NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2021

Page 1


Building a

commitment to our clients and our community

West Bank Team (from left to right): Melissa Muehlbauer (NMLS# 1166383), Principal Banker; Todd Mather, Chief Credit Officer; Matt Laubach, Market President; Elizabeth Statsick, Senior Credit Analyst; Aaron Meester, Vice President; Curt Gainsforth, Vice President; and Lisa Koster, Second Vice President

For more than 125 years, West Bank has been building strong relationships in the communities it serves. We’re excited to offer our clients a first-class experience in banking at our new Sartell office coming January 2022. The new location will offer a full range of personal banking services, business banking and lending, treasury management and a drive-up video teller. Designed to be a point of pride for St. Cloud and Sartell residents, the beautiful new building also features a rooftop space for entertaining.

Current Address: 622 Roosevelt Road, Suite 150 in St. Cloud January 2022 Address: 1800 Bellin Drive in Sartell

320-342-2400 • westbankstrong.com • Member FDIC


w o h S m r aF

2022 Central Minnesota FARM SHOW

! k c a b Its’

FEBRUARY 22-23, 2022

The popular event is back! Since opening its doors 50+ years ago, the Central Minnesota Farm Show has become a staple community event, offering something for everyone with an interest in agriculture.

Join us for free seminars, interesting exhibitors & the newest in farming technologies.

Are you an exhibitor?

Puchase an ad in the Farm Show brochure and get double the visibility! Find out more by contacting Melinda Vonderahe at 320.656.3808 melindav@BusinessCentralMagazine.com

F eb rua r y 2 2-23, 2 0 2 2

River’s Edge Convention Center

Learn more at CentralMNFarmShow.com


CONTENTS GROW | NETWORK | PROFIT

E X P LO R I N G C E N T R A L M I N N ES OTA’ S B US I N ESS ES .

N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1 : 6 Pr e s i d e n t ’ s Le t t e r / 8 Ed i t o r ’ s N o t e / 2 0 N e t w o r k Ce n t ra l

Cover Story

30 I LIKE BUSINESS Kurt Scepaniak, Horizon Roofing, is constantly inventing, changing, and thinking about what comes next.

PROFIT

36 RISKY BUSINESS Making the leap from employee to owner may be risky, but sometimes not taking the risk, is the biggest risk of all.

40 BUSINESS PARTNERS Choosing a banker is as much about fit and feel, as it is about finance.

GROW

47 FINANCIAL & PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

ONLYONLINE

NETWORK

BUSINESSCENTRAL MAGAZINE.COM 10 UPFRONT Valuable information designed to guide and educate.

22 BUSINESS TOOLS Useful tips and intelligence on how to continue to grow your business.

50 BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT Brian Laverdiere, WebWizard Works

• What Workers Want • Principles of Persuasion • Integrated Skill-building • Social Media Trends

© Copyright 2021 Business Central, LLC. Business Central is published six times a year by the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce, 1411 West St. Germain Street, Suite 101, P.O. Box 487, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0487. Phone (320) 251-2940 / Fax (320) 251-0081. Subscription rate: $18 for 1 year.


in one stop Enjoying 24-hour access to her business account.

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PRESIDENT’S LETTER

Blueprint for the Future

A

s I continue to settle into my new role, I am

director, and the announcement of a new sales manager

reminded every day of how extraordinary our

to fill Rachel’s vacant position should be made in the

members and volunteers are. I am grateful for the wonderful outpouring of support and meaningful

days ahead. Your safety is of the utmost importance, and we

conversations. I have been fortunate to speak with

are taking COVID precautions wherever possible. Feel

many of you already. Our discussions have covered

confident in knowing our gathering spaces are regularly

numerous topics, and there is certainly no shortage of

sanitized, masks are available and encouraged, and air

opinions and passion. But what impresses me most is

purifiers are standard in our meeting rooms. We will

the pride all of you have in your Chamber. Thanks to

continue to monitor CDC and MDH guidelines and

you, the St Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce is a leader

adjust protocols as needed.

in the community, and together we will continue our legacy of success.

In the months ahead, Chamber leadership will begin developing a strategic plan. Putting our

The future is full of abundant opportunity, and

opportunities into action with a guided blueprint for

our Chamber team is working diligently to ensure the

the future is a priority. Be sure to watch for more

groundwork is laid for positive outcomes. A strong

information about how you can be involved.

organizational structure will allow us to focus on the programming and issues that are important to you. Since September our attention has been on

Your Chamber continues to work hard for you, and with you. I encourage you to share your ideas and vision for the future. I invite you to take a seat at the table and

staffing. The retirement of the Chamber’s director of

be engaged. Together we will accomplish great things for

administration has resulted in outsourcing much of the

business and for the betterment of our community.

work to Chamber member, Schlenner Wenner & Co. This

Sincerely,

local CPA firm is now providing our accounting and CFO services. We are also seeking talent to fill two additional office positions. My departure from the Chamber’s Convention and Visitor Bureau presented an opportunity for the promotion of Rachel Thompson to executive

Julie Lunning Publisher

2020-21 BOARD MEMBERS ____________________________

Main Phone: 320-251-2940 • Automated Reservation Line: 320-656-3826 • Program Hotline: 320-656-3825 information@StCloudAreaChamber.com • StCloudAreaChamber.com ST. CLOUD AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE STAFF ____________________________ President: Julie Lunning, ext. 104 Vice President: Gail Ivers, ext. 109 Communications & Workforce Development Coordinator: Open Position Special Events Coordinator: Laura Wagner, ext. 131

Membership Specialist: Antoinette Valenzuela, ext. 134 Administrative Assistant: Vicki Lenneman, ext. 122 Administrative Assistant: Shelly Imdieke, ext. 100 Communications Intern: Ashlinn Rooney

Marilyn Birkland, SCTimes/LocaliQ Ron Brandenburg, Quinlivan & Hughes, Past Board Chair

Willie Jett, St. Cloud School District Kevin Johnson, K. Johnson Construction, Board Vice Chair Bernie Perryman, Batteries Plus Bulbs, Board Chair

John Bryant, Geo-Comm

Paul Radeke, BerganKDV

Main Phone: 320-251-4170

Christy Gilleland, Gilleland Chevrolet Cadillac

Brenda Sickler, Theisen Dental

Executive Director: Rachel Thompson, ext. 128

Allison Waggoner, DCI Inc.

Tanja Goering

Director of Sports & Special Events: Dana Randt, ext. 110

Ray Herrington, Pioneer Place on Fifth

Donella Westphal, Jules’ Bistro

Director of Sales: Nikki Fisher, ext. 112

Joe Hellie, CentraCare

Social Media & Marketing Specialist: Emily Bertram, ext. 129

Patrick Hollermann, InteleCONNECT

CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU STAFF ____________________________

Dr. Jason Woods, St. Cloud State University Colleen Zoffka


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EDITOR’S NOTE

Editor Gail Ivers with Kur t Scepaniak, Horizon Roof ing

Creative Problem Solving

M

any years ago I was visiting my parents in Willmar

punch line, but he cheerfully pointed out that I’m really not

when my dad asked me to help him install a trailer

all that brilliant.

hitch on his car. He had everything completed except for

More importantly he said, “Gail, I work with this stuff all

attaching one last bolt. The area in which the bolt and nut

the time. These are the kinds of problems I solve every day.

went was extremely narrow and he couldn’t fit his hand in

Of course I would think of that. If it was something you did

the space to hold the nut securely enough for the bolt to

all the time, you would have, too.”

catch any threads. With my smaller hands he thought we could make quick work of the problem.

Kurt Scepaniak has a different sort of problem. As with almost every employer in the trades, he is desperate to find

Not so much.

employees. He has determined that he either needs to try

I could fit my hand into the space, but I couldn’t bend

to do something about it, or he has to stop complaining.

my fingers to firmly grasp the nut. We fussed with this for a

One of his ideas is a mobile interview trailer (shown in the

long time. We tried regular and needle-nose pliers. We tried

photo above). When I asked him how he came up with

wrenches — adjustable and fixed. We gave up. Now giving up is not in my nature. I kept thinking about what kind of tool we

that idea, he said he looked

Now giving up is not in my nature. I kept thinking about what kind of tool we could find that would hold the nut securely in place so we could thread the bolt.

could find that would hold

at what people in other industries were doing to recruit employees and figured out a way to apply it to his business.

the nut securely in place

Kurt has experimented

so we could thread the bolt. Then I started thinking about

with several different ideas. Some have worked better

other types of things we use to hold items in place. Things

than others, but he is not discouraged. To learn more about

like adhesives, glue and tape. Tape!

those ideas, and Kurt’s business, you’ll have to read the

I found a roll of masking tape, used the needle-nose

story on page 30.

pliers to apply a piece of masking tape over the nut, and we

After all, I don’t want to steal his punch line.

had it! The bolt caught and we were able to finish the job. I

Until next issue,

was so proud. When I got home I immediately started telling my husband the story so he could see how brilliant I was. I got to the part about “we couldn’t hold the bolt in place” when he interrupted me and said, “Why didn’t you just tape it in place?” AAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH!!! Not only did he steal my

8

BusinessCentral Magazine.com // N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1

. Gail Ivers, Editor


Publisher Julie Lunning // Managing Editor Gail Ivers CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Alicia Chapman, Bluebird Creative David Coleman, High Impact Training/ Coleman Productions Tess Glenzinski, College of Saint Benedict/ Saint John’s University

Let’s get down to Business.

Dr. Fred E. Hill, St. Cloud State University Gail Ivers, St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce Chris Panek, Christine R. Panek CPA Clare Richards, Vye Ashlinn Rooney, intern, St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce Dirghayu Shah and Lynn MacDonald, St. Cloud State University Jessie Storlien, Stearns History Museum WEBSITE Vicki Lenneman ADVERTISING Associate Publisher/Sales Melinda Vonderahe Ad Traffic & Circulation Yola Hartmann, Hazel Tree Media ART Design & Production Yola Hartmann, Hazel Tree Media Cover Story Photography Joel Butkowski, BDI Photography

We build the relationship that helps build your business. Your business is unique—and MidCountry Bank knows that for businesses that need personalized, customized solutions, bigger isn’t always better. Our Business Banking Experts are locals who do business right here. They will respond to your needs, advocate for you, and tailor solutions to help you succeed. Because when your business thrives, life is better for all of us. Find out how MidCountry Bank can get things done for you. Visit us online or meet with Keith Gordon, Market President - St. Cloud.

