The right tools to make the best decisions

May 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Firefighters of NE Wisconsin Update

By Gary Vaughan, owner of Guident Business Solutions

Those of you who know Ruben Contreras, owner of Action Painting and Carpet Care, LLC in Appleton, know he has a passion for his family, his business and his community. In fact Ruben was the recipient of the Fox Cities YMCA 2011 Volunteer of the Year award. I have the privilege of working with Ruben and his wife June over the next five months.

Our journey begins with a meeting including Ruben and June in early April, where I explained the typical process Guident Business Solutions, LLC uses when working with our consulting clients. We will begin by collecting a copy of the last 12 months of profit and loss statements. From these statements we begin to assess the validity of the information Ruben has been using when making his business decisions. This is one of the most important steps in our process. As business owners, oftentimes we don’t know what we don’t know.

From these documents we can begin to understand what has been happening in the business and what needs to happen differently in the future. Eventually we will look at the balance sheet and cash flow statements, but initially we begin with the profit and loss statement, as it affords us the best assessment of how the business is actually performing.

Ruben, like most business owners, sets goals and drives himself and his employees to accomplish those goals. We want to be assured the data he is using when making those decisions is valid. A good decision made with poor data will most likely not accomplish the desired results. Then as the business owner, you wonder why not? You say to yourself, “What happened, I did everything right.” Because of poor data, the process was in trouble from the beginning.

Some of the things we found were typical mistakes most business owners make. Ruben and June know that running a business is not only a job and a career, but it is a lifestyle they share. From the onset of their business, they have blended their personal and business finances. They will now be separating the two. June will receive a bi-weekly paycheck which she will use to pay the family bills. Ruben will be able to see exactly what expenses belong to the business, increasing the validity of the data provided by the profit and loss statement.

Next week we will be working on establishing generally accepted accounting principles such as matching all revenues and expenses on the profit and loss statement. Then we will create an annual budget as Ruben and I will begin strategizing and setting specific goals he wants to accomplish in the near future and beyond. Eventually we will be comparing the actual business results to the budgeted business results and working on execution of his plan.


Last chance to nominate a Business Firefighter

March 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s final call to nominate a yourself or another business owner you know for our inaugural Firefighters of Northeast Wisconsin feature coming in April.

For a number of business owners, each and every day feels like another fire breaks out within the organization before an existing fire can be extinguished.If you’re a business owner who always feels as if you’re putting out fires in your company – or if you work for one or do business with one as a customer or vendor – B2B wants to help.

We’ve lined up leading time management and business strategy  consultants in northeast Wisconsin who are offering to lend their time toward getting these business owners back on track, putting out the fires, and moving on to growing a prosperous enterprise. In the months following our April issue cover story, these consultants and strategists will work one-on-one with our firefighters to develop a long-term plan for their business.
After a few months of practice implementing the strategic plan, B2B will follow up with each of the firefighters and their strategy coach to learn what progress has been made, and share their ideas and strategies with readers in the hope that – for those who were too shy to nominate themselves as a firefighter – they too might learn a lesson for taming the fires in their organization.

If you’re a business owner who’d like to be considered for our upcoming Firefighters of Northeast Wisconsin article, send me an email to by the end of the day next Monday, March 14, 2011. Be sure to include a paragraph or two outlining some of the challenges you face running your business and why you’d like to receive some assistance.

Additionally, if you work for a firefighter – and feel as if you can nominate that individual without losing your job – feel free to drop me an email as well.

ATW gains altitude in 2010

January 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Outagamie County Regional Airport reported increased growth in both passenger traffic and freight departing from the Greenville-based airport in 2010 when compared with the previous year, another indication that local economic trends may be improving.

A total of 542,565 travelers used ATW in 2010, an increase of nearly 1.5 percent above 2009 figures. Additionally, the airport saw a 31 percent increase in cargo freight departing the airport in 2010 with a total reaching nearly 26 million pounds.

How will business remember Doyle?

January 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Wisconsin’s business community is no doubt elated about the prospect of Scott Walker’s governorship and the support of a Republican majority in both chambers of the statehouse.

Yet, departed two-term Gov. Jim Doyle isn’t likely to be remembered well by Wisconsin business. Particularly toward the end of his last term, Doyle has been portrayed as a foe of business and a stalwart to economic development. And that’s too bad

Certainly Doyle won’t be inducted into Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Hall of Fame anytime in the near future. But despite an often adversarial relationship with the state’s business community, history will prove Doyle’s policies and programs contributed to Wisconsin’s economic growth, both in recent years and for the future.

