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Consulting firm moves into entrepreneurial hub StartingBlock
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Consulting firm moves into entrepreneurial hub StartingBlock


A new tenant at StartingBlock will be growing its own business while also helping other startups in the entrepreneurial hub.

Business management consulting firm Lean Focus moved into a 5,000-square-foot suite in StartingBlock, 821 E. Washington Ave., last month and held the office’s grand opening Thursday. It’s the first office for Lean Focus, which will celebrate its third anniversary in February.

Lean Focus works with companies in fields such as private equity, medical devices and manufacturing. Since its launch, Lean Focus has worked with companies including Honeywell, JB Poindexter, Polaris, Roche, General Electric and more.

The firm specializes in improving three different aspects of companies, which founder and CEO Damon Baker called growth, leadership and lean. Growth involves scaling up a company’s product development, marketing and sales; leadership trains managers and supervisors in better ways to lead employees; and lean boosts efficiency and productivity of a company.

“I think of ‘lean’ as the continuous elimination in waste by engaging your team to improve their work performance,” Baker said.

The office at StartingBlock will feature workshop rooms that will allow clients to work with Lean Focus without the commitment of a specialized consulting contract. Companies interested in learning new management or efficiency strategies on a shorter-term basis can attend a workshop at the office along with other companies.

Lean Focus

The StartingBlock space is Lean Focus' first office. For about three years since its founding, the firm's employees have worked remotely.

“It’s a great entry point for prospective clients,” Baker said.

Current clients will also be able to use the space for trainings related to their specific needs, such as employee development.

StartingBlock members will also be able to tap into Lean Focus’ resources. Startups that have office or desk space in StartingBlock will be able to attend workshops free of charge.

Madison pushes for first-floor businesses while developers struggle to find tenants

“It’s a value add to being part of the StartingBlock community,” StartingBlock executive director Chandra Miller Fienen said.

Other consulting firms may specialize in different aspects of management strategy, but Baker said Lean Focus creates a one-stop shop for improving the whole company. The businesses that hire Lean Focus can tap into the resources and expertise of Baker’s team.

“If they were to start doing this on their own, it could take a decade,” Baker said. “We help them accelerate that process.”

Lean Focus

The training rooms will allow Lean Focus to have one-off workshops for multiple companies at once along with the longer-term, specialized consulting Lean Focus does with other clients.

Baker boasts the employment histories of the consultants at Lean Focus. Consultants come with years of experience at Fortune 500 companies, according to Baker. Lean Focus has 22 employees based in different cities around the world.

“These are seasoned practitioners,” Baker said.

Only two employees are based on Madison, but Baker said Lean Focus hopes to hire more.

Success for StartingBlock

StartingBlock, a nonprofit, was founded in 2013 to create an entrepreneurial hub in Madison that would foster startups.

Since opening up its space in June 2018, Miller Fienen said there has been steady demand from local companies looking to lease their first space.

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“Because the companies grow quickly at the early stage, there’s a lot of turnover,” Miller Fienen said.

Dozens of companies currently work out of StartingBlock, and each can select a different amount of space to rent — from just a desk to a few thousand square feet. Lean Focus, tech and software firm Hardin Design and Development and eco-friendly transportation platform Zerology are considered the anchor tenants.

Miller Fienen said the organization also works to tailor space and support for each company that becomes part of StartingBlock’s community. Other benefits from StartingBlock include networking opportunities that arise from sharing space and a wide array of informational events.

Several small-business support organizations and companies also keep offices in StartingBlock, including business accelerator gener8tor, incubator for military veteran entrepreneurs Bunker Labs and female entrepreneur mentoring organization Doyenne Group.

Fave 5: Business reporter Shelley K. Mesch shares top stories from 2019

We are sharing Wisconsin State Journal staffers' favorite work from 2019. From business reporter Shelley Mesch: I spent the first half of 2019 covering Dane County government and rounded out the second half by joining the business desk, where I focus on technology and start-ups.

Exact Sciences -- one of the major Madison companies I get to keep an eye on -- has hundreds of job openings, and I learned about how the biotech company is teaming up with Urban League of Greater Madison to train potential employees.

Another business story that caught my interest came from area business leaders touting the region as a prime location for new startups. It made me wonder how well Wisconsin is stacking up to its Midwestern neighbors in venture capital investments.

Yet another question I found myself asking -- do you see a trend here in how I find my stories? -- was about the rising popularity of e-bikes, particularly after BCycle converted its fleet of short-term rentals to the pedal-assisted bikes. The story was an interesting one to report, and I’m not just saying that because it got me back on a bike for the first time in about 10 years.

A reporting excursion earlier in the year, when I was still reporting on Dane County, took me out to a landfill, where the county had just turned on a giant processing plant to clean the methane and other gases emitted from the mountains of trash. Those emissions are then sold as natural gas, which can even be used as a more environmentally friendly vehicle fuel. Luckily, when I toured the facility, the garbage didn’t even smell that bad.

One of the more challenging stories I wrote this year involved the county-owned Vilas Zoo, which decided in March that it could not reach an agreement with the Henry Vilas Zoological Society, the zoo’s fundraising arm for more than 100 years. My initial reporting led to more than a dozen more articles on the conflict and sparked county-wide conversations about what could have, would have and should have been done differently.

If you want to read my other stories, you can find them here.


The county had long been trapping the methane and other gases emitted from the heaps of garbage at the landfill to be used for electricity, but the county is now using that resource to create and sell compressed natural gas (CNG), a more eco-friendly vehicle fuel than gasoline and diesel. 


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