a major win for Pleasant Prairie and Kenosha County, said Todd Battle, president of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance. “They’ve far exceeded anyone’s reasonable expectations,” he said. Since 2010, Kenosha County’s job growth – up more than 33% – has nearly tripled the pace of Wisconsin as a whole while the growth in business establishments has been more than 1.5 times the statewide pace, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. During that time, Kenosha County wage growth has been slightly stronger than the state as a whole. Uline’s growth alone doesn’t account for Kenosha County’s gains, but Battle said the company



Uline’s corporate headquarters campus in Pleasant Prairie.

Uline’s Kenosha campus. / 23


has been an advocate for doing business in Wisconsin. Uline executives have met with business leaders considering projects in the county and its human resources employees have met with businesses considering relocation to talk about hiring and employee retention in the area. “They’ve been really willing to help the community in terms of telling the story,” Battle said.

CUSTOMER SERVICE FOCUS While the right mix of family dynamics can help a company grow, three people – or six if you include the second generation – do not alone help a company grow like Uline has in the past decade, especially not at any larger scale. Uline’s business generally follows the economy, so the prolonged expansion of the past decade certainly helped the company grow. Uihlein said there isn’t any particular region that’s been bad for business, although she noted growth has recently been slower at the company’s branch serving southern Mexico. She also said growth was strong across all of 2018, extending into early 2019 before slowing down. “In some respects, it was better because everybody was just gasping to hire people,” Uihlein said of the slowdown. Economy aside, the company’s calling card is its customer service and next-day shipping when orders come in before 6 p.m. As Hunt put it, the idea is to “answer the phone faster than 911, have the inventory, ship the order out, get today’s work done today.” Combining next-day shipping with a nearly 800-page catalog of products that includes more 24 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020


Steve Uihlein, vice president; Duke Uihlein, vice president; Dick Uihlein, chairman; Liz Uihlein, president and CEO; Freddy Goldenberg, corporate planning manager; Brian Uihlein, vice president of merchandising.

than 1,600 stock sizes of boxes and thousands of other products creates a challenge: having any of those products available and ready to ship to customers across North America. “We get those orders from out of the blue … for some obscure things; you just can’t believe. ‘I need 200 traffic barriers.’ You know, it’s just, it’s crazy fun,” Uihlein said. “And sometimes we’re scrambling with as much inventory as we have, but you just never know who’s going to order and what they need.” Being a private company helps since Uline can hold more inventory without having to answer to Wall Street. Having 11 branches spread across the U.S., Mexico and Canada also makes it easier to get products to customers quickly. The Uline operations in Pleasant Prairie, located off Highway 165 and across the interstate from the Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets, serve primarily as company headquarters and as a distribution center to stock the branches. The buildings located a few miles north in Kenosha and across I-94 from the Amazon facilities serve as the company’s Chicago branch, supplying customers across parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. Ask Uihlein and Hunt about the size and scale of the company’s growth and they say their focus is elsewhere. “You know what, I don’t ever think about it. It’s almost like bad luck, I don’t get up that way thinking about that,” she said, adding she’s more focused on what she needs to accomplish on a given day. “I’m not a visionary.” Hunt added that he doesn’t really make it a point to check on Uline’s sales numbers on a daily basis. “I look at the number of customers we backor-

dered,” he said. “I might know the sales that day, but I might not. We’re much more focused on the service reports because (if) you take care of the customer, the sales are going to come.” It is hard to do any Google search for the Uihleins or the company and not find articles about Liz and Dick’s political activity. They have been major donors and supporters of Republican candidates and causes. Liz Uihlein acknowledged taking a political stance does cost the company some sales. “Since we’re private and we’re pretty passionate about it we feel that we should speak up,” Uihlein said. “I think people would say we’re kind, generous people but I believe the best thing you can give somebody is a job, not a government handout.” Hunt said the political activity is not a major issue for the business. “We lose some (sales), but most people are paying for a service and in the end, you’re paying for the service and you need the product,” he said.

FINDING THE RIGHT PRODUCTS In addition to a growing economy and customer service, Uline has actually benefitted in some ways from a recent Supreme Court ruling that requires companies to pay sales tax in a state whether they have a physical presence there or not. “We don’t like paying sales tax in every state,” Uihlein said. “(But) one thing it’s allowed us is to have our sales force go to every state because we have to pay sales tax anyway, so we’ve actually been expanding the sales force and they’re out and about in more places than just our distribution states.” That growing fleet of sales reps provides infor-


mation to the company on what products customers are looking for that Uline doesn’t carry. The information goes to marketing representatives for each product line before it’s filtered up to Uihlein and others who zero in on the most heavily requested items. “We know the number of times a product has been requested through the year so they use that to help drive that process,” Hunt said. With a 788-page catalog that will soon grow to more than 800 and run up against U.S. Postal Service limits, it’s hard to imagine Uline not having a product, but the company will add 1,200 new items with its next catalog. There is a room on the second floor of Uline’s Pleasant Prairie headquarters with every page of the next catalog pinned to the wall. Each page, including copy and photo, will get attention from Uihlein before going out to customers. “It’s how do you market it to your customer? For the guy on the street, how do you make it simple to put it in the catalog so they understand what it is, what its purpose is and why they should buy it?” Hunt said. “So, (Uihlein) really does that and she does a great job with the merchandising team with the copy and the photos and all that and she loves it.” It might seem odd to continue mailing an 800page catalog in an era of online ordering, but Uihlein likened the twice-a-year mailings to the repetition of advertisements by major brands and said it works for the company. “It’s very effective for us to mail those catalogs; they’re basically not that expensive,” she said. “You go out to a warehouse and they’re flopping around and then ‘Oh, I need something, well, I’ve seen it, I’ll look it up in the catalog and then go order it on the web.’”

