Who the Wisconsin 275 say they’d love to have dinner with


Last week, BizTimes Media unveiled its Wisconsin 275 publication highlighting the state’s most influential business leaders. As part of the selection process, each business leader filled out a questionnaire that posed a variety of questions, from the best advice they’ve ever received to what their first jobs were. As part of the questionnaire, BizTimes Media asked the inaugural Wisconsin 275 members which two business leaders they’d be most interested in having dinner with and why. The most popular answers were Warren Buffet, with 17 mentions, and Elon Musk, with 11 mentions. Below is a sampling of some of the Wisconsin 275 responses to this question. Additional responses to this and other questions will be shared at Biztimes.com in the future. If you could have dinner with any two business leaders, who would you choose and why? Imran A. Andrabi, president of ThedaCare “I would be fascinated to have dinner with Steve Jobs, if he were still with us. It would be fascinating to learn more about his mind and innovation. He helped create something that people did not even know they needed or wanted – it was incredible. “And the second person would be Elon Musk. I just want to understand how he thinks about things – I am really curious.” Bob Atwell, chairman of Nicolet Bankshares “Warren Brule passed away about eight years ago. He founded MJ Electric in Iron Mountain, Michigan. He was tough, generous, smart and hard working. I learned a lot just watching and being with him. “My uncle George Ehrhardt ran the Albert Lea Seed house. I worked for him for six summers in high school and college. He was incredibly hardworking, tenacious and had a great way with customers. In his spare time he engaged a lot of troubled young men (including me).” Rick Barrett, chief executive officer of Barrett Lo Visionary Development “Phil Knight and Richard Meyer. All great businesses start with sacrifice. Phil Knight starting a business and selling shoes out of the trunk his car is a great story of building a business from the ground up. Richard Meyer is a world-renowned architect and I have always been enamored with his creations. His designs speak to my soul.” Todd Battle, president of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance “Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs.  I am fascinated by Mr. Buffett’s longevity/success as an investor and his stamina, energy, and passion for his craft well into his 90s. I think Steve Jobs’ resurrection of Apple is an incredible story.” Joel Brennan, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee “I would welcome the chance to dine once more together with Mike Cudahy and Joe Bartolotta — two local legends and friends — first of all to thank them for all that they have meant to the community and to me personally. In addition, I could soak up from both their unyielding entrepreneurial approach to problem solving and investing in people. They also brought a ‘can do’ attitude to every endeavor, and that is needed in times where some problems seem overwhelming. And since they argued all the time, I could both sit back and enjoy them yelling at each other and step in as peacemaker when the time felt right.” Debbie Allen, president and CEO of DNA Network LLC “Michelle Obama – Her book ‘Becoming’ speaks to a subject I’m passionate about: purpose. (Also,) Eric Thomas, also known as ET — I would love to hear more about his story. He also speaks about finding his purpose.” Shari Black, executive director of Wisconsin State Fair Park “Mary Barra, chair and CEO of General Motors. Mary is the first woman to serve as CEO of a ‘Big Three’ automaker. She began as an 18-year-old co-op student. She certainly worked her way up in a male-dominated field, and I think it would be interesting to hear about her experiences and learn from them.” Tina Chang, CEO of SysLogic “(First,) MC Hammer. I’d love to hear his personal story of how he made it big, lost it big, and what he would do differently (or not) if he could do it all over again. (Second,) Jeff Bezos. We started our businesses in the same year (one of us obviously did better). I would go year by year to understand who and what influenced him to make the next move, and what tradeoffs he had to make — both personally and professionally — along the way.” Hector Colon, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan “(First,) Judith Faulkner. I would be interested in learning how Judith built her incredible business (Epic) with her humble, generous, and engaging leadership approach. (Second,) Dianne Hendricks. I would be interested in learning about her resilience and how she overcame early obstacles. Both individuals have diverse backgrounds and perspectives that intrigue me. I would learn a lot from them.” Eve Hall, president of the Greater Milwaukee Urban League “From a local perspective, Peter Feigin because of his relentlessness and business savviness in building the Bucks organization into a world-known entity, while also having a heart for community and youth. From a national perspective, Johnnetta Cole because of her outstanding leadership, vision, and fundraising success as the first black woman to lead Spelman College. I also admire the way she champions the history