Keith Gordon

Market President - St. Cloud NMLS# 698317 Phone: 320-229-5278 Keith.Gordon@MidCountryBank.com

1411 West St. Germain Street, Suite 101, P.O. Box 487, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0487 Phone (320) 251-2940 / Fax (320) 251-0081 BusinessCentralMagazine.com

1113 W. St. Germain St. St. Cloud, MN 56301

For advertising information contact Melinda Vonderahe, (320) 656-3808 Editorial suggestions can be made in writing to: Editor, Business Central, P.O. Box 487, St. Cloud, MN 56302-0487. Submission of materials does not guarantee publication. Unsolicited materials will not be returned unless accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

MIDCOUNTRY.BANK

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UPFRONT GROW | NETWORK | PROFIT

N E WS & P EO P L E T H AT M A K E U P T H E C H A M B E R N E T W O R K

I N S I D E T H I S I S S U E : People to Know / Do it Now ! / Dig g in g H is to ry / T h e Tro u b le w it h Bu s in ess BOOK REVIEW

NEWS REEL

Work in Progress In her collection of quotes and essays, author Maggie Smith demonstrates that change, however painful, is full of opportunity. Reviewed by Dr. Fred Hill

New executive director named to Chamber’s CVB Rachel Thompson has been selected as the new executive director of the Chamber’s Convention &

A

merican poet, freelance writer, and editor Maggie Smith may be best known for her 2016 poem “Good Bones.” Now, in this book of quotes and essays, she writes about new beginnings as opportunities for transformations. Here is a sampling of what other reviewers thought about Keep Moving; Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change: “An ingenious synthesis of poetry, proverbs, journaling, lyrical prose, belles lettres, psalms, meditations, and aphorisms.” ______ “…offers a bouquet of generosities in one hand, and a bouquet of soft but firm honesty in the other. A promise that what doesn’t get better sometimes gets easier. And that, too, is worthy of celebration.” ______ “Candid, lyrical, and full of empathy, this is a book that feels vital and welcome in these

times. A stunning and wise piece of work.” Keep Moving consists of three sections, with two chapters in each section. They are: Revision: The Long Book, and Beauty Emergency Resilience: After the Fire, and The Golden Repair Transformation: The Blue Rushes In, and Nesters Author Smith writes… “Life is a book — long, if we’re lucky — and we write it as we go. The ending isn’t written, waiting for us to arrive. I’d known this all along, logically, but I hadn’t yet felt it. I thought that I knew my story. I thought that what I was living was the whole story, but it was only a chapter. After almost nineteen years together, my ex-husband and I separated. When my marriage ended — and with it the life I had known — the book did not end. Suddenly, there were so many blank pages, so many blank years ahead, to fill.”

With ideas to work through and stories to tell, Smith tried writing poetry. Little was comforting and healing. Ultimately, through her process of “What now?” she would write an affirmation, an encouragement, a selfdirective — every day. She would post these on social media. She would Keep Moving. Here are a few of her beautiful offerings: Stop straining to hold the door to the past open. If we are not careful, we can revise our life right out of us. Accept that you are a work in progress. Do not sit still inside your grief, your fear. Do not bargain away pieces of yourself. A remarkable journey inside one’s heart and mind — and it can be our journey too.

Visitors Bureau. Thompson was hired in 2015 as sales and services coordinator, later promoted to sales manager for the CVB. She began her role as executive director on September 1, succeeding Julie Lunning who was promoted to Chamber president.

AWG partners with Coborn’s to expand distribution footprint Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. (AWG) and Coborn’s, Inc. have reached an agreement for AWG to serve as the primary wholesale supplier to all Coborn’s grocery stores. AWG will begin supplying grocery products to the Coborn’s stores in January 2022 from AWG’s new Upper Midwest Division in St. Cloud, which is located in the former Creative Memories warehouse facility in St. Cloud’s I-94 Business Park.

Biery elected chair of workforce association Career Solutions Executive Director, Tammy Biery, was elected chair of the Minnesota Association of Workforce Boards

Dr. Fred E. Hill is an emeritus

(MAWB). MAWB also presented

professor at St. Cloud State

Career Solutions with its

University.

Promising Practices award for its Discovery Days program.

Ke ep Mov i ng , Not e s on Loss, Cre at ivity, an d C h an ge by Magg ie S mith ; On e S ig n al P u blishers ; NY 20 20 ; I S B N 97 8-1 -982 1 -32 07-1

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BusinessCentral Magazine.com // N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1

Send News Reel items to Gail Ivers, givers@businesscentralmagazine.com for possible inclusion. News Reel is compiled by Ashlinn Rooney.


POINT OF VIEW

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

Dee Rengel, Rengel Printing Company

Rudy Meyer, Royal Renovations

––––––

If you really want something, you have to work for it. This holds true for everything in your life.

––––––

Find a career that makes you happy. Pursue your interests and pursue your dream job. If you are not happy in your job, then you’re not happy in life, because you spend most of your life working.

Tina Johanning, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota

––––––

It’s OK to struggle and grow from it. Don’t think you have to be perfect all the time.

Russ Karasch, Companions Forever Pet Cremation Service

––––––

Be honest and have a good work ethic.

Jay Mrozek, Blacklight Adventures

––––––

When we were starting Blacklight Adventures, the advice we received was if there is anything that you are not sure of, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seek out people who have ‘been there — done that.’ Pick their brains and then make your decision based on that.

Help us lift up our community

Your gift will double thanks to a $100,000 matching gift from CentraCare is transforming care through a state-of-the-art emergency mental health unit, suicide prevention outreach and so much more. Give by Dec. 31 at centracare.com/ foundation or call 320-240-2810. Scan and donate today!

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NETWORK

UPFRONT

NEWS REEL

DO IT NOW!

Local drivers win at state Roadeo

Listen Up!

Two Metro Bus Dial-a-Ride operators took away high honors at the 33rd annual Minnesota Public Transportation Association

Effective listeners earn respect while generating valuable connections. By Tess Glenzinski

(MPTA) Minnesota State Bus Roadeo. The competition was at St. Cloud State University and featured top bus operators from around Minnesota. ––––––– David Peacock, who has been with Metro Bus for 20 years, won the Small Bus Division. Larry Dolan won the prestigious Drivers Choice-Duane Dufner Memorial Award, which is voted on by Roadeo participants and recognizes the bus operator who is the most helpful to colleagues at the event.

Traut breaks ground for new building Traut Companies started construction for its new building at 32640 County Road 133 in St. Joseph with a groundbreaking ceremony in July. They hope to relocate in February 2022. Pictured from left: Chad Stewart, president, Structural Buildings; Dave Traut, vice president, Traut Companies/master ground water contractor; Mark Traut, president, Traut Companies; Al Stewart, CEO, Structural Buildings; and Ralph Brown, project manager, Structural Buildings.

Dale Gruber Construction relocates, names new vice president Dale Gruber Construction has moved its headquarters to an expanded location off County Road 74 in St. Cloud. Rachel Gruber, daughter of Dale Gruber, has been appointed vice president after having worked 13 years in various departments within the company.

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T

he recipe for a successful career, talking and writing are the sugar and spice, but listening —truly listening —is the batter on which the recipe depends. Research backs up the importance of a workplace listener. Participants in a study in the Journal of Research in Personality rated colleagues who were effective listeners as more influential than those who could smooth talk. Listening, however, seems to be a dying art. “Listening is a skill we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distractions and information overload,” according to auditory neuroscientist Seth Horowitz. Researchers in the Oxford Journal of

Communication confirmed this, estimating that we only remember 25 to 50 percent of what we hear. Taking the time to be an effective listener can give you a leg up in your career and earn you respect while generating valuable connections. Here are a few tips on honing your listening skills:

1 Listening is more than just hearing.

Be actively, completely present in your conversations. Many workplace conversations are lopsided with the listener nodding and responding with “mmhmm” and “ok” while their mind is miles away. Less obvious,

but just as inattentive, is listening merely to respond. Stephen R. Covey accurately summarized this point saying, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Subtle, but that intent makes all the difference between an inattentive listener and an effective listener. Let go of your mental agenda and listen purely to understand. Chances are, you will get more out of the conversation and form a genuine connection, rather than just fulfilling an item on your todo list. Remember, listening is more than just hearing — listening is taking the time to be present and understand the message. 2 Help people feel heard. Nearly every advice column on improving listening skills has the same item in the first slot: maintain eye contact. Helping someone feel heard often boils down to this all-important eye contact. Looking away from the speaker to glance at something or someone else in the room is a surefire way to appear disinterested and make your conversation partner feel unheard. Eye contact also helps you to remember the conversation. A study by the University of Wolverhampton in England,


Remember, listening is more than just hearing — listening is taking the time to be present and understand the message.

and the University of Stirling in Scotland found that research participants who made at least 30 percent eye contact during a conversation recalled significantly more information than their wandering-eyed counterparts. Eye contact helps to build connections and retain information, so with just this one small change, you can improve your reputation as a listener and be a more productive worker— a win-win.

3 Reflect. A third way to be an active listener is to practice reflecting. Reflecting involves mirroring and paraphrasing what the speaker has said. Mirroring is repeating key words back to the speaker to show you are listening and to prompt the speaker to continue. Paraphrasing takes mirroring a step further. When paraphrasing, listeners use their own language to repeat what has been said. This allows for a

mutual understanding and clarity between listener and speaker. 4 Clarify. Ask questions — genuine questions, not just for the sake of speaking. Don’t be afraid to pause the conversation to clarify a key point instead of pretending you understand. The speaker will appreciate your show of genuine interest and eagerness to understand. However, be sure to maintain active listening. Don’t get caught up in trying to think of an intelligent follow-up question and let your mind drift from the conversation. Active listening organically creates needed, and therefore intelligent, questions.

All of the advice to become a better listener — being engaged, maintaining eye contact, reflecting and asking questions — tie back to the same two goals: building connections and building respect. This makes listening applicable everywhere. So hone your listening skills to improve both your personal and professional life, and reap the benefits of truly listening to people around you. Tess Glenzinski is a senior at the College of Saint Benedict/ Saint John’s University and a former intern at the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce.

NO ONE BUILDS LIKE NOR-SON.

NOR-SON CONSTRUCTION

Nor-SonConstruction.com Nor-Son is an awarded contractor for Sourcewell and AUTHORIZED NUCOR BUILDER.

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NETWORK

UPFRONT

NEWS REEL

BUSINESS CALENDAR

Mahowald named Top Insurance Employer

Get involved!

Insurance Business America (IBA)

Can’t-miss opportunities to influence, promote and learn. Visit StCloudAreaChamber.com>calendar for a detailed calendar.

named Mahowald Insurance Agency as a Top Insurance Employer of 2021. This is the second consecutive year the agency has been recognized as a top employer.

New attorney joins Rinke Noonan Real Estate and Litigation Attorney Isak Hawkinson recently joined Rinke Noonan. Hawkinson has worked as a land surveyor involved in residential development, and in pipeline construction.

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Lunchtime Learning Educational networking events that give busy professionals a chance to stay on the cutting edge. Meets the first Wednesday of the month, noon-1 p.m., at the Chamber office, 1411 W St. Germain Street, Ste 101. ––––––– Registration is required: $20 for Chamber members, $30 for the general public.

November 3: “Beyond the Ring Light: How to Tell a Business Story with Video,” by Michelle Henderson, BadCat Digital Marketing. The program is sponsored by Regional Diagnostic Radiology, Alliance Imaging, The Vein Center Laser Treatment & MedSpa. ––––––– December 1: “Everything You Need to Know about Facebook,” by Kelly Cane, Gaslight Creative, sponsored by United States Axe.


Ask for Waite Park Chamber For businesses interested in Waite Park community issues. Lunch is provided by the host when you register at least two days in advance. Meeting runs from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. ––––––– November 17: Hosted by Blacklight Adventures. ––––––– December 15: A holiday program hosted by Sentry Bank.

