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In This Issue:

Getting Started:

Focus on The Economy: A special report • Iowa feels effects of recession later but will take longer to recover/Page 3. • Weathering the storm: What can you do? Page 6. • Winnebago Industries gets tough in preparation for better times/Page 7. • Iowa could feel the ISU economist Meghan O’Brien. effects of the economic stimulus by late summer, experts say/Page 8.

Advice: • Maintain your IT technology in good times or bad/Page 9. • Prepare for inevitable illnesses: Cross-train your employees/Page 14. • Human resources: Finding help to ride out the recession/Page 24. • Finances: Beating the recession, survival or “surthrival”? Page 28.

Plus ... • Marketing our community in an economic downtorn/Page 5. • Q&A with banker O. Jay Tomson (right)/Page 29 • Getting ‘lean’ at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa benefits patients/Page 31.

In Business: Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2009 Publisher: Howard Query 641-421-0500 howard.query Editor: Joe Buttweiler 641-421-0542 joe.buttweiler Managing Editor: Tom Thoma 641-421-0566 tom.thoma Associate Editor: Jane Reynolds 641-421-0564 jane.reynolds

Associate Editor: Bob Steenson 641-421-0530 bob.steenson@ Advertising and Circulation: Greg Wilderman 641-421-0545 greg.wilderman

••• In Business is a quarterly publication of the Globe Gazette. Reach us at Box 271, Mason City, IA 50402-0271 or by e-mail at

Need some recession-survival tips? We’ve got ’em


Two months ago when we began planning this edition of In Business we — like many of you — were hopeful that the end of our region’s economic funk would be clearly in sight by now. So we planned to develop stories that would offer strategies for coming out strong from the recession. Well, wouldn’t it be nice if the end were a little more certain? We’re hearing maybe toward the end of this year, or early in 2010? But no matter how long it takes to turn around, I think you’ll find strategies in this edition of In Business to help your company survive, or maybe even thrive if you’re in an sector that’s not hit very hard. Actually, the longer this recession lasts, the more valuable the tips and strategies in this edition may be. In our lead story, we profile the economic slowdown as it relates to Iowa vs. the rest of the country. As we’ve noted before, we’re fortunate in North Iowa to be somewhat insulated from the downturn severity that other parts of the country have endured. Our unemployment rate of 4.6 percent is significantly lower than the national rate of 8.1 percent, though Iowa’s rate is expected to climb higher. Will we come out of the recession arduously slow? Given our conservative banking practices and messages from local bankers, it would seem

we’re poised to crawl out faster, with credit more readily available. And while uncertainty looms in agriculture, its recent good times have helped insulate us from some of the economic downfall. But what if we sink much deeper? We’ve outlined many strategies to help your business hold on. In Jan Horgen’s story on Page 6, we share economists’ suggestions Joe Buttweiler such as catering In Business more closely to Editor customers, tracking inventory better, improving communication and understanding competition. Our technology columnist Mike Munshower shares some good advice on maintaining information technology. He offers several tips on evaluating equipment life cycles, and using open-source software instead of the more expensive brand names. The importance of crosstraining employees so your business is better able to cope with having fewer employees due to illness is the focus of our health story in this edition. It also applies, of course, to those having fewer employees due to actual or possible layoffs. Other stories focus on how our region’s largest manufacturer, Winnebago Industries, is preparing for better times, and on the potential business value of using Web sites such as Facebook. Human resources

columnist Jim Cronin writes about finding help from business schools, law firms, accountants and employees. How will the stimulus package affect Iowa companies? We expected it would help our local cement companies, although sadly it appears too late for Holcim, and expect that it will help companies that make products for nonresidential buildings. You’ll find more on the stimulus effect on Page 8. This edition also includes an update on Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa’s efficiency progress, a pullout section on resources for entrepreneurs and profile of Mark Holt of Varied Industries Group, a Q& A with O. Jay Tomson of First Citizens National Bank, and on marketing Cerro Gordo County in the economic downturn. Perhaps the most widely applicable bit of advice is this nugget from Steve Sorensen, director of strategic services for RSM McGladrey: “Having a positive attitude, discipline and focus can help establish a mindset that better enables a company to not only manage through the downturn but find ways to come of the downturn stronger and better positioned.” As some of us repeatedly say to those we work with, there are many variables affecting our business that we cannot control. But if we have a positive attitude and focus on what we can do well, we’ll pull through a lot better than if we don’t. Onward and upward.



ECONOMY: WHAT NEXT? A Special Report

Bad News, Good News ... Iowa won’t fall as far as the rest of the country but will be slower to recover, economists say JAN HORGEN For In Business The turbulent U.S. economy will deepen Iowa’s recession through 2009, economists say. “Iowa as a whole is doing much better than most of the rest of the country,” Michael Lipsman, a senior economist at Iowa Department of Revenue, said. “We still had tax revenue growth for the first half of this fiscal year” which began on July 1, 2008. That growth comes despite increased unemployment dropping Iowa’s withholding receipts, which showed only a 3.3 percent increase since July 1, about 50 percent less than the same period last fiscal year, according to Department of Revenue statistics. Unemployment is likely to


climb at least through midsummer, according to economists. Iowa’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in January, significantly lower than the recently released national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. “December was the first month comparing prior years that we saw a decrease in employment in Iowa,” Lipsman said. “Other states have been losing jobs for more than a year.” Lipsman does not necessarily agree with economists who say Iowa usually goes into recession later and recovers later than most of the U.S. “Last time, Iowa went into recession a year ahead of the rest of country (2001),” Lips-

man said. “In that recession Iowa lost nearly 29,000 jobs from March 2001 to November 2001.” Lipsman feels Iowa has been in recession for almost 14 months, starting in December 2007. Using that premise, Iowa is at the least holding its own in regard to unemployment. “In this recession, to this point, Iowa has only lost 8,000 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis,” Lipsman said, quoting the latest figures available. The Iowa Leading Indicators Index peaked at 108.4 in March 2008 then dropped nine consecutive months to 103.3 in December, including the last 1.3 percent drop in December, according to an early February report.

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be slow to recover but we won’t fall as far as the rest of the country. It won’t be as severely felt.” The structural shift, O’Brien believes, will be institutional, in the makeup of the economy as a whole. There are a number of factors involved. “One of the largest is the financial markets and how money flows through the MEGHAN O’BRIEN, Iowa economy and how dollars get distributed to fund economic State University economist, growth, maintain levels of has a different take. “In my mind this recession employment and fuel new ventures,” O’Brien said. “I is a structural shift in the economy. From the impact of don’t think we know, yet, how that will play out.” these tough times, we can Net wealth in the U.S. has anticipate a few years of direct been declining since 2001. changes. The most painful “Savings rates have fallen to will be for the next year, for at least 2009,” she said. “If his- where the majority of contory serves us well, Iowa will Continued on Page 4 The revenue department has been tracking the information for about two years, using statistics that include farm and non-farm employment, stock prices, building permits, weekly manufacturing hours and new-product orders to track the state’s economic health. There was a decline in all eight index factors being tracked.

market, including products, prices, promotions, advertising, distribution, quality, service, and be aware of the outside influences that affect your business. 5. Seek help from other small businesses, vendors, professionals, government agencies, employees, trade associations and trade shows. Be alert and don’t be afraid to ask questions. — From SCORE,

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ECONOMY/From Page 3 sumers have virtually no savings in this country,” O’Brien said. “While it has been going on since the 1980s, it recently reached a critical mass.” There are behavioral changes on the part of the consumer at work, which have a significant impact on retail and other small businesses, which are often service-based companies. “In this type of economic recession, the last thing you want is for people to stop spending and start saving,” O’Brien said. “That may sound strange, but what makes sense for the individual is the wrong solution in the aggregate.” A DEGREE of the economic recession cost in Iowa to date is lost opportunity. Small businesses that were growing have slowed or stopped growth. “It may not be catastrophic now but there is certainly a loss in not being able to take advantage of potential gain,” O’Brien said. “And there are potentially small businesses that will not survive.” Lipsman and O’Brien both point to an interesting bright spot, the expansion and growth of financial and insurance services in Iowa. “Fortunately, Iowa’s part of the financial sector grew in the past eight years,” Lipsman said. “Much of that development has been in the Des Moines area. Wells Fargo, Principal and Allied have done quite well. Those stocks have been hurt

likely, Lipsman said, to Report online: use home equity as a “banking account.” The Iowa Leading Manufacturing Indicators Index report accounts for about 20 is available at percent of Iowa’s employment and is one of tax/taxlaw/ the hardest-hit sectors in ILIIDec08.pdf the economic downturn. Winnebago Industries Pay cuts and another Inc. is a prime example. round of mandatory furEXPERIENCE IS what loughs were announced in late February. will help Winnebago get The current economy through the recession, makes it even more according to Bob Olson, imperative to keep a careWinnebago’s CEO and ful watch on expenses president, who has 39 and revenues, Olson said. years experience in the The operation is business. extremely lean right now Since August 2007, and further work force Winnebago has reduced its work force by 49 per- reductions would be “cutting into muscle,” cent, to about 1,700 Submitted photo workers. something he hopes to Meghan O’Brien, Iowa State University economist, says there are small businesses that avoid so Winnebago will The business is on may not survive the economic downturn. track to reduce fixed cost be poised to come out strong when the econoby $18.1 million in fiscal my swings upward. One factor in question- 2009 and has reduced lately, but the companies banks, he said. An economic correcinventory by nearly 25 able lenders not preying “Iowa lenders did not are fairly sound.” percent, or $27.3 million, tion is needed to pull out heavily on low-income Wells Fargo’s exposure generally get involved in of this recession, econoin the first quarter. and elderly Iowans may risky loans. Outside of to the adverse financial “We also had a manda- mists report. have been that home valBank of America, which markets, Lipsman said, “Our institutions have tory week off for all will be in the takeover of has only a small presence ues did not skyrocket by to be working — marketemployees for a signifidouble digits as they did in Iowa, local banks Wachovia, the financial ing, lending systems and cant cost savings in our in other parts of the appear to be in better giant Well Fargo purcapital —and that isn’t second quarter of this country. shape than the mega chased Dec. 31. Continued on Page 5 Homeowners were less fiscal year,” Olson said. lending institutions.” “By taking that company on, they purchased some problems,” he said. “But the purchase of Wachovia should create some jobs in Iowa as business becomes based here.”

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ALTHOUGH THERE are foreclosure problems, the majority of Iowa banks seem to have avoided the subprime lending issues in other parts of the country, according to Lipsman. The Iowa banking industry as a whole is sound, particularly local


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Marketing our community in a downturn By GREGG GILLMAN Executive Director, North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corp. The real bottom line about our area or any area for that matter can be found in the answer to this question: Are we progressing, are we stagnant or are we a declining area? We all know for sure we are not a declining area so that leaves us with two


options — progressing or stagnant? There are probably some statistics that could sway one to believe one way or the other or a little of both. In only five months on the job I sure don’t have the answer. What I do have are some thoughts about becoming more progressive. Most of us would agree that what happens to GM

ECONOMY/From Page 4 O’Brien was more cautious, saying “This stimulus package stops the bleeding until we can recover growth.” Both economists reserved comment on the $350 billion in additional Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funding until its impact on the financial sector and property values can be determined. O’Brien and Lipsman both say the best sign for the economy will be when credit is again flowing to qualified businesses and individuals. “We have invested in the short term,” O’Brien said. “When that reinvestment takes off, that is the lucrative part, which may be three to LIPSMAN EXPECTS five years away. It will the money to help build- happen as long as our ing materials and heavy legal, market and finanequipment manufactur- cial institutions are functioning, because ers in Iowa as well as money flows to profit in green energy projects this country.” such as wind energy. happening right now,” O’Brien said. “It may sound scary, but the truth is we need businesses to go under, we need to free up assets, capital and resources for new enterprise that can create wealth. Adjustments in nearly every sector of the economy are needed.” The $787 billion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on Feb. 17 has approximately $1.9 billion for Iowa to be paid out over the next two to three years. Economists have varying opinions on how this money may help the U.S. economy as a whole and Iowa in particular.

or Circuit City is largely out of our hands, but there are actions that we can be taking to soften the blow for our area. Investing in economic developGillman ment now is an opportunity to differentiate our area from others that have slowed the marketing train to a near halt. When I speak of economic development I am speaking about being the marketing/sales arm for

Cerro Gordo County, Mason City and Clear Lake. Just for the record, that does not only entail enticing new business to our area. As a matter of fact, it more entails our efforts to remain close to our existing business and industry to help retain them and assist them with expansions. It also entails a strategy on how to attract young workers and young families to our area to help sustain this great place we call home into the next generations.

