Doing business in the 21st century
Innovation, entrepreneurship discussed at Milwaukee symposium

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

Oct. 2, 2015

MILWAUKEE - Entrepreneurship and innovation were among the buzzwords at a recent symposium geared toward current and prospective small business owners.

The South Eastern Wisconsin chapter of service organization SCORE held a small business innovation forum Thursday in downtown Milwaukee. About 150 area business owners from disparate industries attended the event.

Nationally, SCORE, which once stood for the Service Corps of Retired Executives, has been working to shed its image as a nonprofit filled with professionals past their prime.

“We’re not all retired, old white guys,” Dave Maaske, director of SCORE South Eastern Wisconsin, said. “We’re evolving as a group.”

With the marketplace continuing to morph through technology and previously unheard of ways of doing business, many of the topics discussed at the recent forum were forward-thinking.

Alex Lasry, vice president of strategy and operations with the Milwaukee Bucks, was the keynote speaker during the half-day event. He drew parallels between the team’s philosophy and the principles of successful business ownership.

Fresh off a series of wins for a new arena with several governing agencies - the state, Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee - Lasry said the franchise’s new owners are eager to enhance the Bucks’ presence across Wisconsin.

“We need to push further and further (beyond the immediate Milwaukee area) and get our name out there,” Lasry said. “We want to reach out to the entire state. The Bucks is about more than just one player and one coach.”

Branding and knowledge of a target audience were other topics discussed at length.

“In our case, the Bucks is what the brand is,” Lasry said. “We’re a small market team, but we want people here who want to win. We want people who are dedicated basketball players. That’s what our brand is about.”

Dave Glyzewski, former president and CEO of Centare, and Tim Syth, CEO of LushProduction, were among the more than half-dozen locally-based entrepreneurs who discussed their philosophies of small business ownership at several breakout sessions.

Syth, who earned degrees in art and philosophy, fell into business ownership in an unorthodox way. His post-education biography includes roles as a consultant focused on work in the information age.

“Things are fundamentally changing,” Syth said. “The average length of time a person is staying at a job is 4.6 years, and it’s trending downward.”

While compensation and benefits have frequently been viewed as tools for attracting high-caliber people, Syth challenged the conventional wisdom.

“If you have talented people, the challenge is to keep them challenged,” Syth said. “We’re in a world where ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s all about execution.”

Glyzewski, who has founded several businesses, openly shared the highs and lows of his own experiences, including one period of time when he almost declared bankruptcy.

“Every decision you make can have ramifications,” Glyzewski said. “As business owners, we’re all bungee jumpers.”

From his vantage point, Glyzewski said one of the greatest secrets to success is, “Know who you’re selling and know what you’re selling, and do it well.”