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Co-working trend makes home in Eau Claire


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Co-working space opens in former Jamf offices.

10 Local refuse haulers include residential compost.




Sadly, I spoke too soon last time. My musings in winter’s edition centered on my first job as a retail clerk in a Madison Shopko and relief that the Wisconsin-based retailer did not plan to close its Chippewa Valley stores at the time. Unfortunately that changed in mid-March when the company expanded its store closing list to include all its locations. More than 100 stores the company had hoped would remain open — including Eau Claire and Lake Hallie — are slated to be liquidated by mid-June. It’s another loss to the local retail market after former stalwarts Kmart, Macy’s, Younkers and Sears all shuttered here in the last five years. It’s a shame to see the decline of so many store chains we grew up with, got paychecks from and swarmed to for our holiday shopping. That underscores how competitive the battle has become for consumers’ dollars. Scraping out a profit margin the traditional way has become tougher in a world where Amazon and other online retailers have established themselves. It’s the nationwide challenge that all brick-andmortar chains are facing. But if there is a small measure of comfort the Chippewa Valley can take in the store closings of the past few years its because of issues with their respective chains — not our area. While the Kmart has remained vacant, other stores have gotten new tenants. Last year Hobby Lobby moved into the former Macy’s at Oakwood Mall. Earlier this year, owners of HOM Furniture bought the defunct Younkers in the same mall. The Minnesota-based furniture store chain hasn’t made its plan for that space known yet, but the fact they bought it indicates they see the location’s potential. A slightly older example of the local market’s health is that after bookstore Borders closed its shops nationwide, Eau Claire’s location was quickly occupied by bookseller BAM! So while the retail sector seen some departures in recent years, the Chippewa Valley also gets new arrivals.

Spring 2019

Leinenkugel's taps new brewmaster.

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Staff photos by Dan Reiland Elaine Coughlin is the community manager of CoLab, in charge of cultivating the environment that tenants want in the co-working space. Her role involves planning events that highlight the local startup business community as well as the dayto-day operation of CoLab.

Starting line CoLab creates space for tech startups in Eau Claire By Andrew Dowd, Leader-Telegram staff


amf grew from a small startup into a major software company while it was tucked into offices on the second floor of a downtown Eau Claire building. When it began renting space in spring 2010 above Redeeming Grace Church, 312 S. Barstow St., Jamf had 18 employees. Its business flourishing and ranks growing, Jamf moved about four years later into a new office building next to Phoenix Park. Early leaders of the software company hope other local tech entrepreneurs can find success where they did, in their former offices overlooking Barstow Street. “There’s some good business and startup juju in these walls,” said Nick O’Brien, who was hired to turn Jamf’s old offices into a place to foster new business ventures. In mid-March that space officially reopened as CoLab, providing budding tech entrepreneurs with space to work and opportunities to turn their ideas into reality. 4 | BUSINESS LEADER • April 1, 2019

What is CoLab?

CoLab looks like many other offices – desks, chairs, meeting rooms, printers, bathrooms and a break room. A difference is that individuals pay membership fees to use desks there – be it for months or days – to further their own business ideas. This greatly lowers the cost a fledgling business would otherwise have to pay for renting its own office space. There are about 60 spots for people to work within CoLab, ranging from a quiet desk to communal areas to chat with others about ideas. But it’s not simply a place for people to plug in their laptops, tap into Wi-Fi and grab coffee. CoLab also looks to provide help along what can be the lonely journey of entrepreneurship. Connecting members with experts in business, finance and marketing is an


intangible perk of the co-working space. As he prepares to hand over the reins of the co-working space, O’Brien gives Elaine Coughlin a pop quiz on the most important things that CoLab is going for. “Environment, community and culture,” she responds. O’Brien congratulates her on answering correctly.

Testing it out

Before it opened to the general public, CoLab had a few “beta testers” – a software industry term for people in a product’s intended audience that help iron out any problems before launch. UW-Eau Claire seniors Greylan Larson and Alex Stout have CoLab uses the second floor of the building at 312 S. Barstow St. that bears been running their the name of ground floor tenant Redeeming Grace Church. software development venture, Clearwater Labs, from CoLab since January. “The space is really interesting,” Stout said. O’Brien spent months getting the right Their company has already launched one furniture, creating a plan for CoLab and taking product, a notification system that alerts other steps needed to get it started, but a job university students to city parking rules put into opportunity for his wife lured the couple away to place due to snowstorms. The duo is working Milwaukee recently. on an energy dashboard system that will show Taking over for him is Coughlin, who joined power use throughout UW-Eau Claire’s campus CoLab at the end of February to serve as its buildings. community manager, handling the day-to-day Aside from their own software inventions, the business, planning events for members and being pair also are working to connect tech companies a resource for them. with groups of university students they would She’s also inheriting a strategic plan that hire to complete specific projects. Larson said this O’Brien created for CoLab, but said the facility differs from an internship because the studentwill be flexible based on those interested in using its space. “We’re all about being what the members need,” she said. Coughlin had been handling marketing for the Pablo Center at the Confluence recently, but her new position at CoLab brought back memories of her 2½ years working in the city of Eau Claire’s economic development division. “My favorite part of that job was working with entrepreneurs and people looking to start new businesses in Eau Claire,” she said. The passion that entrepreneurs have for CoLab’s break room provides a more casual place to work or have coffee and a something they believe in, which can improve snack. Natural light streams in from windows that provide a view of the Chippewa River. the community and possibly the world, is what Coughlin found so enthralling. See page 6