THE RIGHT PEOPLE Whether they are family members or not, one of the biggest challenges facing the company is filling leadership positions, along with continuing to hire for sales and warehouse positions. “We just don’t have enough people to fill some of those slots,” Hunt said. “And you want some outside experiences as well, right? Because it challenges what we’re doing.” Finding people isn’t getting any easier with a tight labor market and continued economic development along the I-94 corridor. Kenosha County averaged an unemployment rate of 3.7% last year, up slightly from 3.5% in 2018, but a far cry from the 10.3% average in 2010 when Uline picked Pleasant Prairie. “There must be people around because we’re hiring,” Uihlein said. One of the benefits for Uline when the company moved across the border was the proximity to its previous location. Employees who lived in Illinois did not see much time added to their commute and those in Wisconsin had a shorter drive. Kenosha County itself has historically had a lot of employees working in Illinois. According to

Scenes inside one of Uline’s 1 million-square-foot warehouses at its Pleasant Prairie headquarters campus.


U.S. Census data, around 27.3% of county residents worked outside of Wisconsin in 2010. The county’s growth of the past decade put a small dent in that figure – it’s now 26.8% – but there are now nearly 7,700 more Kenosha County residents working in Wisconsin than in 2010. “So far, it’s supporting the growth,” Hunt said. “But we’re always concerned about … as the older folks start retiring, are there enough younger people? And are the schools teaching what they need to be teaching to get the quality employees?” He noted that across geographies the company finds it challenging to hire people who can write copy or memos that communicate thoughts in a short, coherent way. “We have these tests that we’ve developed and I’m the No. 1 fan of the test,” Uihlein said. “If you work here you believe in the tests and the lack of writing that’s coming out of school. Often (new hires) come in here, they take a right turn and go to (company training for) ‘how you write at Uline.’ It’s a real problem.” “You have a lot of people that can give you data but they can’t tell you what it means,” Hunt added. The right mix of family personalities, a focus on customer service and a growing product line all

help a company reach new heights, but sustaining success requires people and the right people at that. “Honestly, there’s been good people that work in the family business line and we’ve had some great business advisors,” Uihlein said. “We were lucky as we went along to have people that have helped us … I mean, we’re 40 years old now, so it wasn’t like an overnight, you know, pop sensation. It just built up slowly.” But, like many companies, Uline is running into the challenges of long-tenured employees deciding to retire. “We’ve had the most amazing management team all these years,” Uihlein said. “Every day we go to work and everybody’s going to be here. Well, now they’re starting to retire and they have every right to retire and then the generation below is smaller. It’s a smaller pond to fish in and, like a lot of companies, we have to either bring the other ones up or hire outside for some key positions.” Uihlein jokes that she’s been talking about her own retirement for 15 years and said some days it does feel like it would be nice to just go on a long hike or sit on the couch and read. “If it were that easy, you know, I guess I would be retired, maybe not,” she said, pointing out that she was happy as a housewife before starting her career. Hunt said it is hard to find a replacement.

“Plus, she loves what she does, so she doesn’t want to give it up,” he said. “She wants to give parts of it up but it’s hard to find somebody – she has 40 years with the business – that has that much knowledge to come in and start taking over.” Uihlein noted that Hunt, who has been with Uline 28 years and is the No. 2 person at the company, has never shown an interest in taking over the top spot. “It’s not my skill set and it’s a lot of work,” he said. There is a second generation of Uihlein family members in the business. Duke is a company vice president; Freddy Goldenberg is in corporate planning and Brian is a vice president of merchandizing. Liz Uihlein said the idea would be to eventually move the company to a second generation of family ownership, “but we’re realistic.” “You know I always say I’m like Virginia McCaskey,” she said in reference to the 97-year-old owner of the Chicago Bears. “Dick and I say ‘while we’re alive,’ you feel a huge responsibility for your employees, you know what I mean? And I don’t want to crap out on them … so while we’re alive, but certainty nothing lasts forever.” Uihlein said one of the challenges in family business is parents raise children to be independent and think and act for themselves. “Then we’re supposed to all love one another in the family business together … it’s a conflicting deal,” she said. n


April 30, 2020 | 7:00-11:00 am | West Bend Mutual Insurance Company’s Prairie Center

A Futurist Toolkit: Seven Practical Ideas on How We Get to 2035 Join us on April 30th as Futurist David Zach shares his insights on the next fifteen years. Between now and then, David Zach a lot of other people will make specific predictions about Washington County and the SE Wisconsin region. Instead of just fascinating and/or frightening forecasts, you’ll get a “toolkit,” a set of questions to ask on how to put all those fads and trends in a practical perspective.

FOLLOWING THE PRESENTATIONS, the program continues with 12 unique roundtable discussions led by an expert discussion leaders. Expected Topics to include (partial list and subject to change): § Education & Upskilling your Workforce

§ Housing and Construction Trends

§ Economic Development – Planning for 2035

§ Technology Trends for Manufacturers

§ Investing in Leadership

§ Talent Attraction and Creating Strong Cultures

§ Transportation

David Zach has a degree in Futures Research from the University of Houston. He’s done over 1500 talks for various organizations throughout North America and Europe. Following the keynote presentation, local CEOs and industry leaders will discuss how their companies are adapting to remain competitive and relevant for the next two decades and beyond in our ever-changing world. Sponsors: 26 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020




Legacy, loyalty or liquidity?


Joe Maier Senior Vice President Director of Wealth Strategy Johnson Financial Group

succession plan starts with an honest evaluation of the values and beliefs of the owner. What does the business owner want for and from their business: legacy, loyalty or liquidity? The answer to that question is the perfect place to start. If the business owner’s primary purpose is legacy, then ownership tends to transition to family. If loyalty is key, then insiders (people who work for the business) tend to get ownership. And if liquidity is the primary purpose, the business is generally sold to an outsider (a person not involved in the business).

Legacy It is understandable why most business owners want to transition ownership to a family member. But a plan of legacy has challenges and issues that must be addressed. First, a critical focus needs to be on creating a governance structure to ensure that the best decision-makers are empowered to make the best business decisions. Second, there needs to be thought on how to address involved and uninvolved family members. Should all children own the business equally, regardless of involvement? If not, how are concepts like equality addressed in the plan? Third, if more than one child is to be involved in the business, how does the business structure the right roles to maximize each child’s impact? Finally how should each dollar of profit be divided among owners, decision makers and employees? Are the right incentives in place for the business to thrive and grow?

