MSI General Celebrates 60th Anniversary!

Congratulations to MSI General on 60 years in business. Dirk Debbink, Chairman and CEO has been a member of TEC 18 since January 1992.  TEC a Vistage Company is wishing MSI General all the best!

MSI General Corporation celebrated its 60 years in business with a recent gathering of 400+ employees, clients and area officials at its newly renovated headquarters.

The event was marked by accolades from area state and municipal officials as well as heart-felt comments from the Debbink family, third-generation owners of the privately held design build firm. Family members present included Dirk Debbink, chairman and CEO of MSI General along with his wife, Terry; and Pete and Jo Debbink, Dirk’s parents. Pete Debbink was President of the firm, which he co-founded in 1957 with his father, Claude Debbink, as Metal Structures, Inc.

Among those in attendance was Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who praised Dirk Debbink for his leadership and for the firm’s contribution to jobs and to the economy in its Southeastern Wisconsin market area. Others included State Rep. Cindi Duchow (R- Delafield), who presented a plaque from the Wisconsin Legislature, Waukesha County Board Chairman Paul Decker, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow and Oconomowoc Economic Development Director Bob Duffy, declaring May 19th as MSI General Day.

A highlight of the event for the firm’s team members, retirees, hundreds of clients and partners was a buffet featuring food purchased from current and past MSI General customers, including Kenosha’s Mars Cheese Castle, Easter Seals, Picnic Basket, Miller Bakery, Brennan’s, and Lake Front Brewery.

“I am honored and humbled by the support from our clients, our government officials and from the community,” Dirk Debbink said. “And I’m so grateful to our team members, past and present, for their hard work and their dedication, through good times and especially through the few lean times we have experienced over the past six decades.”

“Our company could not succeed or serve our clients without them.”

Debbink used the occasion of the anniversary to announce a gift of $60,000 to the Oconomowoc Area Foundation, the amount matched to MSI General’s 60 years in business. Debbink, a retired Vice Admiral in the U.S. Navy, is a co-founder of OAF, which focuses on improving the Oconomowoc community, with a focus on children and youth, the environment and helping those in need.


About MSI General Corporation – MSI General, located in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, is a privately held company that offers architectural design and building construction services to customers throughout Wisconsin. The company was founded in 1957 by Claude Debbink under the name of Metal Structures, Inc. In 1976, the firm became MSI General Corporation.  The firm, one of the first fully integrated design / build companies in the state, continues to offer that value to customers through the Life of the Project Management (LOPM) process, which guarantees a timely completion and accurate outcomes through Single Source Responsibility ™ and accountable decision making. Dirk J. Debbink, the company’s current chairman and CEO, is the third generation family member to own and operate MSI General Corporation.


Better CEOs, Better Human Beings – BizTimes Media

Over the course of my 21 years as a TEC chair, I participated in more than 6,000 member-to-chair sessions we refer to as “one-on-ones.”

I heard more than 300 presentations by nationally recognized TEC resource specialists. I facilitated more than 600 TEC meetings where we tackled countless senior leadership issues.

Now that my career has somewhat unexpectedly placed me back in a corporate leadership position, I have a few thoughts on the model and the process that was designed to help CEOs run their businesses more effectively and have better lives. My first thought is “it works.”

I was able to re-enter business with a toolbox stocked with best practices gleaned from members and resource specialists. I saw the problems people were having running their businesses, and the solutions suggested by their TEC groups. I saw ideas that worked and those that failed.

Link to read more on BizTimes Media.

Using Outside Engineering Services!

Guest blog – Patrick Tetzlaff

Use Outside Engineering Services!

Patrick Tetzlaff – General Manager, Design Department Incorporated

If you are a business owner or an executive who has influence over an engineering department’s budget, then this article is for you. As the General Manager of a product development firm, my role involves promoting our services to occasionally reluctant customers. Our clients are typically managers, directors, or VPs, and most have ascended to management positions from core engineering roles and are still engineers at heart. For those who are not aware, engineers by nature generally do not ask for help, yet help is the essence of what I am trying to promote. For all those reluctant prospective customers, I offer the following three reasons to consider using outside engineering services:

  1. Increase the effectiveness of your team
  • Workloads vary and if you rely 100% on internal resources, then you are probably both underutilizing and overutilizing your team on a regular basis.
  • When workloads drop the team can take it easy. However, when workloads increase, your only option is to stand over the team and ask them to work harder, work more hours, or work weekends; an inefficient model that leads to erosion of morale in the long run. A more effective approach is to staff for the workload that you encounter 85-95% of the time and use outside resources to spool up when additional capacity is needed. This allows you to keep the core team operating at an efficient pace most of the time while not being overstaffed. Another factor to consider is that outside influence brings in a cross-proliferation of ideas and methodologies which can broaden the team’s field of vision. This enhances the creativity of the team and serves to promote a culture of innovation. Companies that use this model effectively empower their managers and directors with a discretionary budget allocation for outside services. This could be as little as 5% of their total engineering budget but comes in very handy for high demand periods.

2. Better serve your internal customers

  • The engineering department is not only the innovation engine for the organization but also a service provider for many internal customers; sales and marketing, supply management, aftersales, and manufacturing. Given this level of demand on one department, chances are at least one of the customers is underserved. Bringing on additional support rather than delaying customer requests may be a better option. This will increase the effectiveness of the engineering department as a whole and internal customer satisfaction will improve.

3. Jump start your innovation engine

  • You have it! It’s the next great product idea or product improvement that could change the course of your industry. The problem is that you do not have enough time or people to get this project off the ground. Calling in some short-term support can get this project far enough along that you can begin to sell the idea internally and obtain resources for a larger, properly funded effort.


There are excellent providers of engineering consulting services on the market. Building a relationship with one or more of these service providers can bring a great deal of value to you and your organization. Providers, such as Design Department, can serve as a valuable enhancement to your existing engineering team, helping to stabilize workload, enhance creativity, and foster a culture of innovation; all of which will help the engineering team be a more effective part of your organization.

Congratulations to John Kissinger

Congratulations to TEC 33 member, John Kissinger, earned a mayoral proclamation and a day in his honor for his five years leading the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, the agency that coordinates job training programs in Milwaukee County.

The president and CEO of Graef-USA didn’t celebrate “John Kissinger Day” for long. He quickly returned to serve as vice chairman of the agency and continues to connect businesses with workers and training programs.


To read more from The Business Journal click here.

5 Steps for Growing Business Online – Steps 3 and 4

Guest blog – Jeffrey Kirk

Congratulations your website is seen in the search engines and you are getting visitors to your site. Those are first two steps. Be sure to catch up with the previous posts if you missed them.  Click here.

Step 3 – The Visit

Now that the visitor has arrived at your website, you have to grab their attention.

Regardless of whether it’s due to pride, ego, or just that we want our website to fit the mold, we find it natural to talk about ourselves on the website.

Fortunately for you, most of your competitors’ websites are doing the same thing. They “we we” all over themselves. In other words, they talk about themselves, “we do this” and “we do that”.

If you want to keep your visitor on your site long enough to build the relationship, you have to talk about them, about their needs, about solving their problem. They clicked on your link for a reason. Show them that their decision was the right one.

There’s a handy little tool that can help you determine how well your site speaks to its visitors. It’s at Try to talk about your visitors two or three times as much as you talk about your business.

Step 4 – Engagement

If someone gets to your website and then immediately leaves to do another search, it’s called a bounce. Many websites bounce 80 to 90 percent of their visitors.

If a visitor bounces before taking any action, all your effort to that point failed. So, besides talking to them about their needs, what else can you do?

At a minimum you want to provide enough good content to move someone past the first page of your site. That means you have to provide something of value that entices them to click another link.

Simply getting one more click within your site means the visitor did not bounce. Google considers your website a little bit more engaging. That’s a good thing!

But that’s the minimum. Ideally, you should strive to have interested visitors identify themselves. To do this, you can offer them something, for free if possible. What you offer should help move them toward the solution they are seeking. Help them with the problem they are trying to solve.

Often times, the easiest thing you can do is provide information. You can offer a report, or a whitepaper, or a case study, or a coupon, or something else of value in exchange for their email address.

If you visited this page,, back in step 1, or this page,, in step 2, you have already seen two examples of this in action.

In the final installment, we take a look at the ultimate purpose of your website, conversion!