and contributions of black and brown people.” Michael Johnson, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County “I would have dinner with Jay-Z, who is a billionaire businessman and hip hop artist, and I would have dinner with the Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and ask them for transformational major gifts.” Joe Kirgues, co-founder of gener8tor “Taralinda Willis from Curate and Chris Campbell from ReviewTrackers. We have a history of celebrating founders who successfully build and exit companies from scratch and we owe them a dinner.” Barry Mandel, chairman and CEO of Mandel Group “Isadore Sharp. The Four Seasons brand is iconic in the hospitality industry. From a cold call, he invited me to visit with him in Toronto. I learned and was inspired by him in just three hours on how hospitality, technology and apartment industries are merging to create a living experience well beyond shelter alone. He also is a mixologist by recognizing that every minute of every day you can make a lemon into lemonade for your customer.” Ugo Nwagbaraocha, president of Diamond Discs International “Magic Johnson and Oprah Winfrey. (They’re) visionaries, winners and trailblazers that opened the doors and paved the trails to create so many wealth building opportunities for so many to accomplish and emulate.” Ellen Censky, president and CEO of the Milwaukee Public Museum “Yvon Chouinard, CEO of Patagonia, and Cynthia LeConte, CEO of Dohmen Co. Both these leaders have taken new and interesting approaches to running a business that is profitable but also gives back in a big way to the community.” John Daniels Jr., chair emeritus at Quarles & Brady LLP “The first would be Jamie Dimon because he has an enormous capacity for seeing ahead of the curve and he had experiences in his career where he had to learn from a challenge. He grew a global organization and had a deep compassion for people around the globe. The second would be Ken Chenault, former CEO of American Express and a former law school classmate of mine. Not only did he do an incredible job at American Express, but in the second phase of his career, he’s had a major impact on the development of incredible new companies.” Valerie Daniels-Carter, president and CEO of V & J Holding Companies Inc. “Steve Jobs and Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson to learn of their business acumen and their abilities to use untraditional methods to successfully reach their objectives.” Brian Dranzik, Milwaukee County airport director “Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group. Mr. Branson has had an amazing career from starting a record store to now being on the forefront of space travel. His excitement and passion for what he does comes through whether it’s in photos or interviews. I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of him not smiling or looking like he (was) not having a great time with whatever endeavor he is involved with. “(Also,) Phil Knight, (co-founder) of Nike. It would be interesting to hear how Nike has grown to a top brand in sports while dealing with all the complexities of the business.” Stephen Einhorn, partner at Capital Midwest Fund “Thomas Edison because he was able to combine great scientific ability with amazing practicality. Adam Smith because he understood and explained how ‘the invisible hand’ guides all businesspeople to provide value to their customers which acts as a protector against excessive personal greed.” Pat English, chairman, CEO and CIO of Fiduciary Management Inc. “Chris Koch, Carlisle Cos. CEO. He gets that companies that focus on their core business and shed non-essential ones win in the stock market. And I understand he is a great guy who is a lot of fun. Rick Dreiling, chairman of Dollar Tree. Rick is considered one of the best retail executives of the past 30 years. He, along with an activist, took on an entrenched team at Dollar Tree, threw them out and now is turning the company around.” Peter Feigin, president of the Milwaukee Bucks “(First,) Thomas Edison to learn about his thought process about inventing. (Second,) P.T. Barnum, the greatest showman of all time.” Jason Fields, president and CEO of Madison Region Economic Partnership “Robert F. Smith and Warren Buffett. When you look at the level of philanthropic dollars they allocate, I would love to know what drove them to put them into a position to not only give but give to the degree that they have.” Matthew Friedel, co-founder of Milwaukee Venture Partners Angel Network and director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) Business Innovation Incubator “Jim Roger, co-founder of the Quantum Fund. I would love to chat with Jim not only about his investing style but his global travels, and authoring books including ‘Investment Biker: Around the World with Jim Rogers’ and ‘Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip’. I share Jim’s passion for traveling the globe and all the amazing experiences that come with travel.” Robert Pierce, executive director of Neighborhood Food Solutions “(First,) George Washington Carver. I would learn a lot of farming and soil information (Second,) Stevie Wonder. I feel like we would have a real spiritual connection.”

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