Loyalty When driven by a sense of loyalty, the succession plan is designed to empower

Johnson Bank, Johnson Insurance Services LLC and Johnson Wealth Inc.

loyal managers and minimize disruption to loyal employees. Consider the following risks in transferring ownership to business insiders. One risk is the possibility that managers will be unable to evolve into effective leaders and owners. A leadership consultant can help the future owners effectively change roles in a way that will not disrupt the company. A second risk is that the new owners will not have the skills to replace the former owner. Loyalty-based succession plans work best when leadership is transitioned before ownership. A third risk is that the current owner is critical and when gone, the team loses its ability to function. Again, the owner should allow the team to operate on their own prior to transition.

Liquidity When liquidity is the priority, the succession plan is directed at maximizing price. Key questions an owner should consider are: » What critical decisions are made by people other than me? » Are these people willing to stay at the business after my departure? » Where do our revenues come from (many clients or a few)? » Why do our customers work with us (due to me, my team or some other reason)? » Do we have the right processes and systems to run the business? » Do our financials have credibility? » Knowing what I know, would I buy the business for the asking price? This self-scouting should be done with an investment banker who provides a mirror to the owner to uncover blind spots.



Jeffrey Vilione and Dawn Vilione

WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS? My brother introduced me to the industry when he moved his company from Houston, Texas to Milwaukee. I started in sales and quickly worked my way to being a minority shareholder in the company. I always had the aspirations to have my own company and eventually I went my own direction and started Enviro-Safe in 2002.



Currently, my wife and mother-in-law are involved in the business but we are hopeful that one day our son would be interested. At the present time he seems to be intrigued but a lot can change over the years since he is only a freshman at Marquette University High School (MUHS). It is our intention to continue to grow the business so the opportunity is here for him should this be the path he wants to follow.


Our core values are simple...Respect, Passion, Integrity, Sustainability and Trust. Our company is committed to our employees, our customers, the environment and our community. These guiding principles have allowed us to grow into a Midwest industry leader in sustainability programs and waste management solutions. We pride ourselves in helping companies reduce their overall costs and meet their corporate recycling goals while providing superior customer service.

Absolutely‌we stay true to ourselves, our employees and our customers. Everything starts with us and we are able to ensure the culture of our company and the people that work for us reflect our core valves that we are not willing to compromise. We continue to employ and hire people that have the same high level of integrity and want to be a part of growing company. Blessed with the opportunities in front of us, we feel we are just scratching the surface, seeing great potential and experiencing continuous growth.


My stepfather was a partner in a family business where I had the opportunity to work though my high school and college years. As a result, I was able to see personally the pros and cons of working in a family business environment. As everyone can image, working with family members can be challenging at times but at the same time they bring an undeniable amount of loyalty and trust which is comforting.


Emteq founder Jerry Jendusa (right) and co-founder Jim Harasha in Emteq Inc.’s first building.

Preparing for the sale, and what comes next BY BRANDON ANDEREGG, staff writer SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR JERRY JENDUSA had a vision when he sold his company, Emteq Inc. in 2014. He would stay on with the company, travel to each of its seven offices around the globe, and explain the transition to employees and the benefits of where Emteq was headed. However, Jendusa would soon learn that “once you sell, you sell; you’re no longer the final

decision maker,” he said. Not even three months after the sale, Jendusa quit Emteq in a move that he described as “probably premature.” He had hoped to stay with the company for at least another year to ease the transition. “(Florida-based B/E Aerospace, which acquired Emteq) didn’t really want any of that,” Jen-

dusa said. “They wanted me for a totally different role within the organization, and I just wasn’t interested.” Business owners in their 30s and 40s might have an idea of when they plan to sell their business and a person in mind that is capable of carrying on their legacy. But timing the market and preparing for the right opportunity to sell – even

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“If you’re the buyer and you know why it’s up for sale and what that story is, it’s going to give you a sense of confidence and trust that you’re not being duped.”

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“Investments in the business will actually result in value when you sell the business,” Vanderpoel said. “And that can be counterintuitive to a lot of business owners.”

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if that opportunity presents itself in a business owner’s middle age – is critically important, said Brad Herda, a certified FocalPoint business coach based in Sussex. “It’s strategically being prepared for opportunity, versus saying it’s going to be a point in time or a dot on the map that has to happen,” Herda said. “That opportunity could happen when you’re 39 because of market trends or capitalizing on what might be happening with economic conditions right now.” When the time does come, the less ambiguity the better – not just in terms of business financials, but also the reason behind the sale. “If you’re the buyer and you know why it’s up for sale and what that story is, it’s going to give you a sense of confidence and trust that you’re not being duped,” Herda said. “Having clarity on that is key because it will also help maximize the value of that business when it sells.”

An entrepreneur should always run their business with a valuation and an ultimate exit in mind, said Corey Vanderpoel, owner and managing director of the Taureau Group, a Milwaukee-based investment banking firm. In an ideal scenario, an entrepreneur will have had conversations about selling the business years in advance, not just with family, but with trusted business partners and M&A experts. Through those conversations, a business owner can identify weaknesses and better understand how a prospective buyer will look at his or her business. “We can help them work through those challenges to the business so they can create more interest, which drives negotiating leverage, which drives value,” Vanderpoel said. Many business owners that want to sell will do everything they can to take as much capital out of the business as possible. That’s a common

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mistake, Vanderpoel said. Instead, the most opportune time to sell a business is when it has a promising future. “You’ve actually invested in the organization and administration of the business to then be able to present what those opportunities are and the financial performance of the business,” Vanderpoel said. Vanderpoel equates the situation to selling a home. Oftentimes upgraded kitchen appliances or a retiled bathroom can make all the difference in the sale. “All of those investments in the business will actually result in value when you sell the business,” Vanderpoel said. “And that can be counterintuitive to a lot of business owners.” In Jendusa’s case, the issue wasn’t the lack of a well-formulated plan. Rather, he found he wasn’t fully prepared for the emotional component of selling the business and navigating the uncertainty of what came