While campaigning for his first term back in 2002, Doyle offered plans to streamline state economic development efforts, an initiative that occurred on two fronts during his eight years in office. During his first year in office in 2003, Doyle made the Jobs Creation Act a priority, an initiative which streamlined the regulatory processes for businesses looking to expand operations. Under the law passed seven years ago, a firm looking to build a new distribution facility in Wisconsin, for example, is guaranteed to navigate the regulatory and environmental permitting processes in less than 120 days. At the time – and perhaps still now if we remove our biases toward Doyle – it was considered the most sweeping regulatory reform in the state’s history.

Secondly, Doyle’s administration dissected the compartmentalized menu of separate and often autonomous economic development programs, throwing them all into one large soup kettle two years ago under the auspices of the Economic Development Tax Credit. The more streamlined program replaces five previous tax credit programs which all had a much more narrow focus. This new program is reportedly simpler for companies and economic development professionals to apply, qualify and ultimately be granted tax credits from the state.

Doyle also led the charge to implement single-sales factor tax apportionment, which allowed multi-state corporations to be taxed based solely upon their sales as opposed to the previous three-part taxation formula which factored in the corporation’s sales, number of employees and property values in Wisconsin. The new method generally means a lower tax burden for many multi-state firms, encouraging their growth and investment in Wisconsin.

Perhaps the marquee highlight of Doyle’s contribution to economic development, Act 255 – known more widely as the venture capital tax credit – substantially warmed the waters to venture capital investment in Wisconsin start-up firms. Under the program launched in 2004 and further expanded two years ago, investors in start-up business ventures qualified by the state may be eligible to claim up to a 25 percent income tax credit on their investment, making investment at home – rather than an overseas mutual fund – more appealing than ever before.

Access to venture capital and angel funding is a characteristic of the state’s economic scorecard that historically ranked at the bottom of the barrel nationally, and Wisconsin has shown improvement since Act 255 took effect. During 2003 when Doyle first took office, Wisconsin boasted an average amount of venture capital per worker of $13.71, far below most neighboring states and well below the national average of $144.50. By 2007, Wisconsin had matured this statistic to $28.04 of venture capital per worker, still a distance below venture capital availability in neighboring states, but definitely a step in a positive direction.

More importantly, this increased availability of venture capital has encouraged more deals to occur. From 2005 to 2006, Wisconsin experienced a 54 percent increase in early-stage investment in business, growing from $66.6 million to nearly $103 million, compared with a national average during that same time frame of just 11 percent growth. All told, venture capital investment tax credits have become a necessary tool to help Wisconsin reach Doyle’s goal of capturing 10 percent of the global stem cell research market by 2015.

Factoring in other initiatives such as the Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit program to help Wisconsin manufacturers offset the cost of energy, it’s hard to argue Doyle completely failed Wisconsin businesses.

And while these initiatives aren’t necessarily a tribute to the creativity and ingenuity of Doyle himself, they do shine a spotlight on the network of advisors he’d come to trust and help guide his economic development strategies at the state level. And that’s ultimately made Wisconsin a better place in which to conduct business.

$48.9 million for state bridge improvements

January 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of former-Gov. Jim Doyle’s last announcements was the award of $48.9 million to fund 209 bridge projects along Wisconsin’s approximately 100,000-mile local roads system.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation oversees the Local Bridge Improvement Assistance Program. This program provides 80 percent federal or state funding to replace or rehabilitate deteriorating bridges and requires a 20 percent local funding share.

In Wisconsin, county officials set priorities for local bridge and highway improvement projects. While construction timetables for the projects vary, most of the work is expected to be completed over the next three to five years.

Brown County: School Drive Suamico River Bridge, Town of Pittsfield – design and replacement
St. Pats Road Suamico River Bridge, Village of Suamico – replacement and design
Brown Fair Road East River Bridge Town of Wrightstown – replacement and design
Bower Creek Road Bower Creek Bridge, Village of Bellevue – replacement and design
County Trunk Highway X WI Central Ltd Railroad Bridge – replacement and design
County Trunk Highway GE Dutchmans Creek Bridge – replacement and design
Fond du Lac County: Oak Center Road West branch of the Rock River Bridge, Town of Waupaun – Replacement Construction
Melody Lane Anderson Creek Bridge, Town of Friendship – replacement and design
Winnebego County: County Trunk Highway G Neenah Slough Bridge,– replacement and design
3rd Street Lake Winnebago Slough, City of Menasha – replacement and design
Black Wolf Avenue Willow Harbor Creek, Town of Black Wolf – replacement construction

A list of projects being funded through the Local Bridge Improvement Assistance Program can be viewed on the WisDOT Web site,

Critical health care merger announced

January 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

A longstanding partnership in the Fox Valley’s health care arena received a more formal bond earlier today with the announcement that ThedaCare acquired Appleton Cardiology Associates, which became effective at the end of business on Dec. 31.