Leading the lab

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led teams will take ownership of creating and delivering a specific product. “The idea is to give students a broader experience,” he said. Where CoLab fits into that is providing a downtown setting where Clearwater Labs can focus on its business venture away from the stresses and pressures of campus life. Instead of staring at books in the campus library or their dorms, students coming to Clearwater Labs can get views of the downtown businesses on South Barstow Street or gaze out on the Chippewa River from the windows in CoLab’s break room.

CoLab predecessor

Prior to CoLab, Eau Claire did have a smaller coworking space in the basement of The Local Store and Volume One building, 205 N. Dewey St. Nick Meyer, owner of those businesses, said the big push to get WorkSpace going was in spring 2013. BUSINESS LOANS & SERVICES

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Alex Stout of Clearwater Labs uses a desk at CoLab in late February. He and business partner Greylan Larson were “beta testers” of the co-working space, setting up their venture there in January before the facility officially opened in mid-March.

He’d seen the concept succeed in larger cities and knew Eau Claire had creative freelancers in need of a place to work. Large tables, a printer, wireless Internet, conference rooms, restrooms and a shared employee break room were among the amenities. Along with that came the intangible benefits – chances to mingle and collaborate with fellow WorkSpace tenants as well as employees in the businesses upstairs. Though there were times when WorkSpace had few clients, Meyer fondly remembers when it was busy with people sharing ideas and working together. “It can be a neat thing when it clicks like that,” he said. But Meyer said WorkSpace was a smaller version of what he’d hoped to see Eau Claire’s co-working scene become. “We knew that our space was a starter for the idea in this community,” he said. At the start of 2018, WorkSpace stopped accepting new users and closed down. The lower level of the building became Volume One’s video production studio. Aware of the plans for CoLab, Meyer deferred to the new co-working space – sharing advice from his experience and spreading word to his former WorkSpace clients of the new place. O’Brien noted that CoLab was intended to be the next step after WorkSpace. “This is the bigger and better version of that,” he said. Meyer has been to CoLab numerous times and said it has the larger space, gathering spots and natural light that co-working spaces should have. “It’s the way that sort of thing should be done,” he said.


Starting the lab

CoLab is one of the creations of Pablo Properties, a group of early Jamf leaders that has made a name for itself in recent years through downtown redevelopment projects. Their wide-ranging credits include thoroughly renovating an old downtown hotel into The Lismore, making major donations to a downtown arts center, renovating older buildings into new housing and operating a trio of coffee shops. Pablo’s partners are Jamf co-founder Zach Halmstad, and two others who were integral in the software company since its early days, Jason Wudi and Julia Johnson. The idea of CoLab, O’Brien said, is to create more Jamfs and other startup businesses by providing a resource for people with big dreams. O’Brien had contemplated creating his own coworking space last year in Eau Claire when he met with Pablo Properties and learned the company already was cooking up something in that vein. Instead of creating two co-working facilities that would compete for the same pool of users, O’Brien opted to join up with Pablo and the company hired him in October to begin creating CoLab.

While most of its resources will be geared toward the tech world, CoLab doesn’t want to be exclusionary. The space would be open to those who want to rent a desk to start another kind of business or for one-time projects, such as preparing tax filings. CoLab’s conference rooms, which are equipped with large TVs and easy-to-use videoconferencing technology, are available for the public to rent for $45 to $60 an hour. Members get some conference room time included with their dues.

Incubating talent

Prior to the current trend of co-working spaces, Eau Claire already had some facilities with similar goals, but for different sectors. Known as incubators, two facilities provided space, equipment and expertise for new business ventures. Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Gateway Campus is home to the Applied Technology Center – previously known as NanoRite – which has a clean room, laboratories and advanced equipment to help along business ideas in high-tech manufacturing. See page 8

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• •

CoLab’s downtown location is beneficial for Larson and Stout, both UW-Eau Claire seniors, because it gets them away from student life on campus during times when they want to focus on their tech venture.

