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Anniversary companies stand the test of time

Through Great Depressions and Great Recessions, meet the local companies that have withstood economic storms for as long as 160 years.

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

Most businesses do not survive the first five years of operation, so it’s with a great deal admiration that we present Dane County companies that have taken everything the economic fates can throw at them and survived to tell about it.

In 2017, the businesses listed in our annual anniversary toast are celebrating milestone anniversaries ending in a 0 or 5. They have not only beaten the competition, they have beaten the odds by constantly adjusting, adapting, and innovating.

That entrepreneurial spirit, which never leaves organizations that stand the test of time, helps explain why many of the companies presented here have have lasted so long and have a good chance to remain in business for a long time to come. As is the case throughout Wisconsin, many of them are family run businesses.

For this year’s anniversary feature, we have expanded our listing to include private sector employers that are not necessarily headquartered here but have a sizeable Dane County workforce nonetheless. They, too, are part of the fabric of this business community and deserve recognition for longevity.

The Office – 1978 and Now: Dressing in Code

1978 • Dressing for Success, Sort Of: In the late 1970s, work was serious business, even if office fashion trends would become a running joke. The ‘70s would become known as “The Tacky Decade,” with polyester suits as a leading example, and while “Mr. Polyester” would become a favorite put down, there was one thing even worse — the “Leisure Suit.” Had the office casual trend taken hold back then, we might have seen more of these abominations around the workplace. Thankfully, 1980s elegance was right around the corner, and slaves to real fashion reemerged.

2017 • Casual Monday Through Fridays: The ever-expanding waistlines of baby boomers could have something to do with it, but business-casual Fridays have taken over every day of the week. With the exception of professions such as law, finance, and banking, you don’t see many suits or ties anymore. For men, button down shirts and khaki slacks abound — some will mix and match, pairing blue jeans with a blazer — and Dockers remain the featured uniform component of cubicle inhabitants. Real big shots with nobody to answer to, and probably no outside appointments, have been known to show up to the office in a T-shirt and (gasp!) shorts.

The Office – 1978 and Now: No more Blowing Smoke

1978 • Gimme a Nail: Fourteen years after the U.S. Surgeon General’s first report on the adverse health effects of cigarette smoking, puffing away on “nails in the coffin” was still largely allowed in private businesses. It was a different story in public places, as the Civil Aeronautics Board, for example, began to require no-smoking sections on all commercial airline flights as early as 1973, and gradually states began to pass smoking restrictions in public buildings and other public places. In some cases, those public places included restaurants, even though they were privately owned. In 1983, the city of San Francisco became the first municipality to place private workplaces under smoking restrictions.

2017 • Take It Outside, Please: More communities would join San Francisco and enact workplace smoking restrictions, especially after a 1986 Surgeon General’s report that focused entirely on the health consequences of involuntary smoking and proclaimed secondhand smoke to be a cause of lung cancer in healthy nonsmokers. By 1995, New York City had passed a comprehensive ordinance effectively banning smoking in most workplaces and seven years later amended its law to include restaurants and bars. Despite objections from restaurant and bar owners who wanted to set the smoking policy on their own properties, states and municipalities, including Wisconsin and Madison, would extend smoking bans to these establishments.

The Office – 1978 and Now: Women at Work

1978 • The Quiet Revolution: In the late 1970s, IB Cofounder Suzanne Beecher was part of what became known as “The Quiet Revolution,” the period where women made the transition from “pink collar jobs” as secretaries, teachers, nurses, and librarians to male-dominated professions such as business, law, and medicine. They went from working intermittently to supplement their family income to having career expectations of their own. Widespread access to the birth control pill allowed them to postpone pregnancy, giving them more freedom to pursue education and work.

2017 • Executive Elevation: The Quiet Revolution continues to this day, as the labor force participation rate among women is about 57% (as of October 2016), women now outnumber men at colleges and universities, and their ranks now exceed 40% at prominent business schools such as UW–Madison’s. While there is still much progress to be made in areas like the wage gap, 23 women now head Fortune 500 companies — from Mary T. Barra at General Motors to Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard. Viewed from the glass-is-half-empty perspective, that’s only about 5% of the nation’s largest corporations, but overall more business organizations are putting women in positions of leadership not only to improve their financial performance but also to drive organizational goals such as greater diversity and inclusion.

The Office – 1978 and Now: From Personal to Personnel Computers

1978 • Famous Last Words: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Those words were uttered by, of all people, a technology executive named Ken Olsen, a few months before IB’s first monthly edition hit the stands. Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corp., was probably responding to the introduction of the first personal computer, Steve Wozniak’s Apple II, which debuted at the first West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco. While it looked like a TV set on top of a computer keyboard, with floppy disc drives in between, millions of units soon were seen in homes, offices, and schools. Mass-market consumer adoption of computers was born.

2017 • Phoning It In: While consumers still have a variety of computing devices to choose from, the dominance of the smartphone is undeniable. Thanks in large measure to Wozniak’s late business associate Steve Jobs, these revolutionary gadgets can hold your apps, allow you to web surf, consume video, snap photographs, engage in instant messaging and, taking a swipe at outdated technology, serve as mobile cash registers. We understand that some people even use them to place and receive phone calls!

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