Knock, knock … listen for those opportunities

Posted on Jul 1, 2016 :: Editor
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

When a situation goes south, smart leaders see opportunities.

Such is the story of Mike VanderZanden, visionary at Amerequip. Like many, many business leaders, the Great Recession was a test of resilience. In the face of drastically declining revenues, the company shrunk its workforce by half between 2008 and 2010.

He was new to the CEO job when the economy tanked (“Congratulations, good luck with that!”). Fortunately, a couple of decades with the company and a passion to succeed afforded him the experience he needed to move forward.

“We knew we needed to get the pieces for a new plan for the company in place right away so we would be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities when things turned around,” VanderZanden told Insight Associate Editor Sean Johnson for this month’s cover story.

No rock was left unturned in their quest to overcome. They repurchased the company’s stock from the employee stock ownership plan and retained local ownership in a matter of weeks. They set aggressive goals.

I won’t give away the details — their turnaround tale starts on page 20 — but if you’re looking for a dose of inspiration from a company that persevered to great success, this is a story that outlines how change can, indeed, be very good.

Now, imagine your job is to ensure your company does everything with perfection. As group director of Lodging at Kohler Co., Christine Loose looks for every opportunity to correct the slightest gaffe. It’s her job to maintain AAA Five-Diamond ratings at its properties in Kohler and in St. Andrews, Scotland. And now, she is working to achieve AAA Four-Diamond status at Lodge Kohler, a 144-room hotel under construction in Green Bay’s Titletown District. How does the chief perfection officer tackle such a daunting role? Quite simply: with trust.

“My team is 100 percent empowered to do whatever it takes to surprise a guest or recover from a bad experience,” Loose says in this month’s Face Time feature (page 15). “No one is going to get in trouble for making honest mistakes.” By the same token, failing to recover from those mistakes is unacceptable, she adds.

Curt Kubiak, CEO at Orthopedic & Sports Institute of the Fox Valley, was also striving for the perfect experience for his client patients when he found an opportunity in a pain point that came after they left the rehabilitation facility.

While surveys overwhelmingly showed they felt treated well as patients, the bombardment of bills that filled their mailboxes later left them with a bad feeling. How did Kubiak and his team overcome this challenge? By bundling payments. Turn to page 27 to find out just how that works.

For many, opportunity arises from passion. And while the typical business school graduate finds fulfilment with creative ways to make a profit, we’ve always had a class of people who put their art, their craft, their personal creations first. Many are too risk-averse to imagine doing what feeds their soul to also feed their families. This month, we’re launching a new feature, “The Business of Life.” It will give you a glimpse of how creative people turn their love into a money-making venture. What do they make? How much do they work? How much of their time is spent on building and maintaining their business? These are the sort of questions we ask.

This month, we feature musician Jon Wheelock. Do you know someone with a good story to share? Let us know. We’re always on the lookout for a good tale of opportunities that came to fruition.

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

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