March 2003

Cover Story

QuickMedx preps to take clinic concept national

Linda Hall Whitman doesn?t think you should have to wait to find out if your child has strep.

Whitman is CEO of QuickMedX, a Minneapolis- based provider of walkin treatment of common family illnesses including strep throat, allergies, flu and sinus infections. The 120-square-foot clinics are located in Cub Foods around the metro area and are open evenings and weekends, in addition to normal business hours.

It seems like a simple enough idea, but QuickMedX is breaking the health care mold by doing it. ?The founders literally were tired of sitting in urgent care with their kids,? says Whitman. Although the four company founders have since stepped aside from active participation in the company, the idea of being an ain things at their own expense,? founder Rick Krieger remembers thinking when his son was showing signs of strep. The disease had been going around his son?s school and the school had asked for proof that Krieger?s son wasn?t carrying the illness. But becahis son had symptoms of a viral infection that was not strep, the urgent care personnel refused to perform a strep test, even though Krieger offered to pay for it out of his own pocket.

In an overloaded health-care system, urgent care facilities have become mini-emergency rooms. They are no longer quick alternatives to making an appointment with a family doctor, but instead are where many people go when they are too sick to wait a week to get an appointment with their own physician. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor

Turned on

?I don?t want to be rich and brain dead. I want to be poor and turned on.?
So responds Jason McLean, the subject of our Back Page interview this month, when asked whether he believes money or ideas is more important in business. It?s my favorite line in this issue because it puts perfectly the leading motivator for so many business owners. Continue reading →

Back Page

Back page

You can call it a resurrection or a comeback, the fact that Jason McLean has opened the Kitty Cat Klub in the Dinkytown neighborhood by the University of Minnesota. The colorful McLean presided over The Loring Bar & Caf? for 16 years in Loring Park, including its spectacular closing last summer. That was after McLean lost his lease, picketers marched against the big bad landlord (never mind that McLean had missed more than a couple of payments) and 12,000 signators protested his ouster in favor of Richard D?Amico?s swank new Bar and Caf? Lurcat.

But McLean simply calls the Kitty Cat Klub his new home, overstuffed with sculpture, art, a beautifully carved wooden bar, and it seems a couple thousand more objects to recreate a romantic community gathering place. (No, it?s not a strip club, despite the name, the credit for which goes to McLean?s seven-year-old daughter, Olive.) McLean?s mission as a restaurateur is not to just serve good food and beverages, but to get a diverse group of people together and stir the pot. He talks about what he lost, and what he?s re-creating. Continue reading →


Family matters

The kids who dissed the family business in favor of dot-com glory are now flocking back, says Glenn Ayres, an attorney and family business expert at Fredrikson & Byron of Minneapolis. He was recently named president of the Family Firm Institute in Boston and teaches at the University of St. Thomas. That causes special problems for parents and siblings, as well as for non-family employees. Ayres recommends a lot of conversation, the creation of an outside board of directors, and the development of a meritbased culture. Here?s how. Continue reading →

How online learning can benefit its employees

Mike Ellsworth of Stratvantage Consulting in St. Louis Park says there is not a company in the Twin Cities that hasn?t considered or isn?t using online learning as a method of training employees. Susan Foster, owner of Minneapolis-based Brainy Training, agrees.
?It?s not a question of who is using online learning,? says Foster. ?It?s a question of what these companies are using online learning for.?

While traditional brick-and-mortar training methods, such as seminars, inhoclassroom training, and evening courses at local colleges and universities are still useful and popular, more companies are exploring how online learning can benefit its employees. Continue reading →

Looking ahead keeps Solutran growing amid large competitors

Looking ahead keeps Solutran growing amid large competitors
For Plymouth-based Solutran Customized Payment Solutions, fast growth came becaexecutives had a plan, anticipated a change in the industry and made sure employees worked to the best of their abilities.

While the provider of treasury management systems had always seen steady growth, filling a specific need for customers with a high volume of low-value transactions, the real boost came when the company prepared itself to jump on the electronic revolution. It was a move it had anticipated and worked for and one many competitors made too late. The result is that Solutran is now one of the country?s leading providers of treasury management systems.

?We saw huge opportunities in a lot of different areas, especially electronically, and we made sure we took advantage of them,? says Joe Keller, 38, president and CEO. ?That?s something we do every day. It?s what?s helped us get where we are today and that strategy helps us to keep growing.? Continue reading →

Entrepreneurial centers offer lessons

When Patrick Caruso started St. Paul-based Premier Fence Inc. in the early 1990s, he didn?t have a business plan. Or a marketing plan. Or a background in sales, accounting, human resources or management. What he did have was a willingness to work hard and on-the-job experience installing fences. At that time, that was all Caruso needed.

