December 2005

Cover Story

Best practices: Upsize Business Builder of the Year

When Brad Cleveland isn?t working on building his company, he can often be found on a bicycle ride. The CEO of Maple Plain-based The Protomold Co. Inc. is an aspiring triathlete, and he?ll often ride 40 to 80 miles at a time.

While his workouts take a while, his work life has been quite a ride the past few years as well. Since joining Protomold, the rapid-injection molding company has grown from $1 million in revenue to $18 million projected this year, and from about 30 employees in 2003 to 100 now.

Protomold makes rapid-injection molding parts for manufacturers and, by industry observer and customer accounts, the firm is changing the industry. By using its proprietary software, the company dramatically cuts the production time ? and thus the cost to the manufacturer ? for making those parts, which allows their customers to get their products to market faster.

Much like Cleveland does when he is out on a ride, the company abides by a simple credo: ?If anything slows us down, it?s not compatible with our business.? Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor


Is 2006 going to be your company''s breakthrough year? Upsize has an offer for you to make it so.

Enter the third annual edition of the Upsize Growth Challenge, presented by Clientek, the Minneapolis technology consulting firm.

How does it work? Business owners tell us about their growth goals. Go to www.upsizemag.com, and click on the Upsize Growth Challenge logo to get a nomination form. Do it today so you don?t miss the deadline: Jan. 10, 2006. Continue reading →



More clients, less work. Sounds like a desirable motto for almost every small-business owner.
It?s also the name of a monthly conference call that Debra Fisher Goldstein likes to take part in. She?s president and owner of GoldFish Communications in Minneapolis.

The ?teleforum? is provided through The Gillen Group, led by President Kathy Gillen and based in Dayton, Minnesota. Gillen has 30 years of experience as a business owner and speaker, with a background in psychology and sales.

The teleforum is offered free for small-business owners and subscribers to the Gillen Group electronic newsletter on the second Wednesday of every month. It's one example of countless resources available to small-business owners. Continue reading →

Best practices: Top tactics

When Upsize set out last spring to find the smartest ways to build a business, we went to the best source: the owners and top managers of growing small companies.

In the pages that follow, we report their 30 best practices in hopes that you can apply their ideas to your own enterprises.

We asked for best practices in six areas crucial to operating a business. Our judges considered the flood of nominees, and chose five finalists in each category based primarily on the impact of the best practice on company performance. Continue reading →

Best practices: Communications & marketing

When it comes to communications and marketing, five finalists show that a little creative thinking can create a big business advantage. To wit:

Connecting with customers in a new way landed Bard Advertising a finalist position.

When a prospective client asked to learn more about the firm?s capabilities, but specifically begged not to see another PowerPoint presentation, the company knew it had to put its best creative foot forward.

The end result was an interactive game in which prospective clients are asked to guess how the company obtained measurable results. Bard won the business, and a new sales tool.

?In all cases of our presentation, people were amazed at the results,? says Barb Stabno, founder. Continue reading →

Best practices: People & workplace

Business often comes down to numbers. What are the top and bottom lines and how do we grow revenue and maximize profit?

The finalists for Best Practices in People & Workplace focus on the people who drive the numbers, but do so with widely varying techniques: from candy to wellness programs, from offices with pets to offices designed like a dugout. Continue reading →

Best practices: Community impact

The five finalists for Best Practices in Community Impact have different definitions of ?community.? For some, their community is their neighborhood for others, it?s halfway around the world.

They share a commitment to making a difference, some purely for philanthropic reasons and some as an integral part of their business plan. Continue reading →

Best practices: Technology & Innovation

Innovation is not the sole province of technology companies, as the finalists for Best Practices in Technology & Innovation prove.

Case in point: French Meadow Bakery, whose founder pioneered the frozen bread category in 1987 and continues to experiment with new products such as bread packed with fiber to promote men?s health.

?I can only create products that have never been done before,? says Lynn Gordon, president. Her statement could serve as a motto for the following group. Continue reading →

Best practices: Customer relations

The No. 1 rule in customer relations is this: Listen to the customer. It may seem obvious, but it?s not always easy to do.

The five finalists in the category of Best Practices in Customer Relations have all taken very different approaches to listening to their customers, but all have achieved a high level of customer service. Continue reading →

Best practices: Finance & Operations

One idea came from reading several management books.

Another was inspired by an owner?s experiences with the drawbacks of the traditional model of doing business.

A third came about as an epiphany while raising money while the markets were painfully slow.

As the finalists in the Best Practices in Finance & Operations category prove, a good idea can hit you almost anywhere. The important thing is to get that idea in the first place, and then work hard to implement it. Continue reading →