Chamber Connection 32nd Birthday Party Join us as we celebrate 32 years of morning networking through Chamber Connection. December 3, 7:30 — 9 a.m. at Holiday Inn & Suites. ––––––– Doors open at 7 a.m. and the program starts at 7:30 a.m.; $1 and a business card.

PEOPLE TO KNOW

Six Elected to Chamber Board The following individuals have been elected to fill three-year terms on the Board of Directors of the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce.

For Care That’s

FREEING Swing on in for orthopedic care that leaves you feeling free. At St. Cloud Orthopedics, we’re here to help you reach new heights of health and wellness with state-of-the-art technology and treatment options, as well as a team of caring and dedicated specialists and therapists who will keep you going in the right direction. When it comes to your care, you have a choice. For freeing bone & joint care that helps you live better, ask for St. Cloud Orthopedics.

No referral necessary. 320-259-4100 Meet our team at StCloudOrthopedics.com Clinics in South St. Cloud & Sartell

Ron Brandenburg

Donella Westphal

Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A. (320) 251-1414

Jules’ Bistro (320) 252-7125

Patrick Hollermann

Jason Woods

InteleCONNECT Inc (320) 227-3938

St. Cloud State University (320) 308-2122

Joe Hellie

Paul Radeke

CentraCare (320) 251-2700

BerganKDV (320) 650-0202

#LiveBetter

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NETWORK

UPFRONT

NEWS REEL Voerding joins Initiative Foundation Brian Voerding has joined the Initiative Foundation as vice president

DIGGING HISTORY

Finding their Niche From ornamental iron to fried chicken, St. Cloud’s Kamer family made an impact. By Jessie Storlien

for inclusive entrepreneurship.

Kamer family (from lef t): Nicholas, Joseph, Theckla, and Marie, ca 1945

Voerding’s primary role is to lead the Foundation’s business Enterprise Academy programs. He succeeds Jeff Wig, who retired in July.

Stearns Electric donates to local causes Stearns Electric’s Operation Round Up® Program contributed $29,900 to 48 area organizations in July. The program asked members to donate by rounding up their electric bill to the nearest dollar. Stearns Electric has raised and donated over $2.6 million since Operation Round Up began in 1993. _______

Stearns Electric and its wholesale power provider were able to use a portion of their annual funding from the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) to help fund a new, all-electric tram at Hemker Park & Zoo. The tram can transport up to 15 guests at a time and is handicap accessible.

Two join AIS Planning Rose Larson has joined AIS Planning as a client service associate. Teresa Bawden is the new client service associate of the retirement plan services department.

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O

ccasionally professional skills and community needs combine to create a business niche where unique products and services generate a specialized market. Sometimes the ability to see such an opportunity transcends generations, as was the case for the Kamer family of St. Cloud. Joseph Kamer was born July 1, 1883, in Küssnacht, Switzerland. He was recruited into the 8th Division Infantry of the Swiss Army in 1902. At the time he was working as a locksmith, which was likely the foundation for what would later become his iron manufacturing business. Shortly after his discharge in 1904, Joseph set sail for the United States, arriving in September 3rd in New York. Eventually Joseph would make his way to St. Cloud. It was here that only five days after they exchanged

vows in 1907, his wife died from pneumonia. A few years later, Joseph married Theckla Feld, an immigrant from Hanover, Germany. They were wed on May 24, 1909, at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring. Theckla and Joseph adopted both their children from the Orphan Train: Marie, born in 1911 and adopted in 1912, and Nicholas, born in 1914 and adopted in 1916. In 1908, on his Declaration of Intention to become a naturalized United States citizen, Joseph lists ornamental iron worker as his occupation. By day

Joseph worked for the Great Northern Storehouse Department. In his off hours, and until his death in 1967, he maintained an iron works shop at the family’s home on 19 ½ Ave. S, in St. Cloud. Outside of work and home, the family was involved with St. Anthony’s parish in St. Cloud. Marie, a piano teacher, played organ for the church. Joseph and Theckla were members of various parish groups and the Catholic Aid Society. Joseph’s ornamental iron work was well regarded, so much so that in the 1950s he was chosen to create a wrought iron pulpit for the church. The spirit of community and entrepreneurship also extended to the Kamers’ son. Nicholas married Edna “Eddy” Pretzer on March 10, 1943, at Fort Benning, Georgia, while he was serving in the military.

St. Anthony’s Church pulpit, St. Cloud, fabricated by Joseph Kamer, ca 1960

Courtesy of the Stearns History Museum

finance, Initiators Fellowship and


Eddy’s Drive In, St Cloud, 1951

After his discharge, the couple returned to St. Cloud where they saw an opportunity to open a drive-in restaurant specializing in southern fried chicken. Eddy’s

Drive-In opened in July 1947 at 2202 Division Street. In addition to southern fried chicken, the restaurant served twin burgers, sandwiches, root

beer, and ice cream. The facility had ample parking, and drivers were instructed to blink their lights for tray service. According to the St. Cloud Times, “Mrs. Agnes Pretzer, mother of Mrs. Kamer and well-known chef, is in charge of the kitchen.” The drive-in quickly became a summer hot spot with car hops and service late into the night. Nicholas and Edna ran Eddy’s until 1955 when they were bought out by new owners. The popular chicken place later became part of the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise. It was their successor, Joan

Christianson, who saw the potential of KFC methods while searching for a faster way to cook the popular fried chicken at Eddy’s. Joseph and Nicholas Kamer contributed to niche markets in St. Cloud, creating businesses that had lasting effects. Joseph’s ornamental iron work is enduring and still admired. Nicholas and Edna created a fried chicken craze that continues today with KFC. Both were able to strike while the iron was hot. Jessie Storlien is an archivist at Stearns History Museum.

VISUALIZING THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Scan the code for a preview!

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NETWORK

UPFRONT

NEWS REEL

THE TROUBLE WITH BUSINESS

Brenny Transportation wins awards

Trusted Adviser

Brenny Transportation was “Top Woman-Owned Businesses

If you’re looking for new ways to grow your business, try asking your accountant.

in Transportation.” The award

By Chris Panek

among the recipients of the 2021

is presented by Redefining the Road magazine, and is intended to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry. ––––––– The Transportation Center of Excellence (TCOE) named Brenny Transportation as the 2021 “Minnesota Transportation Program Supporter of the Year.” TCOE recognized Brenny for its contributions to transportationrelated education.

PleasureLand raises money for foundation PleasureLand RV’s summer charity golf tournament raised over $25,000 for the Patrick R. McMullen “Smile in My Heart” Foundation. The “Smile in My Heart” Foundation provides financial support to families of children with cancer in honor of Patrick McMullen, who passed away from brain cancer at age 14.

BerganKDV promotes employees, hits asset milestone Dave Hinnenkamp will remain the CEO of BerganKDV for another three-year term. Hinnenkamp has been CEO of BerganKDV since July 2018. The company promoted 45

M

ost business owners know that their accountant can help them get their financial statements in order and file their tax returns. But aside from these services, are you taking advantage of all the other services your accountant or CPA (Certified Public Accountant) offers? These additional services go far beyond helping you understand what your balance sheet and income

employees across the Des Moines, ICR, Kansas City, Twin Cities, and

statement tell you about your company. Even though your accountant is preparing your financial statements (balance sheet and income statement) and your tax return, don’t be shy about asking questions. If there is something you don’t understand, know that your accountant is there to answer those questions for you. Don’t feel embarrassed about asking questions. Your accountant will be more than happy to explain how your business is doing so you

can make smart business decisions. Your accountant can help or advise you on different areas of your business. Some of the most popular are reviewing contracts and documents for potential financial or tax consequences, helping you gather necessary information to obtain a loan, and even succession planning for your business. With these advisory services, your accountant can help you develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics to track how your business is doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. They can help you create a detailed budget with numbers that reflect your goals for the company and let you know exactly how your business needs to perform to reach those goals. They can also help troubleshoot what is not working in your business if you are failing to meet goals and can dig into why you may be having cash flow problems. By working with your accountant, you can manage your debt and get a plan in place so that you know exactly

Waterloo branches, including 13 at their St. Cloud location. BerganKDV Wealth Management, has surpassed over $2 billion in assets under management.

Contributor ________ Chris Panek is a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and Certified Public Accountant at Christine R Panek, CPA with over 20 years of experience helping small businesses with accounting and bookkeeping, financial statement preparation, QuickBooks consulting, and payroll services in the St. Cloud area.

18

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Don’t feel embarrassed about asking questions. Your accountant will be more than happy to explain how your business is doing so that you are able to make smart business decisions.

which debt you should be paying down first and how long it will take you to pay off your debts. This alone can be a huge stress relief and alleviate questions if you don’t quite understand how to best use your money when you have debt. Another area in which business owners rely on their accountants for advice is employment. Your accountant

can help you understand exactly how much your employees are costing you, as well as create the data you need to make decisions about hiring new employees. This will help you focus on which areas in your business you should hire employees in order to meet your business goals. You’ll also know how much your future employees will impact your finances.

If you cannot justify hiring a CFO for your business, most accountants will provide these services for you. With so many of the accounting systems “in the cloud” it’s easy to have your accountant assist you when you need help. They could even help you collect on unpaid invoices that are causing your cash flow to dip.

Your accountant understands that being in business by yourself can be hard. Many business owners don’t feel comfortable talking to family or friends about business challenges. Owners may feel isolated and wish they had someone to talk to when something comes up in their business, or even if they have a new idea and need some sound advice. Your accountant is there to listen to you and provide advice whenever they can. They understand how business works and many have been fortunate to work with a variety of businesses, which increases their knowledge and ability to perform these advisory services.

MAKE A BETTER CHOICE. Outpatient surgery has been shown to be safe and effective, achieving similar or better outcomes while allowing patients to spend less. While cost can be a driving factor, there are many reasons patients choose St. Cloud Surgical Center. St. Cloud Surgical Center’s focused and trained staff work closely with surgeons to ensure an excellent patient experience. With hospital-grade operating rooms and a dedicated team committed to clinical quality, St. Cloud Surgical Center consistently experiences lower rates of surgical site infections than hospitals. Additionally, patients of St. Cloud Surgical Center return home as early as the same day of surgery. They also receive personalized care to ensure that their discharge goals are met.

SAVINGS FROM PERFORMING OUTPATIENT PROCEDURES AT LOWER-COST FACILITIES: Shifting procedures from hospital outpatient departments to

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NETWORKCENTRAL GROW | NETWORK | PROFIT

NETWORK

E V E N T S A R O U N D T H E ST. C LO U D A R E A

M O R E O N E V E N T S : Fo r i n f o r m a t i o n o n t h e s e o r o t h e r b u s i n e s s e v e n t s , c a l l 3 2 0 -2 51 -2 9 4 0 o r v i s i t S t C l o u d A r e a C h a m b e r. c o m a n d c l i c k o n “ C a l e n d a r.”

Welcome Julie! New Chamber President Julie Lunning received a warm welcome at a reception in her honor in September.

Nelson & Hamilton provided entertainment during the reception.

Julie Lunning, (L) Chamber of Commerce president and Angie Hill, Restore 24

Tammy Buttweiler, ConnectAbility, and Ron Brandenburg, Quinlivan & Hughes 20

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David Leapaldt, JLG Architects, and Kris Hellickson, Sheets Galore

LuAnn Popp, (L) Coldwell Banker Realty, and Linda Allen, Quiet Oaks Hospic

Jodi Speicher and Michael Stordahl, Good Shepherd; Julie and Kevin Johnson, K. Johnson Construction


It was hot, sunny and disco time at the Chamber Open in August.

Disco golfers from AVX, H&S Heating, and hole sponsor InteleCONNECT, joined in the fun.

Tim Feddema, APH, staffed the burger and brat trailer for hungry golfers.

Carrie Vesel, ABRA Auto Body Repair, was a welcome site on the course as the Snickers bar sponsor.

Everything a business needs for success, technology is behind it.

NETWORK

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| NETWORK

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PROFIT

R ES O U RC ES T H AT H E L P YO U R B US I N ESS G RO W

I N S I D E T H I S I S S U E : Entrepreneurism / Management Tool Kit / Economy Central by Falcon Bank

ENTREPRENEURISM

Defining Your Marketing Strategy Building an effective marketing strategy has less to do with Tik Tok and more to do with uncovering strategic ways to serve your clients. By Clare Richards

A key step as you outline your marketing strategy is to uncover the current state of the market. Who competes in the market? Who buys? What are the trends?

your marketing efforts? Here are two critical ideas to consider as you align marketing with your strategic plan:

D

isruption is the name of the game in 2021. This year, many companies set out to reclaim the momentum — and even the market share — they held before the pandemic. The fortunate companies were able to pivot and expand, while many remain on shaky ground. As we prepare for the new year, one thing is certain: defining your marketing strategy for 2022 will be critical to how you survive — and thrive — during whatever comes your way.

If your company functions like many, you may push marketing to the side when working through the fine points of your 2022 strategy. You might assume the folks on your marketing team will handle the tasks of keeping the social media platforms up-todate, adding pages to the website, and producing the next round of promotional materials. But in a world of disruption, can you allow anything to fall to the wayside? Furthermore, what if you expected more from

Contributor ________ Clare Richards is the marketing manager at Vye, a digital marketing agency based in St. Cloud.

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What can you learn from the market? A key step as you outline your marketing strategy is to uncover the current state of the market. Who competes in the market? Who buys? What are the trends? You can start by compiling information about your own brand and your competitors. Take a look at metrics such as: Brand keystones: The messaging and visual framework that tells a story and ultimately sells a product or service. ______ Audience profile: A high-level assessment of the buyer(s). What motivates them and influences them? How has the buyer changed recently? ______ Website traffic rank: How

a site ranks compared to every other site on the Internet. This impacts the likelihood

of a search engine serving up your website. ______ Number of website backlinks: This is the number

of links that drive traffic to your website from other websites. If you’re receiving links from websites that rank well, this will improve your ranking. ______ Organic traffic: The amount of website traffic received from organic search results, typically driven by keyword optimization within your website content. A simple competitor comparison grid will help get internal stakeholders on the same page. Being open and honest about where you fall compared to competitors is the best way to begin the process of differentiation and growth.

What do the customers say? The world revolves around human-centric buying practices. How does this change the way


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you operate your business? More specifically, how does it change your marketing? Consider two things: Customer tools: What tools are you building to enhance the buyer’s experience with your brand? Marketing often plays a role in building these experiences, even if this crosses into other areas of the business, such as research and development, customer service, and so on. Understanding and delivering a data-driven user experience is critical to customer acquisition and loyalty. ______ Communication: We often

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have the opportunity to create experiences our buyers desire, but we neglect to do so. To gain input from key clients send out surveys, and trial existing and new services, making adjustments as you learn more about your audience and customers. You need to listen to your audience and adapt and create better products and experiences to fit their needs. Creating the right environment for a buyer requires an empathic mindset and often starts with marketing.

What will 2022 bring to your company? Building an effective marketing strategy has a lot less to do with whether or not you’re on Tik Tok and more to do with uncovering strategic ways to serve your clients. This year, consider carving out a significant portion of your strategy planning session to talk about how marketing can boost your company’s performance and ensure its staying power for the future.

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MANAGEMENT TOOLKIT

Successfully Managing Others Avoiding common mistakes will help managers succeed in our ever-changing hybrid world. By David Coleman

are asking Boomers to stay longer in management positions because others are hesitant to step up and absorb the long hours and responsibilities. Add to this the many common mistakes managers make, and you have a recipe for disaster.” According to Orr, some of the most common mistakes managers make include: Not knowing your people.

What makes them tick? What motivates them? What makes them believe they are capable of being successful in the role they have accepted? ______ Hiring out of desperation.

M

anaging in today’s “workplace” has become increasingly difficult with several key factors at play. First, our current roster of employee talent spans many diverse generations from the Baby Boomers to Generation X to Millenials to Generation Y to Generation Next — each with its unique defining characteristics and professional nuances. Second, managers must perform their duties in an era of the habitually offended, outrage culture, and cancel culture, and must keep in mind that any moment of any workday may end up being documented Contributor ________

and featured on the internet. Finally, the effects of COVID have created a hybrid workplace where some people work from home, some from a brick-andmortar location, and others from a virtual location whenever and wherever they happen to find themselves. “It is getting harder to manage people because you have a workplace spanning generations from the Boomers to the Millennials to today,” John Orr said. This decorated veteran business professional is the director of sales and business development for Massillon Plaque in Ohio. “There are so many people in the mix, yet many employers

The available talent pool is so scarce that people are being hired simply to fill positions, not because they are the right person or best person for the job. Managers should hire talent based on their own weaknesses and hire someone who could be better and more productive in that position than the manager. ______ Not letting employees do their jobs. It is vitally important

to know what employees do best and let them perform that job, rather than pushing them into an area that simply needs filling. ______ Hiring someone with attractive soft skills. It’s

tempting to hire someone who shows up on time, isn’t

always on their phone, and has a professional demeanor. But if the candidate doesn’t have the aggregate skills necessary to succeed in the job they were hired to perform, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. ______ Not rewarding your people.

Keep morale high. Celebrate effort, results, and achievements before it’s too late, and the employee moves on from lack of recognition. Some of the most effective management techniques are common sense — you just have to do them. Woody Sherwood spent over 20 years coaching elite athletes in the NCAA. Through his experiences and market research he has become a corporate culture expert and author. In his book, Engage, Excel, Exceed he shares five tips on successfully managing talent in today’s everchanging world.

1 Employees must know they matter. Today’s employees need to feel valued and know exactly how they matter, not just for their contribution to the bottom line. They need to clearly understand that their value transcends profitability. 2 Communication is key. If a manager is waiting for the dreaded annual review

David Coleman is a speaker, training consultant, and coach with High Impact Training (www.highimpacttraining.net) and the CEO of Coleman Productions and Coleman Speaks Inc. He provides entertaining and engaging presentations on a variety of topics for businesses, associations, colleges and universities, and military bases worldwide.

24

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to communicate an employee’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s far too late. Micro-conversations should be taking place on a daily or weekly basis with employees — and not just in the manager’s office.

3.Make a connection. Poor managers often have one thing in common — the inability to truly connect with their employees. Casual five-minute “check-ins” on things not necessarily directly related to work can help forge a bond that in turn creates more engagement. A more engaged employee is a more productive employee. 4.Coaching vs. Managing. The current generation of employees (in fact, almost all employees) don’t want to be managed. They want to be coached. Traditional managers lead by position or title. “I’m the boss so you will do what I say.” Great managers lead more like coaches — they recognize leadership isn’t about position or title, it’s about creating outstanding relationships. Coaches are all about enhancing performance through relationships. 5.Creating a winning culture. Too many businesses talk a good game of great workplace culture with little to no understanding of how to really build and sustain it. A manager’s commitment to culture cannot begin and end at the annual company party. It needs to be lived on a daily and weekly basis. The bottom line, effective managers should lead from their strengths, all day, every day and put their employees in the best position possible to achieve their goals and exceed all expectations. Talk to your people every day and work with them to lay out a regular plan of action that everyone buys into.

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Economy Central presented by

ECONOMY CENTRAL

Consumer Spending and the Path Forward Reduced pandemic restrictions, combined with the vaccine rollout, appear to be breathing new life into consumers and businesses. By Dirghayu Shah and Lynn MacDonald

T

he U.S. economy has been showing signs of rebounding in several ways, including through increased consumer spending. This rebound has been found internationally as well as in several advanced economies. An easing of pandemic restrictions, combined with the vaccine rollout, have seemed to breathe new life into consumers and businesses. Over 50 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated and with consumers going out and spending more, U.S. GDP increased by 6.6 percent in Q2 of 2021. This increase reflects an 11.8 percent increase in consumer spending over the previous quarter. This increase in consumer spending has been driven by distinctly different responses

from lower income earners and higher income earners. With the fiscal stimulus, supplemental unemployment benefits, and an eviction ban, people in lower income brackets have been able to spend more than before. According to data from Economic Tracker by Opportunity Insights, consumer spending for people in the low-income brackets increased to 22.5 percent by January 10, after the second stimulus payments started, and to 33.6 percent by March 22 after the third stimulus payments started. But with supplemental unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and the eviction ban ending in the first week of September, it’s possible we will see a decrease in consumer spending. As of June 2021, twenty-six states ended

Contributors ________

supplemental unemployment benefits early to encourage people to return to work. A team of economists led by Kyle Coombs set out to study the effect of the withdrawal of supplemental pandemic UI benefits on financial and employment trajectories of recipients. By looking at bank transactions, they found there was a sharp drop in the number of people receiving UI benefits in the states that removed the supplemental assistance compared to the states that retained the supplemental assistance. The former supplemental UI recipients showed an increase in their weekly earnings of $14 and they were 20 percent more likely to have found a job by the first week of August 2021. But this was also met with a 20 percent reduction in their weekly spending. Unlike the experience in earlier recessions, the U.S. and other advanced economies have seen an increase in the personal saving rate during the pandemic. This increase in saving has been led by high income earners who slowed down their spending on services during the pandemic. This has led some to refer to the increased savings as “excess savings” meaning this is a higher savings rate than has been historically reported. Economists estimate that the

Dirghayu Shah, is an economics student at St. Cloud State University (SCSU); Lynn MacDonald, Ph.D., is associate professor of economics at SCSU. For the sources used in this story, visit BusinessCentralMagazine.com

26

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excess savings of households now totals around $2.5 trillion. While spending on services such as restaurants and travel has increased, it is still unknown how consumers will continue to respond to increased uncertainty and on-going infections from the delta and other new variants. We’ve already seen some airlines responding to lower demand in September and October by announcing reductions in their flight schedules. The added benefit of savings and more disposable income has meant that consumers spent money on things they could not afford before. It remains to be seen how this will all play out. Rising vaccination rates and the ability to bolster consumer confidence will help us on a path of continued recovery. BY THE NUMBERS

Minnesota’s Job Picture 3.9%

9,100

Minnesota’s unemployment rate in July

The number of jobs added in Minnesota in April – June (0.3%)

5.4% The national unemployment rate in July

14,300 The number of jobs added in Minnesota in March – May (0.5%)

9,500 the number of jobs added in Minnesota in May – July (0.3%)

Source: MN DEED


E PARK,

$200M

Residential Building Permits

November

16,523*

621,465

885,721

$80M

E PARK,

1,424*

32,948

24,272

December

Home Sales Closed

October

6 COMMUNITIES - ST. CLOUD, SAUK RAPIDS, SARTELL, WAITE PARK, ST. AUGUSTA, ST. JOSEPH

Economy September

ECO N O M I C I N D I C ATO R S & T R E N D S

6 COMMUNITIES - ST. CLOUD

Central presented by ST. AUGUSTA, ST. JOSEPH

COLOR KEY:August

TOTAL: $49,597,407* Compiled by Shelly Imdieke, data current as of 10/1/2021

July 2021 Jan Feb December Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec

2021

122 $3,685,577

November

500

Food and Beverage ST. CLOUD

August 338

Sartell

July 36 December

1000

246 2021 $68,749,665

$116,566,743

June

TOTAL: $137,532,948

228 2020 $30,482,808

33 Food and Beverage $8,010,566

135 $5,556,423

$7,597,866

$15,234,330

Apr September

July

ST. CLOUD 66

11 5 2019 $9,754,200 $201,585

2021

51 24 $7,919,703 $1,920,392

$0

$500k

*Total as of 10/1/2021; September figures for Sartell and Waite Park were not Jan June available at time of print.

2000

$2000000

$150M TOTAL: $137,532,948 $200M

TOTAL: 1868

St. Augusta 7 $271,600 Mar August St. Joseph 61 $9,026,116 Feb

TOTAL: 182*

1500

TOTAL: $1,287,691

TOTAL: $1,604,677

$1500000

Sauk Rapids November 55 $24,841,483 May Waite Park October136

TOTAL: $81,645,944*

181 $51,839,770

309 77 $12,784,000 $15,070,149 $12,075,765

TOTAL: 1823

Data not released at time of print

$1000000

St. Cloud

2020

May and St. Joseph. Sources: Building departments for the following cities: St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids, Sartell, Waite Park, St. Augusta, Apr

TOTAL: $178,724,272

2020-2021

2020-21 % CHANGE

Source: positivelyminnesota.com

December

November

October

3%

September

August

July

J

June

M

May

Jan

April

March

6%

February

$200M

December

November

$150M

October

12%

September

August

$100M

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

$50M

Source: positivelyminnesota.com $0 $500k

Feb

9%

$0M

2019

Non-Farm MarJobs January

15%

131 $3,858,123

September Commercial 2019 2020 2021* #/$ #/$ #/$

Unemployment Rates

2019

2019

89 $7,926,692

B U I L D I N G P E R M I T S BY C O M M U N I T Y

TOTAL: $81,645,944*

$100M

December

St. Joseph 73 February $3,304,271

500

$500000 2020

$50M

November

95 $10,023,126

Home Sales Closed in St. Cloud Area

St. Augusta 73 March $5,979,717

October

6 COMMUNITIES - ST. CLOUD, SAUK RAPIDS, SARTELL, WAITE PARK, ST. AUGUSTA, ST. JOSEPH TOTAL: $178,724,272

$0M

500

2020

December available at time of print.

Commercial Building Permits

2021

560 210 $16,235,353 0$10,970,500

January *Total as of 10/1/2021; September figures for Sartell and Waite0Park were not

$80M

6 COMMUNITIES - ST. CLOUD, SAUK RAPIDS, SARTELL, WAITE PARK, ST. AUGUSTA, ST. JOSEPH

2019

October

$70M

545 $20,223,229

6 COMMUNITIES - ST. CLOUD, SAUK RAPIDS, SARTELL, WAITE PARK, ST. AUGUSTA, ST. JOSEPH

TOTAL: $63,885,721

$60M

6 COMMUNITIES - ST. CLOUD ST. AUGUSTA, ST. JOSEPH

Waite Park 39 49 27 April $1,084,477 $2,336,431 $1,984,855

Commercial Building Permits

2021

2020

$50M

September

$40M

2021

2021

$30M

Home Sales Closed

Sauk Rapids 165 236 148 May $8,585,270 $7,739,324 $4,634,007

2020

$20M

Sartell 309 January$18,954,216 June

2019

$10M

765 2019 $38,601,654

607

$25,977,770 February July

0

$0M

August

St. Cloud

$60M $70M $80M TOTAL: $78,621,465

Food and Beverage Tax Collection

ST. CLOUD

$0 2019

August

$50M

July

$40M

June

September

2021

2020

2019

2020

$30M

May

$20M

April

$10M

2020

Residential 2019 2020 2021* March #/$ #/$ #/$

2021 $0M

May October

BUILDING P E R M I T S BY C O M M U N I T Y April

TOTAL: $49,597,407*

2019

June November

March

6 COMMUNITIES - ST. CLOUD, SAUK RAPIDS, SARTELL, WAITE PARK, ST. AUGUSTA, ST. JOSEPH TOTAL: $63,885,721

February

January

December

Residential Building Permits

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

Apr

Mar

Feb

Jan

2020

TOTAL: $78,621,465

0% 9%

-3% -6%

6%

-9% -12%

3%

M

J

J

A

*Total as of 10/1/21

S

O

N

D

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

St. Cloud Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota United States

-15%

M

A

*Total as of 10/1/21

J

A

S

O

N

D

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

St. Cloud, MN MetroSA Minnesota United States

N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1 // BusinessCentralMagazine.com

27


$200M

GROW

500

1000

E PARK,

0

16,523*

January

621,465

885,721

$80M

$80M

$70M

E PARK,

$60M

1,424*

$50M

32,948

24,272

$40M

1500

BUSINESSTOOLS COLOR KEY:

Jan December Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec

ECO N O M I C I N D I C ATO R S & T R E N D S

December

September

TOTAL: $653,378*

September

TOTAL: 1318*

TOTAL: $81,645,944*

August

August

2021

July

July

2000

*Total as of 10/1/21

BY THE NUMBERS

Job-Seeker Bonanza December

November are looking for workers to Manufacturers fill positions throughout their businesses. October September

TOTAL: $653,378*

August

TOTAL: $1,599,444

May

*Total as of 10/1/21

STEARNS AND BENTON COUNTIES

$0

$500k

TOTAL: 18* $1.5M

$1M

$2M

2021 TOTAL: 42

2021

Stearns Co.

102

34

9

Benton Co.

21

8

9

Benton County Sheriff’s Civil Process; Stearn’s County Sheriff’s Office *Total as of 10/1/21; There were no reported auctions in April & May 2020.

BusinessCentral Magazine.com // N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1

December

2020

November

Residential 2019

October

SHERIFF’S FORECLOSURE AUCTIONS

150

September

120

August

90

July

60

June

30

May

0

April

2019

March

TOTAL: 123

February

January

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2020

April

anufacturing is Central March Minnesota’s second largest employing industry, February providing nearly 40,000 jobs January with an average annual wage of more than $57,500, well above the region’s overall average of $48,500. The most recent job vacancy survey reported the second-highest number of manufacturing job openings in the past 20 years (1,718 manufacturing vacancies), showing there are fantastic opportunities for workers looking to find a career in manufacturing. Manufacturing companies mainly employ workers in production occupations. However, it’s important to note that roughly 50 percent of 2000

$2000000

Sheriff’s Foreclosure Auctions

2019

28

M

TOTAL: $1,604,677

$2M

manufacturing jobs aren’t in production, but are instead in transportation, warehousing, office and administrative support, architecture, engineering, or management, among a few others. The barriers to entry into a manufacturing career are relatively low. Over threequarters of the openings manufacturers posted in the fourth quarter of 2020 required a high school diploma or less, with employers placing a higher premium on work experience. About half of the jobs listed required at least one year of prior work experience and many employers report that they provide on-the-job training. This is terrific news for new workers as well as workers looking for a career change without having to invest significant time and money into pursuing higher education. TOTAL: 182*

$2M

2020 Source: Tax Collections – City of St. Cloud

TOTAL: 1868

June

TOTAL: $1,287,691 $1.5M

July

TOTAL: 1823

$1M

$1.5M

Source: Tax Collections – City of St. Cloud

1500

$500k

TOTAL: $1,287,691

TOTAL: $1,604,677

$1500000

$0

$1M

1000

Data not released at time of print

$1000000

2021

$500k

January

Home Sales Closed in St. Cloud Area

1500

6 COMMUNITIES - ST. CLOUD, SAUK RAPIDS, SARTELL, WAITE PARK, ST. AUGUSTA, ST. JOSEPH

$0

TOTAL: $749,418 Food and Beverage Tax Collection

ST. CLOUD

March February

Feb

TOTAL: $588,517*

2021

2021

ST. CLOUD

TOTAL: $1,604,677

500

Lodging Tax Dollars

0

$500000

Food and Beverage Tax Collection

ST. CLOUD

1000

2019

Mar

Jan $150M $200M Housing/Real Estate sources: St. Cloud Area Association of Realtors, http://stcloudrealtors.com/pages/statistics.

2019

2020

April

*Total as of 10/1/21

2020

2019

2021

2020

2019

$0

$100M

May

TOTAL: 1823

Apr

TOTAL: $178,724,272

500

2020

May

2019

0

TOTAL: $1,287,691

June

TOTAL: 1868

June

TOTAL: $137,532,948

December

ST. CLOUD

November

Food and Beverage Tax Collection October

ST. AUGUSTA, ST. JOSEPH UD, SAUK RAPIDS, SARTELL, WAITE PARK,

2021

October

September

August

July

June

November

May

April

March

February

January

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

Apr

Mar

Feb

Jan

November

Home Sales Closed in St. Cloud Area ing Permits 6 COMMUNITIES - ST. CLOUD, SAUK RAPIDS, SARTELL, October WAITE PARK,

2020

2000

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic


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I LIKE BUSINESS K

urt Scepaniak is no stranger to exploring ideas. New on his list of experiments is the mobile hiring unit. This large trailer is being outfitted with big screen TVs, chairs, and a desk. The TVs will show what it’s like in the day of a roofing contractor. They will also play testimonials from employees at Horizon Roofing, Scepaniak’s company. The chairs and desk are for on-the-spot interviews and applications. He hopes to set up the mobile unit in parking lots and places where employees may be getting laid off. “I don’t really plan to have this up and running for another year,” he said. “But I think this is another way for us to get our name out there and let potential employees know what we do.” What he does is commercial roofing, a job that he freely admits is not the most popular among the trades. “Face it, we work year-round. In the winter it’s cold and windy; in the summer

KURT SCEPANIAK, HORIZON ROOFING, IS CONSTANTLY INVENTING,

CHANGING, AND THINKING ABOUT WHAT COMES NEXT. BY GAIL IVERS PHOTOS BY JOEL BUTKOWSKI,

BUTKOWSKI DIGITAL IMAGING

it’s hot and rainy. But it’s good steady work and you can make a good wage.” As Scepaniak develops his mobile unit, he isn’t just thinking of his own employment needs. He hopes representatives from the Minnestoa Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and some of the nonprofit groups that help people find employment will also use the mobile hiring unit. They can meet with the prospective employees about the other types of jobs available in the trades, if it turns out roofing isn’t the right fit. The mobile hiring unit is just the most recent in a series of ideas Scepaniak has developed to attract new talent. A few years ago he turned warehouse space into training centers — one in Waite Park and another at his location in Brooklyn Center. “We can’t get enough skilled people,” he said. “I heard myself complaining about it all the time, just like everyone else, so I figured I should either


IF YOU GO THROUGH TOUGH TIMES, OR IF YOU’RE RAPIDLY EXPANDING, YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS.”

