Majoring in milestones: IB celebrates local businesses' birthdays
With the conviction that every business story is worth knowing, especially if the company has stood the test of time, IB presents its annual feature on area businesses celebrating milestone anniversaries ending in a 0 or 5. In 2014, dozens of businesses in Greater Madison will be uncorking the champagne for this very purpose, and many offer lessons of longevity. IB singles out four that have achieved sustained levels of business success, starting with a book bindery with European origins. (A full list of local companies celebrating major anniversaries follows these profiles.)
Grimm Book Bindery: Bound for success
How does a book bindery business survive for 160 years, the last 20 during the height of the digital age? It adapts, creates new products and services, economizes in hard times, and sometimes thanks its lucky stars. Since 1854, Grimm Book Bindery has done all this and more.
“Grandma would come up with Grandpa and work at night, and during the day she took in laundry for extra money for the household. That’s how they kept things afloat.” — Bill Grimm
Book binding still is a mainstay, especially for K-12 textbooks, but product diversification, including digital age offerings like handcrafted leather iPad cases and “book safes” sold primarily on Amazon.com, has helped the business stay afloat, especially after the most recent economic storm.
President Bill Grimm and Judith Stair represent the fifth generation of the Grimm family to operate a business started by Gottlieb Grimm, who came to Madison from Germany. There have been times when the company’s future was in serious doubt, and it’s no surprise that one of these times was the Great Depression, when Bill and Judith’s grandparents ran the bindery. “I remember they had to let a lot of people go, including, unfortunately, their salesman,” Grimm recounted. “Grandma would come up with Grandpa and work at night, and during the day she took in laundry for extra money for the household. That’s how they kept things afloat.”
A recessionary shock came in 1975, when the business lost its contract as the main bindery for UW-Madison. That contract represented 90% of its business, and even Bill, then a college student, was laid off. That’s when a fortuitous event literally saved the bindery. A man who had just lost his job when a Columbus book bindery went out of business showed up at the door and offered Grimm Book Bindery his business of repairing school and library books.
“He was our savior,” acknowledged Stair, the company’s “office meister.” “All of a sudden we were inundated with schoolbooks and library books that needed binding. We weren’t equipped to handle it that first year because we had no idea that the need existed, but that really saved us. It still brings us through from year to year.”
Along the way, the bindery has largely avoided debt, except when building its current facility on Gisholt Drive, and believes its pay-as-you-go approach prevents it from being overwhelmed during economic nosedives. It has also found new revenue streams in printing and promotional products, and it has benefited from the occasional odd job. Among its more unusual requests have been to bind a college student’s thesis (using a pair of blue jeans as the cover material), produce a leather-bound “prop book” for use in the 1979 feature film The Amityville Horror, and create a living memorial (done in basketball material), which was presented to legendary college basketball coach Bob Knight by his former players.
The latter offered proof of the sentimental value of many bindery products, even for a basketball coach known for his gruff nature. “He [Knight] actually sent my son a signed basketball after that order,” noted Tracy Lamphere, manager of Grimm Book Bindery. “My husband had passed away while the order was going through, so that’s the human side the players probably knew.”
Dean Clinic: The quest for value
High-quality, low-cost care is the holy grail of today’s health care providers, all of which are on an existential quest to transition from a volume-based model to a value model. It’s existential because the Affordable Care Act demands it, and slow-reacting providers will not be among the survivors.
Founded in 1904, Dean Clinic has grown into a family of more than 700 providers and 4,000 employees in more than 60 clinic locations across south central Wisconsin. In those facilities, Dean Clinic facilitates more than 2.5 million patient visits each year, and due to a renewed emphasis on keeping people healthy, not just reacting to the sick, those visits are likely to increase.
What Dean's facilities looked like in 1929.
Thanks in part to the business model changes prompted by the ACA, the health care system of the future will not be hospital-centric, where care is more expensive; it will be clinic- and outpatient-centric, where care is more preventive. “Together, we must create a system to reflect the changing way that health care will be delivered in the future,” says Allison Mooney, senior vice present and COO of Dean Clinic. “In the future, we will be paid for [positive] outcomes and results, not on how many services we provide.”
