Tag Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Lessons from Business Empress Martha Matilda Harper

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Pete Christianson

Jane Plitt 10 17 2018

From left: Rotarian Mary Borland, Guest Speaker Jane Plitt & Rotarian Joan Collins

Rotary and Martha Matilda Harper both want to make the world a better place, said October 17 Rotary speaker Jane Plitt.  Plitt highlighted how Harper, a poor Canadian servant for 25 years, became the American pioneer of modern retail franchising with 500 Harper Method Hair shops around the world catering to world royalty, US presidents, along with suffragettes.

Harper was born in Canada and put into servitude at age 7.  As she grew, she learned several business lessons.

Dream. She dreamed of success and marrying, although marriage would not release her from being a servant.

Stick to your Goals.  Her last employer was kind. He taught her about a product he designed to make hair stronger.  On his death bed, he bequeathed her the hair tonic formula.  With that formula, she believed she has the passport to change her life.  She moves to Rochester, New York, home to suffragists, entrepreneurs, and Quakers, a hot bed of activists. With about $300 in savings, she’s denied a building lease, until hiring a lawyer.

Capitalize on Your Assets. Her floor length hair, pictured on the door, drew in mothers of piano students from next door.  She offered them chairs, then drew them into to hear about her hair tonic.

 Understand and Delight the Customer.  Harper created the first reclining barber chair; this meant no soap in customers’ eyes and clothes were protected.

Create Buzz.  Famous customers such as Grace Coolidge and Bertha Palmer kicked off her fame.  Bertha drew her to open a second store in Chicago.

Commit the Customer.  Harper asked Palmer to come back with a list of 25 friends on a petition for her to come to Chicago.

Thinking Outside the Box.  Today we call this franchising, from the French “free yourself from servitude.”  After success franchising, she rethinks her anti-male beliefs and marries at 63 to a 39-year-old. She ends up with 500+ shops, two in Madison, five training schools, one also in Madison, and two manufacturing centers.

Treat Your Staff Well.  She advised franchisees to start staff meetings listening.  She believed it important to celebrate achievements.

In 1935, when Fortune Magazine was saying “a woman’s place is not in the executive chair,” Harper was proving she could make real money and success for her organization and her franchisees.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

“…Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water”

submitted by Jocelyn Riley

Potter_Ken_

This week’s Rotary meeting opened with the singing of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, a suitable lead-in to UW-Madison Professor Emeritus Ken Potter’s presentation, “Responding to Increasing Yahara Lakes Flood Risk.”

Professor Potter pointed out that this past summer was the “wettest summer since I came here over forty years ago.”

He said that what he called “extreme rainfall” is only one aspect of alleviating flooding risks in Dane County.  Urbanization is even a more important factor, he said, pointing out that in 2017 there was twice as much development in the Yahara Lakes watershed as there was in 1970.  “But most of the Yahara Lakes watershed is not yet developed,” he said, and made the case that we need to oversee more thoughtful development that will improve water movement in the area.  “We are not going to stop urbanization,” he said, “but we need to find ways to plan development more strategically.”

There are some state regulations and laws in place currently that are helpful, but Dr. Potter also pointed out that some state laws recently passed undermine efforts to control flooding.

In answer to a question of what we as individuals can do to help with flood control, Dr. Potter made some specific suggestions, including constructing rain gardens and moving downspouts to send water onto grass or a garden area and not onto a driveway.  The goal should be to “keep as much water as you can on your property.”

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Rotary’s General Secretary: “We Are All Peacemakers”

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Pete Christianson

John Hewko 10 3 2018Rotarians were privileged to hear John Hewko, Rotary International’s General Secretary, talk about three global issues facing Rotary in the 21st century.

First, we must finish PolioPlus, even though we have been supporting this cause for 30 years.  Today, with the help of international partners including UNICEF, WHO, and Gates Foundation, the end is in sight.  Yes, Hewko admitted, we are experiencing donor fatigue, but we cannot move on to the next big project until we are successful with this one.  PolioPlus, he continued, has really put Rotary on the international map.  The remarkable infrastructure that we developed to deliver PolioPlus can be used for the next big campaign, he noted, but admitted that no decision had been made on what this would be.