“ What are you going to do in your second-half act? Because if your whole life and identity, (as it was) in my case, was attached to my business, there’s going to be a point you go through this emotional disturbance.” —Jerry Jendusa

next. Most business owners aren’t, Jendusa said. “What are you going to do in your second-half act? Because if your whole life and identity, (as it was) in my case, was attached to my business, there’s going to be a point you go through this emotional disturbance,” he said. For Jendusa, his encore was co-founding Stuck LLC, a Wauwa-

tosa-based business advisory firm, in 2014. Still, it took Jendusa years to fully understand how he felt about the Emteq sale, the impact it had on his former employees and the process of moving on to his next endeavor. However, when he and his former employees gathered for a fiveyear reunion following the sale of Emteq, Jendusa discovered the long-

term benefits of selling the company. “(The employees) developed so many skills and were so capable that they could work anywhere,” Jendusa said. “And then really enjoying and celebrating the ride and the culture that we created. Because anytime there’s a sale, the culture is going to change, whether it’s for the better or for the worse. And who’s to judge that?” n

A PODCAST ABOUT PEOPLE, ISSUES AND IDEAS. The BizTimes MKE Podcast is designed to keep you informed and provide ideas and strategies to help improve your business. Each episode features thought-provoking insights and best practices from business and community leaders.





FEBRUARY 3, 2020

JANUARY 31, 2020

Tina Jones Girls on the Run: Taking on challenges one mile at a time

John Franke A non-partisan guide to impeachment

2020 BizTimes Economic Trends panel Q&A




Expiration date Plan ahead for the end of your business Part 2 of a series

WHEN WE START A BUSINESS, which eventually becomes a family business, few of us think of the end of the business. Heck, most of the time we are thrilled to get over the hurdles of opening the business, making that first dollar, paying that first payroll and then even paying that first tax bill. After all, paying taxes is a sign of profit and we all want that. I have written in the past about starting at the end, and in the weeks and months surrounding this series of articles this notion has been drilled into me like never before. My mother has stage 4 metastatic melanoma. The end is in sight. As my father so profoundly put it, we have an expiration date. In an attempt at catharsis and to help so many of you out there in business who deal with such devastating news, I am chronicling the parallel between the family business and the loss of family. What would we like the final expiration date to be? In a capitalist economy, we need to be comfortable with the notion that “death comes for us all, even for kings he comes,” in the immortal words of Sir Thomas More. The death of a business allows the capitalistic cycle to continue as the consumers choose what they want in an unfettered way. Some businesses will succeed and last generations, and others will wither on the vine and die. When the automobile came into being, we had to let a number of businesses die, from buggy-whip makers to

blacksmiths. Some carriage-makers adapted and made car bodies, and others went out of business entirely. Free enterprise by necessity allows for the growth and ultimately death of the company and industry. To prop up an industry that is unnecessary simply for the salvation of jobs is contrary to how free enterprise works. But if we are truthful with ourselves, there is a part of us that is upset seeing businesses go out of business and especially if it is our own. The tendency is to try to save it, to support it or even resurrect it if we can. There is an innate Messiah Complex in all of us in business and this manifests itself most strongly at the end of the business cycle. Remember the Management 101 class you took where you learned the stages of the business lifecycle? After the decline of the business a decision is made to rebirth the firm or let it pass. This is where I advise business owners to start: at the end. Think about what you want the end of the firm to be. We all want our companies to stay in business for centuries, especially if it is a family business. We want the quaint notion that the grandchildren can reap the rewards of a successful business founded by the iconic leader with the picture painted on the boardroom wall. That myth is larger than fact, but nobody is left to dispute the facts, so the legend lives on. So, Mr. and Mrs. Business Owner, what do you want the end to be? Do you want your name to live on long after the family is out of the company? Do you want the doors to shutter after reaping the rewards for generations to follow? And if so, how long is long enough? These are tough questions, but the facts are that none of us is immortal, nor are our businesses. “This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us” are words taken from Queen’s song “Who Wants to Live Forever.” My father is right – we all have an expiration date … for people and the businesses we love. So why not plan how we want the end to go? There is the business owner who died unexpectedly leaving his heirs to fight for years with the other owners – all family members – litigating the future of the family business in court. Then there is the father owner who walked out of the business one day and told the kids – all adults – he

wasn’t coming back tomorrow or ever. These are not good outcomes. These conclusions lead to chaos for the survivors left to pick up the mantle of the family enterprise in ashes. So, plan now for the end. It isn’t an easy conversation, this expiration date, but it is a necessary one – perhaps the most important one ever! n

DAVID BORST David Borst, Ed.D., is executive director and chief operating officer of Family Business Leadership Partners, a regional resource hub for family business. He can be reached at / 33


Talent magnet A great company culture can help you find and keep quality employees IF YOU FOUND IT HARD to compete for talent last year, brace yourself. The talent war is about to get even tougher. While CEOs recognize the economy is slowing down, their own prospects for growth remain strong. The Q4 2019 Vistage CEO Confidence Index survey shows that only 21% of Wisconsin CEOs surveyed thought the economy recently improved. That’s compared to 26% nationally. However, that same survey found that 68% of small and midsize businesses in Wisconsin expect higher revenues this year, and 58% plan to hire more workers. This has two important implications. First, companies are all trying to hire at the same time to support growth. Second, talented employees are in a position to choose from multiple opportunities. But few workers are looking for jobs right now. With a Wisconsin unemployment rate of 3.4%, there are more jobs than people. That’s why many small and midsize businesses focus on better compensation packages or employee perks. While that’s a reasonable approach, it overlooks a potentially more powerful tool for talent recruitment and retention: culture.

WHY CULTURE IS A GRAVITATIONAL FORCE Culture is the powerful, unseen force that connects and motivates your employees. It becomes the brand of your business. It can include things such as the way people communicate with each 34 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

other, how they set goals, how leaders explain the company’s mission, and how teams work with each other. Culture influences whether the best people choose your company, remain with you or leave. In fact, strengthening your company’s culture can deliver three important benefits. » Employee engagement and performance will improve. A strong culture acts like a magnet that keeps good employees close to a company. When employees feel like they fit in, they form an emotional connection to their work and colleagues. » Outside talent will want to work for you. Your company has a certain vibe that’s obvious to outsiders, even if it’s not obvious to you. It stems from your culture and can be felt by the way your employees interact with customers and talk about work with their family and friends. Talented people who like what they hear will notice and want to work for you. » People who don’t fit your company will leave. Culture defines acceptable behavior for employees, and it calls out inappropriate behavior. Job candidates or employees who are unwilling to abide by those rules won’t want to work for you.

