Tag Archives: Growth

The Business News: Colby Metal

Strategic evolution key for Colby Metal
Fabricating business has nearly doubled its sales in the last 10 years

Nestled in the small community of Colby, the metal fabrication specialists at Colby Metal take on the name of the community that they love. Their workers are their lifeblood and most come from Colby. Because of that they are constantly involved in the community. Using their expertise and equipment, they produce fire rings to help a variety of charities including supporting the Wounded Warrior Project, local cancer patients and the Jamison Kampmeyer Memorial. The strong desire to give back to the community has only been made possible by the success their business has experienced in recent years.

Despite the fact that manufacturing was hit hard during the recession, Colby Metal has thrived and is now looking to expand. Products they produce are as diverse as the capabilities they have to produce them. The combination of laser cutting, laser tube sawing, CNC forming & punching, robotic welding, sheet metal fabrication, powder coating and milling has created a wide array of products for a variety of industries. Combined with lean initiatives, this collection of skills has created a niche that enabled Colby Metal to grow will others struggled. Mark and Darla Viegut currently co-own the company with Mark Nemschoff. Darla credits their success to “Mark’s (Viegut) focus on versatility – healthcare, automotive, lighting – not just having one customer or industry focus.” Mark Viegut sums up their success with one word. Service. “We show our service before, during and after the sale.” This versatility and commitment to service has allowed them to nearly double their sales in the last ten years, with most of that growth occurring in the last five years.

Colby Metal doesn’t produce many items that go directly to market but rather produces important components that enable their customers to create finished products. This model gives them global reach from their small town in western Wisconsin. Their components have driven on the dangerous roads of Iraq and Afghanistan, allow patients to be more comfortable during their hospital stay and help restaurants provide their customers excellent food and service. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – this list could go on and on.

Mark, who also serves as Vice President, describes his company as “a one stop shop” and has been called “the best kept secret” by their customers. Unfortunately, being a secret in the metal fabrication industry isn’t always the best key to success and their hoping to change that with some new initiatives. Despite their past success Mark admits that there is a “missing link” to the company. All new ideas and strategic directions are directed by a small group of owners. Like many business owners, they want to ensure there is a system in place to help guide the business that they’ve spent years growing and improving, as they begin stepping out of the day to day operational picture.

For Colby Metal, the first step was to develop their newly minted business plan. Initially created to be their road map to the future, it also captures some of the strategic elements they need to focus on for long term viability. One of these elements is to establish an advisory board. Darla, also Director of Human Resources, hopes “an advisory board will bring new ideas to business at a higher level.” The owners also expect that this will provide more structure to decision making. Right now, they are in the process of writing guidelines for the board. Advisory boards differ from corporate boards by providing advice and guidance rather than providing governance to large corporations. Many entrepreneurs and small to medium business owners turn to advisory boards as they expand and look to remain viable by creating strategic objectives.

Although there are many key focus areas, one of the most important was to review and update their organization structure. They realized that their management structure was still operating as it was before their growth occurred. Based on that, Colby Metal re-examined their organizational structure and has redesigned it to cater to a growing company. Now that they’ve revamped their structure, they plan to get the right people in the right position and then create stability that will allow them to excel at their roles. With current managers taking on more responsibility and new managers in the mix, they also established a three phase training program to give their leaders the skills they need to succeed. Skills include flexibility, communication, following up and delegation to start and evolve into being a visionary leader that can lead change and motivate a team to success. Not only will this training give their current leaders the skills they need to take Colby Metal to the next level, but it gives the organization the confidence that their leaders are ready to assume roles with greater responsibilities when the time comes.

Hard work and dedication combined with expertise in a high demand field led Colby Metal to success, but continuing that success into the future will take a different approach. Colby Metal has made a commitment to grow and evolve. Their business plan, advisory board and setting conditions to allow their management team to succeed will help Colby Metal look into the future and set a strategic path that will guide them to growth and continuing success.