The Eau Claire Economic Development Corp. runs the Chippewa Valley Innovation Center on the city’s north side, providing warehouse space, technical assistance and access to financial programs for new businesses. O’Brien also noted there are numerous facilities in Eau Claire that could be considered artist incubators. Both Artisan Forge Studios and Banbury Place rent studio space to artists and host events showcasing their work. And just down the hall from CoLab, another coworking space – Ivy – opened in mid-March to make a space for artists to work and collaborate. “The goal is to provide a hub of creativity,” said Ivy founder Alak Phillips. His facility has the co-working basics of desks, lounge space, Internet access and round-the-clock hours. But he’s also got private studios for rent, a photography studio and equipment rental. Even before opening, Phillips said seven people signed up as members, including one that turned a rental room into a recording studio. The intangible benefit of a co-working space is that having a bunch of creative people in one location allows collaboration that wouldn’t happen if they were all working alone, Phillips said. “The challenge is to meet other people in the same fields and do projects together,” he said. “This space brings them all together.” Contact: 715-833-9204,, @ADowd_LT on Twitter 8 | BUSINESS LEADER • April 1, 2019

• • • • •

CoLab features 15 dedicated desks with adjustable desktop and small lockers for member who pay a higher price. 20 “hot desks” are large tables with power outlets that any member can drop in and use on a firstcome, first-served basis each day. 24/7 access via smartphone technology that works like an electronic keycard. Small phone rooms for making private calls. Conference rooms with either a 55-inch or 70-inch television and videoconferencing technology. A lounge area with couches and comfortable chairs.  break room and kitchen stocked with coffee A and snacks.



April 1, 2019 • BUSINESS LEADER | 9


Seeking sustainability Staff photos by Dan Reiland Zacharious and Jamie Pappas, owners of Earthbound Environmental Solutions, pose at the company’s compost site in Altoona. Earthbound is the only company in the Chippewa Valley offering curbside organics recycling.

Local company brings organics recycling to your door By Eric Lindquist, Leader-Telegram staff


t isn’t easy being green. Or at least that’s what a lot of people seem to think. That concept was the impetus that prompted Jamie and Zacharious Pappas to start Earthbound Environmental Solutions, an Eau Claire company that offers an organics recycling service in addition to traditional garbage and recycling collection. The couple want to make it easy for local residents to take their environmental stewardship to the next level by composting their food scraps and other organic waste. Clients of the service collect their compostable items in a biodegradable bag made of plant material that Earthbound collects weekly and hauls to the 3½-year-old company’s composting site in Altoona. “The program is so easy you really can’t screw it up,” Zacharious said. “It’s the next evolutionary step in the waste management process.”

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The idea of offering curbside composting came about in part because the couple recognized that most people aren’t as vigilant as they are about pursuing all things sustainable. That became abundantly clear a few years ago when they were living in a rental unit where they couldn’t pursue composting. But instead of abandoning the idea, they turned to worm composting and kept a bin of “red wigglers” in their apartment to do the dirty work of breaking down their food waste. But they quickly found the concept impractical for them and knew it would be distasteful for most folks. The realization prompted them to think it would be great if someone offered curbside composting and, ultimately, to decide they could be the ones to fill that gap. “We want to be green, and we want to have an impact greater than any one individual can have by composting,” Zacharious said. Founding a company that helps other people


divert organic material from ever-expanding landfills seemed like a perfect way to accomplish those goals. The owners elected to collect trash and recycling in addition to organics because they quickly realized it would be easier for customers to get all waste collection services from one hauler, although some clients subscribe to only the composting service. The company also offers seasonal yard waste and Christmas tree pickup. Food scraps and yard waste together make up about 30 percent of what Americans throw away, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Jamie and I have two passions — environmental stewardship and supporting people with disabilities — and proceeding with this model allowed us to pursue both of them,” Zacharious said, noting that the pair both graduated from UW-Stout’s vocational rehabilitation program. Jamie added, “We believe anybody has the ability to work, and we strive to offer employment opportunities to people with mental illness or other disabilities.” Earthbound has five employees in addition to the two owners, who still get their hands dirty by driving routes and managing the compost site.

Making a difference After several years of research and planning, the couple began offering residential organics recycling pickup in October 2015 and opened the service to commercial customers in 2016. The company has been gradually expanding its service territory, opening to all of Eau Claire and Altoona early this year and fielding inquiries from Chippewa and Dunn counties as well. Earthbound collected 152 tons of organics in 2017 from residents and businesses in Eau Claire County but hadn’t compiled its 2018 totals as of press time. Commercial clients, including restaurants, tech companies, engineering firms, government offices and churches, generate a majority of the tonnage despite accounting for only about 20 percent of the customer count, Jamie said. She estimated that the average person generates 26 pounds of compostable material per week. The numbers offer a satisfying reminder to the Pappases that they are making a difference and spurring local residents to rethink the definition of waste. See page 12