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Weathering the storm: What can you do? There’s no magic formula, but sound practices may help businesses come out strong BY JAN HORGEN

crisis improves, according to Lipsman. Each day news reports focus on “Signs of improvement will the current economic crisis come after there is stabilizaand its impact on businesses, tion of money center banks,” homeowners, financial marhe said, “and we figure out how kets and workers across the to deal with home foreclosures United States. and deal with Economic experts vary in the auto their opinions regarding how industries.” long this recession will last and “Iowa’s exactly what the full impact economy is will be on all sectors of the more diversieconomy. fied than some As business people examine people know,” their debt, available credit and Meghan “Recovery tends O’Brien, Iowa business practices, many are to be slow in questioning how to survive the State UniverIowa. We adjust ups and downs of this ecosity economic more gradually nomic rollercoaster ride. program spegoing into a While experts agree there is cialist, said. recession ... But no magic formula to keep any “Our economy our recoovery looks very difcompany solvent, there are can be almost arduous.” ferent in 2009 sound practices that may help — Meghan than it did in your business weather the O’Brien, ISU the 1980s storm. economist when we “The next three months are experienced a waiting period,” Michael the last severe recession.” Lipsman, senior economic Iowa’s economic recovery analyst at the Iowa Department of Revenue, said in mid- often lasts longer than when national data says the recesFebruary. sion has ended, O’Brien said. “Recovery tends to be slow in SIGNIFICANT FACTORS must change on the national Iowa. We never have the highs the rest of the country has,” she and state level before the For In Business


said.“We adjust more gradually going into a recession, without as many peaks and valleys. But our recovery can be almost arduous.” She used the analogy of removing a bandage from a wound when describing the return road to economic prosperity. “You might be asked if you would rather have the bandage ripped off quickly or more slowly,” she said. Historically, Iowa’s economic recovery comes more slowly, she said.

sion making, regarding inventory reduction, restructuring of debt, even possible downsizing of work force and other important factors that affect the company. • Communicate with the people you know and need — from your management team to employees, your attorney, accountant, investors. Be honest and transparent in your discussions with these important people. • Do not rely on debt to purchase at a discount. Financing unnecessary inventory with HOW CAN entrepreneurs debt can be counterproductive and business managers weath- in the long run. • Keep the lines of commuer the economic storm? O’Brien and other econonication open with creditors, mists have the following sugespecially about any cash flow gestions: concerns. Talk to creditors if • Keep a close watch on what you are concerned you may not is happening with customers, be able to make a payment. Ask the greatest asset of any busifor help and follow with necesness. Listen to requests and be sary action. • Raising prices will not more service oriented. • Track inventory carefully guarantee a stable revenue through detailed records of stream, especially during an what goods are sold, how much economic recession. Elasticity and to which consumer. Track- of goods must determine if the ing the nature of inventory is price can be raised. • Sales or specials can move an important way to limit lossinventory. Getting people in es in pricing and stocking. your business place is an • Set benchmarks for deci-

More online: Meghan O’Brien, Iowa State economist, suggests these Web sites which may be of interest to business owners: • Plunkett Research at • Market Watch at important way to build repeat business and relationships. The profit may be less but any sale during a downturn is a chance to interact with a consumer and could create repeat business. • Know the competition in your market and the pricing of those goods. • Think strategically about where you want to be when the recession ends and be prepared to make some sacrifices and tough choices to reach those goals. • Network, network, netwo ork. Reaching out to others is vital. Networking becomes a necessity in bad times. (See story below.) Be honest about where you need help and ask for advice. Share what seems to be working — more ideas can equate to more options.

Speaking of networking,are you using Facebook? Many people are By LAUREL ROSENHALL Scripps Howard News Service

It seems, all of a sudden, like everyone is on Facebook. The boss. Co-workers. Long-lost friends from high school. Facebook attracted 25 million new users in January alone. The social networking Web site that

started off as an online hangout for college kids is exploding in popularity among grown-ups. Between June 2008 and January, the number of Facebook members ages 3554 nearly quadrupled — and members older than 55 tripled, according to iStrategyLabs, a digital marketing agency.

“It’s like an avalanche that’s just moving. If you’re not on Facebook, your friends drag you in,” said Robert Scoble, an expert in blogging and other online media. “It’s in total expandlike-crazy mode.” Most Facebook users are younger than 35. But so many older people are now sending messages, sharing photos

and “poking” at each other on Facebook that the portion of college-age users has dropped to 41 percent. As Facebook’s demographic matures, so do its uses. Fund raising has become an accepted use for Facebook ever since Barack Obama’s successful presidential camContinued on Page 10



Winnebago: Getting tough now to prepare for better times Officials hopeful,‘but there are so many variables’ BY JAN HORGEN wholesale and retail trade. For In Business While this is the “worst recession we have seen as an industry,” Olson FOREST CITY — Winnebago Industries Inc. is a survivor, forging its way believes Winnebago is poised to weather the challenges. through the valleys of economic Some of those challenges have recessions and peaking in prosperous impacted all of North Iowa, business markets. especially in the case of job Implementing tough mealosses. sures to keep the company solvent and preparing for better SINCE AUGUST 2007, times required “much soul Winnebago has cut 49 percent searching,” according to Winof its employees to its current nebago CEO and President Bob 1,700 work force. Olson. Production cut necessitated Fuel volatility was the start “This recession the closing of Winnebago’s of the motor home manufacis far more chal- Charles City plant. turer’s current business prob- lenging than any “Impact on the employees lems. If that were the only in our past.” is the toughest thing for all of issue, “we could have overcome — Winnebago’s us,” Olson said. “We live in a Bob Olson that with no problem,” Olson town of 4,200 and when you said. lay people off you know per“Our industry gets a bum rap sonally, it is very difficult. We are now when fuel prices go up. The American at a point where we don‘t want to cut people are a resilient lot. They will get muscle. We need our core foundation used to whatever the gas price is as intact when we come out of this receslong as there is some stability,” Olson sion.” said. “Volatility is the issue.” Management has diligently built


FREEZING OF CREDIT compounded the problem, as did steep drops in the stock market and destabilization of the housing market. “This recession is far more challenging than any in our past,” Olson said. “Part of this issue is psychological. People don’t feel as rich as they once did. “They almost get sick when seeing how much they have lost in their investments and 401(k) accounts.” Passage of the $787 billion stimulus bill has features that should help the recreational vehicle industry, including a credit on excise and sales tax for motorized recreational vehicles up to $49,000 as well as possible second mortgage credits and government-backed loans for

cash reserves and now operates in manufacturing buildings without mortgages. To prevent cutting further “muscle” Winnebago has: • Opted for a number of shutdown weeks since early 2008. • Reduced inventories by $27.3 million, or 24.7 percent, in the first quarter of 2009 with the option of further inventory reductions of $10 million to $20 million by the end of this fiscal year if necessary. • Cut fixed costs by $18.1 million this fiscal year. • Required second- and fourthquarter employee furloughs as a cash preservation exercise, with all employees taking a week off without pay or vacation benefits. Salary reductions also were announced along

File photo

In this December 2008 photo, workers build motor homes on one of the lines at Winnebago Industries Inc.’s main manufacturing facility in Forest City. with the fourth-quarter furlough. • Cut production line hours to 32 hours a week. • Squeezed three assembly line operations into to the equivalent of 1½ production lines by running two automated lines alternately and completing more activities in a single stall on the manual assembly line. Keeping all lines in operation, even in this slowdown mode, is necessary to meet customer expectations. • Planned to eliminate about onethird of the current 95 models produced by 2010, requiring less documentation, designs and complexity. ALTHOUGH CREDIT written for

recreational vehicle purchases is “top quality,” Olson said, with defaults less than 1 percent for many years and even now only slightly more than 1 percent, the credit market freeze hurt many motor home dealerships. “The banking industry is withholding financing, forcing dealerships to reduce inventories,” Olson said. “When we come out of this recession will boil down to availability of credit. We are hearing a bit of relief on the retail side with some local banks getting involved in picking up retail loans. “We are hopeful, but there are so many variables and none of us know exactly what combination will take the economy in the right direction.”



Iowa could feel impact of stimulus by late summer We may benefit more because of our road construction equipment firms

that should benefit.” Some of the stimulus funding is directed toward home weatherization projects which will help manufacturers of BY JAN HORGEN doors, windows, insulaFor In Business tion and other similar As stocks plunge and the products, according to global financial sector Lipsman. remains shaky, economists “Not every state has as are studying how Iowa’s many companies making economy may benefit from construction equipment and building materials, the $787 billion stimulus particularly those used in bill passed by Congress in road construction or mid-February. Iowa will receive about weatherization projects,” Lipsman said. $1.9 billion from the stimulus package, HE ESTIMATES Iowa including $341 million for will not see any signifihighway and bridge concant positive indicators struction. coming out of the stimu“Iowa may be better lus until at least late positioned to benefit,” summer. said Michael Lipsman, “It will take several Iowa Department of Revmonths for this money to enue senior economic analyst. “The state has a begin moving our economy,” he said. number of large compaIowa Department of nies making road construction equipment — Transportation releases a GOMACO in Ida Grove, five-year capital investJohn Deere Construction ment construction plan in Dubuque and Vermeer and Lipsman expects a Corp. in Pella — that late-winter or early should benefit from spring press release to money directed to road, indicate that some of the bridge and utility con2010-11 projects may be struction. There are also moved up to 2009 as a smaller Iowa companies result the federal funding.


Northern Cedar Service Co., Inc.

There will be obvious indicators to show if stimulus money is strengthening Iowa’s economy. “We need to look at what happens in the construction sector this summer, keep an eye on road construction where we could see increased work as early as May,” he said. “Also watch companies like John Deere or Pella to see if employment picks up.”

I am questioning how much longer biofuels will be a driver. At this point, there is more ethanol being produced than can be sold in the U.S.” — Iowa Department of Revenue analyst Michael Lipsman

chairman. That omission did not surprise Lipsman. “I am questioning how much longer biofuels will be a driver,” he said. “At this point, there is more THERE IS NO funding ethanol being produced in the stimulus for biofu- than can be sold in the el programs, a point that U.S. We have probably seen the last big ethanol brought criticism from U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D- facility built for awhile.” Department of Energy Iowa, and Senate Agrirenewable energy proculture Committee

grams got $4 billion in the stimulus with President Barack Obama saying funding will be directed toward alternative energy such as wind and improving the nation’s electrical grid. IOWA IS POISED to benefit from this push toward green energy, moving into second in wind energy production

behind Texas in 2008. Nationally, the wind energy industry installed 8,358 megawatts of new generating capacity last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. This massive growth increased the nation’s total wind power generation capacity by 50 percent and accounted for $17 billion invested into the economy, but the economic downturn cut off financing for new projects. That resulted in orders for turbine components slowing to a trickle and layoffs in the wind turbine manufacturing sector.