The ACA is responsible for a wave of consolidation in the health care industry. From Dean Clinic’s vantage point, its decision to completely merge with SSM Health Care will be beneficial for the organization and patients across Wisconsin and other states. With its SSM partners, the clinic already delivers integrated and coordinated care, a model that other health systems must work toward. “We are an integrated delivery system of many providers working together to deliver the specific care that a patient needs, which many times may not be within a hospital,” Mooney explained. “It’s this partnership that will change care as we know it.”
Mooney doesn’t recall a time when the future of Dean Clinic was in doubt, but there was a time when its physician-led board re-evaluated its direction. That was seven years ago, when directors focused the clinic on making progress in five key areas: quality, patient satisfaction, provider and employee satisfaction, growth, and financial performance. The clinic’s leadership structure was streamlined to support these priorities, and it has complemented the transition to value-based care.
Prior to the full implementation of the ACA, the law’s employer mandate was delayed for a year, until Jan. 1, 2015. Already, millions of people insured in the individual market are losing their coverage, and some predict a larger-scale repeat in the group market as the employer mandate kicks in next year. “Time will tell,” Mooney says. “Given the bumpy start to the individual rollout and the numerous subsequent legislative changes and delays we have witnessed since then, it’s too early to predict where the group segment will land.”
Dean Clinic, which will observe its 110th anniversary on Aug. 1, has partnered with local historian Bob Kann to produce a multimedia timeline that will share the clinic’s story. It’s a two-year project, and Kann already has spent countless hours with past and current physicians, nurses, staff, and patients. “The focus,” Mooney says, “will be on thanking patients and members for being a part of the Dean family.”
McFarland State Bank: Lending community a hand
For David Locke, chairman and CEO of McFarland State Bank, the finanical meltdown of 2008 was “very much akin to the abyss of the 1930s.” While there was no bank holiday like there was during the Great Depression, depositors were nervous, and for a brief moment it looked like one or two might panic. One even took out a substantial amount of cash, about $15,000, only to reconsider and return it the next day.
“That was not about us, but consumer confidence in general,” says Locke, who has been with the bank for 38 years. “I still make a point to go through the lobby at least twice a day and talk to customers, but I never saw a time like that, when people were confused and fearful about what was going on.”
Bookkeeper Homer Vick earned $2 per week at McFarland State Bank in 1910.
Chartered in 1904, the institution survived the Great Depression’s run on banks thanks to the trust that a core group of directors established with the community. “That was a simpler time, people knew each other well, and that trust played a big part in the bank’s survival,” Locke says. “They never had to close, other than the  bank holiday, when every bank closed.”
Community banks like McFarland State Bank exist to provide a local alternative to larger banks, help entrepreneurs, and partner in economic development. Sometimes, they have to take the bull by the horns, as McFarland did when speculative real estate lending came to a halt in 2008, leaving tradespeople out of work. The bank hatched a plan with a developer who agreed to build five homes if the bank lent him $1 million, so long as carpenters, plumbers, and roofers who were bank customers were hired to do the work.
Since the Great Recession subsided, McFarland has acquired the failing Evergreen State Bank in Stoughton, has expanded into Sun Prairie, and is considering more strategic growth opportunities in Dane County. In Locke’s view, the local focus of community banks is a niche only they can fill. He admits to being biased because he’s been a community banker all his life, but he believes that communal concentration is the difference between banks like McFarland and larger institutions headquartered elsewhere.
With one exception, it looks as though the community banks are making some headway in convincing bank regulators writing the rules for Basel III and Dodd-Frank to treat community banks differently than investment banks. That exception involves balloon mortgage products, which will be prohibited after a two-year grace period. These mortgages, where loans are amortized over a period that’s longer than the underlying obligation, were identified as one of the problems that contributed to the financial crisis.
Community banks believe they are getting a bad rap and would like bank regulators to reconsider. “We’ve used balloon lending as long as I’ve been here, and they have worked out pretty well for consumers and for us,” Locke says. “The lament I have about that is that it’s another option being taken off the table for consumers.”