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COVER STORY

AGE: 44 TITLE: President and CEO HOMETOWN: St Cloud, now living in Cold Spring EDUCATION: High School WORK HISTORY: Horizon Roofing my entire life except for working at Arby’s while going to school and seeing what it would be like to work for someone other then my dad. By the way, Arby’s was much easier.

32

FAMILY: Wife, Tina Scepaniak; son,12, and daughter, 17

I’M DOING THIS WORK BECAUSE I WANT TO BE DOING IT, NOT BECAUSE I WANT THE MONEY.”

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HOBBIES: Boating, downhill skiing, scuba diving, running, working out, biking, enjoying cheap red wine

PERSONAL PROFILE

Kurt Scepaniak


The training centers are also part of Scepaniak’s employee retention strategy. “If you do these things for your employees, they’re more likely to refer other people to come work for you. You have happier employees and the quality of your projects are better. So, it pays off — definitely.” Not satisfied with waiting for potential employees to find him, Scepaniak has also dabbled with pre-employment training. Pre-COVID, he started working with groups in the inner city to vet potential employees for their interest in construction and ability to withstand heat and heights. At no cost to the prospects, Scepaniak would provide five days of education at one of his training centers. In addition to teaching people about roofing, he provided OSHA and forklift training, covering the cost of materials and teachers. “Then we’d offer jobs to the best of the group,” he said. “We did get a few employees out of that. The ones we didn’t hire could still apply other places. With the training we provided, at the very least they had the forklift certification so that opens up opportunities for jobs as well.” To-date the pre-employment investment has not paid off as well as he had hoped, but Scepaniak remains optimistic. “So far we’ve only been able to do two classes then COVID hit. I’d be willing to do it again, but more of the support places that we work with need to open up. For instance, we want DEED to come and see the training center so they can refer the people to us who are looking for jobs.”

HORIZON SCANNING “One of the obstacles for completing work is people, and one is equipment,” Scepaniak said. “When you can’t find people, especially in a hard industry like roofing, you have to think of other ways to get the work done.” For Scepaniak that meant looking to machines to help with some of the more difficult and repetitive labor. He contacted a couple of companies, but no one had what he was looking for or were

Did you know? This year Horizon Roofing will do 2.5 — 3 million square feet of roofing just on big box stores. For context, Home Depot’s roof is 100,000 square feet.

1976 Dan Scepaniak,

Kurt Scepaniak’s dad, starts Horizon Roofing out of his garage.

1987 Kurt Scepaniak

begins working at Horizon Roofing at age 10.

1993 Kurt becomes a

roofing foreman at age 16 and starts the company’s first service department.

1995 Kurt begins estimating projects.

2000 Kurt takes over

Horizon Roofing from his dad with a plan to buy the business over time. The company has 14 employees.

2008 Horizon Roofing

opens an office in Crystal, Minn.

2012 Horizon Roofing

moves its Crystal office to a larger space in the Warehouse District in Minneapolis

2013 Horizon Roofing

opens a location in Dallas, Texas. Scepaniak closes the branch nine months later because an employee was stealing from the company.

2016 Horizon Roofing

moves its Minneapolis office to a larger space in Brooklyn Center, adding a 3,000 square foot training room.

2017 Horizon Roofing adds a

2,500 square foot training center at its Waite Park facility.

2020 Scepaniak purchases

Diversified Machine and changes the name to Process Logic.

2021 Horizon Roofing

expands from Brooklyn Center to a larger facility in New Hope, which includes classroom space as well as a training facility; the company has 120 employees.

TIMELINE

shut up or do something about it.” So, he did something about it. “People talk about on-the-job training, but it takes too long,” Scepaniak said. In the training centers people can learn in two or three days what might take weeks or months to learn on the job. And the investment has been a good one for another reason. “Employees can mess up in the training center and you’re just out the materials,” he said. “If you mess up on the job, water gets in the building — you could flood a building. On the job it costs money, time and injuries.” At the training centers, employees can watch demonstration videos first, then practice what they’ve watched. Since hands-on activities use up real product that is eventually discarded, Scepaniak tries to provide as much information up front as possible. The training centers are also used with existing employees. “We look at the projects we have coming up and the processes that are involved and then we’ll set up dates for training on those particular processes,” Scepaniak said. “Our service department does a different training every month based on what they see people need. On rain-days, when some companies have people sitting at home, our foremen can bring their crews in and work on skills. It all costs money, but ultimately you get better, happier employees and that leads to happier customers. And ultimately the employees get paid more because as they learn new skills that we need, they’re more valuable to the company.” Scepaniak’s investment in training has been an expensive one. From carving out space and building out the centers, to having a trainer on staff, he estimates it has cost him a few hundred thousand dollars. “If you’re growing, you have to be prepared to hire people without the necessary skills,” he said, “especially right now when there aren’t enough workers anywhere. Again, you can either complain about it and see your revenues drop because you can’t take on new work, or you can do something about it.”


COVER STORY Randy Einarson (L) and Kurt Scepaniak at Scepaniak's newest company, Process Logic.

able to successfully build one. In frustration he talked with his patent attorney who suggested he investigate Diversified Machines. “He told me ‘They’re more expensive, but their stuff works.’ ” Working with Diversified Machines, Scepaniak was able to build a machine that took Horizon’s sheet metal fabrication from a two-minute process to a four-second process. “And once we add a robotic arm to it, our labor goes to zero,” he said. Impressed with the talent pool at Diversified Machines, and anxious to keep the resource available, Scepaniak looked into becoming a partner in the business. Instead, he ended up buying it and renaming it Process Logic. “The right machines will help with our labor shortage,” he said, “but they also help make our employees’ jobs easier, make for a better work environment, and increase profits for Horizon.”

EARLY ADOPTER Scepaniak didn’t walk into Horizon Roofing with growth plans and new ideas for employee recruitment. He walked in at age 10 to sweep the floors. His father, Dan, started the business in 1976 and as soon as Scepaniak was old enough he was put to work. “I was landscaping with a Bobcat by the time I was 10 or 11,” he recalled. “At age 12, during the summers, I was already roofing.” He never thought too much about whether he would buy the business or not. “I maybe thought for a while that I’d be an architect,” he said, “but it’s a family business, and I was intrigued by it.” Even then, Scepaniak saw opportunity around every corner. “I started the service department at 16,” he said. Up until this point, if there was a roof leak, Dan Scepaniak would pull someone off an existing job to repair it. There wasn’t a dedicated department that went out to inspect and repair roofs. Horizon was working in Litchfield where they were planning on re-roofing the high school. The

customer was explaining the plan to replaced different sections of the roof over time. “I said, let’s just do some maintenance to extend the life of the roof. You don’t need to reroof. He took a risk on the 16-year-old kid. We did the maintenance work and they didn’t have to replace the roof for a lot of years after that.” From that beginning, Scepaniak started inspecting roofs when projects came up for bid. As appropriate he would give the customer the option to reroof it and, if he thought maintenance was a better choice, he would give that option, too. When digital cameras were first available, he bought one without telling his dad. In the evenings he would take images from the camera and create reports for customers and potential clients. He started taking before and after photos of roof leaks and sharing those with the clients. “People told Dad they liked the reports, and he didn’t know what they were talking about,” Scepaniak said. “He asked me what was going on, and when I told him I spent $1,400 on a camera he couldn’t be as mad at me.” Scepaniak was an early adopter of computer software that allowed customers to access information about their projects. As more contractors started offering similar software options, Scepaniak decided to design his own computer program that offers better detail and more transparency for customers. “All online databases sound alike,” Scepaniak said, “but ours is really about the user experience. Once you’ve seen it or used it, you know it’s different.” Today he has a fulltime programmer on staff to allow Horizon to continually improve its service. “If I see software that looks better, we just program it into our system,” he said.

GROWTH In 2000 Scepaniak took over the company from his dad, and this time he did have growth plans. “There just isn’t enough business in St. Cloud to keep us busy and let us grow,” he

Kurt’s advice to a would-be entrepreneur DON’T EXPECT IT TO BE EASY. There is a reason not many people go into business. Be honest with yourself and get advice from other people in business, but maybe not from others who haven’t been there. Understand that you will screw up, but you only fail if you don’t learn from it. Treat your customers the way you would expect to be treated if you were the customer. If you have happy employees, you will have happier customers. Plan to run your company in that order. Live and die by your numbers and understand your numbers, otherwise you might go out of business before you even know it.

34

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Best business advice Kurt has received

Horizon Roofing Inc. 2010 County Road 137, Waite Park, MN 56387 320-252-1608 kurt@horizonroofinginc.com horizonroofinginc.com CEO/Owner: Kurt Scepaniak Business Description: Commercial roofing, sheet metal, and roofing service company working thoughout the Midwest. St. Cloud based employees: 30 (both companies) Total number of employees: 110 _________________

Process Logic Inc. 307 31st Ave. S, Waite Park, MN 56387 320-654-8910 kurt.s@processlogic.co processlogic.co CEO/Owner: Kurt Scepaniak Business Description: Industrial automation and robotics company serving manufacturers and construction companies in North America.