Author Bio:

Jeffrey Kirk, owner of Up At Dawn, LLC ( started his first ecommerce business in 1993. It wasn’t quite how we think of ecommerce now. To facilitate the movement of consumer goods from Southeast Asia and Europe into the Republic of Kazakhstan, he conducted business using dial-up computer networks and a fax machine.

Since 1995, Jeff has helped other businesses with their website development, to drive both traffic and conversion. These days, he is known for making internet marketing simple to understand and implement for traditional, offline businesses looking for online success.

Jeff provides video training and coaching for business people who prefer to have the skills within their business, and he offers “do it for you” service for those who prefer to hire the expertise. He is currently putting the finishing touches on a new book called, Dominate The Top – Simple Website Fixes to Rise in the Search Results and Crush Your Competition.

A Dare to be Different

Guest blog by Grant A. Johnson

Sameness too often gets in the way.

In marketing the logic is that we should do the same thing as our competitor’s, it seems to be working. But will it make you more successful?

If you are a member of a gym/fitness club, chances are you currently pay between $10 – $40/month, with the majority of members at the lower monthly spend.

So when I read about a club that was charging upwards of $165/month I was intrigued. They have 21 locations, offer better equipment, more amenities, more classes and less, if any, waiting to use the equipment, and are thriving as they carved out a nice niche away from sameness.

One of my first credit cards was with MBNA. I really liked that company. While most cards were chasing revolvers (those who keep a balance and make money off of interest rates), MBNA aimed for transactors (those who pay off their bill each month), but charged a slightly higher annual fee.

They were so successful, because they were different, that Bank of America bought them. MBNA carved out a nice niche away from sameness.

Think about all the pizza choices in any town you visit. While national chains are present, many smaller, local places thrive. They are hometown and understand the native clientele and have a unique twist that the national chains cannot duplicate.

It’s this type of thinking that attracted me to measurable marketing instead of branding. Lead with strategy, track, test and measure and improve. The proof is in the results, not the water cooler buzz. Your strategy drives success, not your pretty pictures or clever copy twists.

We do a lot of insurance marketing. In the Medicare space the audience is changing and becoming more digital savvy and diversified. It is less of a homogeneous group than it ever has been, yet insurers continue to offend prospects with their photo choices, marketing prose and channels that are consumed less and less. The proof is in front of them, but change is hard.

While it is human nature to follow the path that offers the least resistance and try and replicate other’s success, it is those who dare to take a chance that have breakout success.

And, of course, when they do have that success, others replicate it, creating more me-too campaigns that get lost in all the white noise. That’s why taking a strategic approach rather than simply a creative angle makes so much more sense in marketing today, especially with the ability to delve deeper into data analytics faster than ever before.

So be different and use data to help uncover your stories and lead you down the strategic path to prospecting gold, rather than the clever, creative-laden path to mediocrity or failure.

Grant A. Johnson is the founder of Responsory. He can be reached at

Was Your Sales Call a Hit, or a Miss?

At some point during sales training sessions, or one on one coaching we hear from a veteran salesperson “I knew that!” Our follow up question is something along the lines of “I’m sure you did, the question is; are doing it?” Eyes go down and there is stillness in the room.

Most often this occurs when we are discussing call planning and debriefing. A surprising number of veteran salespeople do little, or no pre-call planning. Even fewer do any kind of de-brief after the call. I often wonder how one can determine the success of a sales call if they have no plan going in and no thought given to what happened when they come out.

We develop client specific Call Objective forms for our clients. You can download a sample from our website . Whether you are successful or not in a sales call, it is always advantageous to review what you did and didn’t do.

Here are some simple steps to follow to make your next sales call a hit!
1) Do your research
If this is your first call on the prospect, have you visited their website, looked up your contact on LinkedIn, and checked the local newspaper for any current news articles? If this is a follow up call, did you complete all the action items from previous calls? What new information are bringing to this meeting?
2) Do your prep work
Do you have prepared questions, are they open ended, do you have follow up questions? Can you anticipate any questions they may ask? Do you have answers for those questions?
3) Set specific goals/objectives for this call
Why have you scheduled this meeting? Know what you want to accomplish and write those goals down. Your goal might be to get a buying commitment, or might be just to gather more information and set a follow up meeting. Be specific in your objectives.
4) End the call with purpose
Establish a list of Action Items for the customer as well as for yourself. Each one should be assigned specifically to someone. Each one should have a completion date and each one should be achievable. 5) Summarize and get out of there
What’s worse than people hanging around too long? Summarize your meeting, get agreement on the Action Items, establish a follow up date and time and leave. It’s been a productive meeting. Do not lose the luster by over staying your welcome.
6) Review
Before you drive out of the parking lot, pull out pre-call planning sheet and review. Did you accomplish your objectives? If not, why not? What are your Action Items? Were there any questions you need to respond to quickly? What will you change on the next call?