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Indeed, customers should generate very little regular garbage if they’re doing all the composting and recycling possible, Jamie insisted. An Earthbound pamphlet guides customers by listing a surprising number of nonfood items that are compostable, including coffee filters, cork, soiled newspapers and paper towels, vacuum cleaner contents, cotton balls and pet fur. “Sustainability is not just the cool thing to do; it’s the right thing to do,” said Jamie, whose emails end with the slogan “From Curbside to Compost, Saving the World Has Never Been Jacob Johnson of Earthbound Environmental Solutions collects food waste for composting from The Nucleus on Water so Easy!!” Street in Eau Claire. Once Earthbound hauls the organics to offering shared services for start-up companies. The its compost site, workers use heavy equipment to company founders said access to loans and office mix the material and put it into mounds, located space through CVIC and start-up advice through the over a forced-aeration facility built by Jamie. The Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp. and “cooking” process promotes microbial activity that, the UW-Eau Claire Small Business Development in essence, eats the food, she said. Center played crucial roles in helping Earthbound Even in winter, the natural breakdown process get off the ground. generates temperatures of 150 to 180 degrees, “I think it elevated your professionalism to be keeping the piles from freezing. accountable to stakeholders with high standards,” “The piles are steaming out there even when it’s Zacharious said. super cold,” Jamie said. After three years at CVIC, Earthbound graduated Eventually, the entrepreneurs said they hope to in August and now operates out of a home office sell some of the resulting compost to landscapers and its compost site. or developers interested in the soil conditioner “They just continued to work hard and use and also to donate some to the community garden the resources available to them and now they’ve program to help combat food insecurity. graduated to their own facility,” said Christina Wasson, the former manager of the incubator who now serves as project and marketing manager for the ECAEDC. “We’re very proud of them. They’re doing great.” Wasson said it’s always satisfying to support a Earthbound started as a tenant at Chippewa Valley Innovation Center, an incubator in Chippewa start-up that brings a new service to the community, Valley Industrial Park on Eau Claire’s north side providing residents with more options.

Tapping resources

12 | BUSINESS LEADER • April 1, 2019

Green helping hand Customers said they are grateful for the availability of a service that helps them live a greener lifestyle. Trish Cummins, who lives in Eau Claire’s Third Ward neighborhood, said her family did some composting on their own but couldn’t use all of the material they produced. “It’s such a huge amount of a typical family’s waste, and to put that into a landfill is so sad,” Cummins said. “We wanted to do what’s right for the planet, but we couldn’t deal with it all in our tiny little garden.” Recognizing they could do better, the family signed up for Earthbound’s residential curbside composting service the first week it was available. “It has made us better composters,” Cummins said, explaining the family collects food waste in a countertop bin and then moves it to a separate container that Earthbound collects. “They make it so easy.” Blayne Midthun of Eau Claire also did some composting at home before enrolling in the

company’s curbside program. “Between us at home and Earthbound we compost pretty much all of our food waste, and that’s awesome,” Midthun said. “Sustainability and being environmentally friendly are very important to us.”

Living the dream To support their fledgling firm, Jamie and Zacharious both continue to work additional jobs — Jamie at a long-term-care agency and Zacharious as a painter for a painting company the couple owns and operates. “We just like to never sleep,” Jamie joked. Despite the long hours and hard work, Jamie, 35, and Zacharious, 36, are happy to be living their version of the dream. “The American dream is not about capitalism,” Zacharious said. “The American dream is about creating opportunities to have a business that fills a need in the community and makes the world a better place.” Contact: 715-833-9209,, @ealscoop on Twitter



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Head on the beer

Staff photos by Dan Reiland John Hensley, Leinenkugel's new brewmaster, does his rounds through the Chippewa Falls brewery, checking on machinery and processes that make the company's beer. Hensley, 38, has worked at the local brewery since 2012 and ascended to its top beermaking position in January.

Leinenkugel's taps from its own ranks for new brewmaster By Chris Vetter, Leader-Telegram staff CHIPPEWA FALLS


ohn Hensley is just the 11th brewmaster in the 151-year history of Leinenkugel’s Brewing Company. With a degree in biology and chemistry, and 16 years of working in the beer industry, Hensley took over as brewmaster Jan. 1. His background is a huge factor in how he landed the job. “It takes a lot of different sciences to run a brewery,” Hensley said. “You’ve got to have the science mindset behind it.” It is easy to see that Hensley loves his work. “At the end of the day, we’re making beer. Seeing people enjoy our products – and getting to share a beer with them – is a pretty special feeling,” he said. “Folks get in here, they tend to stay here.”

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Worthy of the name On a typical day, Hensley walks through the plant several times, checks the machines and the beermaking processes, and samples the beers to make sure they are all up to standard. The biggest challenge is “keeping the beer consistent and ensure it is the same, batch to batch,” he said. Hensley easily rattles off facts and figures about the composition and recipes of the beers. “I have a cheat sheet in my pocket, but I’ve learned a lot,” he said. On a daily basis, about eight beers are being brewed in Chippewa Falls.

