Dane County Small Business Awards: Playing small ball
We honor six small businesses that represent the best in Wisconsin’s most vibrant business community.
(page 1 of 3)
From the pages of In Business magazine.
Thirty-two companies were nominated, but only six had what it took to impress their business peers and emerge as winners in the 2019 Dane County Small Business Awards, a program that recognizes consistent business growth and commitment to the welfare of employees and the community.
The 37-year-old program, now run by IB, attracted a variety of local employers in a number of industries that had to be a successful, for-profit organization headquartered in Dane County, employ a minimum of three full-time-equivalent employees and no more than 50 FTE employees, provide a responsible and rewarding workplace environment, and support (via in-kind or financial contributions) local nonprofit or community organizations.
Each application for the 2019 awards was evaluated based on three main criteria: company growth and success since inception; the company benefits package provided to employees; and the contributions and impact the company makes in the community. The following companies scored highly in each category and are profiled inside these pages:
- Information Technology Professionals
- Mounds Pet Food Warehouse
- Numbers 4 Nonprofits
- Sondel Family Veterinary Clinic
We also honor a company for its longevity with a “legacy” award. This year’s legacy winner is Wiedenbeck Inc., which happens to be celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2019.
A celebration of the success of all six winning companies will be held on Tuesday, July 16, starting at 4 p.m. in the Overture Center’s upstairs Promenade Hall and Lobby.
Special thanks go to our judging panel, which consisted of IB Publisher Jon Konarske, Editorial Director Joe Vanden Plas, and three previous DCSBA winners: Doug Fearing, president of Fearing’s Audio/Video Security; Tom Spitz, founder and CEO of Settler’s bank; and B.J. Pfeiffer, president and CEO of Enterprise Solutions Technology Group.
The art of reinvention
When you’ve been around since the Grover Cleveland administration, and you began by selling horse shoes and wool fat, change is inevitable, and the ability to adapt must be part of your organizational skill set. For Wiedenbeck Inc., now a metals supply and fabrication business, the capacity for reinvention is among the reasons it continues to build a legacy.
The business, which began in 1894 as a wagon maker and blacksmith, has demonstrated quite a bit of steely resolve on its way to celebrating 125 years in business. Changing who you are means adding and subtracting lines of business and modifying how you sell to (and service) customers, but with each step the family business grew stronger.
Strong enough to appeal to a fifth generation of leadership in the person of Bennett Wiedenbeck, the son and nephew, respectively, of current co-owners Jane Wiedenbeck and Jim Wiedenbeck Jr. Bennett, who is referred to as “Jane’s retirement plan,” has tough acts to follow, but he’s eager to manage “grandpa’s company.”
“Ben and my dad [Jim Wiedenbeck Sr.] were best of friends; they did everything together,” explains Jane. “Ben called me one day and he said, ‘Mom, I need to talk to you. I’ve decided that I want to run grandpa’s company.’ I laughed out loud. Not my mom’s company. Not my uncle’s company. My grandpa’s company.”
Jane forgives him for that because he and his grandfather, who retired in 2002 and later passed away, were good buddies, and she loves teaching her son about the business. “He’s brought us some youthful energy and new ideas to help us in this continuous growth process, and I’m thankful every day for that.”
Eventually, Jim’s two sons might be interested in joining Bennett, and if they do, they will have some good operational role models. The Wiedenbecks provide a safe harbor 401(k) in which the company contributes 3 percent of each employee’s pay, whether or not the employee contributes. “When Jim and I took over, we had a 401(k) match in place, which is a fabulous benefit that many companies offer, but that assumes that the people working there actually can contribute something that the employer can match,” Jane explains. “Not everybody here did, and so we felt it was important to help everybody in the company with their retirement, not just the ones that had the ability to put something away.”
In the community, Wiedenbeck Inc.’s proudest contribution is to Skills USA, a competition showcasing the skills of technical college students. Jane Wiedenbeck, who serves on the Metal Fabrication Advisory Board at Madison College, is the Wisconsin State Chairperson for Skills USA and plays an active role. “I call it the best nonpaying job I’ve ever had.”