2. Determine quantifiable metrics that measure culture. Culture is a tricky thing to measure, but it’s not impossible to quantify. Because it’s directly connected to hiring and retention, metrics related to employee turnover, time-to-hire and employee engagement can shed light on your cultural strengths and weaknesses. Annual engagement studies and pulse surveys can help you understand what you need to do to keep employees. 3. Lead by example. Ask yourself: How do I show up to work every day? Do my actions reflect our cultural values? Am I walking the talk? If you don’t live your culture, your employees won’t either. 4. Communicate your mission, vision and purpose — clearly and consistently. Explain it visually – by using posters, for example – and verbally. Let employees know exactly what they must do to support your vision. Culture will weaken or mutate if you don’t define or measure what people must do to support it. CEOs who want robust business results and an office of productive, thriving employees should use those four steps to create a culture with intention. n

In Vistage’s latest survey of small and midsize businesses, fewer than one in 10 said they were satisfied with the strength of their culture. That compares with the national average of slightly more than one in 10. In other words, there’s major room for improvement. Strengthen your culture and you might be able to steal talent from your competitors.

FOUR WAYS TO START Leaders can start with these four steps. 1. Accept that culture starts at the top. If you’re the CEO, you must create, promote and reinforce your ideal culture before your employees will embrace it. If you’re leading a team, take responsibility for explaining the culture to your team. Hold members accountable.

JOE GALVIN Joe Galvin is chief research officer for Vistage Worldwide and can be reached at For more reports and insights, or to connect with a Vistage chair, visit


More than just a new look The strategy behind the Cousins Subs rebrand WHEN SHE IS NOT SITTING behind her desk in her executive office in Menomonee Falls, Cousins Subs chief executive officer Christine Specht is standing behind the register at a Cousins Subs restaurant interacting with their guests. A few years ago, family-owned Cousins Subs (founded by Specht’s father, Bill Specht, with his cousin two years before she was born) launched its initiative to rebrand its locations system-wide to be consistent in look and feel. This decision to rebrand originated from an analysis of guest, franchisee and management feedback as well as Specht’s own observations while interacting with guests. In my recent interview with her, we discussed the rebranding effort that is underway chain-wide. Wikipedia defines “rebranding” as a marketing strategy intended to provide a new, differentiated identity in the minds of guests, investors, competitors and other stakeholders. So why did Cousins Subs move ahead with this strategy? The brand’s executive team analyzed feedback from guests, franchisees and managers and realized that their guests were having an inconsistent experience by location. From this analysis emerged their strategy to provide a “consistent and uniform” experience at all restaurants. They are striving for consistency at their nearly 100 locations in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois, which would result in revenue growth by opening their doors to a new generation of guests and improved guest satisfaction. This rebranding strategy is intended to propel

Cousins into the middle of this new decade. But Specht said she understands there are risks associated with a system-wide rebranding. Cousins’ business has been built with the support of the Baby Boomer generation and future growth will depend on the support of millennials and Generation Z. Part of the company’s rebranding strategy involves the renovation of existing corporate locations, while franchisees are required to renovate their stores before they can renew their franchise agreement. If an existing franchisee elects not to renovate, their location can be purchased by other franchise owners or by Cousins corporate. The company’s overall sales volume has continued to grow during the rebranding effort. The brand opened nine units in 2019 that feature its rebranding elements. There are several challenges associated with this rebranding effort, the first being how Cousins will handle the increase in the number of guests who are using third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats. To accommodate the increased amount of orders, Cousins found it does not need to increase staffing. Specht stated during our interview that Cousins needs to stay “nimble” when dealing with changing guest tastes and service requirements. Another challenge the company faces is capitalizing on the growing use of its drive-thru at select locations. Many of its newer locations have a drive-thru, which puts additional stress on service and staffing. These locations are perceived as a legitimate part of the business and a priority. Proper staffing will determine who gets served first: the in-store guest, the drive-thru customer or the patron making an online order. Specht said if restaurants are not delivering the proper level of service, “our guests will tell us about it.” The growing number of millennials who are served by Cousins is a major driver of the business, while it maintains a strong blue-collar base. Millennials desire healthier meals, faster delivery and community responsibility. Cousins recently introduced “Sub in a Bowl” – a deli fresh and grilled-to-order sub served on top of mixed greens instead of between bread – to pro-

vide customers with a bread-free option. Specht stressed how critical their “flavor profile” is. It needs to be maintained through the rebranding effort while ensuring the company is committed to meeting guests’ needs. Sub in a Bowl appeals to those who desire a lower carb meal and allows Cousins to offer a new product without increasing its SKUs. To better serve its communities, Cousins Subs introduced its “Make It Better Foundation” in 2013. The foundation supports youth education, hunger and health and wellness. Since the inception of the foundation, it has donated nearly $507,000 in nonprofit grants and student scholarships. Only time will tell if this rebranding strategy will be successful, but if Cousins Subs stays nimble and continues to offer high-quality product in a welcoming atmosphere, sales will likely continue to grow. n

CARY SILVERSTEIN Cary Silverstein, MBA, is a former executive for Gimbels and JH Collectibles. He’s an author, speaker, trainer and retired business consultant. Silverstein is co-author of “Overcoming Your NegotiaPhobia,” and can be reached at / 35

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36 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020


Advertising Section: New Hires, Promotions, Accolades and Board Appointments



Peter Kucha Promoted to Principal Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA) is pleased to announce the promotion of Peter Kucha to Principal. Peter has been with EUA for 24 years and has been a major asset to the workplace studio.

BANKING Sarah Oberthaler Named Chief Administrative Officer of Citizens Bank, Mukwonago Sarah Oberthaler has been named Chief Administrative Officer of Citizens Bank, Mukwonago. She will oversee the areas of HR, Organizational Development, Retail Deposits, Compliance and Security while playing a key leadership role at the growing bank.


Jackie Posselt Promoted to Principal Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA) is pleased to announce the promotion of Jackie Posselt to Principal. Jackie has been with EUA for 14 years and has had a hand in designing the interiors of many of Wisconsin’s most iconic office spaces.