“It’s about 40,000 gallons of beer brewed a day,” he said. Most of the Leinenkugel’s varieties are made locally, but some of the top-sellers, like Summer Shandy and Honey Weiss, are also made in Milwaukee. “In a year’s time, we have 18 different brands we’ll do, including seasonal,” he said. One of the challenging aspects of the job is participating in the daily “sensory panels,” where he and 17 others taste each beer to make sure they are correctly made. Leinenkugel’s president Dick Leinenkugel said he has been impressed with Hensley. “He is certainly well-qualified,” Leinenkugel said. “He comes from a generation that has seen craft brewing in its glory. I think John will bring that type of thought and innovation to brewing.” The prior brewmaster, John Buhrow, had worked at the brewery for 40 years and mentored Hensley. “He set John Hensley up for success,” Leinenkugel said. “Having that apprenticeship, he got to learn from (Buhrow).”

Brewing pedigree Hensley, 38, is from Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. He attended Carthage College in Kenosha, and was considering his options with his biology and chemistry degrees. He signed up with a lab staffing agency, which led to his first job out of college at Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee. “It was a little bit of blind luck getting into the industry,” he said. His dad had a homebrew kit, so he was fairly familiar with the processes. “I had an idea of what it took, but had never done it myself until I got into the industry,” he said. Hensley wound up staying there 10 years, beginning as a “pilot brewer,” learning the skills and techniques. “I was in charge of general operations,” he said. “It was a perfect place to learn, because I generally did every job in the building.” When a position at Leinenkugel’s in Chippewa Falls opened in winter 2012, he jumped at the opportunity. “I do everything from ordering to scheduling See page 16



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from Page 15

Before Leinenkugel's, Hensley worked for a decade at Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee.


The brewmaster's job involves testing and sampling beer to make sure it is up to the company's standards and consistent from batch to batch.

releases,” he said. “It was one of the draws of coming up here.” Since joining the Miller Brewing Company family, he participated in creating Sunset Wheat and other new beers. “Any new product since then, I’ve had a hand in helping create it,” he said. “We definitely have a hand in recipes and development and creation.” A lot of his work is just making sure the beer is fermenting as it should. “I’m just here to make the yeast happy,” he said with a laugh. “And give them a healthy home to do their work.” Even when the work day is over, Hensley likes to go from the brewery across the footbridge to the Leinie Lodge to meet with fans of the beer. “It’s a nice place to unwind and see our customers,” he said. Contact:

"I’m just here to make the yeast happy" John Hensley

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April 1, 2019 • BUSINESS LEADER | 17


Playing to Win or Playing Not to Lose? Fear can hold us back in business and life

Jeff West is the owner of Bear Down (, an executive and executive team coaching company based in Eau Claire. He was a founder and CEO of Silicon Logic Engineering. He also chairs Business Partners peer groups in northwestern Wisconsin. West can be reached at: 715-559-2195 or

“Win or lose, I believe in giving my best and that is what I always do.”


If someone asked you if you were playing to win or playing not to lose in your business, how would you answer? What a silly question. Of course we’re all out to win in business, right! Or are we? What if we think we’re playing to win but there’s actually a subtle and insidious storyline going on in the background? Often we’re not aware of how it’s keeping us and our business from being all it can be. Would uncovering that storyline be valuable to you? Playing not to lose doesn’t sound appealing, does it? It can be a bit hard on our self-esteem and the vision we have of ourselves as leaders when we’re called on it. It doesn’t sound good because playing not to lose is ultimately about avoiding fear. ••• When you ask people if they experience fear in their professional life, they will usually tell you no. Here’s the subtle and insidious part: Most of us learned long ago to avoid situations in which fear may come up. By avoiding situations where we might lose, fail, be emotionally hurt or be rejected, we end up playing not to lose. For most of us, when our status or sense of belonging becomes threatened, we automatically avoid the situation from where the fear is coming from. ••• As some of you know, I love teaching softball and baseball hitting. There are times where one my students may be quite a bit behind the abilities of the others. Unfortunately as kids (and adults) tend to do they will sometimes snicker or outright laugh at the struggling student. At that point the student will go one of two ways, and I can usually tell fairly quickly which path they’ll chose. One type of student will laugh with the others realizing how far they have to go to catch up but then quickly focus on what it will take to get there. No fear. Many, though, end up quitting. When asked why, they 18 | BUSINESS LEADER • April 1, 2019

typically say they don’t like ball anymore. It’s interesting to me how many of these kids come in full of enthusiasm only to say a few weeks later they’re not interested anymore – thereby taking away the fear of being emotionally hurt or rejected. But at what cost? If you asked them if they were afraid of the ball, what do you think they would say? Do you see the subtlety of this? When we are asked whether we experience fear, the reasonable answer we tell ourselves is no. That’s fear avoidance. ••• It comes down to how we define winning and losing. Let’s say you’re a golfer, and I have you play a 5-year-old who’s never played before. You win match after match by ridiculous margins. Are you really a winner? If you want to stretch yourself as a leader, and grow a little, look for the things you avoid doing in your business and your life. Are you not doing them because you believe the consequences of embarrassment or being seen as a loser or a failure would be awful? Do you allow your imagination to take over and head straight for the worst possible outcome it can dream of? When we play not to lose, the game is about survival. To survive we need to avoid the awful stuff our imaginations keep playing in our mind like a blockbuster horror movie. We choose not to take risks because we fear what might happen. We play it safe. ••• Playing to win means engaging with life. Look back when you’re old and gray with no regrets. It’s the way to thrive on this adventure we call life! Playing to win means there is no such thing as failure, only learning and growth. Be honest with yourself. Did you sense a little excitement reading about playing to win? What would it be like to track down your hidden fears and slay them? Do you think it could lead to a little more fulfilling life, one you could look back on with pride?


