October 2003

Cover Story

All or nothing

Ten years ago, Phil Rock went to work for his kid brother. At the time, the Portland-based Card Capture Services was a fledging credit card-processing concern trying to find its legs. Rock?s brother Jeff Jetton (who took the name of the pair?s stepfather) was the boss Rock?s job was to help with promotion. ?I made it extremely clear to him that I didn?t want to be in sales,? says Rock. ?My background is in art and design.?

Rock was trying to promote a contraption called GoFax ? a fax machine you could with a credit card ? at various locations. The trouble was that GoFax wasn?t taking off, and Rock?s brother began exploring the business of selling ATMs (automatic teller machines), not affiliated with any bank. At the time, the machines cost $12,500 and dispensed money in little plastic tubes. Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor


Jim Graves looks at me, his cell phone glued to his ear. ?I?m on hold,? he says, indicating that I should go on with my questions.

We?re sitting at a table in Cosmos, the restaurant in his brand-new hotel, Le Meridien, in downtown Minneapolis. This place is the bomb. They even have real linen towels, rolled up and placed in tiny wooden cubicles, in the bathroom.

I?ve been interviewing him for about seven minutes for this issue?s Back Page article. So far someone has asked for my drink order four times (just water), brought a bread basket, asked for our lunch order (we?re not eating,) and presented with a flourish two folders about Le Meridien, as if they were plates of foie gras.

Meanwhile Graves, the president and CEO of Graves Hospitality, which owns Le Meridien, has taken two phone calls, apologizing all the way. ?Have you heard of John Kerry?? he asks me. Yes, I?ve heard of the Democratic hopeful for president. ?I?m on a steering committee supporting him, and he?s in town earlier than planned.? Continue reading →

Back Page

Jim Graves, Graves Hospitality, on going for luxury in a bare-bones economy

What to do when the travel business falls flat after 9/11? Switch your plans to build the most high-end hotel in the Twin Cities, of course. That?s what Jim Graves of Graves Hospitality did with Le Meridien, the new hotel adjacent to the Block E development in downtown Minneapolis. A St. Cloud entrepreneur whose first business was a chain of modest AmericInns, Graves thinks that a hotel should be a grand public space and the centerpiece of a community.
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Upsize Primer: Banking

Local recipients of Small Business Administration loans own different types of companies, but often have something in common: Their stories and persistence are inspiring.

Consider the example of Barbara Hensley, who lost both her sisters to breast cancer within two years of each other. After working through her grief, she came up with a business plan that combined a nonprofit foundation and for-profit retail store that helps fund breast cancer research.
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Duluth regional focus: Who's who

When visitors wander down the bricked streets of downtown Duluth and look over the blue expanse of Lake Superior, it?s easy to mistake the area for a purely tourist town.

But the Duluth area is proving itself to be an active center for business. In July, Expansion Management Magazine of Cleveland ranked Duluth as the 25th best place in the nation to grow a business. The placement shows just how far the region?s economy has come.
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Q&A: Banking

When the economy first turned sour, some business owners made the right moves and are now growing their companies again. How can owners make the right moves now to prepare for a coming recovery? Bill Klein, president of M&I Bank Minnesota since 2001, and Margrette Newhouse, senior vice president, shared some tips that they?ve gleaned from recent conversations with customers. Continue reading →

Duluth regional focus: Resources available

Bill King has a lot of nice things to say about how the city of Duluth helped his company, Cirrus Design, find a home.
?There?s a couple of people who just ought to be sainted for the work they did,? says King, vice president of business administration for Cirrus. He proceeds to list the city?s mayor and multiple business development professionals on his personal canonization list.

Duluth?s recent business expansion has been aided by a wide variety of community resources, including the city itself. In the 1970s the area?s economy, which had been so dependent on iron ore mining, was suffering. Unemployment hit the high teens and city leaders knew they had to change the area?s economic base.
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Business Builders


We all know the old game of telephone. One person whispers something into the next person?s ear, who passes it on to the next person, who passes it on to the next.

At the end of the line, the last person repeats the message out loud, generating a hearty round of laughter as everyone discovers that what started out as ?I?m having the time of my life,? has morphed into ?I?m having an affair with your wife.?

Pretty funny when the message is nothing but a harmless parlor game. Not so funny when the message is your brand. Unfortunately, if you allow the people producing your communication materials to interpret your brand on their own, your brand message can end up with a similarly distorted meaning by the time it reaches your audience.
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The maxim goes, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." And it is never truer than for small businesses in down times. They focus, they change, they innovate, they hang on. Continue reading →


Mergers & Acquisitions

Asian Foods grew from $40 million in sales in 1998 to $115 million last year, when CEO Frank Hamel sold the private company to giant food distributor Sysco. Hamel, who remains at the helm of the Sysco division, expects Sysco?s resources to fuel much grander expansion.
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It takes a fair amount of time and expense to become a Microsoft certified partner, and then a Microsoft managed partner, designations that are ubiquitous among technology consulting firms. Continue reading →


If you weren?t convinced that the job market is bad, consider College to Career, a new company that charges fees to provide what colleges and high schools have offered for free: career coaching for students. Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

Suzanne McGann, president of Voyageur Information Technology in St. Paul, didn?t worry too much early this year when she decided to invite about 20 women business owners on a guided canoe trip down the St. Croix.

Then the calls started flooding in as guests got their invitations for Ladies Voyageur Day, printed on paper shaped like a canoe. ?It gained momentum,? McGann says. ?I thought, ?Oh my gosh, I think I just did something interesting here.? ? Continue reading →

Dear Informer

Benefits for one, benefits for all is rule to live by by Beth Ewen DEAR INFORMER: I have a contract employee to whom I pay no benefits — no vacation or sick leave, no health care, no nothing. I do pay benefits to other employees. The contractor has challenged this, saying it’s not legal. Is she […] Continue reading →


Deposits to a year-old Urban Revitalization Fund are causing major growth at University Bank in St. Paul, says President David Reiling.

The bank?s assets grew 71 percent last year, and 43 percent the year before that. This year Reiling?s forecasting 25 percent growth, from $84 million to $105 million. ?A lot of the growth in deposits will come from this fund,? he says.
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Fizal Kassim was tough to reach on the August 4 opening day of his new state-chartered bank, Maple Bank in Champlin. Continue reading →


Backed by a New York leveraged buyout firm, Inscape Publishing in Minneapolis has established a foothold in Europe with its first acquisition, of Discover AS in Denmark.
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Choosing a commercial real estate brokerages specialist

What to consider when choosing a commercial real estate brokerages specialist If you had an ear infection, would you go to a generalist to seek medical attention? Maybe, says Dan Gleason, vice president of office leasing at United Properties in Bloomington. But most people would prefer to seek professionals with a specific expertise that matches […] Continue reading →