June 2005

Cover Story

Strength in numbers

There was a buzz among customers at Brewberry's Coffee Co. last summer, though not the usual kind that comes from drinking caffeine.

They were all chattering about the ongoing renovation of the building across the street, in full view from the windows where they would sit sipping their mugs of joe. What concerned them wasn't the construction progress so much, but the expected end product: A Caribou Coffee, slated to open that fall, which would brew up some direct competition for their beloved neighborhood coffee shop for the first time in its 11-year history. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor


To-do Here’s a good way to evaluate the progress of your company: see which how-to articles in this annual special edition make it onto your to-do list. For the fourth year, we’ve included articles contributed by local experts on a wide variety of topics.  Last year you may have learned how to export products, or […] Continue reading →


Step by step

The act of raising your children, some suggest, is also the act of raising your grandchildren, becayour core values and habits live on in the following generations.

Such seems to be the case with the Bonfe family, whose business, Bonfe's Auto Service and Body Repair, is still growing in its third generation and 54th year. The key growth word is gradually, because the family believes in expanding only when you can handle it. Continue reading →

Changing her tune

Sometimes life throws you some curves, and you're forced to figure out the next step in your career. That's what happened to radio broadcaster Ruth Koscielak in the late 1990s.

After 17 years at WCCO Radio, where she was the first woman in the station's seven-decade history to host her own daily talk show, Koscielak was fired.

"It was a huge, huge shock. I didn't see it coming," she says. "I certainly saw people by the wayside get fired or have things end horribly, and that was always kind of there that that could happen. But I don't think you're ever really prepared when it happens." Continue reading →

Guitar guru

Willie's American Guitars in St. Paul specializes in selling rare, vintage guitars - many right out of the golden age of rock and roll. It's not a typical retail store, and neither is its customer base.

"I sold Lyle Lovett his first electric guitar two years ago," says Willie's owner Nate Westgor, adding that Lovett had always played acoustic guitars on stage. "He came in and spent the day in the shop and bought an old vintage Strat for $7,000." Continue reading →

Business Builders


Your image is a first impression that, if pleasing, leads to a second, a third and ideally a lifetime of positive experiences. Whether we?re talking about ourselves as human beings or as company leaders, the same principle applies. Continue reading →


Is your company losing its sales momentum or facing increased competition? Is it not gaining the market penetration it projected? Are you having trouble getting in the door with prospects? Continue reading →

Data security

While small and medium-sized businesses spend considerable time and energy securing their computer systems, several offline security measures are just as essential to ensure customer, inventory and employee data safety. Continue reading →

Should you give stock to employees, and if so, how?

Donlar Corp., a design/build construction manager and general contractor based in Roseville and St. Cloud, has a multitude of owners. Seven years ago, the company instituted an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, giving its 20 employees stakes in the company. Continue reading →

Emerging companies

Your startup is about to take off. You?re poised on the threshold of growth, but questioning how to make sure your expansion is smart and sustainable.

As you look to investors, and they look at you, there are fundamental issues you must consider in order to achieve success. You have to be aware that potential investors will be keenly interested in these four issues: your product definition and technology position, leadership team, market knowledge and capital needs. Continue reading →

Seven ways to protect assets with planning

When planning your estate, your primary objective is usually to pass on as much wealth to your heirs as possible. And if you?re like most people, you want to reduce or eliminate estate taxes as well. Continue reading →


According to Paul Simon, there are 50 ways to leave your lover. Not being as creative as Mr. Simon, I?ve come up with eight ways for owners to leave their companies. Continue reading →

Family business

Many family-run businesses ignore a big challenge: When it's time to pass the company down to the next generation, are all the legal bases covered? What are the biggest drivers in securing a smooth transition? Continue reading →


We all yearn for the days when a handshake meant more than a 30-page contract. Raising capital without contracts, offering documents, attorneys and accountants took less time, effort and money. Continue reading →


Having a company populated with bright, enthusiastic, talented, hard-working, ethical employees would be nirvana for any business owner. For the small-business owner especially, the right people can absolutely make or break your company.
Continue reading →

Human resources

Firing someone is never easy, but watching that employee sue for wrongful termination can be much worse.

Minnesota employers are somewhat less likely to suffer these types of claims because of the state?s at-will presumption, but it never hurts to cover all bases. Here are a few suggestions that can help to keep you out of court when letting someone go. Continue reading →

Intellectual property

The fortunes of yesterday were built on tangible assets ? rail cars, real estate and widgets. The fortunes of today are built on the intangible ? intellectual property such as patents, trade secrets and branding protected by trademarks. Continue reading →


Many businesses are concerned when their marketing efforts don?t appear to have an immediate impact.

You might overhear a business owner complaining, ?I just spent $5,000 on an ad campaign this weekend and I only had 10 people walk in the door! Did I just waste $5,000?? Good question. Did you? Continue reading →

Online marketing

Google AdWords and Yahoo Advertising are the current darlings of Internet advertising and with good reason: They are almost instantaneous; they get the message in front of prospects at the time the prospect is looking for the product or service; and their effectiveness can be tracked! Continue reading →

Product launches

Someone told us recently that at many companies, ?Products don?t get launched, they escape.? If that statement strikes you as more true than funny, let us introduce you to the five D?s of effective product launches: Discover, Define, Design, Develop and Deliver. Continue reading →

How to structure your firm’s sale for best tax scenario

When the kids show no interest in joining the family business or entrepreneurs decide it is time to move on, it may be time to sell your closely held business. Continue reading →


Erin, my 17-year-old niece, recently shared a story about instant-messaging her friends when her cell phone rang. ?Sorry,? she said, ?It?s Mom. I have to get this.? After saying, ?Yes Mooooothher, as soon as I get home,? she quickly hung up. Continue reading →

A partial exit might be best for some owners

With the continued strong equity and lending market for privately held businesses, many owners are undertaking partial exit transactions.

They?re creating partial liquidity, and taking advantage of the current window of opportunity. Why to do one and what to watch out for? Read on. Continue reading →

How to attract investors: make a bigger pie

When it comes to financing growing companies it?s clich? to ask, ?Would you rather have a big piece of a small pie or a small piece of a big pie?? But it?s a question all entrepreneurs must answer before taking on investors. Continue reading →

Don’t think you need an estate plan? Think again

You've been accumulating assets and saving since entering the work force and starting your business. The question is, do you have a plan in place for these assets after your death? If you're like most people, you don't think you need an estate plan. Do any of these reasons sound familiar? Continue reading →

Web sites

Like the business card or brochure of the past, Web sites can offer credibility and viability to a business. In fact, a 21st-century business can hardly be considered proficient without one. Continue reading →