Planning and Execution – Ground Rule #1

This is the next in a series of posts that will describe what the CEO of the Reliance Electric Company thought about basic commitments, how the organization was going to operate and ground rules for managers. Once again, all the content of this article is based on the work of B. Charles Ames as outlined in his management manifesto titled Basic Management Concepts dated January 14, 1974.

Planning and Execution – Ground Rule #1 – Good Planning. Great Execution

Good planning is the key to successful results. A good plan is like a GPS app. You start at Point A, choose a destination and the app maps a simple, straightforward course between Point A and Point B. Your GPS helps you get back on course when you make a wrong turn. It allows you to take a side trip should you choose. Without your GPS…your plan…you are flying blind.

The plan must be in writing. Many small business owners claim to have the plan in their head. Unless the people in the rest of the organization are mind readers, a plan that is not in writing does not exist. It is the discipline of writing the plan that helps to identify blind spots and allows critical feedback during the planning process.

A business plan does not need to be elaborate. No need to worry about sentence structure. Don’t get hung up on the format. And, no matter how complex, a good plan that has been thought through properly can be summarized in a few paragraphs. Yes, keep it simple.

Planning alone, however, accomplishes nothing. People have to do things to get things done. Execution is critical. Further, according to Ames, “A Grade “B” plan properly executed will yield better results than a Grade “A” plan weakly executed every time.”

Or, as General George Patton put it, “A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

The danger of becoming so caught up in the planning process that nothing gets accomplished is real. It is important to understand that 90% of the benefit from the planning process comes from the first 20% of the planning process effort. The next 80% of the effort simply makes people feel good. It also stands in the way of getting on with the real work that needs to be done.

B. Chuck Ames and his wife Jay currently manage the Ames Family Foundation. They divide their time between a home in Vero Beach, Florida and a second home in a suburb of Cleveland.


Image Credit – iStock

Ground Rule #6 – Dealing With Misfits

This is the next in a series of posts that will describe what the CEO of the Reliance Electric Company thought about basic commitments, how the organization was going to operate and ground rules for managers. Once again, all the content of this article is based on the work of B. Charles Ames as outlined in his management manifesto titled Basic Management Concepts dated January 14, 1974.

Organization and Staffing – Ground Rule #6 – Dealing With Misfits

This is it. The granddaddy of all business problems. The inability of most managers to deal with misfits quickly and decisively. They get into the organization somehow. Poor selection, mostly. Values misalignment, perhaps. They are there. And, they are destructive.

You know the drill.

Marginal employees are given every opportunity to succeed. They are coached and prodded. They are rewarded for temporary improvement and threatened when the inevitable backsliding occurs. Managers agonize. Co-workers fret. Performance is sub-optimized.

Ames highlighted four types of misfits who are especially damaging.

– The individual who lacks integrity or intellectual honesty required to insure total trust.

– The politician who always has a finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
This individual is more interested in making the politically correct move rather
than doing what is right.

– People who are incompetent. Quite simply, employees who do not accomplish what is
expected of them in terms of job performance.

– Organizational bullies. Bastards to their subordinates. Sycophants to their bosses.

Jack Welch at GE was legendary for his 20-70-10 forced grid rankings of all employees and the determination to weed out the bottom 10 percent each year. It was also thought to be cruel and unusual punishment for GE people. As he points out in his book Jack: Straight from the Gut, however, the process to remove the bottom 10 percent of his people was just the opposite. Welch thought it was brutal to keep people around who were not going to grow and prosper. According to Welch, “there is no cruelty like waiting and telling people late in their careers that they don’t belong.”

Red Scott, a colleague of mine from Florida put it another way. “The best thing you can do for a good employee is fire a bad one.”

B. Chuck Ames and his wife Jay currently manage the Ames Family Foundation. They divide their time between a home in Vero Beach, Florida and a second home in a suburb of Cleveland.


Image Credit – iStock