Gammex: Rays of hope
What can you say about a company that was stalled by a vintage Bond movie, lifted by collaboration, almost brought to its knees by a lawsuit, and hopes a new tax doesn’t limit its ability to innovate? You can say that after experiencing all that, the company must have been around for a century, but you’d be wrong because Gammex, Inc., a maker of diagnostic imaging and radiation oncology products, has packed all that drama into 45 years.
Not that President Margaret Lescrenier would mind a respite, but she’s dealing with a 2.3% tax on domestic sales of medical devices, which is part of the financing piece of the Affordable Care Act. In its first year, the tax will claim about $58,000 from the company, and while it’s not yet eating into funds reserved for product development, there are basic things, such as a new $30,000 phone system, going wanting.
Margaret Lescrenier (third from left) at the dedication of Gammex's Middleton facility in 1991.
“We have to continue to invest in the engineering and product development, but the infrastructure is not being invested in, and it really should be,” Lescrenier says.
With any luck, the dust will soon settle on the ACA’s implementation, and the necessary adjustments will be affordable and feasible. The company has raised its prices and is placing more focus on selling overseas, where the tax is not applied, but American hospitals, facing lower reimbursement rates, have been slower to pay.
The medical device tax is not the first dilemma the company has faced. Medical lasers were its first core product, but the sinister use of a laser in the 1964 blockbuster Goldfinger — sinister because the villain, Goldfinger, used a laser in an attempt to cut James Bond in half — lingered in the public consciousness. “At this point, not everyone had heard of lasers, but were convinced they were going to cut people in half,” Lescenier recalled, laughing at the memory. “This was in the 1960s, and we were trying to get into the laser market. People would ask, ‘Are these lasers going to cut us in half when we are trying to get radiation treatment?’”
Once consumers finally separated reality from fantasy, the use of lasers for medical purposes gained acceptance, but Goldfinger wasn’t the only villain from Gammex’s perspective. In the 1990s, a legal dispute with a Texas supplier, which Gammex felt was selling a product in an unauthorized manner, resulted in $1 million in fines and legal fees that took years to pay off. “We had to mortgage or use everything we personally owned to come up with the payment,” Lescrenier says. But Gammex also had a trump card — its continual investment in new product lines. Gammex now has more than 100 products large and small, and its extensive lines allowed it to produce enough revenue to overcome the legal setback.
Lescrenier isn’t fond of Houston, where the legal drama unfolded, but she has fond memories of the collaboration between her late husband, Charles Lescrenier, and the late John Cameron, the UW-Madison professor who built the Department of Medical Physics within the university’s School of Medicine. Gammex purchased Cameron’s company, Radiation Measurements, Inc., and both men developed innovative products for the medical physics community, Cameron with his diagnostic test devices and Lescrenier with the use of lasers for patient alignment.
That constant innovation has been the key to Gammex’s longevity. “Innovation and good collaboration and relationships,” Lescrenier noted. “Relationships are the best because the relationships give you the ideas for innovation.”
IB's congratulatory list of employers either headquartered in Dane County or with a physical office and significant presence here.
- Grimm Book Bindery Inc.
- Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
- Stafford Rosenbaum LLP
- Attic Angel Association
- Boldt Co.
- Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C.
- University Book Store
- Wiedenbeck Inc.
- Maple Bluff Country Club
- Dean Clinic
- Marling Lumber Co.
- McFarland State Bank
- Stoughton Hospital
- von Briesen & Roper S.C.
- National Guardian Life Insurance Co.
- YWCA Madison
- Neckerman Insurance Services
- Anchor BanCorp Wisconsin Inc.
- Crescent Electric Supply Co.
- Klein Dickert Co. Inc.
- Mount Horeb Telephone Co.
- Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.
- Schwoegler Park Towne Lanes
- Alliant Energy Corp.
- Grant Thornton
- Mallatt’s Pharmacy and Costumes
- UW Hospital & Clinics
- Hill, Glowacki, Jaeger & Hughes LLP
- Hydrite Chemical Co.
- Kessenich’s Ltd. of America
- Lee, Kilkelly, Paulson & Younger S.C.