Fun fact: Kurt Scepaniak has 14 items at various stages of patenting

BUSINESS PROFILES

said. In 2008 he opened his first metro loca- stores — just big box stores — we’ll do 2.5 -3 tion in Crystal, moving to the Minneapolis million square feet of roofing. For perspective, warehouse district in 2012. Home Depot has 100,000 square feet of roof. In 2013 he opened a branch in Dallas, We’ll do 1,900 service calls. That’s a lot.” Texas. “My thought was that in the summer they’re slow and we’re busy. In the winter LEARNING AND CHANGING we’re slow and they’re busy,” Scepaniak ex- As with many businesses, COVID changed plained. “So we could move people back and Scepaniak’s plans. “Last year was only the forth depending on the time of year and keep second year since I’ve been in charge that we more of a steady cash flow.” It didn’t turn out didn’t grow,” he said. “And it was because of well. “The guy started stealCOVID and the riots in ing from me on day one. He the Twin Cities.” Some stole thousands of dollars projects were cancelled and nine months later I shut or postponed. In the case it down.” Even with the bad of the riots, Scepaniak experience, Scepaniak still had to pull employees off THAT’S TOUGH. sees logic to the concept. “If jobs to keep them safe. “I I’ve learned a lot from I do that again some day, I’ll never thought I’d be sendlistening to podcasts. either buy an existing coming emails about social Maybe “Watch your pany or I’ll start up with a distancing or being safe pennies; your dollars full team, rather than just the during a riot.” will take care of one person.” The only other year themselves.” What it Meanwhile, Scepaniak Horizon didn’t grow was means is basically to continued to cultivate the during the Great Receswatch all your numbers metro area. “We were doing sion of 2008-09. “We because ignoring the small numbers can new construction down there grew,” Scepaniak clarified, turn into big numbers. now and then,” he said, “so I “but our profit margin That came from Dan started going after multi-famwas down. I didn’t go to Scepaniak, my father. ily housing. I joined the Mincollege. I barely made it nesota Multi Housing Associathrough high school, so I tion and went to their events. had to learn the difference I didn’t know anyone, but I joined committees between markup and profit. I was looking at and when there’s only a few of you on a com- profit and loss every week and I was constantly mittee they have to talk to you.” In all he joined feeling up and down. Now I look at close-out five or six associations in the Twin Cities and after month end, that’s what really matters.” started attending events and meeting with peoThe company’s biggest year ever resulted in ple. “It took abut three years or so to get trac- 40 percent growth. “That’s like pressing the gas tion,” he said. with a blindfold on,” Scepaniak said. “Growth Even though St. Cloud is only an hour from can be a challenge. Now we know to plan for the Twin Cities, Scepaniak found that pro- growth, rather than just let it happen.” spective customers wanted someone more Even though some days are tough, Scepalocal. To eliminate that objection, he pur- niak likes the challenges of being in business. chased an expansion phone line with a 612 “I like our customer base and being able to area code. “We were already driving an hour evolve,” he said. “This is where we’re at today, to do work, it didn’t matter to us. But the what are we going to look like in two or three customers cared,” he said. years? We’re constantly inventing, constantHis persistence paid off. This year the ly changing, constantly thinking about what company is moving to a new location in New comes next.” Hope to accommodate its steady growth. “We couldn’t be the size we are and do the Gail Ivers is vice president of the St. Cloud Area work we do if we were only in St. Cloud,” he Chamber of Commerce and editor of Business said. “There’s just not enough work for us. Let Central Magazine. me give you an example. This year, in big box


F E AT U R E

Risky Business Making the leap from employee to owner may be risky, but sometimes not taking the risk, is the biggest risk of all. By Alicia Chapman

T

here are a lot of risks that go into becoming a business owner. Even when all the details are planned out, unexpected hurdles can be challenging for entrepreneurs. Only 51 percent of new businesses last beyond year five. Yet, every year, over 625,000 new businesses start. There is something appealing about being a business owner — even with all the risks. Just ask Toby Kommer. It was always his goal to own a business. Kommer is very competitive and played many sports as a child, which helped him gain confidence and

36

taught him how to strive to be the best. “I’ve never been one that’s a risk junkie that likes to jump out of airplanes or go fast in cars or things like that,” Kommer said. “But I guess I’ve always been one that’s felt confident enough in myself to take calculated risks.” After college, Kommer worked at a bank that two entrepreneurs started. By the time he was 29 years old he had worked his way up from an entry-level auditor to part of the senior management team of the $6 billion organization. But, while Kommer was finding success as an employee, he yearned to do his own thing. “I didn’t want to answer to

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a board of directors anymore,” he said. “I didn’t want to answer to shareholders. I wanted to be able to create my own culture and my own organization.” Kommer talked with his wife and kids about what it would look like to be a business owner instead of an employee. And then he started putting together a plan. Seven years ago, he began acquiring banks, CPA firms, and insurance agencies to build what Haga Kommer is today — one of Inc. 500’s fastest-growing private companies. “That was definitely the scariest point in my life,” Kommer said. “And it was the biggest risk in my life. I had

predominantly worked for 15-16 years in companies where I had a steady paycheck every week. But really, it just came down to I wasn’t happy anymore.” Jill Magelssen had similar reasons for leaving corporate America to become a business owner. Magelssen found success finding creative solutions for business owners. She was able to connect her clients with talented individuals who could take on tasks and jobs. As she continued to grow with the company, she managed a team and found herself traveling regularly. “I had to take a step back and figure out what it was that was


not making me feel as fulfilled,” she said. “I was a mother of small school-aged children. I had a lot of travel in my job, and that was hard. My husband was very supportive and was wonderful in helping us make the family continue to run as it needed to be. But as the children got older, that was harder. And I found that there was a tug. I always wanted to be the best mother I could — and felt that you could do it both. You can do both if that is something you have a passion for.” She decided to take a step back and determine what she wanted, which led her to a smaller company that needed help hiring sales talent. This change allowed her to spend

more time with her family and ultimately start her entrepreneurship journey. Magelssen also missed the staffing world, but knew she wanted more control over some of the decisions being made. So, with her husband’s encouragement, she started researching what she needed to do to become a business owner. “It was scary,” she said. “But it was exciting. At the same time, knowing the industry was very helpful. Knowing the products and learning how they do business was different for me. But I knew the questions to ask. And that gave me some comfort that I can do this.” When Magelssen was offered the opportunity to purchase the

Banks will look at the Five C’s of credit — capacity, capital, collateral, conditions, and character. This can help a bank know whether someone is “bankable."

Express Employment franchise in St. Cloud, she knew it would be a lot of work. But, first, she would have to do a lot of networking in the community. While the company was preexisting, it wasn’t well known. When it comes to securing funds to start, purchase or expand a business, many individuals will go to a bank. Kensington Bank’s Chief Banking Officer, Tim Stewart, recommends entrepreneurs start talking to a bank early in their

planning process. Banks can help business owners connect with community resources like the Small Business Development Center or investors. Banks will look at the Five C’s of credit — capacity, capital, collateral, conditions, and character. This can help a bank know whether someone is “bankable." Stewart said character is essential because if there’s a missing piece like collateral, a bank might decide to take the leap of faith with

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F E AT U R E

New to business? Consider these tips. Do a lot of research. Connect with financial professionals. Put together a strong business plan with realistic estimates.

the person because of their character. “Banks are in the risk business,” said Stewart. “That’s essentially what banks are doing — they’re always looking at how to mitigate risk.” Before approving a business loan, the bank looks at a business plan and estimated cash flow. For someone purchasing a pre-

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Learn as much as you can. Grow your network.

existing business, the bank will want to see how the company is run, how the new owner plans to run it, the current cash flow, and more. Sometimes purchasing a pre-existing company can be more complicated than starting a new business. But it can also be less risky because there may be less to build in the company.

No matter how carefully something is planned out, issues are still bound to happen. Unforeseen hurdles can be one of the biggest struggles for new business owners — and one of the most significant risks when taking the leap from employee to business owner. For Magelssen, she had to overcome a recession, fighting a company in bankruptcy, and most recently, a global pandemic. Throughout all these experiences, she learned how to be confident in her skills, resourceful, and creative. The staffing industry is typically hit right away during a recession since businesses tend to cut their supplemental staff and contract workers to

save their other employees. Magelssen had seen minor recessions, but wasn’t prepared for anything like the Great Recession. Unfortunately, there’s no rulebook for how to run a business when something like that hits. “I learned it’s all about your attitude,” she said. “And that sometimes shutting off the outside noise is really important. Working through the recession, there was a point when I all of a sudden said, ‘Okay, I can do this. I know I have what it takes.’ So, what I did was stay close to my clients and prospects, to see what they were hearing. I learned that I could be a good resource for many of them.”

I am happiest when I am helping others succeed. Proud to serve the businesses that advertise in Business Central ADVERTISE TODAY! Contact Melinda Vonderahe Associate Publisher, 320.656.3808 MelindaV@BusinessCentralMagazine.com

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This intentional communication worked. And, as the recession lifted, Magelssen had many clients reaching out to her. So, when the global pandemic hit, she wasn’t deterred. Instead, she remained calm and decided to take the time to improve her business and added a professional recruiting side that helped give her a competitive advantage. Another unforeseen challenge was when a client filed for bankruptcy and Express Employment was listed as one of the creditors. Magelssen knew she could get through it, and with a lot of hard work and help, her business did get through it. As part of Kommer’s job, he works to help small business owners consider their risks. He

looks at the business’s financial model and break-even point and many other factors in determining if it’s a good move for the business owner. “I think that’s where we help with the whole calculated risk piece of it, because a typical entrepreneur is not always super disciplined, because what makes them a good entrepreneur, a lot of times, is that they’re very creative,” Kommer said. “They have a sales chip in them. They’re really good with people, but many times, details and discipline around financials and the processes are not things that come naturally to them. And so that’s a gap that I like to help fill. I can think

like an entrepreneur. But I also understand the calculated risks that go into that and maybe helping them think that through. That’s probably the most fun part of my whole job.” No matter what kind of industry someone is in, it’s hard to know what it will look like one year from now or 10 years from now. You can’t predict what is going to happen. “I think every industry has to adapt as it goes,” said Kommer. “We want to be the difference between a cruise ship and a jet ski. If you’re going in one direction on a cruise ship and you want to turn around and go the other direction, it’s going to take you two days to turn that ship around. Instead,

you can have a jet ski going the other direction in a second or two. As an organization, we always want to have enough foresight to know that we need to change directions. Those are the things you can’t prepare for because you just don’t know what might come next.” Even with all the inherent risks, most business owners, including Kommer and Magelssen, say they wouldn’t do anything different. Alicia Chapman is a freelance writer and owner of Bluebird Creative LLC, a content writing business specializing in helping small businesses share their stories.

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SPECIAL FOCUS

Business Partners Choosing a banker is as much about fit and feel, as it is about finance. By Tess Glenzinski

A

few minutes before our interview about their business banking, Kevin Johnson and Mike Lardy were each meeting with their bankers. Johnson, CEO of K. Johnson Construction, was signing paperwork at Deerwood Bank. He has been with the same banker for long enough that he was able to sign the documents and take them home to his wife, all without showing any ID. Lardy, owner of Bravo Burritos, was with his wife while she talked by phone with their banker at Bank Vista. Because of the call, Bravo Burritos’ employees now have access to direct deposits.

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Johnson and Lardy demonstrate how efficiently businesses run when they choose the right banker. A good fit between a business and its bank is a key step in that business’s path to growth and success. The right bank can provide the business with strategic solutions, helpful networks, efficient technology, and financial counseling laying the foundation for future success. “I always tell my clients it is like choosing the right accountant and attorney. A banker is just as important because you fundamentally need all three to be able to have a successful business at all stages,” Brandi Nelson, director of SBA at Bremer Bank, said.

The right bank can provide the business with strategic solutions, helpful networks, efficient technology, and financial counseling, laying the foundation for future success.

So what is the most important factor in finding the best fitting bank? For many businesses, it is personal relationships. “If there is any one reason why we would choose a bank, it would be because of the personal experience we get from the banker,” Johnson said. “That one-on-one experience — somebody who knows your background, knows your business, knows your family — this all comes into play.”

Johnson has banked his construction company with the same bankers for several years. He initially worked with them at Wells Fargo, then when his bankers moved to Plaza Park Bank (later acquired by Deerwood Bank,) he made the switch with them to keep banking with people who knew his company and him. “It comes down to the personal service you get from the banker, so that is why we stuck with them,” Johnson said.

