Banking on strong leaders

Posted on Jan 2, 2017 :: Editor’s Insights
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

The first time I sat down with Bob Atwell and talked to him about how he and Mike Daniels started Nicolet National Bank, their venture was about the same age as Insight is now. Nine years into a business is long enough to be established but young enough to still feel invigorated by a singular mission.

Last year, Nicolet turned 16, and their approach seems as authentic as ever. If you’ve ever heard Atwell address a crowd, you know that when he talks, people lean in to listen. Here’s what he said in a Face Time interview for Insight in 2009:

“Our organization didn’t get started because we thought everything was fine. We thought there was a ‘crisis in business, a movement in business toward the depersonalization of commerce.’

“You’ll hear this expression over and over again, ‘Don’t take it personal.’ You know, lending and borrowing money is an intensely personal activity. … We look at profits as the result of, not the purpose of, our activity; it’s the result of our activity when it’s done well, and when it’s the human person that’s at the center of what it is we’re doing.”

Today, Nicolet’s assets have grown to more than $2 billion. With the acquisition of Baylake Bank last spring and the announced acquisition of FNB-Fox Valley this coming April, it will be the largest community bank in Wisconsin and the fourth-largest bank headquartered within the state.

Not bad for a couple of guys who dreamed up the idea in Daniels’ basement. They’ve changed the cityscape of Green Bay as well, with their headquarters (designed by Performa of De Pere) on the Fox River in downtown Green Bay. I think you’ll find their story, by Senior Associate Editor Sean Johnson, inspirational.

Downtown Green Bay was the setting for the New North Summit in December, and talent was the topic of the day. Staff Reporter Jessica Thiel captures the essence of the event in her story on page 10; for photos, turn to pages 44 and 45. In addition to the region’s need for skilled workers and creative ways to attract top talent, several speakers talked about how to connect people to the education training opportunities that exist, as well as the business and education partnerships that are being nurtured to cultivate talent.

One key segment of our workforce that we can’t overlook is at the top of every company and organization. Recognizing a looming dearth of leaders as our demographics change, a core of business leaders have developed a unique program to fill this need. At the New North Summit, Tom Wiltzius of enVision Performance Solutions LLC, based in Appleton, announced the launch of the Center for Exceptional Leadership. Check out “Pipeline for Great Leaders” on page 12.

While the strong economy is contributing to a shortage of skilled workers and top talent, there’s no denying that we’re on an upswing. Commercial development is an especially bright spot. The keynote speaker at Insight’s eighth annual InDevelopment conference will address real estate development opportunities in light of a strong regional economy. Turn to page 17 for more — and mark March 21 on your calendar for the event. InDevelopment will be hosted this year by the city of Oshkosh, a place where a whole lot of activity is underway; check out “City on the verge,” page 31.

Stay tuned for more on InDevelopment as well as our spring THINC! event. We’re now taking applications for our fourth annual Insight Innovation Awards. I encourage you to nominate a company (it could be yours!). For details, see page 43.

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →