Most entrepreneurs know it takes figurative blood, sweat, and tears to get a career going. For Laurie Benson, it literally took blood.
Shortly after finishing her nursing degree, Benson was working in a bloodmobile when a secretary from Xerox came in to donate. The secretary started talking about the company’s sales-training opportunity designed for people who had no background in business, and she invited Benson to give it a try. “Little did I know it would turn into a career in business,” Benson says.
Thirty years later, she has become a tireless force behind Wisconsin’s emerging technology industry and an influential advocate for Midwest entrepreneurship. Yet at her core, Benson is still a nurse — and her commitment to nurturing the business leaders of tomorrow is rooted in gratitude for the mentors of her past.
In 1984, she co-founded and served as CEO of Inacom Information Systems, an award-winning integrated technology solutions provider that was acquired in 2009 by Core BTS. Benson then founded LSB Unlimited, which provides advising and executive coaching to CEOs, presidents, and entrepreneurs, and she also sits on a wide array of organization boards.
Benson worked with a strong board and angel investors at Inacom, and she credits them for her interest in helping other businesses from behind the scenes. She says the most important lesson she learned early in her career was to “do right by people, in every decision.” This people-centered approach to business is now Benson’s core mentoring philosophy. She works one-on-one with her executive clients to help them define their goals and develop strategies for turning business challenges into opportunities.
Benson is also passionate about encouraging young people and women to pursue careers in entrepreneurship. She was instrumental in Wisconsin’s participation in Make Mine a Million, a program to inspire female entrepreneurs to generate $1 million in revenue by 2010. Additionally, Benson remains connected to the UW School of Nursing, where she serves as the Board of Visitors chair and is deeply involved in the school’s capital campaign. She also acts as a bridge between nursing and business students — two fields that Benson considers well suited for cross-pollination.
“The world needs new ways of thinking and solutions to complex problems,” she says. “I’m so excited to help [students] on this journey. I think that when you believe everything’s possible, there isn’t a person who is immune from doing great things.”
- From On Wisconsin Magazine, Summer 2014