Second, Rotary’s international membership has been stagnant at 1.2 million members for the last 20 years.  This is because membership in the U.S. has been declining, but membership in Asia and Africa has been increasing.  Faced with stagnant growth, Rotary must develop new products for today’s changing marketplace including experimenting with formats that depart from the club model.  Hewko also urged Rotarians to find ways to increase our impact on the world.   For example, our club could join forces with other Wisconsin clubs to do larger scale projects.

Third, Hewko urged us to recognize that “peace is at the center of everything we do.”  We do this by providing potable water, teaching better health practices, and eradicating disease.  Rotary International has recently joined forces with the Institute for Economics and Peace to focus grant programs on those that create the most enduring peace.

Hewko directs a staff of 800 employees at the RI headquarters in Evanston, Illinois and seven other international offices, and has served as general secretary since 2010.

Members from many Rotary Clubs in Southern Wisconsin also attended the talk.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Straight Talk on Civil Discourse

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Margaret Murphy

Michael Schuler 9 26 2018

Pastor Michael Schuler pictured here with Club President Jason Beren

Rotary’s Sept 26 guest speaker, Michael Schuler, asked, “Is there is an antidote to toxic talk?”

Schuler recently retired as senior minister of the First Unitarian Society of Madison.

Researchers gather data, test hypothesis, operate on provisional truths, demanding scientists have open minds.  However, even scientist succumb to civil discourse.  Debate over what killed dinosaurs is one example.

The book, “Politics of Resentment” by Kathy Cramer documents this resentment.  People in common conversation treat each other like enemies, even in rural America known for niceness.  Cramer contends political leaders are often to blame for our divided experience.  For example, trash talk, and rowdy events held by Trump’s campaign where dissenters were ejected.  “This is fun,” Trump said.  We are receptive to this bravado.

Rural citizens interviewed by Kramer felt their communities were losing to urban communities, despite data showing otherwise.  Perception matters, and politicians exploit this.  Polls focus on winning and losing, so voters overinvest in winning.  We need to focus less on winning and focus more on what government is doing for everyone.

Schuler outlined strategies to increase the quality of our conversations:

  1. Step out of our comfort zone. Invite interaction with people who don’t share your moral narrative.
  2. Think like a good scientist. Hold your ideas as a tentative theory rather than a final fact.  Apparently, it could well be, it seems, are all good phrases to use.
  3. Be more curious. Ask more questions rather than share your convictions.
  4. Be patient. Sit with discomfort until you have more clarity.
  5. Become more self-aware. Is your tone inviting or challenging?

Michael Schuler served 30 years as senior minister of First Unitarian Society of Madison, one of the largest UU churches in North America.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

MSO Celebrates 25 Years

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Margaret Murphy

John DeMain 9 19 18

From left: Club President Jason Beren, club member Perry Henderson and John DeMain

Madison Symphony Orchestra conductor John DeMain joined us in his first event to celebrate the 25th year of his leadership here in Madison. Twenty-five years is an extraordinary time for a modern conductor to stay with an orchestra. We have been lucky to have him here for a quarter century.

John began by very generously crediting his predecessor, Roland Johnson, for his long service to the MSO and as creator of the Madison Opera as part of the MSO. He credited Mr. Johnson with making the orchestra professional and with recruiting the services of UW faculty and students. John also explained the changes that he has brought. At one time, the orchestra performed eight single concerts a year. When Roland Johnson passed the baton to John, he urged him to build on his work developing an audience. John has tripled the audience during his tenure. Today, the season consists of a series of eight concerts, each performed three times, on Friday and Saturday evening and on Sunday afternoon. The MSO has done more than increase its audience and its string section (now full-sized). In his first year, John initiated blind auditions for prospective musicians. UW faculty joined the orchestra, which encouraged their students to participate as well. The result was fine musicianship. [Anyone who has heard the MSO will agree that it is shockingly good. Its string section is vibrant and its sound has a sheen.]

