Celebrating exemplary leaders

Greater Madison is home to many effective business and nonprofit leaders, and this year we honor some of the very best with our 2020 Executive of the Year awards.

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

Quality management isn’t the only ingredient in business success, but it is the most essential one. With that conviction, IB launched the Executive of the Year awards program seven years ago, and in that time, our belief that executive excellence is worth celebrating has only grown stronger. This year, we honor five business and nonprofit leaders as part of an executive awards program that celebrates exemplary business leadership, innovation, and company success.

As part of the seventh annual Executive of the Year presentation, a panel of judges selected high-performing executives in small, medium, and large companies, as well as a Lifetime Achievement winner and our overall Executive of the Year.

With the exception of the lifetime achievement winner, this particular honor is based on company and community contributions during the past 12 months. The following executives were judged to be the best performers of the past year, and they will be honored at an awards reception on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Overture Center for the Arts:

  • Dave Franchino, president and principal, Delve
  • Casey Liakos, president, Carex Consulting Group
  • Andrew Gundlach, owner and president, Argent Companies (Anytime Fitness of Southern Wisconsin)
  • Mindy MacWilliams, executive vice president–Wisconsin/Illinois, Atmosphere Commercial Interiors
  • Salli Martyniak, retiring president, Forward Community Investments

They join an impressive list of area business and nonprofit executives honored during the first six years of the Executive of the Year program. For more details about the Executive of the Year event and to purchase tickets, visit IBMadison.com/ExecutiveOfTheYear.

We couldn’t compile this group of top leaders without the help of our panel of judges, all of them past Executive of the Year award winners, including Beth Donley, CEO of Stemina Biomarker Discovery; Matthew Gonnering, CEO of Widen Enterprises; and Henry Sanders, CEO of Madison365 and Selfless Ambition. With our thanks to them for a job well done, we present the 2020 Executive of the Year winners.

Executive of the Year

Dave Franchino

Leading in a time of change

2019 was a watershed year for Dave Franchino, president and principal, as he led the transition of 52-year-old Design Concepts to a rebranding as Delve.

Delve’s leadership team believed the product-design company had outgrown the rather generic name of Design Concepts and wanted a brand that better reflected the multidisciplinary, in-depth design, and innovation services it provides. Delve represents the leaders’ commitment to deep understanding of user and client needs, their curiosity and drive to explore, technical acumen, and willingness to get their hands dirty. Recognizing the growing importance of virtual reality in design, Franchino provided time and resources for the company to develop a virtual reality (VR) lab that its designers use to prototype concepts.

The company also continued a growth pattern begun with the opening of a Boston office in 2018 by moving its San Francisco studio to a larger location. Over the past fiscal year, Delve’s team of employees across its three offices has grown 26 percent to service a corresponding 16 percent increase in the number of projects and a 19 percent increase in the total number of clients, resulting in a 21 percent increase in revenue. In addition to leading the rebranding effort, Franchino began hosting a podcast on creating a culture of innovation within organizations called Delve Talks. In the first six episodes, he interviewed leaders from Kohler Co., American Family Insurance, General Motors, Dexcom, CUNA Mutual, and Verily. The second season will launch this month.

Through all of the recent changes, Franchino has led by creating an open-book culture. He shares the company’s financials with all employees monthly, spreading responsibility in a way that empowers everyone to contribute their best. He was nominated for the EOY award by his staff. “I’m humbled my co-workers think I’m worthy of this award,” says Franchino. “I work with an amazing group of talented, smart, and hardworking people — they’re truly the best staff I could possibly ask for. I learn from them every day and it means a lot to me that they nominated me for this. I’m also inspired by this award. It makes me want to double down on my efforts to grow, learn, and do more to continue to drive our firm forward.”

Small Company Executive of the Year

Casey Liakos

Reinventing staffing and recruiting

Casey Liakos was a founding team member of Madison-based Carex Consulting Group and as president has helped the staffing company grow rapidly in just three years.

Prior to joining Carex, Liakos dedicated his career to the goal of improving health care via high-quality and cost-effective use of technology. Throughout his 15-plus years in health-care IT, he saw the industry through a number of important lenses: software vendor, health-care provider, insurance payer, and consulting-services provider. That served to give Liakos a well-rounded view of the health care and business landscapes, which he uses to assess and synthesize client partner needs.

Liakos brought his experience from the Epic consulting space to help reinvent staffing and recruiting with Carex, a philosophy on which the company walks the walk. Carex has had zero voluntary turnover since opening its doors, and Liakos has worked to develop subscription models, helping more than 90 people find full-time careers last year alone, and he has built numerous community relationships.

Liakos has led the company by helping to create new product offerings and being a pillar in the Madison community, helping to advise other startups and getting involved in community organizations such as Rotary.

Liakos has also gone out of his way to build a strong corporate culture at Carex, shepherding growth at the company to the tune of 50 employees by the end of 2019. Additionally, Liakos has been responsible for developing profitable new business lines, expanding Carex’s geographic markets, growing the number of partners the company works with to 100, and being integral in Carex receiving two Wisconsin Innovation Awards nominations.

“Obviously it’s very flattering and it feels good to be recognized by those who are in the trenches with you every day,” remarks Liakos on receiving this honor. “I credit my co-founders, leaders, and staff at Carex for the successes, growth, and strong brand we’ve built. I’m honored to serve this team every day.”


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