Startup Company Executive of the Year: Damon Baker, CEO and president, Lean Focus
Damon Baker, 43, has been a proponent of Lean manufacturing systems ever since landing jobs with two of the largest consultancy firms in the world — Argo Consulting and Danaher.
By the time Baker launched Lean Focus in 2016, he had studied Lean for 20 years and had more ideas on how the technique could be improved, not only in manufacturing, but in any business looking to drive value and transform.
“I decided to create a team of people and an approach that looks at a business much like a doctor would diagnose a whole body as a system, and how do we diagnose which part of the body or company needs the focus first. We pull the tools out of our tool system that need to be brought to bear inside this business to drive results,” he explains.
In 2020, Baker secured a contract with Radx/Venturewell (via the National Institutes of Health) that resulted in a steady stream of COVID-19-related diagnostic clients that turned to Lean Focus for help in scaling up to meet testing demands.
While many companies lost clients during the year, Lean Focus gained 23, growing 10% year over year through September.
Working with the company’s marketing firm, Pop Dot Marketing in Madison, Lean Focus shifted to a full suite of remote consulting offerings that resulted in email subscribers growing 11%, web traffic growing 23%, and LinkedIn followers increasing 37% year over year.
The company has three basic pillars: talent search, training, and consulting. When COVID-19 struck, it pivoted to virtual consulting and Baker led his staff through a critical examination of company costs that reduced expenses 28% annually while revenues jumped 41% through September.
Baker’s Lean dream team is coming to fruition. He’s creating a one-stop shop that companies small and large can call when they need help improving sales or productivity in operations, hiring key talent, or even training on continuous improvement strategies. “Our team includes former CEOs, presidents, and others around the world who’ve run multimillion-dollar companies, the true practitioners who’ve walked in their shoes for decades,” he notes.
Being named the Startup Executive of the Year reinforces his convictions and the effort of his team, Baker says. “People are recognizing our work and that’s humbling and comforting, but at the same time I need to be 1% better every day. I can’t take my foot off the gas.”
Click here to sign up for the free IB Ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.