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Title: “Playing with FIRE.” Author: Scott Rieckens. Pages:  209. Publisher: New World Library (c. 2019)

By Terri Schlichenmeyer The Bookworm

Your flame has been extinguished. That’s it. You’re done. Burned out – from overwork, underpay or burning the midnight oil. Your career’s barely started and you’re already counting the days until you turn 60-something and can retire. But first, look ahead – way ahead – by reading “Playing with FIRE” by Scott Rieckens. When you think about it, it makes the least sense: You work at a high-paying job so you can buy nice stuff that you don’t have time to use because you’re working. So how many minutes ‘til Friday? Until a few years ago, Rieckens and his wife, Taylor, thought that was the way things had to be. They had great jobs, a new baby, lots of grown-up toys and they saved a few thousand dollars a year. They thought they were doing great, until someone told Rieckens about FIRE: Financial Independence Retire Early. As he discovered, FIRE has one basic tenet: Save 50 to 70 percent of your income, invest that in low-fee stock index funds and retire in roughly ten years. It sounds easy but it’s not pain-free. FIRE is flexible, but getting to the end point means work. It means giving up unnecessary luxuries, as Rieckens’ wife learned. It means fixing meals at home or brown-bagging – some FIRE advocates only dine out twice a year. It means asking yourself if a purchase you’re eyeing is worth the work it’d take to pay for it. FIRE pushes the boundaries of comfort, especially if you like pampering yourself even just a little bit. But the pay-offs are enormous. With FIRE you can travel more, spend time with

family and friends, be an entrepreneur, volunteer or study, Rieckens says. You can pay cash for large purchases, saving on interest. FIRE teaches you discipline, and it works even when the market is down. Best of all, he says, it’s do-able and it can work for anyone at any income scale. But here’s what you might not notice when you read “Playing with FIRE,” most of the people profiled in this book are in their 20s and 30s. That doesn’t mean older readers can’t use what author Rieckens espouses, but if you’re staring at just one or two decades of work (rather than four or more) and you’d still like to cut that considerably, you’ll have some lines to read between here. That aside, if you can adjust and if you’re unfazed and challenged by changes that are possible, what you’ll learn in this book is golden. Rieckens lays out methods and math for readers. He’s careful to include pitfalls and Plan Bs. Reading about his personal road to retirement also lends reassurance when inevitable missteps happen. Still, be prepared to do some research on your own: hidden issues such as insurance are discussed, but not much. Overall, if you’re imaginative, planning-flexible and you want to sleep in, take back your time, or you just want a nice fat nest egg, get this book. When you see the possibilities, “Playing The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never with FIRE” becomes goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 15,000 books. matchless. April 1, 2019 • BUSINESS LEADER | 19


Seeing signs of the bulls

Steve Latham is a chartered financial analyst with a master’s degree in investment management and financial analysis from Creighton University and more than 12 years of experience in the finance industry. He is a financial adviser, CIO and a managing partner at River Prairie Wealth Partners, 2423 Rivers Edge Drive, Altoona. He can be reached at 715-832-7715.

It may not only be a good year, but a great year for stocks By Steve Latham River Prairie Wealth Partners

Given how poorly the U.S. stock market closed in 2018, the concern of many going into this year was not whether we would experience a rebound, but if we would see any meaningful growth in 2019. With the first quarter nearly behind us, we’ve experienced a market environment to date that has been not only unexpected, but the magnitude of which has only happened twice since the Great Recession of 2008. When the market reached its bottom last December, over 90 percent of companies in the S&P 500 were trading below their 50-day moving averages. For those unfamiliar with the term, a moving average is a trend line used to determine if a stock’s price is strong or weak relative to an average of the stock’s price over the prior 50 days. If the stock’s price is significantly below its moving average, it’s typically a signal of recent weakness, whereas a price significantly above its moving average is a signal Store Fronts of recent strength. Sidewalks In contrast to December, after just two months into Dumpster 2019, over 90 percent of Areas companies in the S&P 500 Awnings were trading above their 50-day moving averages. Graffiti What’s interesting is Complete not the magnitude and swiftness of the rebound Exteriors itself, but what has Vehicle Fleets historically followed in the months after such a swing Free Estimates as this has taken place. As mentioned earlier, Fully Insured we have experienced this type of market volatility twice since 2008. In both