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STIMULUS/From Page 8 ductive learning time “Our numbers are both exciting and sober- and we need to keep our ing, ” said Denise Bode, young people motivated CEO of the wind associ- and off the streets. “High-income people ation. “The U.S. wind did so well over the last energy industry’s pereight years. They may formance in 2008 conhave lost money in the firms that stock marwind is an kets but economic ... We should- still have and jobmoney in creation n’t set the bar so bank dynamo. high it is impossible accounts. At the Our colsame time, to get to.” leges, it is clear — Meghan O’Brien, ISU hopefully, that the economist, on the imcan appeal economic pact of the stimulus. to their and finanbetter cial downturn have begun to take a nature for financial help.” serious toll on new wind IOWA STATE Unidevelopment.” Money in the stimulus versity Economic Propackage for wind energy gram Specialist Meghan O’Brien has reservations should help planned about what the stimulus wind farm projects in North Iowa, although at bill will do for the Iowa’s economy. this time just how that “Some good will come funding will play out is out of it,” O’Brien said. still being determined. “It will help infrastruc“Five manufacturers ture. This is a good have already located in excuse to get done Iowa,” Lipsman said. things that need to be “The government is done. It is probably betputting significant resources into wind, and ter than doing nothing. “But we need to be at some point the financial sector will come back realistic and we shouldn’t set the bar so high it to fund those projects.” is impossible to get to.” IOWA’S PART of the Creating new sources of wealth is a must, stimulus also has $395 according to O’Brien, million in education funding, including some although she does not feel that can be done money for college stuthrough government dent grants and loans. policy and planning. “Personally, I hope “The government can state and private schools can come up with some step in and fill some holes, put on a Bandway of keeping kids in Aid, but we need liquidicollege,” Lipsman said. “It does no good to have ty and capital markets these young people sit- working,” O’Brien said. ting around home twid- “We need room for entrepreneurial behavdling their fingers. ior and growth.” That’s their most pro-


In good times or bad,it’s important to maintain your IT integrity Information technology is an ever-changing field in both good economic times and bad. When times are good and budgets are plentiful, there are servers and desktop systems to upgrade or replace, software to replace or update, and training clinics or seminars. Now we’re in tough economic times. With belts tightened and challenges unprecedented, let’s explore options to maintain your business’s IT integrity. Carefully evaluate all new projects. What are the risks if the project is implemented? What are the risks if the project is not implemented? If a project is not in tune with corporate goals or not forecast to provide a good return on investment in a reasonable amount of time, cancel it for now.


For projects that are deemed essential, be sure to factor in the cost of all resources, including any applicable training of IT staff or end users. Maintain legacy software instead of replacing it. If you have a proven software package that is still working well, keep it around until the recession fades. If the hardware it runs on is getting old Michael Munshower or unreliable and the legacy software In Business Tech will only run on an old operating sysColumnist tem, consider replacing the hardware and running the old software on a virtual machine. Re-evaluate equipment replacement life cycles. If your business, for example, has a four-year life cycle Continued on Page 10



IT INTEGRITY/From Page 9 policy on desktop computers, stretch this until the recession is over. If necessary, consider purchasing additional memory for these units instead. Extra memory is an easy and inexpensive way to breathe new life into old systems. Utilize open source software when practical. Many big-name proprietary software packages have open source equivalents. Open source doesn’t always equate free as implementing certain larger-scale software packages may require feebased setup and support, but it is still often cheaper than licenses for closed source software. There are numerous open source software options that are totally free, secure, stable and time tested. Now may be a better time than ever to ask yourself, “Why should I pay for an office suite, FTP client or image editor when I can get one for nothing?” Automate and schedule routine

FACEBOOK/From Page 6 computer tasks. Batch files can be created for common duties such as deleting files, clearing cache and backing up files. Then this batch file can be run using the system’s task scheduler. On supported software, record and use macros where practical. Don’t risk loss of productivity, especially during a recession or while operating with a downsized staff. Now more than ever, be vigilant of the measures you take to secure your computers and network. No matter how tight the budget, don’t let antivirus software definition subscriptions lapse. Make sure operating systems and browsers are patched and updated. — Michael Munshower is a system technician for the Globe Gazette. Reach him at michael.munshower@

paign, which included groundbreaking uses of technology and social networking. Now other politicians are on Facebook. And business people use it for professional networking. But the Facebook fascination among grown-ups isn’t all purpose-driven. Many are hooked on the site for the same reason teenagers are: It’s fun. You can look up old friends. Keep in touch with far-flung family members. Share pictures of the latest trip. “Robust privacy settings make it easy to control who sees what content on your profile, so that colleagues at work see one version and family members see another,” Facebook spokeswoman Malorie Lucich said via e-mail. Facebook was born in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 and was restricted to college students. In 2006, Facebook began letting anyone into the club. — For more:


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could be averted since they are so predictable but many patients either continues to smoke have diabetes, refuse to take medications or even stop keeping regular doctor appointments. Annual checkups with weight and blood pressure, plus closer attention to family history can help identify potential health dangers early on. High LDL cholesterol most commonly described as “bad cholesterol” and diabetes becomes increasing important to identify and monitor after age 40. Post-menopausal women also become much more susceptible to high LDL which can result in cardiovascular problems. It’s not all about age; individual risk factors also need to be taken into consideration. Many people don’t really understand the implications that genetics

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have on their overall health and life expectancy. Sometime people think that they are managing their risk factors and tend to ignore their family history. Sometimes that can delay or postpone heart disease to later in life but they still need to pay attention and become much more health conscious when they enter their mid to late 50’s. Regular check ups will help patients and doctors determine the best possible preventative care practices, medications and regimes or specific treatments. Those patients who are identified as being at a higher risk should consult with their family physician and discuss tests such as electrocardiogram(EKG), stress tests, CT Computed tomography) scans or CRP(C-Reactive protein).

Foot care is often overlooked when we consider health & safety in the workplace. It is seen as trivial and unimportant compared to other safety issues. This is wrong considering how important our feet are to us. Our feet are one the most utilized parts of the human body. They are constantly under stress as we go about our normal working lives. Our feet work for us the whole day, whether we stand, run, or walk, and in the process they become the most affected part of our anatomy. Many things affect the condition of our feet: activity level, occupation type, other health conditions, and perhaps most importantly, our shoes. Feet are often neglected, as people are unaware of the damage that can be caused to them in day-to-day life. Being in a working environment where you are on your feet all day is a major cause of foot problems, as the feet have little time to recuperate before the next working day commences. People may suffer from pain in their back, legs and knees but may not associate the pain with problems concerning their feet. Untreated, such problems can lead to more long-term conditions such as chronic back pain and ligament deformity. Typical work related foot problems • Punctures, crushing and lacerations • Usually due to incorrect footwear and untidy workplace practices e.g. loose nails or glass left uncleared. • Blisters, calluses and corns • Caused by incorrect footwear and fatigue. Especially prevalent in professions that involve continuous standing and walking. • Aching feet • Can be caused by long A Healthy Future... periods of standing on hard Access to health care affects everyone’s flooring with inadequate shoes quality of life. HCMH offers exceptional with hard foot beds. care and service close to home. • Fallen arches or flat feet • Caused by the wearing of shoes or insoles without adequate levels of arch support. • Sweaty feet • Generally a problem for workers in hot and humid environments or those with highly strenuous jobs. • Sprains and breaks A partner with Mercy Health Network-North Iowa • Caused by slippery floors Britt Medical Clinic - Garner Medical Clinic and incorrect footwear. Kanawha Medical Clinic - Wesley Medical Clinic Source: British Footwear Association


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Relieve stress and improve your health Today’s economic client has created a great deal of uncertainty for employers and employees alike. Those high levels of uncertainty create added stress, tension and anxiety. Taking better care of you is one way to combat stress. Exercising helps boost energy levels, improves focus and can greatly relieve many stress symptoms. For many people the key is recognizing that you or your coworkers can only do so much. They tend to stay more positive and not allow stress to overwhelm them. Here are a few tips to help reduce stress in your life: Ask yourself, “Do I have absolutely had to do this? • Exercise more • Create more variety in your day to day life • Watch what you eat • Watch when you are eating

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Oral health means more than just an attractive smile Oral health means more than just an attractive smile. Poor oral health and untreated oral diseases and conditions can have a significant impact on your quality of life. In many cases, the condition of your mouth can actually mirror the condition of the body as a whole. Numerous studies and reports indicate a relationship between periodontal (gum) disease and stroke, heart disease, and pre-term lowbirth-weight babies. Likewise, more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations, meaning your dentist may be the first health care provider to diagnose a health problem. What problems can poor oral health cause? According to a Surgeon General's report on oral health in America, a large percentage of the population suffers from a reduced quality of life due to oral and facial pain. This pain is largely due to infections of the gums that support the

teeth and can lead to tooth loss. More than 75 percent of the population is affected by some type of periodontal disease or gingivitis. Those reports have also shown that infections in the mouth can affect major organs. One example is bacterial endocarditic, a condition in which the lining of the heart and heart valves become inflamed. Poor mouth care also can contribute to oral cancer, which now takes more lives annually than cervical or skin cancer. In addition, poor oral health affects the digestive process, which begins with physical and chemical activities in the mouth. Problems here can lead to intestinal failure, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other problems. What symptoms from other diseases can show up in your mouth? Mouth tissues reflect symptoms of other problems. In addition, many diseases can be

diagnosed in their early stages through an oral examination. These diseases may be characterized by swollen gums, mouth ulcers, dry mouth and/or excessive gum problems. Some of these diseases include diabetes, leukemia, cancer, heart disease and kidney disease. What can you do? Seeing a dentist every six months can identify diseases in their earliest stages. It is also quite important to provide your dentist with a complete medical/dental history and to inform him or her of any recent problems, even if they seem unrelated to your mouth. What can your dentist do? A regular exam allows your dentist to keep your mouth in tip-top shape and watch for any kind of changes or developments that may point to problems elsewhere in your body. A dental exam might also pick up on poor nutrition and hygiene, growth and development problems or an

improper jaw alignment. According to a survey, almost ninety percent of dentists said they counsel patients on home care for special oral health care needs resulting from chemotherapy or head and neck radiation therapy. Eighty-seven percent of dentists surveyed responded that they counsel patients on tobacco use, more than half provide direct counseling to patients. Thirty-eight percent of respondents also provide literature on the dangers of tobacco and information on tobacco cessation programs to patients, 17 percent refer patients to their primary care physician, and 14 percent directly refer patients to cessation services. Academy of General Dentistry contributed to this article

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Prepare for illnesses: Cross-train That’ll help when the cold and flu bugs sweep through your company By RHONDA REGAN For In Business Be wary of the cold and flu germs floating around your workplace as they are eager to find a willing host — you. Karen Crimmings, disease prevention and investigation service manager for the Cerro Gordo County Board of Health, says germs are easily spread through the sharing of office equipment such as phones, computers and common surfaces. She advises that workers wash their hands often. “Simply washing your hands frequently stops the spreading of germs,” she said.