But as his business expanded, so did his role. He is now responsible for five full-time employees, five salespeople and six two-person crews. In fact, most of what he does now has nothing to do with installing fences, but everything to do with running the day-to-day operations of a growing business. Continue reading →

Law: Bread & butter

The law sector is a small world, after all ? a small-business world. Large corporations may move and shake the industry with high-profile lawsuits and big-money contract negotiations, but small businesses make the world go ?round with their consistent and ever-evolving legal needs, say local business lawyers.

Michael Nixt, an attorney at Minneapolis- based Moss & Barnett, calls them the ?bread-and-butter? clients. His firm isn?t the only one tapping into that market. Several prominent Minnesota law firms boast special units specifically designed to cover the wide range of advice and services small businesses require. And in the current bear market, with the tide of mergers and acquisitions receding in the Twin Cities, small-business clients provide law firms a steady diet of work. Continue reading →

Business Builders

The (Anti)-strategy

I ADMIT IT. After more than a decade of starting companies and advising startups, I?ve become so curmudgeonly about the word ?strategy? that I cringe when I hear it. Why? Because I believe that most companies? quest for pre-launch strategy enlightenment delays or even destroys the chances for company success. Continue reading →

Bank workout plan

IF YOU'VE BEEN fortunate, it has probably been some time since you've had to have a formal discussion with your banker regarding your business plan. But if your business has suffered a setback in recent times, you may be in the tenuous position of having to renegotiate or restructure your bank loans. This may constitute a "workout" plan - which by the way means "work your way out of the bank," not "work something out." Continue reading →

Organizational assessment questions

if there's a silver lining to the post-Internet economy, it's the growing realization that business must focus on the fundamentals. Continue reading →

The Exit Strategy

THE "EXIT STRATEGY" should be an integral part of every business plan, and it's never too early to start planning with the end in mind. How you start, manage and grow your business will have a significant impact on the exit options that are available to you, as an owner, when the time comes to move on. Continue reading →

Key to med-tech success often lies in hidden details

IN THE BOOK The Tipping Point, author Malcolm Gladwell observes that the success or failure of a social phenomenon, the momentum behind a cause or issue, or the rise and fall of a business venture often resides in a series of small events that come together to create a catalytic "tip." Continue reading →

Building your brand, from discovery through diligence

IT'S CRITICAL TO KEEP in mind what your company stands for in the minds of your customers, employees and other stakeholders. This is your brand, and every action you take should be consistent with it, and make it stronger. Continue reading →


Padilla’s New Office Space

The floors are heated in the two-story atrium, with floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. The gas fireplace in the lobby, the recesses for treasured art pieces, the white-noise system in the 37,000-square-foot headquarters of Padilla Speer Beardsley ? they all scream ?gorgeous? to visitors and probably ?expensive? to business owners. Continue reading →

Associated hunts for more acquisitions

Small-business owners who like their banking the way it is, take note. At least one aggressive bank acquirer, Associated Bank Minnesota, is looking for more local banks to buy. Continue reading →

Agiliti Cuts Costs

St. Paul-based Agiliti Inc. landed $2 million infinancing in December. The company says this will be its last round of outside funding and that the golden chalice of profitability is ever closer. Continue reading →

Minnesota Entrepreneurs Inc

Minnesota Entrepreneurs Inc. has a new Web site, according to Eric Strauss, the newly elected president of the group that supports local entrepreneurs. The new site is part of a larger rebranding campaign, which includes changing the organization?s nickname from MEI to ME! (yes, that?s an exclamation point.) Continue reading →

Minnesota companies in holding pattern

The age-old business question that business owners use to guide their actions: What?s everybody else doing? Sung Won Sohn answers with a new survey. Continue reading →

Apiary Workspaces

About 18 months ago Andrew Volna got a loan from Northeast Bank and paid $700,000 to become a landlord for the first time, turning the old Horton Manufacturing building in Minneapolis into Apiary Workspaces. Continue reading →

Spin offs

Sandy Myers built a successful promotional products and trade show display company over the last 14 years, called Visual Promotions. In some recent years annual revenue hit $1 million, not bad for a firm with two employees. ?We do anything to help companies get more visual and get exposure,? she says. Continue reading →

Dear Informer

DEAR INFORMER: My company employs about 15 people, many of whom have great potential but little experience. My training budget is nonexistent. How can I develop these people for leadership roles?
DEAR DEVELOPER: When it comes to training and development, many smallbusiness owners are in one of two camps: Training, hmmm, heard of it, OR, how can I afford to send people to fancy seminars and workshops? Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

Who says accountants don?t know how to have a good time? They laughed long and hard at the January meeting of the Institute of Management Accountants.
The line that brought down the house? A turnaround expert was describing the lax internal controls that he found when examining a company?s operations.
?When I started working there the salespeople were calculating their own commissions,? said John Schuerman, the evening?s speaker.
OK, so non-accountants would only nod wryly at that statement, not belly-laugh as did this group of heavy-duty financial gatekeepers. Schuerman nonetheless offered valuable information on what any type of business person can do if a company runs into financial trouble. Continue reading →