October 2006

Cover Story

One step ahead

This Kay Kuba knows: You can?t be afraid to reinvent your company if you want to stay profitable and grow.

?You have to change, becathe industry is continuously changing,? says Kuba, president and CEO of Shoreview-based GCI Systems Technology Solutions Inc., a $35 million computer support services company. She?s operated in the information technology business for almost two decades.

?Technology is continuously changing. Competition is changing. Processes are changing. The way you buy is changing. You always have to look at your business and see the writing on the wall and ask, ?Where do I go??

?The marketplace that you?re in today may not be the marketplace for you tomorrow.?

Kuba reinvented her company several times since its inception in 1988.

?There were many sleepless nights,? she says. ?Am I changing in the right direction? What happens to my existing employees? Am I hiring the right people moving forward? As a leader, you have no place to hide.

?There were big-time struggles, but I never gave up and had to keep moving,? she says.

Businesses can?t stay stagnant, she insists. ?Not for one day not at all.? Continue reading →

Letter From the Editor


I got to visit the Wizard of Oz in late August, also known as Dick Schulze, the founder and chairman of Best Buy Co. Inc.

It really is like visiting the Emerald City, in their spectacular corporate campus in Richfield. You give your name to the security guard, then go through a metal detector. You approach the bank of receptionists in the visitors? area and give your name again. Continue reading →

Back Page

Sona Mehring, CaringBridge, on working for a mission vs. for a profit

Sona Mehring was an information technology consultant when she started CaringBridge in Eagan, a service that allows users to easily and for free build a Web page to communicate with friends and families during a health crisis. More than 270 million visitors later, she reflects on the two different worlds. Continue reading →


St Cloud: At your service

Pegg Gustafson says it happens all the time: People are surprised at how large and diverse the St. Cloud business community is.

?We?re often thought of, still, as a small town,? says Gustafson, executive director of the St. Cloud Downtown Council, a not-for-profit organization that seeks to drive the economic and aesthetic vitality downtown.

The city may not be viewed as small much longer, considering the population growth. In 2000, St. Cloud Metropolitan Statistical Area?s (MSA) population was 167,392. The projected population for 2010 is 193,490. Continue reading →

St. Cloud: Future tense

Over the years the St. Cloud area was known for being a leader in the granite, printing and agriculture industries.

It was the No. 2 producer of granite in the world, which in turn gave the city and region?located just over an hour northwest of the Twin Cities in Stearns County?the nickname Granite Country.

While the past has shaped the region?s history and economic vitality, the future of the community appears to be based around the development and success of the technology, biosciences and manufacturing industries. Continue reading →

Business communications: Classic tactics

Upsize turned to several local communications experts and owners to learn how best to communicate business messages, inside and outside the company. Here are their top 10. Continue reading →

Upsize primer: Latest wave

We all know about Hollywood ?It? actors ? those young up-and-comers who preen on the covers of fashion magazines and caa lot of buzz.

The business community gets excited in a similar manner about leading-edge communication technologies. Today?s ?It? roster includes podcasts, wikis and Web logs, also known as blogs. Five years ago, webcasts and videoconferences were on that short list, proving how wave-of-the-future technology can quickly become commonplace.

Companies that podcasts, wikis and blogs are regarded as savvy. But beyond the hip factor, advocates say those tools also serve a need and fulfill a practical purpose. Continue reading →

Business Builders

Customer service

Almost everyone has experienced bad customer service: A rude flight attendant, an impatient waiter or the automated voice that too frequently says, ?I?m sorry, I didn?t understand you.?

For a business, one negative experience can shape the long-term perception for the consumer and is often retold among friends, family and colleagues. As a consumer, having a good customer experience shouldn?t be as likely as winning the lottery ? it should be expected and routinely delivered. Continue reading →

How to build a ‘skills bank’ to tap employee knowledge

As the United States continues its shift to a knowledge economy, a work force with specialized knowledge, skills and abilities is one of the standards for measuring our country?s economic health and wealth. But how does this translate to your own organization?

Organizations that have the ability to learn faster than their competitors and apply what they learn will have a competitive advantage. Developing employees, through integrated training programs, provides an organization with an adaptable workforce. Continue reading →


Have you ever faced an 800-pound elephant? No?

What about that awkward conversation with one of your board members when you had to sidestep the ?real issue? due to political infighting among your board members?

Or perhaps it was that think-on-your-feet response to an employee?s question about potential layoffs that you aren?t quite ready to announce. Recognize the elephants now? Continue reading →


For all the information out there on the C-level officers of a company, I have read nothing about what may be the most important C of all, the CBFO or Chief Brute Force Officer.

True, it may be a title that I dreamed up myself, but the role of CBFO is needed in every company regardless of size, industry, profit status or location. And if you think your CEO or CFO can stand in for the CBFO, forget it. Continue reading →



A trip to China made the difference to Frank Abange?s business, Fabelos Imports at Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis.

The trip in March was the required capstone to his degree, a global-focused MBA that is offered at Saint Mary?s University in the Twin Cities. His is the first graduating class. Continue reading →

Venture capital

The founder of the Milestone Growth Fund, Esperanza Guerrero-Anderson, ended up staying several months longer than planned. Scheduled to be done in June, she stayed through September and worked with the board on a five-year plan. Continue reading →


A glamorous payoff rewarded months of work for Roepke Public Relations in Minneapolis. They got one of their clients, airforce Nutrisoda, made by Ardea Beverage Co. in Hopkins, selected as the official beverage of a Showtime pre-Emmy event, and they didn?t have to pay a fee. Continue reading →

Real estate

A new lease for AllRegs in Eagan, publisher of mortgage reference information and forms, includes less space than it would otherwise need because people are double-booked into some of the cubicles. Continue reading →


Each month since May the members of TC Angels have meet to screen companies that want money.

?We reviewed 10 companies the first month, eight companies the next month. Then we narrow them down to at most two. The CEO comes in and speaks to us,? says John Alexander. He?s chairman of the new Twin Cities Angels, a group of angel investors with 30 members. Continue reading →

2-minute meeting

Too many entrepreneurs practice ?heart-attack marketing,? which is marketing generated by a cash flow crisis.

When the phone stops ringing, they frantically start marketing efforts, only to stop them again when sales pick up. Thus the revenue line soars up and plummets down. ?It looks like an erratic EKG,? said Jean Peterson, president of Starmaker Marketing. Continue reading →