Welcome to my conversation with the industrious entrepreneur and politician: Scott Resnick. Scott is the co-founder and current COO of Hardin Design and Development, a multimillion dollar company that specializes in creating mobile applications for clients such as The Chicago Tribune, Mercedes-Benz, and Ford. Scott has also been an active politician in Madison WI, where Hardin D&D is based. He was first elected to the Madison Common Council in April of 2011, making him one of the youngest aldermen or women in the country. As an alderman, he represented the eighth district, which encompasses the University Wisconsin-Madison campus and State Street.
Image from WKOW.com
In 2015, Scott ran for mayor of Madison, but was eventually defeated by the incumbent, Paul Soglin, in this race. Throughout his campaign, and in our conversation, he identified that the main issues facing the Madison community include the race and equity divide, affordable housing, the digital divide, improving early education and providing accessible transportation. Scott also expressed his belief that Madison has the potential to become a city with global connections. In his political career he piloted several initiatives, including proposing the use of body cameras on police officers and introducing the country’s second open data ordinance in 2012.
In June of 2015, Scott was announced as the CEO of StartingBlock Madison, a 50,000 square-foot entrepreneurial hub in downtown Madison working to catalyze startups in the Madison area.
Scott’s entrepreneurial ventures were not all immediately successful, which is certainly the experience for many business owners who only become profitable after consistent work and growth over many years. However, I wondered how Scott dealt with the prospect of stagnancy or failure early on in his career after investing so much time and effort into the inception of Hardin Design and Development. He emphasizes the importance of keeping business-related struggles in perspective.
“We’ve seen everything from high growth years to trying to figure out how to make your next payroll. Each one comes with its own challenges. There was a particularly scary moment about eight years ago where we essentially had a $12,000 payroll and about $8,000 in the bank account, trying to figure out how do we keep this whole thing afloat.”
Hardin Design and Development is outfitted with an office keg, about every video game imaginable, and a ping pong table! (and the list goes on…) So what is the reasoning behind this somewhat unorthodox office environment? Scott describes how he and his cofounder strived to create an office environment that would attract and retain productive, qualified, and happy employees.
This office environment may be seen as something catering to the lazy millennial, the narrative surrounding 20-somethings that we are not hardworking enough to maintain positions typical of past generations. However, Scott argues against this stereotype, and denies that there is such a thing as “millennial angst” (admittedly, this was the phrasing that I used when asking him about dealing with transitions…a millennial perpetuating existing stereotypes over here…). He explains that the anxiety surrounding approaching transitions has existed in past generations, but there are some elements of the millennial experience that are unique.
“The reality is we are a generation that has entered into a workforce that is very different from any other generation. We have entered into a sharing economy. We’ve entered into an economy where essentially the dichotomy of the have’s and have not’s has never been so great.”
In addition to his experience in the business world, Scott has had quite a political career in the Madison area. Throughout his experience in this area and currently through his work with StartingBlock Madison, Scott has identified many of the major problems that the Madison community is facing.
“The race and equity divide that we have in our community is stark…Depending on where you talk about what the American dream is, having upward social mobility is critical to that.”
He goes far beyond simply identifying these issues, of course. Scott has been working for his entire career to identify feasible solutions to these problems. He explained that he has a real problem with individuals who point out something that needs to be fixed, but stop before attempting to find a means of doing so. I asked him about his frustrations with the political system, and how he deals with not always being able to quickly put his ideas into action.
Scott and I also talked about how as a young leader he had to work especially diligently to ensure his voice was heard. We discussed some of the more ridiculous ideas he has been pitched (think chainsaws on drones…), and how he maintains positive relationships with other politicians. For all of that and more, watch my full conversation with Scott:
My podcast with Scott Resnick will be released next Thursday!
Speak to you soon,