- McCormick Lumber & Cabinetry Inc.
- Rural Mutual Insurance Co.
- BouMatic LLC
- Carnes Co.
- Nelson Global Products
- Springs Window Fashions
- Coyne, Schultz, Becker & Bauer S.C.
- AE Business Solutions
- Felly’s Inc.
- Harker Heating & Cooling Inc.
- MasterGraphics Inc.
- PDQ Food Stores Inc.
- State Collection Service Inc.
- Wegner CPAs
- Wisco Industries Inc.
- Bachmann Construction Co. Inc.
- Members First Credit Union
- Mortenson Construction
- Opitz Realty Inc.
- Osmose Railroad Services Inc.
- Target Commercial Interiors
- AgSource Cooperative Services
- Ayres Associates
- Burkhalter Travel & Cruise Shoppe
- Capitol Indemnity Corp. (Capitol Insurance Cos.)
- CHT Apartments
- Clasen’s European Bakery
- Hy Cite Corp. LLC
- Merrick’s Inc.
- St. Mary’s & Affiliates Credit Union
- Universal Acoustic & Emission Technologies
- Arnold & O’Sheridan
- Capital Computer
- DL Evans Co. Inc.
- EVCO Plastics
- Larry R. Richardson Apartments
- McKee Associates Inc.
- Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce
- R & S Insurance
- Badger Herald Inc.
- BJ Electric Supply Inc.
- Clean Power LLC
- D’Onofrio, Kottke & Associates
- Dental Health Associates of Madison Ltd.
- Don the Car Care Man
- Gammex Inc.
- GI Office Technologies
- Madison Media Institute
- Mid-Wisconsin Security Inc.
- Midwest Homes Inc.
- Park Towne Development Corp.
- Scientific Protein Laboratories LLC
- TDS Telecommunications Corp.
- Attoe-Watson & Co. Inc.
- Bell Laboratories
- Capital Valuation Group Inc.
- Clifford and Raihala S.C.
- Dane County Regional Airport
- Doubletree Hotel by Hilton Madison
- Gregg Shimanski Realty Inc.
- Insty Prints (Monona Drive)
- Jon Lancaster Inc.
- Literacy Network
- Madison Aluminum Products LLC
- Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club
- Madison Investment Advisors
- Madison Top Co.
- Magna Publications Inc.
- Power System Engineering Inc.
- Rutabaga Paddlesports
- SVA Certified Public Accountants S.C.
- Think Ink & Design
- Urban Land Interests
- Wisconsin Copy & Business Equipment Inc.
- Budget Bicycle Center
- Common Wealth Development
- Cullen Weston Pines & Bach LLP
- Devenish Associates Inc.
- Encore Construction Inc.
- Fahrner Asphalt Sealers Inc.
- Forward Service Corp.
- Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. (Madison)
- Hillcraft of Wisconsin LLC
- Madison Productions/Web Courseworks
- Nord Gear Corp.
- Northern Capital Management
- Pellitteri Waste Systems Inc.
- Schoepp Motors Inc.
- Schorr Construction Inc.
- Steep & Brew
- Union Cab of Madison
- Waunakee Area Chamber of Commerce
- Woodworks Furniture Store
- A New Leaf Flowers & Gifts
- A&J Specialty Services Inc.
- AccuWeb Inc.
- Adams Outdoor Advertising
- American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
- Best Western Plus Inntowner/The Highland Club
- Capital Brewery Co. Inc.
- Capitol Lawn Sprinkler Inc.
- CDW-Madison (fka Berbee Information Networks Corp.)
- Cleen Trax Maintenance Inc.
- Core BTS
- DNAStar Inc.
- GMK Architecture Inc.
- Gorman & Co. Inc.
- Harms Insurance Group
- Horizon Construction Group Inc.
- Hurley, Burish & Stanton S.C.
- Images Plus of Wisconsin LLC
- InterCon Construction Inc.
- Lerdahl Business Interiors Inc.
- Mapping Specialists Ltd.
- Midwest Prefinishing Inc.
- Nonn’s Flooring Inc.
- Omni Resources Inc.
