Stories from Jendusa, Berbee can help inspire next generation ‘treps

Stories from Jendusa, Berbee can help inspire next generation ‘treps

Jerry Jendusa’s newest venture is called STUCK, but the veteran entrepreneur, business advisor and community leader seems anything but mired in the muck of under-achievement.

The Milwaukee-area native grew EMTEQ from a basement startup to an international aerospace company over 18 years before it was sold, along with another aviation firm, to BE Aerospace for a combined $470 million in 2014.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Jendusa promptly co-founded STUCK LLC to provide business advisory services to companies looking to grow. STUCK has also launched an early stage investment fund and incorporates a philosophy that successful business founders should give back to the community when they reach the promised land of profitability.

It’s all part of the message Jendusa will deliver during the June 2-3 Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Madison, where he will be a keynote speaker and one of many examples of the state’s innovation economy.

Still flying high in New Berlin, EMTEQ is an industry leader in airplane cabin comfort and lighting, exterior lighting, aircraft systems design and more. Founded in 1996, it has weathered recessions and dramatic changes in the aviation industry, not the least of which was the downturn following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It was a challenging time to be scaling up an aviation company,” Jendusa recalled.

The company grew, nonetheless, through three acquisitions and the addition of six offices in the United States and three other countries. EMTEQ had 630 employees and more than $100 million in annual sales when it was acquired. Jendusa’s role in navigating that growth explains why he serves as co-chairman of Scale Up Milwaukee, among other community endeavors.

Scaling young companies will be among the themes of the 13th annual Entrepreneurs’ Conference, which will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at Madison’s Alliant Energy Center. The theme of “Launch, Grow and Succeed” will bind together several speakers, 15 panel discussions and the finalist round in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

In addition to Jendusa, who speaks Wednesday morning, attendees will hear from Jim Berbee, the founder of Berbee Information Networks and the winner of this year’s “Ken Hendricks Memorial Seize the Day Award” for entrepreneurial excellence.

Founded in 1993, Berbee Information Networks Corp. grew to 800 employees, 11 offices and two data centers in six Midwestern states. One of the nation’s largest privately held solution providers at the time, it was acquired by CDW for $175 million in 2006.

Actually, it’s Dr. Jim Berbee these days. After Berbee Information Networks was sold, Berbee embarked on a new career in medicine – a remarkable turn for someone who might have easily kicked back on a beach to count his money.

Berbee attended Stanford University School of Medicine and completed his emergency medicine residency at the UW Hospital and Clinics. He joined the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health last summer.

He’s perhaps best known – at least to avid runners – as the founder of the “Berbee Derby Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk” to support the Technology Education Foundation. He and his wife, Karen Walsh, through the BerbeeWalsh Foundation, also support human health and welfare projects.

If that’s not enough, Berbee keeps his hand in startups, and he’ll talk about some of his career takeaways Tuesday during a conference luncheon.

Other highlights from the conference will include panel discussions on Wisconsin’s digital health cluster, how to scale a business, the “Internet of Things,” finding the right business accelerator, Milwaukee’s emerging business clusters and building the right business team. Also, participants will learn about marketing young firms, understanding key business metrics, learning when to “fail fast” or pivot with young companies, equity crowdfunding, social media for startups and the details of how to measure business valuation, find investment dollars and generally fund an emerging business.

The conference marks the culmination of the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which began in January with nearly 240 ideas. The race is down to 13 presenters competing for cash and other prizes.

Entrepreneurs such as Jendusa and Berbee built companies from scratch, creating jobs and value along the way – and giving back to others. Their lessons can help inspire and instruct the next generation of entrepreneurs, and offer hope that Wisconsin has what it takes to sustain its startup and scale-up economy.

Recent articles by Tom Still

Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. Still is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WTN Media LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.