Jim Sullivan, Director Business Development

Jim Sullivan has extensive first-hand knowledge of the challenges that come with owning and operating a business.

Sullivan, Director of Business Development for WMEP Manufacturing Solutions, owned and ran businesses for nearly 25 years prior to joining the WMEP team in 2014. He relies on that experience in assisting leaders of Wisconsin’s small and mid-size manufacturers in creating and executing strategies aimed at driving continuous improvement, growth and value for their operations.

“I’ve drawn on my previous experience with every customer encounter,” Sullivan said. “Having walked in the owner’s shoes for so many years has been helpful for me to relate to their issues and goals. Though the machines I’ve owned and the products I’ve produced may have been different, the issues and goals are largely the same.”

Sullivan’s experience, which includes owning and operating his own printing business for more than two decades, allows him to relate to manufacturing leaders as they deal with an array of daily challenges.

“When asked about owning a business I often give the same answer: ‘It is an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world, but wouldn’t recommend to many,’” Sullivan said.

“When you have your life savings and the future of providing for your family on the line every day, you tend to pay attention to every aspect of the business. This has given me a respect for our customers and allows me to share a broad range of experiences. I’ve lived through the enormous highs and lows of owning a business and that gives me a tremendous appreciation for people taking on the challenges and risks of owning a business.”

In his role, Sullivan joins forced with WMEP’s manufacturing experts in building partnerships with a broad range of Wisconsin manufacturers.

“The depth and breadth of our collective knowledge gives me confidence that we can have a meaningful conversation with our customers on a very broad range of topics, knowing someone on our team is either a deep subject matter expert or knows someone who is,” Sullivan said. “This differentiates us from other service providers and positions us as a very valuable resource. Combining this with our mission, funding structure, and partners, provides credibility and a trust factor that is unparalleled.”

For more than a year, manufacturers have had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the unprecedented challenges it has created. But manufacturing leaders constantly face a variety of issues and have taken on COVID-19 in much the same way, Sullivan said.

“I don’t think the fundamental needs have changed in the slightest.  Businesses are always being thrown something they need to adjust or adapt to,” he said. “They fight a constant headwind due to the ever-changing business landscape. COVID-19 simply reminded business owners of past lessons, only at a much more accelerated and brutal pace.”

The coronavirus pandemic is just another reality for which manufacturers need to seriously, and quickly, address, Sullivan explained.

“It became real in a hurry.  Business owners aren’t likely to forget about this for a very long time,” Sullivan said. “Much like the 2008 recession, they will be talking about this for a decade, perhaps longer.  There have been lessons learned and well-run businesses will come out stronger.”

Among the lessons are how companies will continue to deal with remote workforces, Sullivan noted.

“Working from home has proven to be effective and is highly desired by many employees,” Sullivan said.  “If an employer doesn’t offer this, they may lose out on recruiting top talent. Employers who adapt and understand how to thrive with a remote workforce will win the war for talent.  If you extend geographic boundaries, the labor pool becomes enormous.”

Sullivan oversees a team of Business Development Leaders at WMEP who often are responsible for starting crucial conversations with potential clients.

“We have a very strong value proposition backed up by an integrated suite of high-value services,” Sullivan said. “Once our prospective customer understands this, they are ready to meet our other team members.”

Sullivan credited the Business Development Leaders for the impressive job they do in understanding customers and their needs.

“It is usually quite evident from the start what the prospective customer is interested in learning more about, or needs our help with,” Sullivan said. “From there, we turn it over to the consulting team to take the conversation to a deeper level.  Once the consulting team takes root inside the organization, they learn much more and identify additional opportunities.”

Raised in Madison, Sullivan resides in the town of Waukesha with his wife, Vicky. They have two adult children, Danny and Blair. Danny is named for legendary Indy Car champion Danny Sullivan, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1985 driving for Roger Penske. Danny now works for Penske’s truck leasing firm.

Sullivan also has a 1-year-old lab named Indy, another tribute to his fondness of auto racing.

Seeing the results of WMEP’s services on a customer’s operations is the most rewarding part of the job, Sullivan said.

“Our team delivers amazing results,” Sullivan said. “I’m so proud we have a hand in helping make this happen.”

Contact Jim today to learn how WMEP Manufacturing Solutions can work with you to help your business.
608.354.1346 | [email protected]