February’s Leadership Kenosha theme, “You Either Lead by Example or You Don’t Lead At All” followed our cohort throughout our day spent at Uline. We began with Dave Zissman, Uline Vice President of Finance, who provided us with an overview of the keys to success, the top challenges, and personal experiences which have made Uline the company it is today. He educated us about Uline’s move to Wisconsin, its growth as a company, its product base, and most importantly, Uline’s goal to remain a customer-driven enterprise even through the compounding organic growth they have experienced. He spoke to how intrinsically the Uihlein family members are involved in the company and how their examples of leadership guide the company’s employees.
We next took a tour of the Uline headquarters. As we passed through hallways filled with fine art and gazed through banks of windows at the natural surroundings, we received an explanation of the wide variety of tasks charged to the different facilities staff members which were necessary to maintain the building and grounds in tip-top shape. We then observed the different amenities available to Uline staff, including an in-house fitness center and cafeteria/dining complex.
Following our tour, we sat for a panel discussion entitled “Business and Economic Development in Kenosha County.” The moderator of the panel was Lou Molitor, President/CEO of the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce. The panel members were: Doug Bartz, Workforce Development Manager with the Kenosha County Job Center; Randy Hernandez, Executive Vice President for Operations with Kenall; Melissa Thompson, Controller with Uline; and Brooke Infusino, Director of Talent Development with the Kenosha Area Business Alliance. Each panelist first shared his or her professional profile, and then the panel collectively fielded questions from our group and shared their insights on how the rich economic climate has positively impacted the unemployment rate; how the area’s ease of work/life balance has positively influenced Kenosha’s marketability to both industry and potential workers; and what it took for the area’s culture to change to allow for all of the positive changes which are occurring currently.
Our group then spent the lunch hour with County Executive Jim Kreuser. He shared his professional profile, his familial background in the area, his pathway to public service, and his current responsibilities as County Executive. He also provided us with his thoughts on the current economic and employment climate, or a “State of the County address.”
Finally, consultant Esther Letven led us through her presentation, “Leading the Change Process.” We learned how to manage change and why people resist change. We learned about our own personal comfort levels with change and what different strategies we could utilize to lead others through the different stages of change. This presentation served as a perfect bookend for our leadership truth of the day: it is important to be the kind of leader you personally would follow, through good times and difficult times.