Tim Sheehy on Entertainment Districts, Remote Work, and Building Consensus


In the latest edition of Leadership Lens, Metropolitan Milwaukee Trade Association President Tim Sheehy, along with BizTimes Media Managing Editor Arthur Thomas and Marquette University President Michael Lovell, discussed how sports and entertainment districts are helping the city grow, how remote work is changing economic development, short and long-term ideas to fight with crime and security, making tough decisions and building consensus, and learning from other business leaders.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation. Watch the entire episode to find out more:

For remote work:

“Obviously it’s a big puzzle for everyone in senior management today, and the only thing they’re sure of is that they’re not going to go back to the way it was when their employees are in the office from 8 to 6.5, five days a week, this will not happen again after the pandemic,” Sheehy said.

He added that companies are struggling to figure out how they can offer flexibility to their employees without losing the culture and connections that work in a physical office supports.

It also creates problems for cities as they seek to retain residents who now have more freedom to choose where to live and work.

“Before the pandemic, there were probably 90,000 people working every day (in) downtown (Milwaukee) in an office. At best, we’re back at 40,000, and it’s probably not five days a week, so the dust should settle and companies are trying to figure out the best way to sort it out,” Sheehy said.

He called remote work a double-edged sword. On the one hand, people can live anywhere, and if they travel anywhere other than Milwaukee, they don’t make the purchases that go with daily life in that region. On the other hand, Milwaukee has a chance to keep or attract people to the region who may have gone elsewhere in the past.

While teleworking has a role to play, Sheehy doesn’t expect companies to fully transition to remote work.

“I still think that companies will make decisions in general based on where they can physically hire and retain people, and they will work flexibly and they will allow remote work, but they still need to establish themselves somewhere.” Sheehy said.

Building consensus and making decisions:

Leading an organization made up of companies from across southeastern Wisconsin means that Sheehy has many stakeholders with different perspectives on a wide range of issues. While this may complicate the work, it also provides clarity on what is needed to move forward.

“I think like many organizations, and ours in particular, we owe it to our members and our clients, and if we can’t reach a consensus, then we’re not an effective advocate and that’s why we spend a lot of time talking, listening, inform, receive information so that we can make a decision based on consensus,” Sheehy said.

Building consensus can help MMAC better protect its members, Sheehy said, but it requires more than a simple majority.

“That’s the first thing I’ll say to our board, if it looks like it’s a 60-40 or even a 70-30 split, I’ll say we should go back and do more homework because we won’t be outwardly effective if we will not agree internally,” Sheehy said.

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