Jan
19
Minneapolis

May 2006

Cover Story

Bold breadmaker

Bread-making has been around for centuries, yet Lynn Gordon keeps coming up with innovations for her French Meadow Bakery in south Minneapolis.

Gordon, regarded as a pioneer in the organic food industry, was baking organic and yeast-free breads long before most people even knew anything about natural foods. Now after 21 years in business, French Meadow is the longest-standing certified organic bakery in the country.

Sometimes, being a pioneer brings pain. A legal case, for example, once nearly banned one of her most popular breads ? hemp bread. Most recently, she had a labeling dispute with the Federal Drug Administration, which she estimates will end up costing the business $1 million to $2 million in lost sales and expenses.

?Will I recover? Yes. But I will never forget the pain. The integrity of French Meadow was questioned,? Gordon says.

But over the long haul, Gordon?s innovations are the reason for her company?s existence. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor

Cycles

Stories about people building companies may be inspirational, but what if your business is dying?

That was the message from a reader that brought me up short last month. He had read my column called ?sooty,? which urged business owners to find what they are uniquely good at and outsource the rest, lest they end up frustrated by banging away at the tasks they hate.

What if you?ve invested in expensive equipment, but it?s become outdated and impossible to sell? What if your industry has changed so much, you were left behind? Continue reading →

Back Page

How Pam Krank is recovering from a near-fatal blow to her company

Pam Krank started The Credit Department Inc. in West St. Paul, which manages credit and collections for client companies, in 1993. In 1999 she landed the deal that would make the company: a multimillion-dollar contract that caused her to double space, add debt and attract investors. That contract almost led to the company?s demise.
Continue reading →

Focus

Tech buyer's guide: Why buy?

Why buy? First, answer that question, buyers and sellers agree by Beth Ewen   Upsize: Technology is expensive. What are some general approaches that you as small-business owners take when you think about making those purchases? Sheila Ronning, Sharp UpSwing: I would figure out how many applications we can use it for. The Web sites […] Continue reading →

Upsize Growth Challenge: Midwest EAp Solutions

Since its founding in 1981, St. Cloud-based Midwest EAP Solutions Inc. has been owned by CEO Doug Adamek, who holds a Ph.D. and is a Certified Employee Assistance Professional. The company grew from a single employee in 1983 to 20 employees and $2 million in revenue. Continue reading →

Upsize Growth Challenge: Line Drive Sports

Tom Imdieke enjoys watching customers improve their baseball swings with his coaching. But what he?d really like to see is fewer strikeouts from his batting cage and sports instruction company, Line Drive Sports Corp. Continue reading →

Upsize Growth Challenge: Starting gate

Line Drive Sports, Lino Lakes, wants to expand into new areas of sports training ? adding basketball, weight training and hockey to its foundation of baseball and softball. To do so, President Tom Imdieke knows he?ll need to clean up his finances and take care of debt.

Midwest EAP Solutions, St. Cloud, is an employee assistance program whose founder wants to step back from the business in 2010. Douglas Adamek, CEO, has charged his management team with reaching a major financial goal first: to increase revenue by 20 percent each year for the next five years. Along the way, they want to show him they?re ready to take more responsibility.

Spray Control Systems, Blooming Prairie, makes plastic accessories for trucks and is growing at a fast rate ? so fast that President Craig Kruckeberg feels that he?s losing control. He wants to make smart decisions about adding warehoand office space, purchasing equipment, and possibly making acquisitions. Continue reading →

Upsize Growth Challenge: Spray Control Systems

Craig Kruckeberg unfolds a plain white sheet of paper that he always carries and passes it around the table.

The first line is the sales figure achieved in 2004 at the company founded by his father: Spray Control Systems Inc. in Blooming Prairie. The company makes plastic truck accessories and goes by the nickname ?the Minimizer,? becaits original product was a plastic fender system to minimize spray from big rigs on the highway. Continue reading →

Tech buyer's guide: Shopping list

Dr. Daniel Carlson spent a few years looking into buying an existing dental practice or at least becoming a partner. When no opportunities arose, he started planning to open his own.

