Pat Deprey and Keith Kaufmann had an end game. When the two brothers-in-law from Manitowoc launched Skyline Technologies in 1992, they knew exactly what environment they wanted to build and the culture that would set their information technology company apart from their competitors. The pair quickly grew Skyline, helping other companies and organizations deploy technology to improve the way they communicate and do business.
Along with a clear vision of their company culture, Deprey and Kaufmann always knew they wanted to share their success with their employees. Their story, and a vision for the future as described by their new CEO, Mitch Weckop, appears on page 26.
“It’s so cool to see this all come together,” Deprey told me in January, soon after he officially retired at age 54.
The path to his early retirement was paved following an epiphany he had traveling to the religious site Medjugorje, Bosnia, with his wife several years ago. “I just felt, this is real. There is something bigger than what we are,” he said. Deprey’s conviction that he needed to serve others was born.
In recent years, he visited many other religious sites around the world. He became serious about a succession plan so he could pursue meaningful personal endeavors while he was still fairly young and healthy. Today, his plate overflows with volunteering in the community and with his church, helping to care for his elderly mother and occasional travel. Deprey has no regrets.
“I’m riding off into the sunset and this organization isn’t missing a beat,” he said. “I’m glad I’m still invested in the company because I think this is going to be the best year we’ve ever had!”
It was a couple of years in transition, but now more than half of Skyline’s associates have stock in the company. Kaufmann retains the largest share, Deprey still owns 5 percent and Weckop has taken his place at the helm.
Envisioning what will become of your business is key to maintaining your vision, according to the gurus of entrepreneurship. “An entrepreneur has to be willing to take risks, and willing to work hard and persevere. But without the dream, vision, purpose and mission, these are simply characteristics of anyone working on anything. When the end-game is not conceptualized, you’re busting your butt for nothing,” says Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth and among the gurus studied by entrepreneurs who go through the E-Seed program at Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center.
The Venture Center, a rich resource for business owners and startups in the New North, will host its sixth annual event, the Northeast Wisconsin Entrepreneur Networking Day (NEW END), on June 22. This year, entrepreneurs who register for the day-long event ($100) will be treated to a workshop with author, entrepreneur and national speaker Barry Moltz, who will conduct a workshop designed to get businesses “un-stuck.” Cost for the evening portion of NEW END featuring networking and Taste of Entrepreneurship is $39 per person. To register, visit www.newend.biz.
The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Small Business Development Center is another great resource for entrepreneurs. Along with the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board and the SCORE Fox Cities chapter, UWO has launched the Kaufmann FastTrac NewVenture program. Dislocated workers wanting to start their own businesses are invited to sign on to this free program. For more, turn to “Idea start-up,”page 12.
If it sometimes seems like there are a lot of organizations helping entrepreneurs in our region, you’re right. What’s really exciting is that through the New North Small Business and Entrepreneur Committee, nearly all of them are beginning to work together to help people identify the best resources to match their needs. Want to learn more? Watch for this and other updates in the New North Mid-Year Report, coming out in the July issue of Insight magazine.