Published in The Business News on July 6, 2015


The Business News: Aspirus Arise

Click the link below to read my most recent article for The Business News, or read the text that is copied below:

Feb 13, 2017 – Aspirus Arise had solid first year


Photo: Brett Davis, President and CEO of Aspirus Arise

When Brett Davis, President and CEO of Aspirus Arise, addressed a group of young professionals from the Marathon County United Way Emerging Leaders last month, it wasn’t sales and dollar figures that he discussed, but rather the importance of culture. “I want Aspirus Arise to be the best health plan in the nation,” Davis declared. “That is my vision.”

In order to accomplish that vision, “it’s important to own your culture,” Davis explained. “Culture is king and it matters. In the Fall of 2016 Aspirus had a terrific speaker at a retreat and he said something that resonated with me – you either have a culture by default or design, but either way you will have a culture. Make it the one you want for your organization.” At Aspirus Arise, they focus on the tenets of customer focus, individual responsibility, mutual respect, and passion as the centerpiece of their culture. “Growing out of two organizations, we’ve had to merge the culture of a health system and a health insurance company, yet define our own,” Davis discussed when talking about how Aspirus Arise was formed. “We’re very proud of what we have done so far. As a leader of an organization, it is very important to also look at your own behavior and ask – am I living up to the words I am talking about? If you are not adhering to your own standards, those that you are leading will not be living that culture.”

It has been this culture that has helped leaded the Wausau based Aspirus Arise to a solid first year sales performance with 59 groups already signed up and a total membership of around 15,000, which Davis fully expects to grow throughout the year. This is important considering, Aspirus Arise “is at the cutting edge across the country,” Davis revealed, referencing the unique partnership between Aspirus and the Arise Health Plan. “I’m fascinated to see how it is going to stack up against other plans.”

His journey to the helm of the now year old Asprius Arise was a whirlwind of unique positions and opportunities, all centered on public service. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, he served as a legislative aide for State Representative Mike Powers before becoming an advisor to Governor and later Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. From there he launched his own political career, serving three terms in the Wisconsin State Assembly and then as Wisconsin’s Medicaid Director under Governor Walker. It was that last experienced that positioned himself perfectly for a Vice President role at WPS Health Solutions, holders of the Arise Health Plan, and ultimately the President and CEO role when Aspirus Arise was created.

Aspirus Arise’ goal is to promote good health in Wisconsin, while keeping the costs down, with this unique local collaboration between a health insurance company and a health care provider. In addition to that cooperation, they are utilizing some creative strategies to do just that. At their core business, they offer individual marketplace, small group, large group, self-funded plans in the 16 counties that make up north-central Wisconsin. Yet, it is everything else that they plan to do, which they hope sets them apart. Population health management is one of their focus areas and it involves keeping people out of the hospitals by giving them the tools they need to take care of themselves. This concept is becoming popular nationwide, but Aspirus Arise is using analytics to make it happen. Their Health Analytics Management (HAM) team is “going on the offense,” according to Davis. “We’re trying to build a system of healthcare not sickcare by discovering over and under-utilization and adjusting our offerings accordingly. In order to do that we’re engaged in the community and taking a proactive approach.” This means teaching people what their medical numbers truly mean and doing outbound calling when necessary for prevention.

Davis offered some other wisdom that he’s learned throughout his years of public service that he’s now applying to Aspirus Arise.

“Speak truth but don’t burn bridges,” Davis imparted on the group as he discussed the importance of being candid but understanding that people receive messages differently. “I use to laugh at personality tests when I was younger, but they help. It allows you to adjust your approach based on the best way to communicate with someone.”

“Have a mindset of continuous improvement,” Davis said. “It’s important to understand that nobody is perfect but try to do a little bit better all the time. That’s one thing that we’re doing at Aspirus Arise, by recognizing strengths as well as what people are not as good at and making a plan to constantly improve.”

Beside coaching 4th grade girls’ basketball for his daughter Audrey, Davis still has “the public service bug” and feels that his role at Aspirus Arise is carrying out that mission, by helping people throughout central Wisconsin get the best possible health coverage.