- Petkovsek & Moran LLP
- Pyramid Telephone and Security
- Real Estate Dynamics Inc.
- Wall-Tech Inc.
- Wis. Medical Society Insurance & Financial Services
- Wood Communications Group Inc.
- Action Professional Window & Gutter Cleaning
- Architects Ltd.
- Baker & Launder Financial Services LLC
- Baymont Inn & Suites Madison West
- Brio’s Hair Design Inc.
- Customized Support Services Inc.
- Employee Benefits Corp.
- Energy Center of Wisconsin
- Graber Manufacturing Inc.
- InteriorLOGIC Facility Planning
- Parts Now!
- Planet Propaganda
- Precision Devices Inc.
- Quarra Stone Co. LLC
- Select Publishing
- Standard Imaging Inc.
- Studio Gear LLC
- T. Wall Properties LLC
- The Creative Co. Inc.
- Akuba Studios
- Atomic Coffee Media
- Badger Pro Landscape Service Inc.
- Bartelt Law Office S.C.
- Best Defense Security & Fire Protection Inc.
- Campbell LaCoste
- Career Momentum Inc.
- Cartridge Savers
- Creative Financial Staffing
- Filbrandt Investment Advisers
- Forward Community Investments
- GO/A Architects Inc.
- Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. Inc.
- Hiring & Staff Services
- Kosnick Financial Group/Northwestern Mutual
- Madison Sourdough
- Michele/Thomas/Hutchins Design
- Netphoria Inc.
- Realtime Utility Engineers Inc.
- Solheim Billing & Grimmer
- SupraNet Communications Inc.
- Zebradog Environmental Design
- A L Ltd. Landscaping
- Advantage Osborne LLC
- Applied Tech
- Boys & Girls Club of Dane County
- Burse Surveying and Engineering Inc.
- Cascade Asset Management LLC
- Compass Properties
- David J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc. (Madison)
- Deltanoid Pharmaceuticals
- DirectNetworks Inc.
- e.serv Technical Solutions
- Earthling Interactive (fka Earth IT)
- Exterior Renovations LLC
- IDM Group LLC
- Impact Networking LLC
- McAllen Properties
- Midwest Open MRI
- NAI MLG Commercial
- NeoClone Biotechnology International
- Next Generation Clinical Research
- NSI, a divison of West Bend
- Oak Park Dental
- Patton Investments LLC
- Prairie Gardens
- Semex USA Inc.
- Strohm Ballweg LLP
- Tadisch Cleaning
- TrafficCast International
- Union Transfer & Storage
- Wind River Financial
- Wipfli Hewins Investment Advisors LLC
- WTS Paradigm LLC
- 6AM Marketing (fka Glowac Harris Madison)
- Accent Learning + Consulting
- Access Information Management
- Affiliated Insurance Agencies of Wisconsin LLC
- AppleWood Self Storage
- Better Butler LLC
- Bunky’s Cafe LLC
- Corbi Plastics LLC
- Creative Basic
- Dane Buy Local
- Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier
- Gillware Inc.
- Glynn Patrick & Associates
- High Noon Saloon
- Hilton Garden Inn Madison West/Middleton
- Mercator Research LLC
- Momentum Marketing Communications
- Overture Center for the Arts
- Putnam Roby Williamson Communications
- Quincy Bioscience
- Safe Bridge Solutions
- Shulfer Architects LLC
- Sound Billing LLC
- Square Toast Technologies
- Sustainable Engineering Group LLC
- Thompson Investment Management Inc.
- WP Beverages LLC
- Badger State Designs
- Body & Spine Chiropractic
- Brava Enterprises LLC
- Cambria Suites Madison
- Cupcakes A-Go-Go LLC
- Express Employment Professionals
- Liggon Enterprises LLC, dba The Fit
- Merchant & Gould
- Patina Solutions
- Plandesign LLC
- PowerBuy 4 You LLC
- Sam Simon Real Estate LLC
- Schmitt Technical Services LLC
- Stafford Financial Consulting Group LLC
- ThermaCor Inc.
- Williams Accounting & Tax
Not on this list?
Update or submit your company profile at ibmadison.com/companysurvey.