Crimmings further cautions against touching your eyes, nose or mouth because germs can be picked up by your hands Crimmings and transferred when you touch those sensitive areas. Another simple solution for stopping germs is to clean areas regularly using a disinfectant and/or sanitizer. Having a bottle of hand sanitizer close at hand is another great way to prevent germs in the workplace, she said.

employees due to the downturn in the economy? Steve Minert, general manager of HarleyDavidson of Mason City, Minert says crosstraining is the key. “Employees have to be able to transition from one aspect of the business to another,” he said. Minert said Harley-Davidson employees are able to assist customers in any department until they can find an employee from that particular department. BUT WHAT to do after the “My sales or retail employemployee is already sick and is ees can provide basic information about the service shop absent from work? and vice versa,” he said. How do employers compensate for sick employees He adds that cross- training with potentially fewer helps to overcome short

staffing in areas of the business. Service Master of Mason City also relies on cross-training to compensate for sick Bultje employees. “When we hire people, we tell them that they need to be available to work where the work is needed,” said Tamara Quam, president. She said that information up front lets new hires know that one day they could be working on carpet and upholstery cleaning and the next day could be spent working in the janitorial division. Quam also mentioned that fortunately for the business it is never in want of employees. “We are continually getting referrals from our employees

about people needing work so we get a lot of contractual labor that way,” she said. I.C. SYSTEM compensates for understaffing from illness using a different approach: redistributing the work. Scott Bultje, Mason City site director for the collection firm, says that the business targets a certain number of hours per week, per month. And when illness interferes with meeting the target number, the hours are offered to other employees. “We need those hours,” he said, “so when we are down hours due to illness we have to make them up.” — For more information regarding health issues, visit the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health Web site at

Mercy Sleep Services Providing Quality Sleep Care Mercy Sleep Services brings a multidisciplinary approach to treating sleep disorders by providing patients with access to both a pulmonologist, Arvind Perathur, M.D., and a neurologist, Alireza Yarahmadi, M.D., who specialize in sleep care. A primary care physician referral is necessary to schedule an appointment at Mercy Sleep Clinic. The health care professionals in Mercy Sleep Clinic work closely with Mercy’s entire Sleep Services program enhancing the continuity of care. If the doctor determines more extensive testing is needed, a sleep study can be performed at Mercy Sleep Lab. The sleep lab is conveniently located within the hospital facility and provides 24-hour access to comprehensive care. After

the study is completed, a Mercy Home Care licensed respiratory therapist helps with implementing the treatment plan by ensuring the appropriate equipment is personalized to meet your needs. If you or a family member has difficulty breathing or stops breathing during sleep, snores, falls asleep at inappropriate times, has insomnia, suffers from unusual sensation or discomfort in legs when resting, or feels excessively fatigued during the day, please speak to your primary care physician to arrange a referral to Mercy Sleep Services. For more information about Mercy Sleep Services, please call 641-422-6999 or 800-743-4423.

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- INSIDE • Tips to Accelerate Your Business • Managing Risk in Uncertain Times • Local First-Year Entrepreneurs Offer Advice

• North Iowa’s Historical Entrepreneurs • Pappajohn Website A Great Resource

Opportunities in challenging times By Ted Bair, Regional Director Iowa Small Business Development Center North Iowa Area Community College

There is no question small business is being faced with situations that clearly have not occurred in many years. In fact, it is likely circumstances can only be equated with that of the Great Depression. Banks are in trouble, credit is tightening, retail businesses are suffering, manufacturing has come close to a standstill, and unemployment is ramping up to levels of frightening proportions. What can small business do to play a role in turning our economy around, or even for that matter, stay healthy and grow? Given the fact that small business accounts for the majority of revenue for our government and employs the most number of employees affecting our economy, we must provide support for this important sector. Many entrepreneurs have viewed the role of Small Business Centers primarily to help start up businesses. Not

only is that a role we play, but clearly providing business consulting to businesses experiencing difficulties is a function of our Center and along with the resources and strategic partnership with the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center we are well positioned to help businesses survive and grow in these challenging times. For many small business owners, they have spent the majority of their time working IN their business rather than ON their business. Certainly now would be the time to reevaluate the strategic fit of their business relative to market and industry trends. Looking at issues such as current and forecasted cash flow projections, inventory levels, direct and indirect monthly overhead costs should be examined. Right sizing their business relative to current and near term market conditions would be very important. Revisiting the capitalization of their business should be considered as well during these times looking for opportunities to refinance, if possible, to take advantage of lower interest rates (real estate if applicable certainly) as well as other debt instruments which may improve cash flow and create more long term viability. Our Center stands ready and capable to assist business experiencing problems and through our combined efforts can increase the likelihood of not only sustainability but growth as well. Clearly certain businesses may/could be positioned to thrive during these challenging times and with proper consulting and additional sets of eyes looking at a businesses specific issues, solutions may well be arrived at with positive outcomes. I would encourage businesses to contact the NIACC JPEC/SBDC for possible solutions. The SBDC offers in concert with JPEC a number of continuing educational and informational seminars which may be accessed through our Web Site and I would encourage checking web page and linking to the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center or North Iowa Small Business Development Center for calendar of upcoming events.

Sunday, March 15, 2009



5 things you can do starting tomorrow By Mark Olchefske, Director - Business Accelerator & Incubator Recession or not, these are things you should be doing anyway There is an old adage that says ‘you can’t save your way to prosperity but you can spend yourself into poverty.’ I have run businesses during past recessions, so I know from experience that you can’t cut far enough, fast enough or deep enough; the only sure path is to sell your way out. Certainly fiscal prudence has an important place, but not at the expense of sales growth. So what are some quick and mostly inexpensive ways to ratchet up the volume? Get to know your customer all over again. How much do you know about the most important people to your company? Do you know their name, address, phone number and e-mail? If not, how are you going to communicate back and forth about things that are important to the customer, like specials and new products? Do you have a running dialogue with your customers or are you just yelling and hoping they hear? Customers are like your best friends. In some cases, customers are better than your best friends; they like you and your company enough to give you money that they could give to others. So ask yourself, how are you treating your friends? Do you know what makes your company a destination for them or what makes you unique to them? Are your hours convenient for you or for them? Retrain yourself and your employees. Do your customers see and hear people who are enthusiastic about what they are doing? Spring isn’t here yet. The gloom of the last days of Winter are being rivaled by the doom from the news media. While the world has and will see better days, the attitude each of us face it with is a personal choice. It has been proven that you can hear a smile over the telephone and you can sense enthusiasm. When someone walks in your door, do they see people who look like they are happy to be there? Is everyone friendly (even warm), neat and professional? Does the customer ‘feel the love?’ and that the employees are really happy the customer is there? Greeting the customer with indifference will be met with indifference. Get an on-line presence or beef up the one you have. Not that long ago, blue laws limited commerce

to around fourteen hours, six days a week; now the web can sell for you every moment of every day of every week of every year, anywhere, forever. Used wisely, it is an effective way to touch your customer, at their convenience, wherever they are. There are many companies in North Iowa that have never met most of their customers because they live in other states or other countries. How powerful is that there are people who you have never met willing to give you and your company money? How do you reward people for that kind of faith in you and your company? Think about special promotions for good customers and extra special promotions for customers willing to bring their friends to your business. Mix things up. If everything stayed the same, how boring! Customers and most employees like to see little changes. How many white tablecloths in display windows turn out to have originally been red when an item gets moved? How many offices were painted offwhite in 1990s? Even for those not in retail, rearrange, paint, dust, anything. Look at where you work with ‘new eyes.’ You do not have to succumb to the temptation to do an extreme makeover; incremental changes can be just as effective. In retail, there should be something noticeably different to the customer each week. Make it fun. Is your business a location, a destination or an experience? In the retail world, the big boxes are locations- purely transactional. The only place you are guaranteed to find an employee is chained to a register, waiting to take your money. If you need specialized knowledge or something that isn’t mass market and high volume, your chances of a satisfactory experience are slim. Destinations are more personal; the cashier will actually leave their register to help you find what you want and has a working knowledge of the products; a lot of fabric stores and bookstores fall into this category. Experiences take it to a whole different level. The cash register is tucked away discretely. The emphasis is on immersing the customer in the product, not just meeting their need, but creating an emotional connection and establishing a long term relationship. Experiences not only remember the customer’s name, but their likes and dislikes. The relationship doesn’t

end when money changes hands. Locations, destinations and experiences each have their place in business. Sometimes all a customer needs is a commodity; then business survival becomes a numbers game with a race to the bottom. Whoever cuts expenses farthest and fastest has the edge. Experiences are something more than commerce. Customers return because the product becomes almost secondary to the way they feel. They buy because they want to maintain that feeling. Destinations lie somewhere in between; with the opportunity to incorporate the best and the worst of the other two. Even if you are not in retail, how do you want customers to feel about your business; cold, impersonal and efficient or warm, inviting and effective? CONTINUED ON PAGE 20

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


NEW BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT Cabin Coffee of Forest City Kristy & Doug Felman, Owners Located at 206 Highway 69 in Forest City, IA. Why did you decide to start your own business? For us, it was the right thing at the right time. Cabin Coffee has such good morals, good beliefs, Brad and Angie (owners of the Cabin Coffee Corporation) have been such great support. How long did you plan this before you opened your doors? We started planning in January of 2008. The construction process took about 2 months. We opened October 13, 1008. What has been your most pleasant surprise so far? How excited Forest City has been to have us here. It’s great to see our customers every day and meet new people, make new friends. Do you have any recommendations to others who may be thinking of starting their own business? Do your homework, create a business plan. Take a chance - my motto is “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try it.” Save. Opening a business does take time and money, a lot of monetary devotion. Who have you been able to turn to for advice and help? NIACC, Ted Behr has been a wonderful sounding board, our banker has given us lots of financing advice. Brad and Angie Barber.

• Coordinate area and state incentives • Provide information on available land and buidings • Coordinate educational opportunities • Low-interest loans • Site-location assistance • Utility rates

• Assist in developing business plans • Provide classroom and online education • Counsel one-on-one and in workshops • Establish networking forums

North Iowa’s legacy of innovative, inventive spirit From the local hardware store to some of the nation’s leading manufacturers, innovative spirit can be found all throughout North Iowa. Here’s a look at a few of our area’s long line of entrepreneurs: Cory Currie operated a restaurant in downtown Mason City from 1884 to 1895 when he and his son, Frank R. Currie, established C. Currie & Son. This turn-of-the-century hardware store evolved through four generations of innovative Currie’s to become Curries Manufacturing, a leading manufacturer of stock, standard and custom steel doors and frames. Curries remained family-owned until the mid-1980’s when the company was purchased by the Walter M. Kidde Corporation. Today, CURRIES is owned by ASSA ABLOY AB of Stockholm, Sweden. Clarion is home to Hagie Manufacturing, founded by Ray Hagie. Hagie’s Wright County farmstead became the birthplace of the world’s first self-propelled sprayer in 1947. Today, three generations later, the Hagie name represents some of the most original application equipment in the farming industry. The company specializes in manufacturing sprayers, detassellers and high-clearance nitrogen injection systems. The same year Ray Hagie introduced his self-propelled


• Lunch & Learns • Networking opportunities with Business After Hours and other special events • Monthly newsletters and updated web-site

Iowa Department of Economic Development • Financial assistance • Training and education • Infrastructure assistance • Marketing Assistance • Site-selection service • Taxation and exemption credits • Licensing information

• Provide information on regulation, sources of capital, brochures, applications • Educate through seminars, workshops, and one-on-one workshops at the Forest City Chamber of Commerce

sprayer, another area farmer was helping his neighbors save their oat crops from an outbreak of oat scum. Willard Latham devised a machine to clean the oats by retrofitting an existing piece of farm equipment. Latham’s keen understanding of farming and science led him to transform the family’s enterprise from oats to soybeans. Today, Latham Seeds, located in Alexander, remains family-owned and operated and provides some of the highest-yielding, strongest standing seeds for soybeans. John Pappajohn graduated from the University of Iowa in 1952 with the desire to own his own business. Following graduation, he established an insurance agency and subsequently organized and became Chairman of the Board of Guardsman Insurance Investors, a public insurance holding company. Pappajohn was one of the early venture capitalists. Since the early 1970’s, he has been involved in over 100 company start ups and has served as Director in over 40 public companies. John and his wife, Mary have been very committed to “giving back”, gifting more than $25 million to various philanthropic causes. Pappajohn has also organized and financed John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers at five Iowa universities and colleges, including the JPEC at NIACC in Mason City. These centers have helped PAPPAJOHN create and launch over 1000 new companies.