BANKING Kayla Thompsen Named AVP Organizational Development at Citizens Bank, Mukwonago Kayla Thompsen has been named AVP – Organizational Development of Citizens Bank, Mukwonago. She will oversee the bank’s training and professional development initiatives designed to empower team members as they help customers reach financial goals.

Teresa Wadzinski Promoted to Principal Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA) is pleased to announce the promotion of Teresa Wadzinski to Principal. Specializing in K-12 education, she has worked with over 25 public and private school districts throughout Wisconsin.

HUMAN RESOURCES Grube named Director, Recruiting & Retention Services at MRA. MRA—The Management Association announces the promotion of Valerie Grube to Director, Recruiting & Retention Services. As Director, she will continue serving and growing recruiting and retention services for MRA members.

BANKING Jensen Named Vice President Mortgage & Consumer Lending at Citizens Bank, Mukwonago Kelley Jensen has been named VP – Mortgage & Consumer Lending of Citizens Bank, Mukwonago. She will lead the bank’s mortgage lending team while developing efficiencies to provide a seamless customer experience from loan application to loan closing.

TECHNOLOGY Mast joins New Resources Consulting as Sourcing Team Lead Amanda Mast has joined New Resources Consulting as the Sourcing Team Lead. Amanda will manage NRC’;s team of Technical Sourcing Specialists, implement a defined sourcing strategy, and execute tools and practices to optimize success.

To place your listing, or for more information, please visit

New Hire? Share the news with the business community! Announce new hires, promotions, accolades, and board appointments with BizPeople.

Visit to submit your news! / 37

BizConnections PAY IT FORWARD

Michael Polzin trains students to fight cyber threats Michael Polzin Chief executive officer Leeward Business Advisors


Nonprofit served: A ir Force Association’s National Youth Cyber Defense Competition Service: Team coach

38 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, Leeward Business Advisors chief executive officer Michael Polzin has coached a group of middle school students on how to ward off cyber attacks. The Kenosha-based technology consulting and services firm has hosted teams of local seventhand eighth-grade girls as part of CyberPatriot, an initiative of the Air Force Association designed to encourage students into careers related to cybersecurity and other STEM fields. As part of the national program, IT industry volunteers coach students as if they were newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. Students compete in a series of online competitions, where they are given a set of virtual operating systems and must find and fix cybersecurity vulnerabilities. When Polzin first heard about the Air Force initiative, he reached out to Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum, a charter school of the Kenosha Unified School District, about taking on a team of students. “It’s an opportunity for youth to both gain skills in the area of IT and cybersecurity as well as simply gaining overall exposure to the technology industry,” he said. “From my perspective, as we grow and seek to acquire additional staffing, a lot of youth don’t have a clear perspective on what a role in IT and tech would look like.” Polzin said he also sees the program as a way to encourage greater diversity in the talent pipeline. “It’s one of the least diverse industries today, which is extremely unfortunate,” he said. “Due to the

rate of cyber threats, we need as much participation as we can get. The more experiences and real-life backgrounds that come into the industry, the better balanced the industry will be.” This year, Polzin and LeewardBA operations engineer Cassese Polzin coached a team of five girls, who participated in a series of four-hourlong Saturday morning practices, along with several all-day online competitions at the firm’s office. Polzin plans to grow LeewardBA’s participation in the CyberPatriot programs, including creating a summer CyberCamp, adding high-school teams and opening up the program to students from all Kenosha Unified schools. At the end of the season, LeewardBA hosts a lock-in for the students, who, at the end of the sleepover, prepare and serve breakfast to their parents to thank them for sacrificing their weekends. “It really gives the students an opportunity with their families to demonstrate what they’ve done, how they’ve grown and complete that pay-it-forward cycle,” Polzin said. n


P / 414-336-7121 E / T / @Biz_Lauren

SBA LOANS: DECEMBER 2019 The U.S. Small Business Administration approved the following loan guarantees in December: KENOSHA COUNTY

Grode Financial Services LLC, 25140 75th St., Paddock Lake, $290,000, Waukesha State Bank; Oakfire Properties LLC, Somers, $2.3 million, WBD Inc.; Transportation Investment Group LLC, 12721 12th St., Town of Paris, $512,000, Small Business Growth Corp.; MILWAUKEE COUNTY

Paradigm Enrichment Services Inc., 4222 W. Capitol Drive, Milwaukee, $50,000, U.S. Bank; Pflupez Oak Creek LLC, 8880 S. Howell Ave., Oak Creek, $204,400, The Huntington National Bank; Sage Specialty Pharmacy Inc., 4001 N. Oakland Ave., Milwaukee, $100,000, United Community Bank; Sage Specialty Pharmacy Inc., 4001 N. Oakland Ave., Milwaukee, $1,115,000, United Community Bank; Saran Real Estate Holding LLC, 6210 W. State St., Wauwatosa, $183,000, PNC Bank; Savannah Holdings LLC, 3111 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, $170,000, WBD Inc.;

A&M Trucking MKE Inc., 3746 N. 5th St., Milwaukee, $150,000, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp.;

VIP Construction Group Inc., 3332 Mulberry Drive, Mequon, $250,000, Newtek Small Business Finance Inc.;

Becker Boiler Co. Inc., 1785 E. Bolivar Ave., St. Francis, $998,000, Byline Bank; Becker Boiler Co. Inc., 1785 E. Bolivar Ave., St. Francis, $400,000, Byline Bank;


Carranco Global Consultants LLC, 2333 N. 64th St., Wauwatosa, $15,000, Wells Fargo Bank; Cival Collective LLC, 911 National Ave., Milwaukee, $45,000, U.S. Bank; Electrical Solutions By RP LLC, 4432 W. Medford Ave., Milwaukee, $150,000, First Home Bank; Forever Home Health Care LLC, 8532 W. Capitol Drive, Ste. L103, Milwaukee, $10,000,Wells Fargo Bank; JD Operations Inc., 6706-6714 W. Fairview Ave., Milwaukee, $97,000, First Bank Financial Centre; Jurceka Properties LLC, 4450 S. 108th St., Greenfield, $752,000, WBD Inc.; Kiddie Garden Child Development Center LLC, 2809 W. Atkinson Ave., Milwaukee, $172,000, Newtek Small Business Finance Inc.; MKC Equipment LLC, 9625 S. 54th St., Franklin, $509,000, WBD Inc.; Mountainview Investments LLC, 714 N. Milwaukee St., Milwaukee, $408,000, WBD Inc.;

