Leaders & Influencers: Jeff Glazer

In our final Leaders & Influencers post of the year, we chat with Jeff Glazer, clinical assistant professor with the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, which provides free legal services to nascent entrepreneurs and early stage companies through the work of law students, faculty, and private sector attorneys. 

Talk a little bit about what brought you to the Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic in 2011 and the work that you do there.

Jeff GlazerI started at the Clinic in a part-time capacity as a supervising attorney for the law students who were working with entrepreneurs. I had my own law office at the time, but the work they were doing at the Clinic was similar to what I was doing in my own practice, and it just seemed like a new and interesting overlap. As I continued my work there, I really started buying in to what [L&E Clinic cofounders] Eric Englund and Anne Smith were trying to do, which was to fill a market need for legal service where the only other options were self-service or no service.

As lawyers, we want people to be proactive in obtaining legal services, but we often price ourselves out of that opportunity. People tend to delay seeking legal services because they can’t afford them, even though they know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. At the L&E Clinic, we provide good legal services in a way that entrepreneurs can be legally proactive.

My own background is in the food and beverage industry, which is a big industry for Wisconsin and provides a good opportunity for entrepreneurship. So I’ve been concentrating on this area and thinking about how the many pieces of the food and beverage industry can work together in a more holistic way. I’m taking more of a leadership role in bringing these disparate food and beverage companies together, beyond just providing legal services. There are real opportunities in this sector, but there are also real monetary challenges to getting these types of businesses started.

What kind of entrepreneurs does the L&E Clinic work with? Do you specialize in any particular industry?

To be eligible to work with the clinic, you only have to be in the first couple of years of your business. If you meet that definition, it doesn’t matter to us if you’re a food cart or a high-tech spin-off company from the university—or anything in between. There are varying levels of service we provide depending on what it is the business needs. For those companies who are most interested into growing into something bigger, we can get them connected with a range of providers, services, and individuals that can help them do that. And we can play the role of quarterback to help those same companies survey the field and think about the things they need to do to move the ball. We don’t do this in every instance, but for companies that want it, we do provide that handheld, integrated type of service.

Any new or continued initiatives the L&E Clinic has been working on over the past year?

We’re working on an ongoing basis with tightening our relationship with [coworking space and seed accelerator] Madworks. It’s an interesting work in progress. As Madworks is starting to take more of a governance-related direction, we’re finding more opportunities for students to get involved with clients while they’re going through the accelerator.

We also moved into the @1403 startup hub about a year ago, and it’s been exciting being in that space. The organizations that have found a home here—Discovery to Product (D2P), Madworks, gBETA, the L&E Clinic—weren’t necessarily planned for this space but have gravitated and grown here organically, which really has made @1403 more effective for entrepreneurs. It’s cool to be part of the space and activity that goes on there.

What’s the single most important change you’d like to see to encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship in our community?

I think we need to have a broader discussion about what is and isn’t entrepreneurship. When people think of entrepreneurship, they tend to think about the big high-tech companies that want to grow like crazy. I think we need to bring it down and understand that entrepreneurship doesn’t only mean big and high-tech. You can be a graphic designer or a VP of Marketing who provides independent services and you’re an entrepreneur too. I think there need to be more discussions and services around supporting entrepreneurship in all its forms. These smaller businesses may not have a huge opportunity for growth, but there’s also not a huge opportunity for risk. I want to support the woodshop or food cart owner and help them make connections so they can solve whatever challenge or problem in the world that they’re trying to solve. At its heart, that’s what entrepreneurship is all about.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn more about how our outsourced accounting and CFO services can help your business succeed.

 

Leaders & Influencers: Maddy Niebauer

In our continuing series on Madison Leaders & Influencers, we chat with Maddy Niebauer, Founder and CEO of vChief, a virtual chief of staff service supporting executives from all industries.

Tell us a little bit about your background and what made you decide to start vChief?

Maddy NiebauerI was a chief of staff with Teach for America for about five years, and I really loved that role. As a chief of staff, your role is very much strategic, but it’s also action-oriented. It goes beyond strategic planning to execution, thought partnership, and acting as a surrogate for the leader you support.

I also had a wonderful relationship with the leader I was supporting at Teach for America. When she left that organization to start a new nonprofit, she asked me to moonlight for 5-10 hours a week as a virtual chief of staff. As I thought about my own next steps, career-wise, I realized there was a demand for this type of part-time chief of staff work and decided to launch vChief. Though I continue to support this leader, I now spend most of my time running the business and matching executives with a chief of staff who can meet their unique needs.

How does vChief work and what services do you provide?

We contract with executives and leaders to work for a set number of hours per month—typically between 20-80 hours—and will pair up one of our chiefs of staff to work with that person virtually. Since our chiefs of staff are located all over the country, we can also work with some leaders in person if needed. Right now we have nine chief of staff, each of whom has his or her own accomplished background and areas of expertise—everything from talent acquisition and human resources to strategic planning, sales, leadership, and risk management, among others.

Our services vary drastically based on what the client needs, but generally we serve as a soft partner to leaders and help take tasks off of their plates so that they can concentrate on the things that matter most to their organization. Our consultants are generalists and offer a wide array of support: strategic time management & prioritization, project management, strategic planning, operations, communications, team management, finance, HR, and almost anything else a leader could need.

Generally speaking, our services fall into two primary buckets:

  • Interim role replacement, where we fill in for a key team member who is on leave or who has left and a replacement hasn’t yet been hired – sometimes a chief of staff role, other times a COO or another key strategic role. This type of work tends to be short-term and intensive—we can jump in pretty quickly and provide support right away.
  • Chief of staff, where we provide ongoing virtual support to executives on any number of tasks, including operations, project management, communications, team management, finance, and human resources. We typically work in this role from 5-20 hours a week, as needed.
Do all of your clients work for large organizations? Or do you also work with startups and small businesses?