NEW BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT Industrial Piping Service Wayne & Tanya Martin, Owners

Mechanical piping, welding, and custom fabrication for commercial, pharmaceutical, biodiesel and ethanol manufacturers. Opened July 2007. Located at 9383 Ulmus Avenue inRockwell, IA. Why did you decide to start your own business? We saw the need and opportunity for this type of business in this area. What has been your most pleasant surprise so far? It’s rewarding to know you do good work. Do you have any recommendations to others who may be thinking of starting their own business? Be sure you have all your ducks in a row. Research things like insurance, taxes, expenses. It takes lots of time and effort.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

InBusiness: ROADMAP TO RESOURCES • 19 decided to evenly divide ownership within the organization and the ABCM Corporation was born. Since that time, ABCM has been a leader in advancing the ideals of quality long term care. ABCM Corporation, along with its sister organization, Nursing Care Management LTD (formed in 1986), has grown to more than 30 long term care facilities, tree assisted living facilities, a medical supply company, numerous real estate holdings, and a motel.

WINNEBAGO INDUSTRIES - FOREST CITY, IOWA John K. Hanson, an avid outdoor enthusiast, began his career in the recreational vehicle industry when he became a travel trailer dealer in 1957. Hanson saw opportunity in North Iowa, and with the help of local investors, successfully convinced a California travel trailer manufacturing firm to open a branch facility in Forest City. HANSON In 1959, Hanson became president of the new firm, Modernistic Industries of Iowa. Hanson strived to improve the company’s trailers and ultimately brought mass production to motorhome assembly and led the company – renamed Winnebago Industries, Inc. – to become the leading U.S. manufacturer of motor homes. Through Hanson’s achievements, he and his wife, Luise, have contributed millions of dollars to the Forest City community and North Iowa with contributions from the Hanson Foundation and the Winnebago Industries Foundation. W.A. Krause and T.A. Gentle, two Hampton entrepreneurs, opened Kum & Go L.C. – a small full-service gas station, on September 1, 1959. In 1963, the partners introduced the convenience store concept when they began offering both fuel and merchandise. Further innovation came along in the 1980’s with the addition of quick serve restaurants, including Blimpie and Burger King, within several Kum & Go stores. Today, Kum & Go has grown to 430 stores in 12 states throughout the Midwest and is the fifth largest privately held convenience store chain in the United States, with an excess of $2 billion in annual sales. The company gives back 10 percent of its annual profits to charitable and educational causes each year. It was concern for the well-being of fellow Iowans that inspired George M. Manoylovich to construct the state’s first modern care center in 1961. The facility, built in Hampton, was very unique and extremely successful in providing a higher quality of living for it patients, Other nursing homes at the time were usually located within old remodeled houses. Many features of the Hampton Care Center were later incorporated into the minimum building standards with the Federal Housing Administration and the Iowa Department of Public Health construction standards. The success of the Hampton facility lead to the development of three additional health care centers in the mid-1960’s. In 1967, Manoylovich began a partnership with Dr. D.K. Benge and James E. Coonley III. Richard A. Albee joined the partnership in 1971. Together with one vision and much determination, these four men developed seven additional health care facilities during the early 1970’s. In 1973, it was

Eugene Sukup purchased his first grain bin to dry and store shelled corn in the fall of 1962. He was disappointed to discover the drying process to be slow and result in some of the grain overheating and spoiling. To prevent this spoilage, Sukup created a stirring auger from a modified stoker auger and electric drill. He hung the device from a chain at the top of the bin to loosen the hotspots. Sukup began making these stirring augers at a Sheffield welding shop and sold several units to a local bin dealer. He soon realized that his product needed to be automatic in order to be successful. His creative thinking and desire to create an efficient piece of equipment resulted in the Stirway stirring machine and the birth of Sukup Manufacturing Company. Today, innovative ideas have been the key to company’s success, resulting in 70 U.S. patents, and making Sukup Manufacturing the largest family-owned manufacturer of full-line grain systems. Curtis, Dennis and Jon Lewerke got their start as cabinet makers in the 1970’s. At the time, they were custom home builders. Unsatisfied with the quality of cabinetry that was available to them, they decided to start building their own kitchen and bathroom cabinets for the homes they constructed. In 1978, they launched Fieldstone Cabinetry, Inc. in Northwood. Fieldstone Cabinetry became known nationwide for excellent quality and design. In 1985, the Lewerkes sold their company to the Masco Corporation and continued working as management of Fieldstone. In 1993 the brothers parted with Fieldstone, and with a new concept, “The Woodharbor Home,” founded Woodharbor Doors & Cabinetry Inc. in Mason City.

agricultural markets. He made the decision to expand his repair business and entered into the livestock trailer market. Kiefer Welding became Kiefer Built LLC. Kiefer’s risk paid off - Kiefer Built trailers soon became well known for the quality and rugged construction. Further expansion was inevitable. Since 1974, the company’s product lines have increased to include steel and aluminum, livestock and horse trailers, steed framed flatbed trailers, custom industrial trailers for the utility industries, and cargo trailers. Tom Hovland started out as a car mechanic in a two-stall garage over 30 years ago, backed by a small $2,000 loan. One day, he spotted a car displaying a NAPA insignia which caught his eye. A simple conversation with the driver, who happened to be a NAPA employee, led Hovland to a meeting with company officials in Des Moines. Today, Hovland is the president of Tom Hovland Enterprises, headquartered in Mason City, and owner of 11 NAPA Auto Parts Stores in Iowa Minnesota and Wisconsin. North Iowa has benefited greatly from these, as well as the many other entrepreneurs, who have been inspired, identified opportunities and grown their businesses here. Today’s entrepreneurs have many more resources available to them, including the John Pappajohn Enterpreneurial Center at NIACC. The programs such as those available through the JPEC are invaluable in helping nurture and grow the entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation of young North Iowa business owners.

NEW BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT Creative Quilts & More Kay Schlichting, Owner

Quilt shop selling fabrics, notions, needles, pins, thread, embroidery items, quilt blocks, project kits, etc. Located at 57 Main Avenue North in Britt, IA. Visit us online at Why did you decide to start your own business? The company I was working for downsized. I was offered a job with the company, but decided it was an opportunity to start my own small business. How long did you plan this before you opened your doors? It was very a very quick planning process. Started in May and it took less than six months for everything location, financing, inventory. We opened on October 6, 2008. What has been your most pleasant surprise so far? The supportive customer base.

WOODHARBOR DOORS & CABINETRY INC. Utilizing their experience in cabinet-making to the wood door industry, the Lewerkes began adding some very unique and exclusive features to interior doors. These uniques characteristics set Woodharbor doors far apart from all others. Today, Woodharbor takes pride in their ability to provide a complete line of interior millworks that complement and match one another in design, quality and finish. In 1974, there were many livestock trailers being manufactured in the southern U.S. and marketed to farmers in the Midwest. Arlen Kiefer, owner of a small welding repair shop in Kanawha, felt there was opportunity for a trailer builder to locate in the heartland of the nation’s largest

What has been you biggest disappointment? The economy. It wasn’t as bad when we started but I kept thinking, “Am I doning the right thing?” Everywhere I turned there was support saying “Yes I can!” Do you have any recommendations to others who may be thinking of starting their own business? Consider the timing. Have a strong customer base. Use resources. Know your strengths and weaknesses and don’t be afraid to ask! One piece of advice I’ve received is “How can you go wrong when you follow your passion?” And remember, it’s not the challenges, it’s what you do with them. Who have you been able to turn to for advice and help? NIACC, my local bank, industry sales reps, my accountant. There are never enough people to ask.


ACCELERATING YOUR BUSINESS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 17 BONUS TIP: Get Help. Every business has unique opportunities to enhance both their top line and their bottom line. Take advantage of the resources available in your area. The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, the Small Business Development Center, SCORE, the North Iowa Business Accelerator, and the NIACC JPEC Entrepreneur Exchanges are great free resources to help you move your business forward. There is also a lot of quality ‘for fee’ training available address specific areas like business-to-business sales, lean operations, and other topics. What are you going to do different to make 2009 a better business year? For more information or to schedule and appointment, contact NIACC’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at 641.422.4342 or toll-free at 888.GO.NIACC extension 4342 or via e-mail at Be sure to visit the website at

ATTENTION RETAILERS A change to Iowa law (Iowa Code 455D.13) may impact your retail operation as it relates to the sale of oil filters. To reflect the changes in the law, Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 567-119 has also been amended. IF YOUR BUSINESS GENERATES OR • You must accept used oil COLLECTS USED OIL filters from your customers FILTERS:


following regulations found • Used oil filters must be separated from other solid in Chapter 119 waste and recycled; they OR cannot be landfilled. • You must post a sign • Your used oil filter informing customers transporter will provide where used oil filters are you with information on accepted for recycling. how they want the filters prepared. The ch


For a used oil s become effective on filter Fe retailer signs ancollection site list, transpo bruary 4, 2009. rte d visit www.iowa the Iowa Administration Cors/processors list, rd hm/hhmretailerevisions, rs.html

15942 Killdeer Ave Clear Lake, IA 50428


The Landfill of North Iowa’s Household Hazardous Material Regional Collection Center (RCC) provides: FREE oil and oil filter collection for RESIDENTS by appointment. BUSINESSES that are considered a Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG ) may use the RCC services for a nominal FEE that covers the disposal costs of the specific materials collected, including oil and oil filters.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Managing risk in uncertain times By Mark Olchefske, Regional Business Development Director high survival rate, incubating companies enjoy an “It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had advantage with lending institutions. Professional resources. A lot of businesses start nothing before us.” - Charles Dickens on kitchen tables or in spare bedrooms. Business If someone told you that by making a particular decision, your business’ chance of surviving at least 3 meetings have to be held at restaurants or in hotel years would jump from less than 50% to 90%, would lobbies. It is tough to be taken seriously when an you do it? Most people would say ‘yes,’ but do exactly unbalanced washing machine is banging in the background. The business incubator on NIACC’s the opposite. Since 1958, business incubators have improved the odds of a business surviving those first, campus boasts staffed professional office space with multimedia conference area, computers with specialty dangerous years. According to the National Business software and access to the some of the world’s best Incubator Association, 90% of businesses that business libraries. On-site videoconferencing enables incubate survive their first 36 months. The chances effective communication anywhere in the world. But aren’t half that on the outside. What makes most important, the incubator removes distractions businesses that incubate twice as likely to survive? from you working in and working on your business. Guides and mentors. There are many experienced businesspeople that give back to the next generation There is no snow to shovel, no grass to cut. by acting as resources to new businesses. The staff of Experienced businesspeople are close at hand for the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and Small consultation and other entrepreneurs for shared experiences. Business Development Center at NIACC has over a The mortality rate for businesses is at an all-time century and a half of business leadership experience high. Century-old firms are failing; with only their and hosts the new SCORE chapter, whose members names passing into history. Smart businesses and include some of North Iowa’s best known smart entrepreneurs are intelligently managing their entrepreneurs. Your business remains your business, risk. One way is through business incubation. Is the but these people have not only faced the same NIACC Business Incubator the right starting point for problems you have, but many have faced worse. your dream of business ownership? For more When you are navigating in unfamiliar waters, it is a information, contact Mark Olchefske at great comfort to have someone who has successfully 641.422.4191 or Visit the made the trip before. website at Uniquely structured program. Each company is different and each entrepreneur brings a unique skill NEW BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: set to their enterprise; but no individual or company is a complete package. There is no ‘one size fits all’ Complete Auto Repair program to business success. In the incubator, Randy Fike, Owner entrepreneurs identify the strengths, weaknesses, Full service, bumper-to-bumper auto repair shop, opportunities and threats to their business as well as located at 2856 9th Street SW in Mason City, IA their own strengths and weaknesses. From there, they Why did you decide to start your own business? It’s implement actions designed to address or what I always wanted to do. I knew I could provide accommodate what they have discovered. Incubating excellent service customers need and appreciate. companies meet at least monthly with incubator staff to maintain forward progress and review finances. What has been your most pleasant surprise so far? It’s Access to Capital. New entrepreneurs worry most nice to provide excellent customer service. I enjoy helping about this, so the incubator has access to a number others. I’m here for my customers. If I can’t fix it, I’ll find of different financial programs for qualifying someone who can. That’s just part of being full-service. companies. Money may cover up, but it will not fix, Do you have any recommendations to others who flaws in a company. The incubator staff works with the may be thinking of starting their own business? Give it entrepreneur to address those flaws and ensure the a positive attitude. Talk, talk, talk - people like to talk and business remains adequately capitalized to fulfill its appreciate having things explained to them. potential. Because of the constant monitoring and Communicate.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Pappajohn website a great resource By Terry Schumaker Economic Development Director Workforce Development Partnership

Individuals seeking information on entrepreneurship and business development have a great tool in the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) website: The website provides a comprehensive description of all of the Center’s programs and services. Regardless of where someone is on the business development continuum, idea exploration to accelerated growth, the website contains a wealth of information. The main information topics on the website include: Starting a New Business, Growing an Existing Business, Business Owner Transition, Financing a Business, Entrepreneurial Education, and General Business Resources. In addition to core business start and growth information, the site contains a BizToolkit Online

Information Center which provides the user access to detailed and in depth and business research information ranging from legal information to marketing tools and tips. The Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center has partnered with the James J. Hill Reference Library, the nation’s top practical business library, to bring the BizToolkit Online Business Information Center to North Iowa. The main purpose of the BizToolkit is to help people locate specific information designed to help them turn their business ideas into a reality. The website is continually updated to provide information on upcoming JPEC seminars, workshops, and events. It also contains scores of links to local, state, and national partner organizations who serve as additional resources for individuals and businesses in their own local communities. In short, the website allows individuals and businesses the freedom to educate themselves on

the matters of entrepreneurship and business growth, to become more familiar with the programs and services of the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and how they may use them to their benefit.