Appleton Cardiology Associates had already maintained full time offices at Appleton Medical Center and Theda Clark Memorial Hospital, two facilities owned and operated by ThedaCare. Under the agreement, ThedaCare acquired Appleton Cardiology Associate’s assets and will employ the practice’s 16 physicians, seven nurse practitioners and physician assistants, as well as 110 staff members.

This merger is expected to bring together the area’s top cardiovascular resources and with some of the leading medical technology in the region.

Appleton Cardiology Associates and ThedaCare joined forces in the 1960s to create the Appleton Heart Institute, the first heart program north of Milwaukee.

Top Ten of 2010 – Part Six

January 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

By Bob Warde, New North B2B Managing Editor
And Sean Fitzgerald, New North B2B Publisher

Here is the sixth installment of entries of the Top Ten business stories in the B2B coverage area for 2010. The entire list can be read in the January edition of New North B2B, which will hit mailboxes this week or so.
Part six: Numbers two and one

No. 2: Republicans were unstoppable
While Republicans won big in November’s elections, from the so-called top of the ticket with Ron Johnson beating entrenched Democrat Russ Feingold for the U.S. Senate and Scott Walker beating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to win the Governor’s office, Wisconsin’s Statehouse was regained in both the assembly and senate.

It’s arguable Republicans did even better in northeast Wisconsin: they didn’t lose a single seat locally, while picking up three chairs previously held by Democrats. In the 2nd Assembly District, newcomer Andre Jacque, a Green Bay Republican, decisively beat incumbent freshman Rep. Ted Zigmunt (D-Francis Creek). Across town in the 88th Assembly District, Republican John Klenke narrowly defeated two-term incumbent Jim Soletski (D-Green Bay).

Republicans picked up an additional seat in the 5th District where incumbent Rep. Tom Nelson stepped aside to pursue a failed bid for Lt. Governor. Jim Steineke, a Kaukauna Republican, captured the seat. Republican Chad Weininger captured the 4th Assembly District, previously held by another Republican, Phil Montgomery, who stepped down after six terms. The same dynamic occurred in the 52nd District where Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt took the seat held by six-term Rep. John Townsend (R-Fond du Lac), who also bowed out to retire. Likewise, political newcomer Michelle Litjens, an Oshkosh Republican in the 56th District, faced no opposition to take the seat previously held by Rep. Roger Roth (R-Appleton), who stepped aside to run for the Eighth Congressional District seat.

In fact, the only two local Democrats from the Assembly to win were 54th District Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) and 57th District Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton), both re-elected to additional two-year terms.

One additional highlight for Republicans – political newcomer Reid Ribble knocked off two-term incumbent Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Appleton) to capture the state’s Eighth Congressional seat, while Rep. Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac) won a 17th term for the Sixth Congressional District.

No. 1: Highway 41 update moves into high gear
U.S. Highway 41 modernization picked up steam. Construction work on the U.S. 41 project will span more than 17 miles of highway in Winnebago County from 2009 to 2014, and 14 miles in Brown County from 2010 between 2017. The construction includes: traffic lanes expanded from four to six – and in some cases – 10 lanes; 16 interchanges improved, with 13 of those interchanges completely rebuilt; 44 roundabouts added; 17 traffic cameras installed along U.S. 41; and an eight-lane Lake Butte des Morts causeway.

In March, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation began work to demolish and replace the Witzel Avenue Bridge over U.S. 41 in Oshkosh. The overpass was closed to all traffic throughout the duration of the $8.3 million project, which reopened to traffic in October. Simultaneously, crews worked to replace the 20th Avenue overpass in Oshkosh, which opened to traffic in July. April brought work by the DOT on a $3.1 million project to reconstruct the interchange ramps at State Road 76 in Winnebago County north of Oshkosh. Throughout the construction, ramps were closed to all traffic until the project completion at the end of June.
In June the DOT began work on a $2.3 million project to replace the County Highway J overpass of U.S. 41 near Kaukauna in Outagamie County. The bridge, as well as the ramps to and from U.S. 41, were closed to traffic until the project was completed in October.

Fewer project improvements started up in Brown County in 2010, though work did get underway at the Scheuring Road interchange in De Pere, where roundabouts were constructed in late summer to pave the way for a complete overhaul of the interchange beginning this spring.

The heat of August brought a welcome announcement by Gov. Jim Doyle that he would convene a meeting of the state Transportation Projects Commission to discuss a $350 million expansion and improvement of the State Highway 441/U.S. 10 interchange with U.S 41 in the Town of Menasha.

Throughout the year, work continued on the Lake Butte des Morts causeway reconstruction near Oshkosh.