Like the founders of many a 20-year-old company approaching the $100-million threshold, Mike Cudahy of Marquette Electronics Inc. is faced with two inescapable truths: his company is growing bigger and faster than its organizational structure can easily handle, and its leadership is againg. At 61, Cudahy knows that he and vice-president Warren Cozzens, 68, must begin laying the groundwork for Marquette's second generation. But, while others would slave over elaborate plans for dealing with growth and succession, Cudahy -- typically -- is planning only to "sort of let things happen."
Organizing for growth has always been more whimsical than methodical at Marquette. Cudahy's latest idea is to break the company up into three separate companies: two would handle the major product lines, monitoring devices and diagnostic systems; one would concentrate on disposable medical parts and supplies. If that sounds a bit inelegant, that's also the way it struck the company's board of directors, which has advised Cudahy to move slowly on his idea.
Cudahy and the board are in greater agreement, however, on another proposition: that what Marquette needs most at this stage of its corporate life is less Mike Cudahy. Cudahy's hope is to find a successor or successors from within the organization who can manage the company's growth without overmanaging its employees. But the understudies won't get their chance in the spotlight until Cudahy quits hogging the stage. So, with that in mind, he has moved his home from Milwaukee to Delray Beach, Fla., where Cozzens frequently joins him.
"With Cozzens and me working out of an office down there, people in Milwaukee are just going to begin naturally making their own decisions," says Cudahy, sounding more hopeful than confident. And if they don't? Well, it's not lost on Cudahy that frequent flights from Palm Beach to Milwaukee can have him back in the shop in less than six hours, door-to-door.