To learn more about Closed Circuit TV please call Barry Wangsness at Electronic Engineering at 641-423-6818 or 1-800-343-2688


MARCH 2009 2009 • 23


Tough times? Think outside the box By RHONDA REGAN For In Business MASON CITY — When times get tough, either the tough get going or they start thinking outside the box, say local business managers. At I.C. System in Mason City, Site Director Scott Bultje said his goal is to put business practices into play to boost employee morale and productivity. “We have increased emphasis in three areas to help employees be more productive” he said. According to Bultje, the St. Paul, Minn.-based collections company has combined traditional methods with new technology. He described a three-section process that he said increases productivity and creates higher outcomes. The first section is the use of analytics. “We use the science of logical analysis. We track significant amounts of data measuring the impact of various operational strategies to identify trends,” Bultje said. The company has an internal analytical staff that tracks the data and reports these trends so management can react and adjust strategies to maximize results. The second focus has been an investment in technology to help its phone representatives talk to more people per hour. This is done with an


automated calling process which makes it more efficient to make the calls. “The computerized dialing technology is making the phone calls, it tracks the performance of the calling campaigns and is constantly adjusting its pacing for maximum efficiency,” Bultje said. “We monitor call volumes and strategies very closely. We want to ensure our reps are neither waiting for the next call nor having calls waiting to be answered.” The third factor is scoring. The company uses credit scoring and credit modeling to identify which people are more likely to pay their accounts. “Somebody with a high credit score is more likely to pay the debt so they may receive more phone attempts or letters to collect that account,” he said, “whereas somebody with a low credit score may receive fewer attempts.” Bultje adds that the complexity and availability of technology and the way people are using it in the business workplace are unprecedented. “Analytics and statistics are the paths to successful technology applications,” he said.

RHONDA REGAN/For In Business

Brett Eden works on a motorcycle at Harley-Davidson of Mason City, where mechanics compete with each other in terms of productivity.

productivity, according to Steve Minert, general manager. He said that up until a few years ago, motorcycle technicians were paid on an hourly basis. Then the company switched to a different program: efficiencies and proficiencies. “It’s a sliding scale where the employee is paid according to how much work they do,” Minert said. He said it creates competitiveness between the technicians and is very successful. “We publicly track the productivity of each technician so they can IN ORDER to stay com- see how they compare to petitive, Harley-Davidson each other,” he said. of Mason City has merged “Nobody wants to be the efficiency with employee low man on the board.”

In addition to the new salary program, Minert says the company has changed its thinking when it comes to hiring employees. Years ago, it would hire mechanics who had basic mechanical knowledge, but that is no longer the case. “We now hire only individuals that have received motorcycle technology training which enables us to employ less people but who are more qualified to do the job,” he said. The updated hiring philosophy applied to the retail area of the store as well. The dealership no longer looks for individuals with a lot of motorcycle knowledge but more

for people who have customer service skills. “I can hire somebody with good people skills but no experience with motorcycles and train them in the industry,” he said. “But if they don’t have the customer service skills, then they’re not a good fit for our company.”

SOME EMPLOYERS are using tried-and-true methods to increase productivity. Mike Trewet, a supervisor with the Mason City UPS center, says the center feeds employees if production numbers are met. “If the morning shift meets production, they get breakfast on Fridays. If the evening shift meets production, they get pizza on Friday night,” Trewet said. They may not be fed every Friday, but it happens more often than not, he said. Minert adds that business owners and managers need to constantly question themselves, “What should I do now?” to increase business. “During these tough economic times businesses need to do things to be more competitive,” he said. “For some it means adding more services or conveniences to affect production.”

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Finding help to ride out the recession By JIM CRONIN For In Business The recession: Where can you look for help?


1. BUSINESS SCHOOLS. Local university branches and community colleges can be gold mines of information. While you have been spending your time and energy improving your business’s goods or services, business department teachers have been keeping up with local, regional and national business developments — positive and negative. Besides identifying problems, they are always on the lookout for solutions to those problems. In addition to reading about what has worked for local businesses, they keep up with regional and national successes as a result of what they read in business magazines and in respected business-related blogs. And those who have stayed in contact with former fellow students who teach in other parts of the country frequently receive helpful information about what’s working in your industry in other parts of the country. 2. ACCOUNTING AND LAW FIRMS. Answers to business problems can also be provided by members of local accounting and law

firms. Throughout the year, their employees spend their time fielding questions from representatives of both private and public employers. If your accountant or business lawyer isn’t familiar with a particular business-related hurdle, frequently he can get an informed response from one of his partners who has had experience on the business topic with which you need assistance. These days most accounting and law firms issue monthly or quarterly newsletters which detail recent developments in various industries, both locally and nationally. You might also surf the Web sites of law firms which have a substantial bankruptcy practice. They may offer seminars

by surveying the veteran employees who worked for the preceding employer during its most challenging years and can tell you what effective/ ineffective steps that employer took. Another employee 3. IN-HOUSE INFORgroup capable of providMATION.. Many times employers ing relevant information overlook a large group of consists of more recent hires who previously potential information providers: their employ- worked for your competitors or in industries ees. related to yours and who If your company has have information about acquired a second comwhat they saw work or pany that is much older fail in past years. than yours, chances are A third employee group that the due diligence consists of your sales and you did prior to the acquisition told you only marketing employees. As part of the story you need a general rule, employees in these categories are to know. talkative and gregarious, You could be facing and are used to both some problems that the acquired company faced receiving and reviewing business-related inforin past years, but you’ll only get that information Continued on Page 25 describing the most common business mistakes you need to avoid and positive steps you might take to strengthen your business’s economic base.

About the author: Jim Cronin has been an employee relations (management) counsel with the Minneapolis-St. Paul law firm of Felhabor, Larson, Fenlon & Vogt for more than 30 years. The content of his column is presented as general information, not as legal advice. Specific situations must be assessed individually by counsel of your choice. Cronin is the author of “No Fluff, No Puff: Just Management/Communication Principles That Work.” Readers may preview chapters of this resource manual at It is also available for purchase at www.Barnes& Cronin would like to respond to readers’ needs by addressing workplace-related questions of general interest in future issues. Send your questions or comments to him at

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Hiring an intern? Here’s help finding just the right one




AP Business Writer

If the applicant pool for this year’s summer internship at your business is overwhelming, that may be because it’s become more difficult to land an entrylevel job. Deborah Levy, vice president of talent recruitment at communications firm MS&L Worldwide, offers these tips to see which potential intern has the dexterity to work

with you. • Give candidates a pop culture quiz to test their knowledge of current events. It will help give you a sense of their ability to translate current trends into business ideas and opportunities for the company. • Make them earn that acceptance letter. After the applications are screened, hold a “Challenge Day” for candidates to compete against one another in a simulated assignment for a coveted intern slot.

• Look for digital prowess and visual presentations that demonstrate creativity, poise and strong communication skills. • Recruit staff members from varied departments and levels of experience — human resources, technical support, new employees and senior executives — to conduct short interviews of the candidates. It’ll give the applicants several opportunities to leave an impression and demonstrate their eloquence.

CRONIN/From Page 24 try’s current economic situation — are very important to us. Employees everywhere constantly talk about their present observations and their hopes for a better future. Unfortunately, many times employees are reluctant to relay what they’re hearing to their supervisors or managers — especially if what they’re hearing involves criticisms of certain areas of your company’s performance. It’s very important for your supervisors and managers to create an atmosphere in which employees feel free to relay both the positives and negatives. Employees need to understand there’s no way for your company or agency to correct a problem if you are unaware the problem exists. But — and this is important — employees will not offer information, suggestions or ideas to supervisors or managers who have made them feel dumb or unimportant. Management repreMOST OF US have sentatives’ commitments only one job, and our jobs to adherence to the Gold— especially in our coun- en Rule need to be monimation with their counterparts at your customers, suppliers and vendors. The more experienced they are the more they are able to gather and forward accurate information about the state of the company’s business. Two other groups of employees who may be able to relay credible information about your customers’ current business realities are your delivery truck drivers and your shipping and receiving personnel. Your truck drivers may have frequent conversations with the shipping dock employees at your customers’ locations and your drivers may be getting informal report card-type information about your company’s performance. Frequently, your own shipping and receiving people hear valuable information from the truck drivers of your suppliers or customers who visit your dock regularly while they are making pickups or deliveries at your place of business.

tored and reinforced on a regular basis.

but projects like you’re just “waiting until it’s your time to talk.” THERE ARE a number Cable television news of other steps you can programs are filled with take to receive informahosts who ask questions tion which can help you of guests and then shout get a better understand- at them and cut them off ing of what your compa- when they don’t give the ny or agency needs to do answer the host is lookto get through the current ing for. We can do betrecession: ter. • Personal visits to • Don’t be afraid to customers by the owner make the tough decior CEO.. sions. Nothing says “you’re After gathering the really important to us” to facts, take your time but a customer like having don’t be hesitant to make the top person in your the tough decisions. Too organization make a per- often owners delay taksonal visit to the cusing needed steps in the tomer’s place of business. hope their operations An hour or two spent on will be saved at the last such a visit can pay big minute by some interdividends. vening stroke of good People judge us much fortune, but that rarely more on our conduct happens. • Keep a close watch than on our words — and nothing sends a stronger on yourr money. I subscribe to USA positive message of Today and its front secinterest than a personal visit to ask what you and tion includes daily capyour people can do better sule reports from all 50 for that customer. states. • Listen. Every week there are When you ask for reports about substaninformation from one of tial amounts of money your employees, or durlost to embezzlements in ing a meeting at a cusvarious parts of the tomer’s place of business, country. Victims include don’t be the person who corporations, non-profclaims to be “listening” it agencies, churches,

schools and state and local agencies. Offenders include trusted employees who are able to fund gambling, dope and other bad habits by stealing their employer’s money — some for very long periods of time. Obviously, many private and public employers are

negligent in not having their accounts reviewed more often by outside accountants. There is a reason why some retail operations in large cities choose to utilize two security forces: one to watch shoplifters — and the second to watch the first.

