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More MS news articles for February 2004

The business of bouncing back

February 10, 2004
Jason Stein
Wisconsin State Journal

The last several years have been difficult for executives in any high-tech company, but Natalie Knudson has seen bigger challenges than most.

The downturn in the economy in 2000 and 2001 cut yearly sales at her firm, Modern Business Technology of Madison, from above $36 million to closer to $20 million, Knudson said. Around the same time, Knudson, the company's president and co-owner, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

At the Business Women's Expo Tuesday, Knudson, 51, told some 250 attendees how she's coped both personally and professionally.

"I truly believe it's an attitude thing," Knudson said later in the day, speaking of her bout with the central nervous system disease, which can cause problems ranging from lack of mobility to memory problems. "By the time I'm at work 15 minutes, I have bigger things to worry about."

To recover from the down economy, Knudson and Modern Business Technology took on financial partners and began targeting small- and medium-sized businesses with networking and other information technologies that fit their size, Knudson said. The 50-employee firm also began marketing "virtual receptionist" kiosks, a computer terminal with a screen and video camera that can greet visitors to an office or guide them through a hospital.

The firm's sales have since made some improvement, climbing to around $28 million, Knudson said.

Participants at the conference listened to another leader Tuesday who'd like to reverse her fortunes - UW-Madison women's basketball coach Lisa Stone. Stone, who has an 8-13 record so far in her first year, still received a big round of applause from the audience when she told them she wanted to stay at UW-Madison for as long as she could.

Stone's talk about balancing work with family resonated with listener Lisa Hartig of Madison. The former dental hygienist bought Dental Power of Wisconsin so she could work out of her home and be with her two children.

The conference, held at the Sheraton Madison Hotel, saw a healthy increase from last year's attendance of 150. Event organizer Marian Walluks of MCW Productions of Madison said the conference appealed to a range of visitors, from business owners to working women who were not receiving enough training and personal development from their employer.

"The whole idea is that they have to take charge of their own education," Walluks said.

Copyright © 2004, Wisconsin State Journal