20 | BUSINESS LEADER • April 1, 2019

instances, the markets moved sideways for a period of time before showcasing an impressive bull market run. From July 1, 2009 to Jan. 1, 2010 the S&P 500 posted a return of over 20 percent. We experienced the second of such occurrences on Dec. 24, 2011 until April 24, 2012 when the S&P 500 grew 11.3 percent. As of early March, the S&P 500 was up just shy of 10 percent. When the market gets whipsawed like it has in these three instances, there’s typically a confluence of factors at work. In 2009 it was the U.S. emerging from the bottom of the Great Recession, and in 2011 it was the U.S. government’s debt experiencing a downgraded rating from Moody’s – both major events in their own rights. In 2018 we saw corporate earnings growth questioned, international tariff rhetoric heightened, and the U.S. Federal Reserve maintaining a tight stance on monetary policy. Fast forward a few months and what do we see? Corporate earnings were largely in-line with expectations last quarter, the U.S. and China have increased communication on tariffs amid broader trade negotiations, and the Federal Reserve has backed off from further tightening measures for the foreseeable future. They’re all positive tones in an environment that seemingly had none only a short time ago. A final statistic to ponder: Since 1938 there have been 30 years where both January and February were positive to start the year. The average return within each of those years was 20 percent. This year happens to have experienced the fifth strongest two-month start to a year ever, and its best start since 1987. When we look to history to help us predict a path forward for the markets, it’s always important to keep in mind the timeless adage “past performance is not indicative of future returns.” While there are no absolutes in life, we can still look to the past to gather clues about current market conditions based on patterns we’ve seen repeat themselves throughout history. Even with this optimistic outlook for the year, we still encourage diversification within investment portfolios to help ensure prudent risk management based upon your goals.

April - June April 2: Building Employee Accountability — The Critical Role of Leadership, 1-4 p.m., Room 118, CVTC Chippewa Falls Campus, 770 Scheidler Road. Cost: $89. Info/register: This class will be repeated at 9 a.m.-noon on April 10 in Room 109 at CVTC’s Neillsville Campus, 11 Tiff Ave., and on April 17 at the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. April 3: Human Resource Conference, 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m., The Florian Gardens, 2340 Lorch Ave., Eau Claire. Cost: $89 for Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce or Chippewa Valley Society for Human Resource Management members, $119 for nonmembers. Info/register: April 3: Starting Your Business Plan workshop, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Red’s Mercantile, 224 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire. Suggested donation: $10. Info: April 3: Strengths-Based Leadership, 8 a.m.-noon, Room 125, CVTC River Falls Campus, 500 S. Wasson Lane. Cost: $149. Info/ register: This class will be repeated on May 14 in Room 100A at CVTC’s Business Education Center, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire. April 4: Developing a Leadership Voice, 8 a.m.-noon, St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. Cost: $129. Info/register: This class will be repeated on May 1 in Room 130 of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center, 2320 Alpine Road, Eau Claire. April 4-5: Orientation, Time Management and Delegation (a course in the Supervisory Management Certificate Program), 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Holiday Inn South, 4751 Owen Ayres Court, Eau Claire. Cost: $600. Info/register: This class will be repeated on April 25-26 at Citizens State Bank, 375 Stageline Road, Hudson. April 5: Success for Breakfast — Your Energy Story, tips from a life coach on managing professional and personal lives, 9-10 a.m., Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, 1 N. Bridge St. Cost: $15 for chamber members, $20 for nonmembers. Info/register: April 9: Build Productive Teams [by Leveraging DiSC], 9 a.m.noon, St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. Cost: $99. Info/register: This class will be repeated at 8-11 a.m. on April 11 at CVTC’s Applied Technology Center, 2322 Alpine Road, Eau Claire. April 10: Leading with Emotional Intelligence, 1-5 p.m., Room 117, CVTC Chippewa Falls Campus, 770 Scheidler Road. Cost: $139. Info/register:


April 10: Menomonie Junior Chamber Career Fair, 9 a.m.noon, Menomonie High School, 1715 Fifth St. W. Info: April 11-12: Critical Conversations (a course in the Supervisory Management Certificate Program), 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Citizens State Bank, 375 Stageline Road, Hudson. Cost: $600. Info/register: April 12: Lessons in Leadership and Employee Engagement, 2-4 p.m., room TBD, UW-Eau Claire, 105 Garfield Ave. Cost: $40. Info/ register: April 16: Business Basics & Recordkeeping for Artists, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Pablo Center at the Confluence, 128 Graham Ave. Cost: $35. Info/register: April 17: Eau What a Night: 105th Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting, 5:30-10 p.m., Pablo Center at the Confluence, 128 Graham Ave. Cost: $80 for chamber members, $125 for nonmembers, $45 for Young Professionals members. Info/ register: April 18: Finding Strengths in Generational Differences (a course in the Supervisory Management Certificate Program), 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., UW-Eau Claire—Barron County Campus, 1800 College Drive, Rice Lake. Cost: $300. Info/register: April 18: Start a Small Business in 8 Steps, workshop for entrepreneurs, 6-9 p.m., Western Dairyland, 418 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire. Cost: $29 regular, $10 for income-eligible individuals. Info/ register: April 23: Conflict Resolution for the Workplace, 9 a.m.-noon, Room 109, CVTC Neillsville Campus, 11 Tiff Ave. Cost: $89. Info/ register: This class will be repeated at 1-4 p.m. on April 30 at CVTC’s Chippewa Falls Campus, and at 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on May 9 at the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. April 24: Leadership 101: Communication, Emotional Intelligence and Problem Solving, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Birch Room, Memorial Student Center, UW-Stout, Menomonie. Cost: $200. Info/register: April 30: Leading Change, 8-11 a.m., St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. Cost: $89. Info/register: May 1: The Resilient Leader - The Ability to Lead in Times of Change, Uncertainty and Crisis, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. Cost: $89. Info/register: See page 22