ATTENTION RETAILERS A change to Iowa law (Iowa Code 455D.13) may impact your retail operation as it relates to the sale of oil filters. To reflect the changes in the law, Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 567-119 has also been amended. IF YOUR BUSINESS GENERATES OR • You must accept used oil COLLECTS USED OIL filters from your customers FILTERS:


following regulations found • Used oil filters must be separated from other solid in Chapter 119 waste and recycled; they OR cannot be landfilled. • You must post a sign • Your used oil filter informing customers transporter will provide where used oil filters are you with information on accepted for recycling. how they want the filters prepared. The ch


For a used oil s become effective on filter Fe retailer signs ancollection site list, transpo bruary 4, 2009. rte d visit www.iowa the Iowa Administration Cors/processors list, rd hm/hhmretailerevisions, rs.html

15942 Killdeer Ave Clear Lake, IA 50428


The Landfill of North Iowa’s Household Hazardous Material Regional Collection Center (RCC) provides: FREE oil and oil filter collection for RESIDENTS by appointment. BUSINESSES that are considered a Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG ) may use the RCC services for a nominal FEE that covers the disposal costs of the specific materials collected, including oil and oil filters.



Regional Business Expo set for March 26 at Diamond Jo Worth Casino NORTHWOOD — Six area Chambers of Commerce are sponsoring the 2009 Regional Business EXPO to be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 26, at Diamond Jo Worth Casino.

The participating Chambers are: • Mason City • Northwood • Forest City • Lake Mills • Algona

• Albert Lea Members of these Chambers are encouraged to showcase their products or services to consumers and other businesses in the North Iowa and Southern Minnesota area.

If anyone is interested in more information on how you can become an exhibitor, contact any of the Chambers. The event will be open to the public but exhibitors must be a participating Chamber member.

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for sprucing up a tired image

1. Identify who your customers and other stakeholders are and what they want from you. Through interviews or questionnaires, have them help you evaluate your image. 2. Pinpoint the strengths and weak-

nesses of your current image. What misconceptions or negative perceptions need to be corrected? 3. Devise a strategy. It could include changing your company’s name and logo, changing your product mix, or

5. Follow up to make sure the even dropping some customers and makeover is doing its job. Are sales up? courting others. 4. Get expert help. Image makeovers Are you attracting the customers you want? usually call for professionals who can — From SCORE, help you devise and implement a new concept.

Cerro Gordo County Jail

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Beating the recession:Survival or ‘Surthrival’ By STEVE SORENSEN Director of Strategic Services, RSM McGladrey As I’ve been visiting with company CEOs regarding how they are dealing with the downturn in the economy, I’ve heard two distinct responses depending on the CEO’s overall attitude and the company’s financial soundness and strength. For those who have entered the downturn in a weak financial position, they are focused on truly surviving — doing whatever it takes to get through this downturn and rebuild. But for companies that have entered


this downturn in a solid financial position, this is a time to “surthrive” — to not only make it through the hard times but to build the business to prosper when the economy shows improvement. “Surthriving” an economic downturn requires three important attributes: positive attitude, focus and discipline. These three attributes can help a company avoid the gut reaction to slash costs and reduce head count. Having a positive attitude, discipline and focus can help establish a

mindset that better enables a company to not only manage through the downturn but find ways to come out of the downturn stronger and better positioned. Companies seeking to “surthrive” should consider the following ways to instill focus and discipline throughout their organization. As you read this list, it may become apparent that a positive attitude is critical to accomplishing these things. • Focus your time and resources on

About the author Steve Sorensen is a director of strategy services at RSM McGladrey Inc. He has more than 25 years of experience assisting companies across all industries with strategy development and planning, organization planning and business process improvement. For more information, contact him at

Continued on Page 30

GILLMAN/From Page 5 This is where quality of life meets economic development head on. Those of us who live here cannot just talk about what we think distinguishes us from other communities, we must package the message into a marketing campaign with our economic development and business strengths. We have plenty here in terms of cultural and recreational activities, and we certainly have our advantages when it comes to economic development. Back to that word progressive: I did not look up the definition of “progressive” but I believe that if the words “taking risk” are not included they should be. Progress never comes without risk. We want to make sure we manage that risk but not stifle it. The easiest thing to do is remain status quo. I did look up that definition and it says status quo is “to keep the things the way they presently are.” Now I have become genuinely infatuated with Cerro Gordo County, but I am not interested in status quo only because status quo eventually leads to that dreaded word used in the first paragraph — declining. Now, back to the declining economy and what we can be doing to differentiate ourselves from the other 3,140

counties in the U.S. Every day I wake up thinking about how are we different than those 3,140 other counties? How do we let the outside world know we are different? How do we package that message? In an effort to answer these questions, our local economic development organization recently rebranded to North Iowa Corridor EDC-Avenue of Opportunities. This re-branding provides our area with a new fresh approach to make our mark on existing and potential new businesses and residents. Our revitalized vision has many parts to it so I can only provide some priority highlights here. • WE MUST create a strategy to attract younger workers and families to our area. This is a multi–organization issue and one that must be addressed immediately. The future vibrancy of our area depends on it. • WE MUST continue the collaboration between Clear Lake, Mason City and Cerro Gordo County. Playing on the combined assets of each community and county makes us stronger in every aspect. People on the outside of our area do not care about the boundaries between the two com-

munities. As a matter of fact they don’t want to hear about it. We are more powerful as one than as two separate. It is that simple. • WE MUST enhance our business parks so they are substantially business-ready. Business expansions and new-business developments want to know that their investment in a new facility is going to appreciate in value. We have an advantage being one of only five counties in the northern third of Iowa that has an interstate highway cutting through it, and with the Avenue of the Saints four-lane highway, we truly have two interstates to tout. • WE MUST enhance our alreadystrong relationship with the Iowa Department of Economic Development. IDED is a source of prospects for an area like ours where the common business person or site selection consultant does not know the exact location of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. IDED will often start with the leads and then filter them out to the appropriate areas where there is a chance for us to land the project. • WE MUST have a targeted industry focus both internally and externally. We can never be doing enough to assist our local business and industry. We are

embarking on new ideas to add value to business and industry which start with more contacts to local business and industry. We will seek opportunities to facilitate expansions and not just wait for them to come to us. We will also be targeting specific business and industry to attract to Cerro Gordo County. So what to do when the economy is dragging and many economic development organizations are pulling back? I say do more now than ever. Package our assets and market them vigorously to the audiences mentioned above which are both within and from the outside. In the short five months I have been here I have met too many positive people to think we are declining. The North Iowa Corridor EDC is the marketing arm for the area and now is the time to market, because progress doesn’t happen overnight. The North Iowa Corridor EDC is taking the steps to prepare our region to be ready when that first glimmer of light starts to shine at the end of the economic recovery tunnel. — Reach Gregg Gillman at 25 W. State St., Suite B, Mason City, IA 50401; phone 641-423-0315; e-mail ggillman



Q&A: O.Jay Tomson One of North Iowa’s best-known bankers reflects on his career (and yes, we asked him what the ‘O’ stands for) By JOHN SKIPPER

O. Jay Tomson is chairman of the board of First Citizens National Bank which has branches in 10 North Iowa communities. He is past president of the Independent Community Bankers of America and former president of the Iowa Independent Bankers Association. Last year, First Citizens National Bank reached $1 billion in assets. Q. Where are your roots? Where did you grow up? A. My father was a wheat farmer in the Dakotas but we moved to Iowa when I was very young. I grew up in Stratford, a town of 700 Swedes, four Norwegians — and one Italian for diversity. Q. When did you envision banking as a career? A. The little town of Stratford tried to give us an education. It had one hard-surfaced road out of town which we all used after we graduated. I always had a fascination with the printing of money. I went to St. Olaf College and it was there that I started to focus on it. I had a professor named Andy Anderson who taught money and banking, economics and statistics. He taught us about the history of the monetary system. Andy went on to become vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis. He was my inspiration. Q. What was your first job in banking? A. When I was in college I worked for my little home town bank during the summers doing all sorts of things, including sweeping the floors. In those days, you balanced the books with a pencil and paper at the end of the day. But I learned the fundamentals of banking there. Q. Trace your banking career for us. A. I worked for the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago and was a field examiner assigned to the state of Iowa. There were several of us who had to cover 60 banks. I did it for eight years and it was like getting another education, learning how banks worked. One of the banks I examined was Bankers Trust in Des Moines and they offered me a job there. It was quite a bit more money than I had


I kept driving by this empty building on the west side of Mason City and thought that would be a good place for a bank. Mason City was ripe for a home-owned bank. We started in Mason City in January of 1995.” — O. Jay Tomson

been making. I had a young family and I wanted to get off the road. So I took it. Later, I met Carl Pohlad (the late owner of the Minnesota Twins baseball team). He hired me as executive vice president of the Marquette Bank in downtown Minneapolis.

I was there several years when I was approached about buying an interest in the Citizens National Bank in Charles City. I stuck my neck out like a Canadian goose but I decided to do it. That was in 1973. In 1974, there was a short crop and an early frost and it was a tough year. The next seven to eight years straightened out pretty well and then we hit the ’80s. During that time we purchased banks in Clarion, Osage and Alta Vista, took over controlliing interest in a bank in Charles City and picked up failed banks in Kanawha, Latimer and New Hampton. All of a sudden we had all these banks and no centerpiece. I kept driving by this empty building on the west side of Mason City and thought that would be a good place for a bank. Mason City was ripe for a home-owned bank. We started in Mason City in January of 1995. Q. Firstt Citizens National Bank now has $1 billion in assets. What does that mean to the average guy? A. We’re better able to take care of both the large and the small needs on Main Street. We’re the repository of the people. They want their money to be safe. If they deposit a dollar with you, they want to know they’ll get it back. And if you pay attention, you can help some people. Q. What’s your assessment of the so-called bank bailout? A. What started this was when the government started allowing banks to co-mingle with anything having to do with finances. What happened, in my opinion, is that they allowed these entities to become too large, with the idea being to allow them to compete in the global economy. The problem we’re into today is the first great experiment in a meltdown that is global in nature. We’ve reverted to Keynesian economics — prime the pump. And right now, you can’t see over the horizon. Q. And finally, the burning question to wh hich all of North Iowa wants an answer - what does the “O” stand for in O. Jay? A. It stands for “Ollie” (pronounced Oh-lee), which was also my father’s name.



FINANCE/From Page 28

5 TIPS ... ... to brand your business online 1. Protect Your Name. As an entrepreneur, your name is vital to your brand and the identity of your business. Be sure to secure a domain name in your name. For example, www.myname with .com, .net and/or .biz. It’s usually a good idea to register multiple domains in case someone types the wrong extension; that way you can be found. Network Solutions and GoDaddy are two choices to register a domain name. 2. Create a Founder Profile Page. Brand yourself on your Web site. Create a profile about you to build trust with potential clients. Make it easy for visitors to find info about you. Clients and prospects want to know who you are in terms of industry, experience and personality. Share info to build a relationship with visitors to your site. 3. Prepare for the Future. Millions of people use mobile devices to connect to their business when they are out of the office. Make sure your Web

site is accessible to these devices and will load quickly and easily. Even if your site is not yet formatted for .mobi, get the name. By registering a domain with a .mobi extension you secure the name for your company. 4. Proteect Yourself from Spam. Search bots troll the Web looking for e-mail addresses. This can lead to spam e-mails to your inbox. Protect your business e-mail box. Use e-mail addresses on your Web site like: or 5. Considering joining a social networking site. They give you a free way to post a biographical profile. Be aware: everything you post is public information. You give up some privacy when you post info. The sites can provide connections between people with similar interests. The sites add to search engine results for your name and your company name. — From SCORE,

your best customers while employing the discipline to “fire” your worst customers. • Focus on your best growth opportunities, while consciously deciding to postpone the rest. • Focus on truly strategic advantages while acting on ways to strengthen your market position against weaker competitors. • Have the discipline to cut back on unprofitable operations while staying focused on those operations that can prosper beyond the downturn. • Focus on recognizing and rewarding the efforts of your most talented employees — those you want to keep. • Have the discipline to use performance management processes to address poor performing employees who may have been allowed to stay through the good times. • Develop the discipline to improve your most inefficient business processes and really take the time to effectively use the technology and systems in which

you’ve invested. • Have the discipline to challenge suppliers to ensure you are receiving competitive pricing and value-added service to manage supply costs. • Be disciplined about managing your cash position, including sound accounts receivable, and accounts payables practices. • Focus on inventories to ensure you have the right amounts in the right places when you need them. • Focus on efforts to reward and incent employees to deliver outstanding service to your customers. • Have the discipline to challenge the way you have done things in order to reinvent and reinvigorate your business. Positive attitude, discipline and focus. Adopting these three attributes in your business may be just what your business needs to do more than survive, but “surthrive” through this downturn and be positioned for continued growth and success.


