Russ: Hi I’m Russ Capper and this is BusinessMakers USA, brought to you by Insperity, Inspiring business performance. Coming to you still from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I’m very pleased to have as my guest Elmer Moore, Jr., the Executive Director of Scale Up Milwaukee, an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Elmer, welcome to the show.
Elmer: Thank you so much for having me Russ.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about Scale Up Milwaukee.
Elmer: So Scale Up as you mentioned is the economic development initiative inside the Greater Milwaukee Committee which is a roughly 70 year old CEO leadership organization with some civic initiatives. Scale Up uses the methodology of a guy name Dan Eisenberg who is an academic from the East Coast and we focus on using entrepreneurial growth to generate economic development. So we care about growing companies, we care about changing the scale of ambition, and then backfilling that with the capacity for growth in the great companies.
Russ: Wow, and so you’re in charge of that right?
Elmer: I am the chief cheerleader and I often think of myself as an instigator and a networker and a connector.
Russ: And how long have you been in that position?
Elmer: So I’ve been with Scale Up for a little over 3 years. I started actually as a consultant to the initiative and last year, a little over a year ago, I became Executive Director.
Russ: And how old is Scale Up?
Elmer: Scale Up is only 4 years old so we are just hitting our stride even though we’re proud to say we’ve been doing fantastic work. Our flagship program called the Scalerator, which trains businesses with roughly 1 million to 10 million how to grow more profitably and at an accelerated pace, has 57 graduates and in those 4 years that we’ve been doing this program they’ve created 600 jobs. We’re very proud of that.
Russ: Wow, and is that like a classroom instruction?
Elmer: It is. So over 6 months these owners come in for a day and a half at a time over 7 sessions and we talk to them about finance, we talk to them about sales and marketing and organizational development. And a lot of it is really changing your mindset around growth. So I’ll give you an example; we don’t let participants call themselves small businesses. According to a lot a business with less than 10 million is a small business but we don’t let them do that. We say you are a growing business. And we encourage them to use that phrase because we understand that their actions will follow their words.
Russ: Cool, I like growing business better than small business.
Elmer: Yeah, that’s right.
Russ: Okay so who are the instructors?
Elmer: In the past we’ve partnered with fantastic instructors through Babson College, which is at an East Coast University.
Russ: We’ve been there a couple of times.
Elmer: They are world renowned for entrepreneurship education. Moving forward we’re actually going to own it all in-house, so we’ll be using faculty from University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and we’re using folks that understand not just how to talk about growing businesses, but we want to understand business and then we can help them learn how to teach.
Russ: I kind of sense this feeling that you like what you do.
Elmer: I have an incredible job; I get to help shape a city which I now call home. The change in the tone and the tenor of this region is palpable. So if you’d asked me 18 months ago, 2 years ago I would have said Milwaukee is on the verge and now Milwaukee is there. We are becoming the city that we know we can be.
Russ: Quite frankly we’ve been impressed. We’ve been here for a while now, done quite a few interviews, and the enthusiasm and vibrancy of those that we’ve interviewed exceeded our expectations for sure.
Elmer: I am very happy to hear that and not at all surprised.
Russ: Tell me a little bit about the Greater Milwaukee Committee; you kind of gave an overview.
Elmer: So maybe 70 years ago the CEOs of the largest 100 companies – roughly – they got together and they pooled resources in order to enable activities; so it could be infrastructure projects or other things. And it was really about making Milwaukee a great place to live, work, learn and play which is the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s motto. And over the years they determined that they needed to diversify – because if you can imagine who the CEOs from 50 years ago would be – so they diversified by adding on nonprofit leaders, education leaders, so many of the universities in Milwaukee and the Greater Milwaukee region have representation in the committee. And again, it’s all about pooling time and talent and ideas to enable the city to do things for itself or the region to do things for itself. So inside the GMC there’s great things like Scale Up Milwaukee, there’s another initiative called The Commons which is about talent development and retention. And so it’s communicating with let’s say college students how to be innovators and how to connect with corporations who might be only now figuring out how to talk to this new generation. It’s about using the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to help businesses grow, help start businesses, and so on.
Russ: What is it about your business background that persuaded the committee to know that you’re the right guy for this job?
Elmer: This is going to sound a little bit odd; I’ve only been in Milwaukee for 4 years. I came to work with a great company that has been manufacturing menswear for almost 100 years. I moved here from the East Coast, I’m very much an East Coast, pushy guy and I make the fact that I’m not from Milwaukee part of how I do my job. And so it’s important when I communicate that people know I have perspective and it’s also important that I say I’m challenging you because I see what Milwaukee is as an outsider. Sure I’m a smart guy, I’m willing to be a little bit provocative. I’m willing to be direct in my communication. But really it’s my love for this place. Even as a newish Milwaukeean I get it and I love it. It’s just such an exciting time to be here.
Russ: Elmer I really appreciate you sharing this story with us and Scale Up Milwaukee sounds like a happening initiative.
Elmer: Absolutely, thank you so much for talking to me.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Elmer Moore, Jr., the Executive Director of Scale Up Milwaukee, and we’re coming to you today from Milwaukee at the Hudson Business Lounge and Café. And this is BusinessMakers USA.
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