American Automatics LLC, 4915 21st St., Racine, $211,000, Johnson Bank; Baumann Cafe 213 LLC, 213 E. Main St., Waterford, $45,000, Educators Credit Union; Baumann Cafe 213 LLC, 213 E. Main St., Waterford, $50,000, Educators Credit Union; Baylon Inc., 2615 Mount Pleasant St., Racine, $249,000, Racine County Business Development Corp.; RWBB LLC, 3214 Cleveland Ave., $111,000, Newtek Small Business Finance Inc.; SHEBOYGAN COUNTY

CKK Holdings LLC, 2014 N. 44th St., Sheboygan, $553,500, Oostburg State Bank; DJ Panko LLC, 645 Walton Drive, Plymouth, $203,000, Hometown Bank; J&K Ministorage LLP, W213 N17020 and W213 N17010 Industrial Drive, Jackson, $578,000, WBD Inc.; Zeller Transportation LLC, 1615 Innovation

Way, Hartford, $1 million, Commerce State Bank; WAUKESHA COUNTY

El Conn Properties LLC, N49 W20683 Lisbon Road, Menomonee Falls, $206,000, WBD Inc.;

The Yellow House LLC, N44 W33056 Watertown Plank Road, Nashotah, $41,500, First Bank Financial Centre;

FH Lines LLC, 1250 W. Bel Ayr Drive, Waukesha, $275,000, First Home Bank;

TP Miller Investments LLC, 1814 Dolphin Drive, Waukesha, $2.8 million, WBD Inc.;

Just Smokin Barbecue LLC, West Trowbridge Trail, Hartland, $30,000, U.S. Bank;

Uno Dos Tres LLC, 2104 Silvernail Road, Pewaukee, $100,000, Citizens Bank;

McGraw Subs LLC, 17495 W. Capitol Drive, Brookfield, $131,500, Waukesha State Bank;

Winnie Properties LLC, 1649 Arcadian Ave., Waukesha, $411,300, U.S. Bank.

NX Level Physical Therapy LLC, W229 N1416 Westwood Drive #4, Waukesha, $126,000, Milwaukee Economic Development Corp.;


PHONE: (414) 933-2215 WEB:

PHONE: (414) 359-1040 WEB:

Since its founding, Acts has helped more than 2,600 families transition from renters to owners and reclaim nearly 900 foreclosures in their communities. Acts’ goal is to empower families and individuals to become homeowners in a way that creates stable, secure, and vibrant neighborhoods.


To learn more, visit PRODUCED BY

RLH Enterprise Ltd., 285 N. Janacek Road, Brookfield, $130,200, Ixonia Bank;

Eagle Trace Brewing Company LLC, S64 W15620 Commerce Center Place, Muskego, $906,000, WBD Inc.;



Rick & Mark’s Viking Cleaning Services, S84 W18760 Enterprise Drive, Muskego, $30,000, Associated Bank;

To Increase the capacity of nonprofit organizations by providing solutions and services that strengthen and streamline business operations, enabling their staff to focus on their mission-based, programmatic work.


To learn more, visit PRODUCED BY / 39

BizConnections VOLUME 25, NUMBER 21 | FEB 17, 2020


126 N. Jefferson St., Suite 403, Milwaukee, WI 53202-6120 PHONE: 414-277-8181 FAX: 414-277-8191 WEBSITE: CIRCULATION: 414-336-7100 | ADVERTISING: 414-336-7112 | EDITORIAL: 414-336-7120 | REPRINTS: 414-336-7100 | PUBLISHER / OWNER Dan Meyer




Shopping at Northridge Mall This undated photo shows customers walking at Northridge Mall near the Gimbel’s and Naturalizer stores. The mall, first owned by a partnership between the Kohl family and Taubman Centers Inc., originally opened in 1973 and closed in 2003. Its current owner, China-based U.S. Black Spruce Enterprise, is currently fighting a raze order from the city of Milwaukee. Razing the buildings and asbestos abatement could cost $14 million to $19 million, according to city estimates. — Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Library.


Black eye for the DNC THERE HAS BEEN PLENTY of bad news lately for the Democratic Party. Congressional Democrats failed in their Mission Impossible attempt to remove President Trump from office via impeachment. Then there was the Iowa caucus fiasco. By the way, the time has clearly come to end the tradition of the Iowa caucus being the first presidential primary. Far too much importance is placed on the results of this election in a state with a small population and a demographic profile that is not representative of the U.S. as a whole. Asking voters to participate in the time-consuming caucus process is unfair and discourages turnout. Dump the Iowa caucus, and the Electoral College too, while we’re at it. Meanwhile, Democrats have problems back in Milwaukee. The city is preparing to host its biggest political bash ever, the 2020 Democratic National Convention, hoped to 40 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020

bring a big economic boost and huge amount of national and international attention to Milwaukee and Wisconsin. But the 2020 DNC got a black eye recently when, less than six months before the big event, the top two executives for the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee (the organization responsible for organizing, hosting and funding the convention) were fired after allegations were made by some staff members that they created a toxic work environment. The board of directors for the committee quickly moved to fire president Liz Gilbert and chief of staff Adam Alonso. In a letter published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, female staffers claimed Alonso “bullied and intimidated” staff, primarily women. In a statement to the newspaper, an attorney for Gilbert said “disgruntled staff who, when confronted with a strong woman leader, is using the euphemism of a toxic workplace to complain about their boss.” No matter which side you believe, this is ugly. It’s certainly not a good look for a political party that likes to say it’s a champion for women’s rights. Not surprisingly, the Democrats want to move past this as quickly as possible. The Host Committee board named longtime politi-

REPORTER Maredithe Meyer REPORTER Alex Zank




Independent & Locally Owned


—  Founded 1995 —

cal operative Teresa Vilmain to serve as the committee’s interim leader. Vilmain is a senior advisor for the DNC’s national team. She has worked on several political campaigns, including campaigns for former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and U.S. Senator Herb Kohl. For now, it’s up to Vilmain to get the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee back on track. It’s going to be very interesting to see how effective the DNC run in Milwaukee, a smaller city than is traditionally chosen to host a major party national political convention. There are still some skeptics doubtful Milwaukee can pull it off, saying we don’t have the necessary infrastructure, including hotel room inventory. Some Republicans were quick to use the problems that the Democrats had with the Iowa caucus as a political talking point. Expect more of the same if things don’t go smoothly this summer in Milwaukee. n


P / 414-336-7120 E / T / @AndrewWeiland


Milwaukee 7’s annual meeting Milwaukee 7 recently held its annual meeting at Northwestern Mutual’s downtown headquarters. Business and government leaders gathered to hear about the regional economic development partnership’s successes over the past year.