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The name: Process Excellence. The goal: Efficiency in everyday operations. At Mercy-North Iowa ...

Going lean benefits patients By LAURA ANDREWS MASON CITY — Patients at Mercy Medical CenterNorth Iowa have been benefiting from Mercy’s process of going lean the past year. “This is a very important part of our organization and how we can improve our patient care,” said Jim FitzPatrick, Mercy president and CEO. Going lean — or as Mercy calls it, Process Excellence — involves an organization becoming more consistent and efficient in everyday work. The process ultimately benefits the customer — in Mercy’s case, the patient. Michael Johnston, director of Process Excellence, said the hospital has been focusing on three area so far. They are nutrition, which is the cafeteria, laboratories and nursing on the cardiac floor. “The biggest thing we look for is the process flow,” Johnston said. “We’re looking for waves in the flow.” For example, patient satisfaction has been the focus in the nursing area and it has increased by 78 percent since the program started, Johnston said. “Our time to discharge has been reduced about 25 percent,” he said. “It’s not that we’re speeding it up and kicking people out, but once the doctor says you’re ready to go they’re able to get you out the door quickly.” Some of the changes have


JEFF HEINZ/In Business

Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa Core Lab supervisor Melissa Eastvold and Michael Johnston, Process Excellence director, explain how every piece of equipment in the lab has a marked spot and is labeled accordingly. saved the hospital money, too. For example the labs and nutrition areas have had a 70 and 56 percent inventory reduction, respectively. Productivity has increased by 16 and 7 percent in labs and nutrition, respectively. Johnston said they’ve been working directly with employees to decide what improvements they can make. “We’re really geared toward the staff members on the floor for really creating the improvements,” he said. “We have a lot of engagements with staff on the floor which has really made it stick.”

Johnston said it’s important to make it a “cultural change” instead of just changing the tools employees use. Both FitzPatrick and Johnston are happy with the results. “It’s outstanding,” Johnston said. “We’re pleased.” Future plans include reviewing bed management and flow, standardizing processes and working in the emergency department, JEFF HEINZ/In Business Johnston said. “It’s a slow process, but Daniel Weitzel, Nutrition Services supervisor at Mercy Medical Cenwe look at each area before ter-North Iowa stocks a shelf in the now-organized food storage we move on,” Johnston said. area of the hospital.




Thinking of cutting insurance? Think again By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG

rising, financing hard to get,” she said. “Things are daunting Insurance coverage is an to them, but one thing they expense that many small have to think of is the whole business owners might be issue of being underinsured.” tempted to cut back on or even An underinsured business forgo as they try to cut costs doesn’t have adequate coverduring the recession. They’re age for disasters or incidents making a bet that they won’t like fires, thefts or accidents. need the coverage, but it’s a But even companies that bet they could lose. aren’t cutting back their covSpring floods aren’t too far erage might be unwittingly off to be followed inevitably uninsured. Worters noted that by tornadoes. And there are a business might have made the more mundane disasters improvements to its building that can also threaten a busi- or bought new equipment, ness — fire, theft, power out- and if an insurance policy isn’t ages, even someone being adjusted upward payments injured on the premises. could fall well short of the Loretta Worters, vice presi- replacement costs. dent for communications of At the same time, she the Insurance Information noted, real estate values have Institute, a New York-based fallen so it might make sense trade group, said insurance for some companies to reduce may seem like a lower financoverage. cial priority for some small Still, an owner uneasy in business owners right now. this economy might decide to “They’re facing all these play the odds and either canchallenges today: rents are cel a policy or cut it back too AP Business Writer


far. Or, make a mistake out of ignorance, by buying insurance to cover damage from forces such as wind, rain, hail and fire, and not checking to see what isn’t covered. For example, damage from flooding or earthquakes isn’t covered in such policies. That coverage has to be purchased separately. Some owners might also decide against business interruption insurance, which is available in what’s known as a business owner’s policy, or BOP, which also includes property coverage. Business interruption insurance makes the coverage more expensive, but it can mean a company’s survival when it can’t operate because of a disaster; this type of policy covers a company’s expenses and lost profits. Many workers who have been downsized over the last year have decided to start businesses out of their homes,

and many are likely to be underinsured because they mistakenly assume their homeowners coverage will protect them. The same can apply in the case of a vehicle used for both business and personal purposes. Worters said some homeowners or standard auto policies may include a small amount of business coverage. For example, she said, someone who does free-lance writing at home might not need an additional policy. But the important thing is to check. And, Worters said, the additional coverage may come in the relatively inexpensive form of an endorsement to your homeowners’ policy. Owners of businesses in certain industries should also be aware of policies tailored to their line of work — for example, restaurant owners might want to take out policies to cover food spoilage.


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Staying focused, finding good help Those two key points helped fuel Mark Holt’s success at Vi-COR By LAURA ANDREWS MASON CITY — People thought Mark Holt was crazy when he gave up his job at Chris Hansen Laboratories in Milwaukee to buy out his family’s Mason City business in December 1998. “Unwittingly, the job at Chris Hansen was grooming me to do what I do today,” Holt said. “With the solid foundation, I knew I could do what I was about to do.” What Holt did was purchase his family’s drying business from a trust and turn it into Varied Industries Corp., or Vi-COR, a multi-milliondollar business. “I sold everything I had, including my airplane, and mortgaged and leveraged myself with the bank and reinvested our profits into new equipment and just kept reinvesting,” he said. Now the biotechnology business manufactures all natural ingredients for the livestock industry, including equine and pets. The products provide a natural solution to animal health, performance and nutrition, according to company information. Holt said when he purchased the business it had eight employees and did 85 percent of its business with three customers in Asia. Today it


File photo

As I look at my adult career the most humbling thing I’ve ever done is build a team of people that move this company forward.“

employs more than 40 people and has hundreds of customers in more than 30 countries. Some goals include refining its products so it can do more business in Europe. Determination and other factors such as staying focused have led to his success, Holt said. “Don’t jump from one opportunity to another,” he said. “Until you can be good at one thing you’ll only be marginally good at several things. Diversify out of strength and not out of desperation.” For example, Vi-COR has found strength in its primary yeast line. Since the line became successful it has been refined and helped launched new ideas. “We keep building on one strength after another,” Holt said. However, building up the company has had its

— Vi-COR owner Mark Holt

difficult times. “This is universal and not just me,” Holt said. “The most difficult thing to do to grow your business is to find good-quality people dedicated to the same cause.” He said he has been lucky in finding good manufacturing people and scientists, but until recent years he had problems finding people to go out and represent the company and technology. “As I look at my adult career the most humbling thing I’ve ever done is build a team of people that move this company forward,” Holt said. “When all those people come together it makes it pretty humbling to realize it’s not the Mark Holt show any more ... “Now I’ve got a whole team of people working toward the same goal.”




Help! How can I get paid on time? By BRUCE FREEMAN Scripps Howard News Service Dear Professor Bruce: I am having a difficult time collecting money that is owed to me. I don’t want to lose my customers or annoy them as everyone is going through hard times, but I fear that if I do not get paid I will have to go out of business. The professor writes: Getting paid timely by your customers can be the biggest single difference between success and failure. During tough economic times, small businesses fail by the thousands (an estimated 500,000 small business failed in each of the last several recessions). While those thousands of businesses are different from one another in many ways, the vast majority of them share one common element; they went out of business with someone owing them money. According to Bill Bartmann, CEO of BillionaireU, “It is important to understand that even in the worst of times your customers have some money. The problem isn’t that they don’t have any money, the problem is they don’t have enough money to pay everyone they owe. “If the economic conditions have created an environment where your


customer is unable to pay all of his creditors timely, let it be someone else he does not pay. The solution is to make sure you become a priority for your customer.” HERE ARE SOME TIPS that any business owner can use to prompt their customers to pay timely. 1. Call your custom mer on the day the invoice is due. Don’t wait until the bill is past due. Make the first call the day the bill becomes due. 2. If you are unable to speak to your customer, leave a message identifying yourself and that this call is regarding an invoice that is now due. Repeat this process every single business day until you get the opportunity to speak directly with the person in charge of making the payment decision. 3. When you speak to your customer be “friendly but firm” and ask for full payment. 5. While it is important to be “friendly but firm,” don’t be apologetic in your words or your tone. If you sound apologetic, you weaken your bargaining position. 6. If your customers indicate they are unable to pay the full amount immediately, insist on a partial payment (at least 50 percent right now). 7. Once yo our customer has agreed to pay you (whether the full amount

drive Return on Investment (ROI). Patricia DeAngelis, Bruce Freeman is managing partner of The president of ProLine MadisonWest Agency, has Communications, a marsome good tips: keting 1. Define Your Objecand tives. public When creating a campaign, you must be clear relations about its purpose, objecfirm in tive and goals. The goals Livwill help determine the ingston, most effective deliverable. N.J., and Do not over-saturate the author of “Birthing the campaign with too much Elephant” (Ten Speed content. A streamlined Press). E-mail questions message will generate to Bruce@SmallBusiinterest and allow you to spoon-feed information in digestible nuggets. 2. Know Your Aud dience. or a partial payment), Don't make assumppolitely insist on the tions about who your cuspayment being sent by tomer is now based on Fed-Ex with you diswho they were in the past. counting the cost of the Times change, so do peocourier service from the ple and their priorities, so select targeted channels invoice amount. accordingly. Marketers For further informahave more communication, please visit tion mediums available to them than ever before, so ••• make sure the channels Dear Professor Bruce: employed reach the target I am responsible for the audience in a manner that marketing communicawill appeal to them. tions at a small company. I 3. Refine Your Message have tried different types Architecture. of marketing and nothing Too many Web sites are delivered the results I had chock-full of information hoped for. In these difficult and clutter. Too much economic times, how can I information is confusing get the most value from my and dilutes a company’s marketing dollars? ability to deliver its mesThe professor writes: sage clearly. Your brand In these tough economic will benefit from your abiltimes it is more important ity to direct the visitors’ than ever for small to mid- experience while educating sized companies to get the them and inspiring them to most out of every market- take action. ing dollar. Cost-efficient 4. Be Brand Consistent. and strategic programs All marketing and commust be deployed in order munications including to garner awareness and Web sites, brochures,

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mailers and other collateral must convey a consistent identity and design. A uniform look and feel will give your brand credibility, leverage your brand’s awareness and not confuse the perspective audience. By following these recommendations, you should be able to maintain a healthy brand in these challenging times. ••• Dear Professor Brucce: As a small business owner on a tight budget, what can I do now to be environmentally friendly without spending a lot of

money this year? The professor writes: To start, review your current processes for waste. If you discard a lot of paper, look at ways to go paperless and research various recycling programs in your area. Many times, you can partner with another business for discounted recycling fees. Also, review how your office uses energy. Remind employees to turn off lights and appliances they are not using. For further information, please visit www.

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InBusiness - March 2009  

Plus ... • Iowa feels effects of recession later but will take longer to recover/Page 3. • Weathering the storm: What can you do? Page 6. •...

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