Birchwood Dental in Eagan is about eight months old and business is going well. That early success, Carlson says, is largely attributable to a heavy ? and at times scary ? investment in technology when he was starting up the company.

?Take the painful hit,? he says. ?You?re going to spend a lot up front, but in the long run it?s going to pay off.? Continue reading →

Business Builders

Personal finance

Many small-business owners are so busy building their businesses that they neglect their personal financial affairs, missing out on opportunities while overlooking long-term wealth management planning.

Savvy business owners should take the time to address both their professional and personal finances, which can intersect in a variety of ways. Continue reading →

Employee benefits

Joe feels like an idiot.

He moved his pregnant wife and young son across the state for a job that he thought had comparable salary and health-care benefits. He realized, too late, that he had inverted the employer/employee contributions on health care, and now takes home a much smaller paycheck.
Continue reading →

Examine Web site to find stockpile of useful facts

Hidden behind your Web site is an incredible stockpile of useful information. There are bits of data just waiting for your examination that will let you make important decisions about the site. Continue reading →

Informer

Real estate

Many stuck in commuter gridlock might envy Jason Cobb. He lives in a loft right above his ground-floor coffee shop, Java J?s Coffee, on 700 N. Washington Avenue in northeast Minneapolis.

After about five months in business, though, he?s planning to sell the living space and purchase another one a few blocks away. ?It?s a little bit too close to work,? Cobb says. He?d like ?even a two-minute car drive to get that separation.? Continue reading →

Mergers

Attorneys at Lommen Abdo in Minneapolis now sometimes hear ?Funkytown? and ?Car Wash? playing in the halls, now that their firm?s new lawyers represent those songs.

Formerly known as Lommen Nelson, the law firm became Lommen Abdo January 1 after adding the five attorneys who formerly made up Abdo, Abdo, Broady & Satorius. Abdo specialized in entertainment law, especially intellectual property, a practice area that Lommen didn?t have before. Continue reading →

Finance

?All we?re doing is restructuring some old debt,? says Bil MacLeslie, founder of ipHouse in Minneapolis, an Internet Service Provider.

Filing for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, which he did in December 2005, wasn?t his first choice, he says, but he decided it was the best way to renegotiate contracts with large phone and cable companies. Continue reading →

Economic development

Some 35 business services specialists are now working at Workforce Development Centers throughout the state. They are filling new positions created last year at DEED, the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development. Continue reading →

Education

When results were published last June of the first 20-year research study about teaching sign language to hearing infants, Susan Hagel?s business got a boost.

?And then of course there was Meet the Fockers,? she says, the 2004 Robert DeNiro movie in which the baby and grandpa communicate in sign. Continue reading →

Dear Informer

Don’t hide, don’t panic if camera crew shows up DEAR INFORMER:A TV crew showed up at my company, without notice, and I panicked, basically hiding in my office until they left. What should I have done, or better yet, what should I do if it happens again? DEAR HIDING: It could be worse. You could […] Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

Spenser Segal, CEO of ActiFi Inc., can tell one of the most harrowing 9/11 business stories.

His company at the time had a huge contract with Morgan Stanley, the deal that would make the firm, awaiting only a signature. ?It arrived on the 32nd floor of the World Trade Center on September 10, 2001,? Segal told a monthly gathering of Minnesota Entrepreneurs. Continue reading →

Toolkit

Perks for tenants help when things go awry

Who gives out baskets of fruit, tickets to Minnesota Vikings games, and one-week passes to a Ft. Myers, Florida, condominium ? for free? (Santa Claus is a good guess, but he gives presents only one day a year.)

The correct answer for many is your commercial property manager. These days managers aren?t just the people who receive rent and make office repairs; they?re also customer-relationship gurus that understand a well-treated ? even occasionally pampered ? tenant may be less likely to throw up a big fuss when something?s gone awry. Continue reading →