Since I launched vChief six months ago, we’ve served clients in industries ranging from nonprofits and education to e-commerce and pharmaceuticals. The organizations have ranged in size from 1 staff member to several hundred, and have been located around the United States.

We’ve worked with four startups to date, and I think we provide a very helpful and economical service. Often startup founders don’t have many other staff and are overwhelmed by everything that needs to happen to launch their business. They need to be lean, nimble, and able to pivot—and they don’t want to bear the risk of bringing on staff if they’re not sure they can afford them. We can come in for just a few hours a week and provide a very high level of support to help move the needle on their business.

Why was Madison the right place to launch vChief and what kind of support have you received from the community?

I lived in Madison while I was working for Teach for America, so I was already based here, but I have found the entrepreneurial community here to be fantastic. I work out of 100 State and have met so many great people there. I’ve also attended a number of Doyenne Group trainings, 1 Million Cups presentations, Forward Fest, Capital Entrepreneurs happy hours, and other startup events. There’s a real entrepreneurial community here doing really interesting things, and they’re all so eager to help connect you to other people here who might be able to help you with your own business. It’s really pretty amazing.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn more about how our outsourced accounting and CFO services can help your business succeed.

Fine Point Meet & Greet: Sarah Motiff

Meet the newest Fine Point Consulting staff and learn a little bit about what makes them tick. This week: Controller Sarah Motiff.

 

Tell us a little bit about your background and the work you do at Fine Point.

Sarah_7021I started with Fine Point as a Controller in March of 2016. As a Controller I’m responsible for client management and client relationships, as well as overall account management. I make sure deadlines for paying bills and payroll are met—and I do other project-management tasks. I also help our clients think about how their financials will help their future plans as an organization.

I’m also known as the “church lady” here in the office—I specialize in helping non-profits and churches. It’s interesting work because people don’t always think of churches as businesses. And sometimes churches don’t even think of themselves as businesses, but they should!

Before joining Fine Point, I was a Finance Director for the Wisconsin Technology Council. I also have policy and financial/accounting management experience in a variety of other industries, including professional service firms, non-profits, manufacturing, property management, and government.

What do you like best about working at Fine Point Consulting?

I love working with multiple clients and learning about their businesses and their unique needs. The people who work at Fine Point are very open and friendly, and they’re just wonderful to work with. And I like the fact that we work in a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). I still have a ten-year-old at home, so it’s nice to have the flexibility to go to appointments and activities when I need to.

When you’re not working, you….

I’m very family-oriented and have five children, so I spend most of my time with the family. In the summer, we spend a lot of time out on the lake on our boat, and we’re working on remodeling the house, so that keeps me pretty busy.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn how our knowledgeable staff can help your business succeed.

 

Case Study: Streamlining Complex Finances for Door Creek Church

Door Creek Church

 

“I’m so grateful to [Fine Point Controller] Sarah Motiff and her team for rolling up their sleeves, digging into our complex financial systems and processes, and bringing ‘order out of the chaos.’ Sarah’s quiet confidence, tenacious spirit, and desire to help others has not only been refreshing, but extremely helpful.”

Marc Maillefer, Lead Pastor

After losing a qualified CPA and Director of Finance, Door Creek Church turned to Fine Point Consulting to lend a helping hand. Fine Point staff standardized processes, streamlined the organization’s Chart of Accounts, and organized the various fund accounts. Many of the church’s accounting processes are now automated, creating efficiencies for staff and cleaner reporting overall. Church leaders have a greater understanding of the church’s finances through easy-to-read reports, ensuring better communication to the congregation at large.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting for more information about the great tools and services we use to help organizations like Door Creek Church succeed.

Fine Point Meet & Greet: Steph Breunig

Meet the newest Fine Point Consulting staff and learn a little bit about what makes them tick. This week: Firm Administrator Steph Breunig.

Tell us a little bit about your background and the work you do at Fine Point.

Steph BreunigMy background is actually in English and Education. I worked for a number of years as a Library Media Specialist in a couple of school districts. I’ve known Luella for years and have always joked with her that she should hire me to work for her, especially as teaching in this state has become more difficult in recent years. But Luella told me one day she wasn’t kidding anymore and she really did want to hire me, and it’s been a great experience.

I do a little bit of everything. My role here is part office manager, part bookkeeper, part technology manager, plus whatever else Luella asks me to do. I also coordinate HR and benefits. Luella has been really great at letting me tailor the job to my strengths; for example, I’m setting up “Lunch & Learns” a couple times a month through AstUtemy, so our staff can learn more about business and accounting. As a former teacher, I can’t help myself but to teach!

What’s the transition been like going from a career in Education to working in Business—and what do you like most about working for Fine Point?

As I’ve been educating myself more about the business world through webinars and other resources, I’ve just started looking at things through a different lens. Business articles in the newspaper grab my attention now—and what I notice in the world around me is just different. Working with startups is exciting, and I really love that so many of these companies we work with are really making a difference in the world.

The people here at Fine Point are great and the environment here is very fun. The Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) that Fine Point employs was also a major draw for me as a working mom. I like being able to take time off when I need to for my family—and I like that not all of my days off are tied to the school schedule!

When you’re not working, you…

I have three children who are 10, 11, and 13. All three of them play lacrosse, so that eats up a lot of my time. I’m a huge sports fan, which doesn’t necessarily fit with my library persona! I’m one of those crazy parents who yells from the sidelines of my kids’ games—though I keep it positive. My son calls me the “Third Ref.”

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn how our knowledgeable staff can help your business succeed.