Madison execs wish big for 2021

In lieu of New Year’s resolutions, our Executive of the Year award winners have some wishes they’d like to see come true for their businesses and the community in 2021.
Ft Wish List 2021 Panel

When we last had our Executive of the Year award winners pen their wish list for a new year, none of them could have predicted 2020 would be defined by a pandemic, let alone would have wished for one.

We think everyone is probably hoping for a quieter 2021, and our annual survey of our latest group of Executives of the Year offers measured reflections on how a recovering local business ecosystem can help spur cultural change that will move Greater Madison forward as well.

So, what tops their wish lists for their businesses/organizations and the entire region in the new year? Read on to find out!

Nathaniel Leach, portfolio manager/co-founder, LBW Wealth Management

“For our own business, we wish for continued success in deepening our impact with our niche creatives’ clientele, which would include gaining more momentum not just in the number of those we can help, but also the way we are defining and changing the services offered to that demographic versus the current practices that exist in our industry. We also hope to deepen and refine our financial positioning process and the customization behind it. These services have allowed for our clients to have a clearer picture of their finances even more so since the pandemic’s start.

“For the Greater Madison business community, we hope for further assistance both from fellow entrepreneurs and the federal government. It would be inspiring to see larger businesses continue their efforts to support smaller businesses. As we well know, small businesses are one of the U.S.’s biggest contributors to the economy. Much can continue to be gained by small businesses assisting other small businesses. Finally, we hope to see continued fiscal stimulus from the federal government as more needs to be done for individuals and small businesses alike.”

Damon Baker, CEO and president, Lean Focus

“Today, the management consulting industry has a net worth of $250 billion and is represented by over 700,000 firms doing business globally. The market for consulting services has certainly shifted significantly as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak; however, with a vaccine now available, confidence is likely to return to positive territory in 2021–22, while consumer sentiment is also anticipated to improve. With a new year upon us, there are three wishes I hope can be bestowed upon our current and prospective clients and for all local business leaders alike:

  1. “Rethink your position on risk and redefine rewards: COVID undoubtedly has forced companies to make tough operational and strategic decisions that will have long-lasting effects. The pain of this is recent in memory but left unchecked can lead to over-indexing on risk aversion, which leads to missed opportunities. Train your mind to find the hidden reward in every problem or obstacle you face and use it to your advantage.
  2. “Look inward for ways to improve your product or service: When the figurative ‘bullets’ are flying overhead, one does not take the necessary time to survey the battlefield and take stock how to mount an offensive. Spend more time working on the business, not just in the business. Practice “kaizen” — continuous improvement — routinely.
  3. “Develop people, drive performance: As company leaders strive to put customers first, it is well established that this can be achieved through highly engaged employees. Invest more time in your people to enhance their skills and it can also pay off in the form of happier customers.

“Leading a business through uncertain times is tough and fraught with obstacles and dead ends. If you ever feel like giving up, just remember why you started.”

Michael Carr, president and CEO, Naviant

“I will start with my 2021 wish list for the Greater Madison business community. 2020 has obviously been a tough year with COVID-19, racial inequality issues, political angst, etc. My wish is that we learn from these issues and work toward improving them together in a civil and productive way.

“The business community has a significant role to play and can be a model for the rest of the community. As businesspeople, we can execute when others just debate. We can pragmatically solve problems when others become inflexible and lock in on their own paradigms.

“I’m sure we have all learned lessons in 2020 that will serve us well in the coming years. At Naviant, COVID-19 has taught us how we can do business better in the future by leveraging technology. The racial injustice turmoil has challenged us to be part of the solution by being much more intentional with our diversity and inclusion efforts. I’m bullish on 2021 and beyond!

“For Naviant, I would simply wish for our continued success. While 2020 was certainly a challenging year, we are well positioned for continued growth. We are in a dynamic space helping our clients in their digital automation journey and we know that our growth will enable us to be an even stronger partner for them. We also know that our growth will provide desired development and career opportunities for our team members and allow us to grow our team.

“Lastly, it will allow Naviant to make a greater positive impact in our communities. The Naviant team is energized by our ability to contribute to the well-being of the communities we live in!”

Damond Boatwright, Wisconsin regional president, SSM Health

“Dr. Brian Calinawagan recently wrote, ‘We, the health care workers, are NOT your frontline any longer. We are your LAST LINE OF DEFENSE.’ It is an appropriate and accurate reflection of the times, particularly in health care today. As one who is humbled by the responsibility of running a Catholic health care system with 13,549 employee partners spread out across Wisconsin in a multitude of locations like hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes, I wish that each and every one of them have continued good health, mental wellness, and support. Again, they are the last line of defense during this war against COVID-19.

“I wish for more, more, more public funding for public health. Public health is an important partner and resource for our communities in responding to health crises, including the pandemic. They deserve to be properly funded and fully supported.

“I wish for schools to remain open year-round and available for both in-school learning and virtual teaching.

“As we come out of this pandemic, I wish for a more inclusive, fair, and just business environment where any individual who has the capacity and capability to work is motivated to seek out employment —not to just find a job, but a job that truly values their contribution and allows them to fulfill their true potential.

“I wish for our collective communities all across Wisconsin that we remember to find common ground with one another, and expand that unifying bond to our elected and appointed leaders. We are stronger as One Wisconsin and I wish that the idea that we are One Wisconsin is bigger than any one party, class, race, or other secular affiliation.

“Finally, I wish that God’s everlasting grace, mercy, and love stay connected to every living creature on Earth.”

Don Wahlin, founder and past president and CEO, Stoughton Trailers

“Stoughton Trailers and the entire truck and trailer manufacturing industry are on track to have an extremely good year in 2021, so I am hoping nothing happens to the economy or our industry that could derail what could be a record year. [Manufacturing] companies’ biggest challenge is finding enough workers so we can build product and fill our orders. The extension of the additional unemployment benefits and the new stimulus payment gives more people reasons not to work, making it harder for local companies like Stoughton Trailers that urgently need to hire more employees.

“Locally, I am wishing that the government will loosen the COVID restrictions on businesses as soon as is safely possible. As the risk of overburdening our health care system subsides, the government should gradually ease restrictions to maintain a healthy balance between safety and commerce. The full reopening of the businesses that are greatly restricted due to COVID will have a tremendous impact on the entire economy.”

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