June 2003

Cover Story

Tough love

You walk past the lobby stuffed with plaques, trophies and letters of commendation. You maneuver through the twisting and turning hallways lined with funny pictures of employees and their hobbies and art from little kids. You go past the conference room where people were just playing a form of techie Jeopardy, then a dart board in the hallway, then a living room with leather couches and a full entertainment center, then a little store that also offers full concierge services.

Then it hits you: ?Gee whiz, this place is better than home!?

This place is the modest Minnetonka headquarters of Help/Systems Inc., a manufacturer of automated operations software. The headquarters shows that the company is built on comfort and fun. The awards, along with letters of thanks from customers, show that it is also built on excellence and professionalism. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor


I caught a speech on the radio the other day, by the CEO of The St. Paul Cos. The giant insurance company had turned in a good quarter after several not-so-good ones. Among other reasons, he said, employees were ?thinking like owners.? Continue reading →

Back Page

Rene Rodriguez, Rapid Change Technologies, on the power of the human brain

Create a revolution of change in your company in two days? Rene Rodriguez, CEO of Rapid Change Technologies Inc. in Bloomington, claims it can be done. Using practices developed by his mother, company founder, former nun and social activist Magaly Rodriguez, the company works to transform the attitudes of employees. He says a group can move from hostile to productive in 48 hours.

Rodriguez?s own company is going through painful, but he says necessary, changes. Up to $6 million in revenue at one point, with about 25 employees, he and his mother decided to cut back to the original mission. ?It was getting beyond what the dream was,? Rodriguez says. The company is now just the two of them. Continue reading →


Primer: Meeting planner's guide

show has between 300 and 400 exhibitors, and the average attendee visits only 21 of those booths.

How to ensure your small business is one of the chosen?

With more than 15 years of experience in the trade show industry, Thimmesch has witnessed the best and the worst when it comes to trade shows. He?s director of marketing for Eagan-based Skyline Exhibits, a marketing communications company specializing in the design, manufacture, distribution and service of display and exhibit products. Continue reading →

Mini profile: Rolling along

David Seeley?s start in the moving business was as horrific as the stereotypical moving story?the very image that Seeley?s Local Motion today strives to defy.

It was 1992 and he was 26, newly laid off from his job in the shipping department at ADC Telecommunications, and reluctantly going to business school at the University of Minnesota. To top it off his band broke up ? ?becawe were really, really bad,? says Seeley.

He took the layoff in stride, and still worked hard in school, but the band?s demise made him owner of the truck used to haul its equipment. The vehicle was ?old and dilapidated ? a truck that no one else would want.? Continue reading →

Q&A: Meeting planner's guide

Business owners are often tapped to speak in front of groups, whether employees or potential investors or industry peers. Joan Wood Moser, president and CEO of Spoken Impact in St. Louis Park, urges anyone who?s tapped as a presenter to make an impact ? otherwise don?t bother, she says.

Moser, a professional speaker, has added three employees since starting her company in 2001. Heed her advice before you head to the podium next time. Continue reading →

Meeting planner's guide: Attention, please

Businesses have few constants: Employees come and go. Profits rise and fall. Ownership changes hands.

Meetings, however, are here to stay. But unlike visits to the dentist, paying your taxes, and other inescapable things in life, meetings and other corporate-related events don?t have to be painful. And a business owner or manager doesn?t have to have the creativity of a Martha Stewart or the deep pockets of a Bill Gates to add an unusual twist that livens up the atmosphere and makes the event more memorable, say event planners and presentation experts. Continue reading →

Business Builders

Public relations

Stories compel. They endure. They stick to the soul. They sell. But in many business settings, the good ones languish untold. And with all the bad news in the headlines (Enron, WorldCom, Qwest) there?s probably never been a time when we?ve been in more need of a few good corporate stories.
Continue reading →


Patrick?s French Bakery owner Patrick Bernet needed a classically trained French pastry chef to help run his Minneapolis business. He was acting as pastry chef himself while also running every other part of the business ? and working 20 hours a day. Continue reading →


When people consider their bank, they might think about either a source for money or a place to deposit it. Many times, however, the business customer is in need of much more.

A good banking relationship should provide you with other resources. Business owners have needs for both a good accountant and lawyer, assistance making the decision to start or expand, maybe even some help locating space to lease or buy. Where is a person to offer this kind of help? Continue reading →

Creating an e-commerce site

Back in 1999, it seemed that every company was in a rush to get products and services on the Internet to make millions of e-commerce dollars. Continue reading →

Choosing the right
retirement plan for your business

Next to health insurance, a retirement plan is one of the most attractive benefits employers can offer today.

Uncertainty about the future of Social Security and the desire to build a nest egg whose management they control has strong appeal to many job-hunters. All other things being equal, a job candidate likely will choose the company that offers a retirement plan. Continue reading →



Manny Gonzalez had a successful sandwich operation in the Mercado Central Cooperative in Minneapolis for two years. But his expanding catering business demanded a bigger kitchen, and the Mercado closed early. Continue reading →


Rick Wall, CEO of Highland Bank in St. Paul, and his two siblings now own a percentage of the bank?s shares. That?s after his parents, Fred and Alice Wall, transferred ownership as the first step in what will be a years-long process. Continue reading →

CFG Insurance founder sells to Associated Bank, which will fund expansion

?It?s an entrepreneur?s dream, to replicate ourselves with somebody else?s money,? says Joel Spry, a broker with CFG Insurance Services Inc. in Minnetonka. The 120-person company was just sold to Associated Bank, the Minnesota headquarters of which is in Mendota Heights. Continue reading →

Real Estate

Choosing locations for expansion is not an exact science, says Steve Wagenheim, CEO of Granite City Food & Brewery of St. Louis Park. But his methods can tutor other business owners looking to branch out. Continue reading →


On April 1, Caf? Lurcat was packed with people enjoying brightly colored drinks in martini glasses and free food as guests of Cynthia Barber and her eight-month-old business lead company, Minneapolis-based Game Plan Consulting. The swanky invitation-only event came together with minimal financial input from Game Plan, which utilizes Barber?s background as a private investigator to help companies dig up business leads. Continue reading →


Retailers along 50th Street in southwest Minneapolis have joined to fight a proposed parking ban. The city wants to ban parking on one side of the street from France to Lyndale avenues, a couple-mile stretch that?s home to Patina, Caribou Coffee, and many more small shops. Continue reading →

Dear Informer

When bad news happens, it’s best to drop all shoes at once By Beth Ewen  DEAR INFORMER: I’m the president of a $3-million service company. The founders are in a court battle that is getting media attention, but is unrelated to the company’s operations. How can I keep the company out of this? DEAR BAD […] Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

An interesting assortment of media and financial types met on a gorgeous Friday in April, as they do each month, to catch up and hear about one company?s story. The group was started by local entrepreneur Bruce Hendry more than 20 years ago.
Continue reading →