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Business, Life. Balance. April 1, 2019 • BUSINESS LEADER | 21

from Page 21

May 2: Dealing with Difficult People, 8-11 a.m., Room 117, CVTC Chippewa Falls Campus, 770 Scheidler Road. Cost: $89. Info/register: This class will be repeated at 9 a.m.-noon on May 8 at the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. May 2-3: Effective Change Management (a course in the Supervisory Management Certificate Program), 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Citizens State Bank, 375 Stageline Road, Hudson. Cost: $600. Info/register: May 7-8: Applying Situational Leadership - Part 1, 8 a.m.-noon, Room 100A, CVTC Business Education Center, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire. Cost: $139. Info/register: This class will be repeated on May 8 at the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. May 9-10: Maximizing Performance (a course in the Supervisory Management Certificate Program), 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., UW-Eau Claire—Barron County Campus, 1800 College Drive, Rice Lake. Cost: $600. Info/register: May 10: Chippewa County Economic Development Corp. Annual Meeting, 6:30-9 a.m., Hawthorne Hangar, Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, 3800 Starr Ave., Eau Claire. Cost: $30. Info/register: email May 16-17: Employee Evaluation and Performance Management (a course in the Supervisory Management Certificate Program), 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Holiday Inn South, 4751 Owen Ayres Court, Eau Claire. Cost: $600. Info/register: This class will be repeated on May 20-21 at Citizens State Bank, 375 Stageline Road, Hudson. May 16: Women’s Business Conference, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Davies Center, 77 Roosevelt Ave., UW-Eau Claire campus. Cost: $69 before May 1, $89 after and at the door, $20 for students and income-eligible individuals. Info/register: May 21: Applying Situational Leadership - Part 2, 8 a.m.-noon, Room 100A, CVTC Business Education Center, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire. Cost: $139. Info/register: This class will be repeated on May 22 at the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls. May 21: Business Tax Chat, advice on small business tax preparation, 6-8 p.m., Western Dairyland, 418 Wisconsin St., Eau Claire. Cost: $10. Info/register: May 21: Pricing Your Work class for creative entrepreneurs, 5:308:30 p.m., Pablo Center at the Confluence, 128 Graham Ave. Cost: $35. Info/register: May 22: Generations in the Workplace, 9 a.m.-noon, Room 100A, CVTC Business Education Center, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire. Cost: $89. Info/register: June 3-5: Polytechnic Summit 2019, UW-Stout, Menomonie. Cost: $300 before May 15, $400 after, $50 for UW-Stout students. Info/register: June 12: Second Stage Growth small business workshop, 6:30-8 p.m., Red’s Mercantile, 224 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire. Cost: $20. Info/register: June 18: The Artist Portfolio & Statement class for creative entrepreneurs, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Pablo Center at the Confluence, 128 Graham Ave., Eau Claire. Cost: $35. Info/register: June 19: Nonprofit Innovation Conference, 9 a.m.-4:15 p.m., The Florian Gardens, 2340 Lorch Ave., Eau Claire. Cost: $99. Info/ register: 22 | BUSINESS LEADER • April 1, 2019

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24 percent Of more than 11,500 employers surveyed in the U.S. expect to add positions during this quarter, based on data from the ManpowerGroup. Meanwhile 72 percent plan to make no change to staffing, 3 percent will shrink ranks and 1 percent were undecided.

$2.2 billion In products and services subject to sales tax were sold last year in Eau Claire County — a 4.8 percent increase over 2017’s total. PRECIOUS METALS

$187.2 million Value of construction projects that took out building permits during 2018 in Eau Claire. This is the third-largest figure in city history, coming off the record high of $295.6 million set in 2017.




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120 Stores Shopko had hoped would stay open through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but will instead be liquidated in coming months. The Green Bay-based retailer announced on March 18 that all of its stores would be closing, including locations in Eau Claire and Lake Hallie.

2.9 percent Wisconsin's unemployment rate for February, which was below the nation's 3.8 percent average.



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April 1, 2019 • BUSINESS LEADER | 23

The Veterans Tribute Trail is a community project that will be a lasting legacy for generations to come. The purchase of a Legacy Stone is a vital investment in the preservation of a rich history of service to our country.

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