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Business lessons learned from BizTimes Media’s 2022 Innovation + Entrepreneurship Forum

Winner of the 2022 Innovation + Entrepreneurship Award.

Some of the Milwaukee area’s most successful entrepreneurs and innovators gathered at a community center in Italy for BizTimes Media on Thursday. 2022 Innovation + Entrepreneurship Forum.

Wayne Oldenburg CEO of Oldenburg Group Ltd., Recognized as the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Teresa Nemetz founder and CEO of Milwaukee Food & City Tours, has been named the recipient of this year’s Regional Spirit Award.

There were also three winners each in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship categories.Innovation categories are represented by Chad Mason founder and CEO of advanced ionics; Paige Peters Founder and CTO of rapid radical; When Deepak AroraFounder, President and CEO wearable technology.

This year’s entrepreneurship winners included Jeremy Fojutco-founder and CEO like|caring; Justin NicholsFounder and CEO sift health care; When Glen Reed,Founder marathon washing machine

Each winner shared some of the toughest challenges they faced while continuing to grow their business, as well as some best practices. Here are some of the business lessons learned from this event.

How to identify leaders within your company

To weed out leadership material, Oldenburg conducted a 360-degree assessment process for all employees, including himself. His team often conducts retreats where the group is asked a series of questions about each other, and customers also participate in his review process. Reviews are conducted approximately every six months.

“They are brutal at times,” Oldenburg said. “I think this has helped a lot because people know what they think of each other. , for our own sake, and for the person himself.”

Always consider the international market when expanding

Oldenburg said it’s important for growing companies to look beyond the U.S. and abroad as they explore markets. As his business grew, Oldenburg and his group ended business in places such as the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia. This was because the company “goes where the market is”.

“I regret not doing it (expanding internationally) sooner with some of my previous companies,” Oldenburg said. “Finding new geographic markets is much easier than trying to design a whole new product line.”

Sustaining an innovative culture

Mason considers himself a bit rebellious, both in the way he runs his business and in the way he fosters new ideas. He said it’s important to challenge the groupthink that may still be prevalent in the startup environment and encourage critical feedback while breaking down hierarchies and rigid reporting structures.

“If you don’t have innovators in leadership roles, you can’t have an innovative company,” he said. “No matter how innovative the rest of the workforce is, they need a mission.”

let me know what the market needs

According to Peters, her team has learned the importance of never making assumptions about product development.

“At Rapid Radicals, the phrase ‘Give me 30’ is all about customer discovery interviews,” says Peters. “This approach has allowed us to tap into the European and UK markets, which is very exciting for us.”

Take advantage of mentors

Nemetz said that in one of her first jobs, she was looking for a promotion. The only caveat was that I needed a mentor. This was the beginning of what Nemetz described as “25 years of a game-changing relationship.” Since then, she has purposefully surrounded herself with other knowledgeable business people within the community.

“We all need to be able to bring enthusiastic people out to lunch or coffee every month so we can listen and encourage them,” Nemetz said. You have to find a way to connect with the next “you” in the room. “

dedication is everything

Arora said the key to becoming a successful innovator is working on something that truly keeps you up late. If she isn’t 100% dedicated to her purpose and business, entrepreneurship probably isn’t for you.

“If you’re not sure about doing that, don’t do it,” Arora said. “Just don’t get started. The passion and belief behind my story is what kept me going and will keep me going for the rest of my life.”

be curious

Fojut said his venture into the world of entrepreneurship was simply due to his natural curiosity, which the company founder must never lose.

“The advice I would give my 14-year-old self is to stay curious, always push the boundaries, and focus on building the best team you can. No,” says Fojut.

Build your team carefully

Nichols said, like other award winners, hiring the right people around you is invaluable. said there is a strong talent pool to Sift Healthcare focuses on empowering teams locally.

“Good teams that continue to solve highly complex problems need to successfully recruit people who are smarter and more creative than themselves,” says Nichols.

don’t give up

Reid said it might be a little cliché, but the old saying, “Don’t give up,” is what defines successful entrepreneurship. It’s not how you handle moments of business success, it’s how you handle failures.

“We’ve nearly died many times in this business, but you just have to figure it out,” he said. “It’s not when you lose, it’s over when you quit.

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