John also thanked Pleasant and Jerry Frautschi for their astounding gift of the Overture Center, including Overture Hall, which has a splendid acoustic that allows us to hear how beautifully the MSO plays. John also spoke of the several associated organizations and programs affiliated with the MSO.

John concluded on a somewhat somber note. Former UW Chancellor John Wiley was in attendance. He upgraded the School of Music during his tenure. Some of his work is being undone because of funding woes: many of the faculty are no longer tenure-track. They and their students are less likely to join the MSO. However, fine musicians from elsewhere are maintaining the orchestra’s excellence.

The Maestro made one last point: Madisonians should include the MSO in their entertainment options. This reviewer agrees. As an old ad in New York once proclaimed: “Try It, You’ll Like It.”

We express a special thanks to the MSO: The Rhapsodie Quartet: Susanne Beia, Laura Burns, Chris Dozoryst and Karl Lavine.  The quartet performed a movement from the American String Quartet written by Antonin Dvořák.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative Targets Neighborhoods

submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by Margaret Murphy

Vicent Cryns 9 12 2018

“Virtually every organ in the body is adversely affected by obesity,” Dr. Vincent Cryns, the Marian A. and Rodney P. Burgenske Chair and Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Rotarians on September 12.

Not only are people’s individual bodies affected negatively by obesity, according to Dr. Cryns, but obesity also has a negative effect on society as a whole.  The cost of the obesity epidemic to American society is equal to 4 to 8 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, with disadvantaged communities affected disproportionately.  The even more discouraging news is that there have been three-fold increases of obesity and overweight in the past forty years.  Dr. Cryns cited several causes, including less physical activity due to factors like increasing screen time and the marketing of “tasty inexpensive calorie-dense foods.”

Dr. Cryns is involved with the Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative (OPI), which is compiling and analyzing “zip-code-level data” to design positive interventions and coaching to help deal with this crisis.  OPI is currently working with two community partners, the Menominee Nation and Marathon County, to come up with place-based solutions to the problems posed by widespread obesity.  Possible solutions include incorporating nutritious foods like wild rice into traditional activities like community feasts and improving pedestrian and bike access so that people who would like to walk and bike more can do so safely.  Dr. Cryns encouraged his audience to find out their individual Body Mass Index (BMI; weight divided by height squared) and modify eating and exercise until it reaches healthy levels.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

StartingBlock: Imagine the Opportunity

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Margaret Murphy

Chandra Miller Fienen 9 5 2018

Chandra Miller Fienen pictured here with club member Charles Tubbs

Chandra Miller Fienen, Director of Operations & Programs at StartingBlock Madison, spoke to Downtown Rotary about what StartingBlock is and how it helps support and foster innovation entrepreneurs.

Recently opened in June 2018, StartingBlock Madison is supported by Madison Gas & Electric, American Family Insurance and the City of Madison.  In collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, StartingBlock Madison seeks to launch early-stage companies by creating a home base for innovation entrepreneurs.  Resources provided include affordable and flexible workspace, speakers on relevant topics, introduction to the startup scene, mentorships, and refining sales and marketing messages.

StartingBlock also helps fledgling companies grow by assisting with finding talent through an onsite recruiter, matching students for internships and paid positions, connecting with professional advisors and mentors, and workshops on financing and operating a business.  There are currently 20 companies, 7 partner organizations, and two venture capital funds involved with StartingBlock.

Innovation is further fostered by showcasing new ideas, collaboration with members of StartingBlock, connecting with investors and advisors, and working with experienced entrepreneurs to bring ideas to reality.

Last, StartingBlock seeks to cultivate a sense of giving back by encouraging supportive practices for employees and the community, staying in Madison once they are successful, and having a positive social conscience and impact.

Summing it all up, StartingBlock Madison’s vision statement is:  Creating intersections that cultivate entrepreneurs, build innovative companies, and drive ideas into reality.

If you missed our meeting, you can watch the video here.