Johnson says having an established personal relationship with his business bankers gives him benefits such as the drive-up tellers greeting him by name without showing an ID and increased trust between his business and bank when working through documents. Lardy has also found that banking where his business has personal connections has simplified otherwise complicated processes. This streamlined

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SPECIAL FOCUS

One important aspect of a business banking relationship that can grow from that foundation is open communication. Sauk Rapids

banking process is a fast lane to success for a new business owner like Lardy, who became the owner of Bravo Burritos in April 2021. The previous owners of Bravo Burritos banked through Bank Vista in Sartell, and Lardy

decided to keep banking with them because of the established business relationship. Amid the transition process of filling out “miles and miles” of documents, working through appraisals and negotiating terms, Lardy knew he had a banker a phone call away. “When you run into difficulties or you are looking to expand, it just feels nice to be able to call the bank and get a meeting with someone who can authorize that and not go through

a bureaucratic process or fill out forms on a website,” Lardy said. “We just want to know that they trust us and that we can trust them and make a deal happen.” Banks like Bremer and Falcon National hope that Johnson’s and Lardy’s personal connections with their bankers are not a unique experience. For community banks, those relationships are the goal. “We try to look at it [banking with businesses] as a partnership where we become a trusted advisor,”

John Herges, CEO of Falcon National Bank, said. “When our customers are successful, we are successful.” Lisa Maurer, business banker at Bremer Bank, shares Herges’ sentiments, saying that a good personal relationship is the foundation of a successful business relationship. One important aspect of a business banking relationship that can grow from that foundation is open communication. This communication allows the banker to better understand the business’s needs and apply the best-suited solutions. Open communication allowed Maurer to guide a start-up business through the

Combining Legal Teams and Talent to Propel Success The combination of Lathrop Gage and Gray Plant Mooty was finalized in 2020. We unified to offer superior service, more comprehensive legal counsel and more effective support of our clients nationally and internationally. One year later, clients are reaping the benefits of our expanded team, practice areas and geographic reach. Talk to us about how our legal team can support your business. 800.476.4224 lathropgpm.com

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pandemic. With an established relationship and inside knowledge of how the business was run, Maurer connected the new business owner with Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and found additional nonSBA relief programs to assist in keeping the business open. “As a start-up business facing the challenges of the pandemic, having someone they felt comfortable calling and talking to, to get creative and find relief programs to help their business was critical,” Maurer said. Finding the right banker to reap these benefits of a personalized business banking relationship can take patience. Bremer’s Nelson and Maurer advise business owners to reach

out to other businesses they respect in the community as a starting point of their search. “Talk to other successful businesspeople who you admire, ask who they use for a bank and ask them how their experience has been,” Maurer said. From there, they advise businesses to interview a few banks to determine if they are a good fit. Looking at the entire package offered by the bank is crucial in finding the right one. “All too often people shop for a bank loan like they would a car loan by allowing rates to drive their decision. Businesses owners should remember that in a business, you deal with many complexities so you need to think of it less as a transaction

based on the best price, and more as a whole package based on services and relationships,” Maurer said. The personal relationship is an important part of that package. Other factors to consider include the bank’s ability to provide electronic solutions, like remote deposit and online transfers, and the ability to make specialty loans, such as being a preferred SBA lender. Choosing a bank is an integral part of a business’ path to success. For Johnson and Lardy, that choice came down to the personal relationship with the banker, allowing them the convenience of name recognition while signing documents and

advancing business technology with just a phone call. Those advantages all circle back to a good fit between business and bank. “There are so many banks out there and so many options, and maybe the one right across the street from you is not the best bet,” Lardy said. “The personal relationship matters, and finding a good fit would help anyone be successful who is looking to do business with a business banker.” Tess Glenzinski is a senior at the College of Saint Benedict and a former communications intern at the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce.

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SPECIAL FOCUS

SBA De-mystified If you’ve been avoiding a Small Business Administration loan, it might be time to rethink that decision.

T

he MythBusters could have saved small business owners and bankers a lot of headaches if they had run an episode about Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. Misconceptions and myths abound about what exactly an SBA loan is and the process a business owner goes through to use one. An SBA loan is a small business loan from a bank that is partially guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, an agency of the federal government. The guarantee from the government means that if the loan goes bad, the bank does not take the full blow. That allows

banks to offer SBA loans at the best terms possible, with lower down payments, longer time between payments, and less collateral. “It is worth it to partner with the bank and involve the SBA so that your business can get the best terms possible,” according to Lisa Maurer, a business banker at Bremer. Even though many business bankers recommend SBA loans, some businesses shy away because SBA loans have received a bad rap. Let’s debunk some of those myths. Myth: SBA loans are too complicated to be worth the rewards.

SBA loans can help a small business take off when it otherwise would

Confidence isn’t about knowing exactly what your day’s going to bring. It’s about knowing you’re ready to handle it. Let’s see what we can do together. Talk to a Bremer banker today. bremer.com Member FDIC

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Saving

Super Power is our

An SBA loan ... is partially guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, an agency of the federal government. The guarantee from the government means that if the loan goes bad, the bank does not take the full blow.

have been bogged down by costly down payments and persistent payment periods. Since the SBA is a government organization, getting one of the loans does require a regimented process. However, according to John Herges, CEO of Falcon National Bank, the steps to get an SBA loan have been simplified and business owners should be less wary. “Even today, from time to time, I will bring up the SBA loans and the reaction from the business is ‘Oh my, that is too complicated, too this, too that,’ and the fact of the matter is that the SBA has really streamlined their process,” Herges said. For a typical SBA loan, a business owner will need to submit the following: three forms with background information about the business, financial statements, a list of affiliations, proof of a business license, loan history, income tax returns, resumes, and a business lease, according to the SBA website. While there is a formal process, Herges says the good news is a business owner does not have to work directly with the SBA—they only work with the bank. “It is all our decision. The SBA has put the authority on us, so you don’t deal with the SBA, you deal with your bank,” Herges said.

Myth: The SBA is the direct lender.

The SBA works to guarantee a portion of the loan, but the actual lending comes from the bank (or other SBA certified lender). If a business has a good relationship with its banker, the SBA process becomes significantly less cumbersome. A business owner can sit down with a banker and receive step-by-step guidance while bypassing a remote proceeding with a government organization.

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Myth: Every bank can issue SBA loans.

Choosing a bank is an important decision because not every bank has access to the same solutions. SBA loans are only available to banks that are approved by the SBA, called preferred lenders. Banks and financial institutions must meet several requirements to apply to be SBA lenders, including the ability to process small business loans, good character and reputation, and supervision by a state or federal regulatory authority, according to the SBA website. Myth: SBA can’t help a small business succeed. An SBA program can get a business set up on the best possible terms. According to SBA team lead at Bremer Bank, Brandi Nelson, this allows small businesses to

Because friendly still counts. FMPierz.com

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With the right support behind you, you’ll consistently stay ahead.

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SPECIAL FOCUS

be financed or buy a building for their company with significantly less money down, which can help “turn a key on a new business,” she said. An SBA loan helped Bravo Burritos maintain startup capital when ownership changed hands. New owner Mike Lardy was able to have a smaller down payment, giving the company more financial cushion in its opening days. “As new business owners, we have been saving for years to have a down payment, but we didn’t want to start from absolutely zero dollars in the bank on day one of owning a business,” Lardy said. “Checks start being written right away, and you want some money in the bank.” Bravo Burritos is now making a significant income, according to Lardy. An SBA loan was a boost for that success. Debunking common myths about SBA loans can pave the way to more financial freedom for small businesses. To learn more about SBA loans, contact an SBA preferred lender or check out the Small Business Association website. — Tess Glenzinski

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This is an advertisement. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be made based solely upon advertisements. Neither the highest state courts nor state bar associations review, recognize, or approve certifying organizations, certifications of specialties or specialist designations in the practice of law. The certificate, award or recognition is not a requirement to practice law. Lathrop GPM LLP, 1010 West Saint Germain, Suite 500, Saint Cloud, MN 56301. For more information, contact Christopher Harmoning at 320.252.4414.

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Brian Laverdiere was a webmaster before being a webmaster was cool. By Gail Ivers

trainings all over the country. I was unhappy with the partnership and I wanted to be on my own, responsible for 100 percent of the decisions, do it all my way. And I really loved being on the computer. I was on the frontier of web development and since I knew how to do seminars, teaching people how to build websites was a natural step. So I opened WebWizard Works in 1996 and I’ve been doing my own thing ever since. BC: It’s a fun name. Laverdiere: I will probably never shave off my beard — it gives me that ’wizard’ appearance, doesn’t it? In 1996 everyone was talking about World Wide Web - WWW. I wanted to play off of that. I created an animated image — a wizard, holding a world and it was spinning. And my long beard adds to the image.

BC: How does that translate into owning a website company? Laverdiere: In 1996 I wanted to break away — do my own thing. When we were at our peak with seminars we had 30 employees doing

BC: Does it ever get boring? Laverdiere: No! Building a website is like playing a computer game for me. I can feel the adrenaline. It’s hard for me to pull away. I have no trouble at all working on the next site.

TIMELINE

Business Central: What’s your background? Laverdiere: It has nothing to do with computers. I did telephone sales out of high school and it turned out I was good at closing the sale. The guy I was working for decided to open a collection agency, and I did that with him as a partner. We expanded to medical debt collections and that really grew. Then we started teaching seminars on how to collect medical debt. I made more money teaching than I did collecting so we dropped the collections and just focused on the seminars. In 1992 the internet went public and in 1994 we added seminars on how to navigate the internet. They didn’t really become a money-maker, but I got the bug.

50

1974 Laverdiere graduates from high school and begins telemarketing

BC: Do you think about retirement? Laverdiere: There’s no reason to walk away from this. I started hosting websites in 2000. I was building websites, why not host them, too? Then I get that steady flow of income from hosting and can offer clients that additional service, plus I offer free website edits for any site I host. Who else does that?

Business Description: Website hosting and design, including free website edits for life; search engine optimization (SEO); domain name registration. Owner: Brian Laverdiere Opened: 1996 Number of employees: none Joined the Chamber: 2006 Fun Fact: Laverdiere has done seminars on medical collections in all 50 states. He has done more than 500 seminars, reaching over 30,000 people.

PERSONAL PROFILE

Brian Laverdiere, 65 Hometown: Pontiac, Michigan Education: High School Work History: Telephone sales right out of high school for things like circus tickets and advertising specialties. Partnered with his boss to open a debt collection agency; added medical debt collection. Started teaching seminars on how to collect medical debt, added seminars on how to navigate the internet; left the partnership and started WebWizard Works. Family: Wife Julie Hobbies: Playing the guitar, avid motorcyclist, working on the computer and looking things up on the internet. Fun Fact: Laverdiere is a dedicated guitar player, practicing two-three hours a day.

1982 Laverdiere and a partner start a debt collection agency

1985 The company starts offering debt collection seminars

1994 Laverdiere starts teaching seminars on navigating the web

1984 The partners add medical debt collection

1990 The partners stop collecting debts and focus on seminars

1996 WebWizard Works opens

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2006 Laverdiere and his wife move to Foley, Minn.


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