LAURA MILLION of the Racine County Economic Development Corp., TRACY LUBER of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and DAVID KIRCHER of Phoenix Financial Advisors.




MICHAEL HARPER of M2r Electric Services and JEFF STONE of Kapur & Associates.


DREW SLOCUM of Bank of America and LEIGH PRICE of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.


VINCENT LYLES of Advocate Aurora Health and JEFFREY TICKNOR of BMO Harris.


RENEE HERZING of Herzing University and JOHN WALZ of Milwaukee School of Engineering.


ANDREA MENDEZ BARRUTIA of the Hispanic Collaborative and REBECCA GOODMANSON of M7.


MICHAEL HOSTAD of the Greater Milwaukee Committee and JOEL BRENNAN of the Wisconsin Department of Administration.


PEGGY WILLIAMS-SMITH of Visit Milwaukee and GREGORY WESLEY of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Photos by Lauren Anderson




Milwaukee Women inc’s 20% by 2020 Celebration Milwaukee Women inc and Baird recently hosted an event to recognize the companies and individuals who helped achieve a more than 20% representation of female directors on the boards of the Top 50 Wisconsin public companies.




10. (left to right) PATTY WHALEY of Rexnord, TODD ADAMS of Rexnord, JOEL QUADRACCI of Quad/ Graphics, BRENDA CAMPBELL of SecureFutures and JODI CZERNEJEWSKI of inFORME healthcare. 11. PATTY WHALEY and TODD ADAMS, both of Rexnord. 12. COREY CHAMBAS of First Business Financial Services Inc.



13. JACKIE MORTENSON of Milwaukee Women inc, LYNN SPRANGERS of the Marcus Performing Arts Center, DR. KELLY OTTMAN of Milwaukee School of Engineering, CHRIS MORTENSON of MKR, CHRISTY BROWN of Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast and LAURA GUTIERREZ of United Community Center. 14. PHYLLIS KING of UW-Milwaukee; LINDSAY HAMMERER, chair of Milwaukee Women inc; and PATRICIA ACKERMAN of A.O. Smith. 15. STEVE BOOTH of Baird and LAURA GUTIERREZ of United Community Center. 16. MARA SWAN of ManpowerGroup and LISA PENDERGAST, DIANNA HIGGINS, SAL MIOSI and PAULA MAGGIO, all of MGIC.



Photos by Front Room Photography / 41/ 41




How to beat the odds as a family business Phil Rose is president of Roman Electric Co., a third-generation family business that provides electrical contracting services for industrial, commercial and residential markets, along with commercial and residential plumbing and residential heating and cooling. Rose offers advice of how to beat the odds when it comes to passing the family business on to the next generation. “Only 3% of all family businesses make it past the third generation. Not great odds when making a career choice to join a second-generation family business. Here are three suggestions to help beat those odds: Get some relevant work experience outside the family business, obtain some additional education and work in the family business before you try to run it. “That advice proved to be critically important 42 / BizTimes Milwaukee FEBRUARY 17, 2020



to our business. The need for new methods and technologies was evident from the day we joined our family business. It was clear that what served gen 2 would not be sufficient in gen 3. “When my brother and I joined our family business in the ‘90s, we brought in additional construction and engineering experience along with an MBA. We were able to help the company focus on the design/build market and change its focus

Roman Electric Co. Milwaukee Industry: Electrical contracting Employees: 150

from ‘growth at any cost’ to controlled growth in targeted markets. We also started to focus on cash flow and not just revenue and profit. The best advice I ever received was from a mentor. He said, ‘Financial losses are weathered every day by businesses. It’s poor cash flow that will take a company down.’” n



Position Your Company as a Leader to Top Executives Throughout Wisconsin! Innovate Wisconsin: Manufacturing and Beyond, publishing on June 22, 2020, highlights how the state’s industries are changing and offers readers ideas to propel their own companies to greater heights.

PUBLICATION INCLUDES (PARTIAL LIST): • Companies/People/Projects to Watch • Best practices and operational insights • Partnering for Success: How companies and higher education are working together to do more than they could on their own, plus keys to a successful partnership • Manufacturing company transformations: utilizing a strong foundation and new thinking to grow a business. • Companies leveraging sustainability for environmental good and sales and profit • Workforce creativity: Finding the employees who will take you to the next level


Enhance your company’s brand


Create awareness for your services Demonstrate your expertise and thought leadership Support your sales and business development team throughout the sales process Position your company as an employer of choice

To sponsor or advertise in Innovate Wisconsin: Manufacturing and Beyond, contact Linda Crawford at 414-336-7112 or email


We’re looking for companies who have their sights set on success. The process is simple. If your company meets four basic criteria, visit to fill out the 12-question application. Winners will be announced in May and formally recognized at the annual awards luncheon on Friday, September 18, 2020. CRITERIA

1| Growth of sales and employment (averaged over the past three years)


2| Headquartered in the 7-county Milwaukee Region

3| Independent, private ownership (not a subsidiary, franchise or division)

4| In business for at least three years

FOR THE MMAC/COSBE FUTURE 50 AWARD! APPLICATION DEADLINE: MARCH 13, 2020 For more information, contact Karen Powell at 414-287-4166 or

WWW.MMAC.ORG/F50.HTML Presenting Sponsor

Media Partner

The Future 50 Awards Program is a service of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) and its Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE).