Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Post About Nothing?

Anyone who knows me is aware that, like a lot of people my age, I’m a big Seinfeld fan. I find myself routinely referencing episodes of the show when things happen around me. While I certainly never attempted  The Switch or claimed to be a Marine Biologist, I definitely have waited “about 5/10 minutes” for a table at a Chinese Restaurant  and have actually said “anyone can take the reservation” at a rental car counter (and at several other locations) many times. Yes, I have even been to the Soup Nazi on a couple of my trips to NYC (in between musicals, of course)!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

MN Made

A growing body of research is now corroborating something that many of us have already observed: “small-scale, locally owned businesses create communities that are more prosperous, entrepreneurial, connected, and generally better off across a wide range of metrics.”

There is no question that the “shop local” movement is on the rise. More and more entrepreneurs are opening local businesses, and an increasing number of consumers are seeking out local retailers. Eighty-two percent of consumers across all generations report that they have shopped locally in the last year and nearly all of them (98%) will continue or increase shopping locally in the future.

Monday, September 26, 2016

John Meacham, Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship (Random House, 2004).

“The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope.”
—Winston Churchill 

I write these words on the eve of the first debate between the two major party candidates for the American presidency in 2016. This year’s contest has me, like many of you, shaking my head with despair. Yes, I will vote for one of these candidates, but not with any enthusiasm. In that respect, I think I share something with most other Americans, regardless of whom they support. We’re choosing who we perceive to be the lesser evil, or even choosing one candidate simply because that candidate is not the other candidate.

Although this election has plumbed new depths when it comes to the popularity—or lack thereof—of the major party nominees, I have to remind myself that at times in the past the best of our leaders have been neither popular nor even merely likable. Jon Meacham, in his Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, reminds us that neither Franklin Roosevelt nor Winston Churchill was a pillar of virtue, but “together they managed to bring order out of chaos,” which is a skill that is also useful if you are to be a successful entrepreneur.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Snowden: A Hero Or Traitor? Privacy vs. Security

Shortly after watching the new Oliver Stone film Snowden, I heard the news of bombs going off in New York City neighborhoods and an ISIL terrorist attack at a Minnesota shopping mall. Such terrorist attacks can color one’s view as to whether or not Snowden acted as a hero or traitor in his revelations concerning the mass government surveillance by United States government agencies.

In earlier blog posts I have written about privacy concerns vs. security, themes thoroughly explored in Snowden and Citizenfour (the more compelling Academy Award winning 2014 documentary), both of which I highly recommend. You should not, however, reach any conclusion as to whether or not Snowden is an ethical whistleblower or traitor simply based on these two films.

Both films make a strong case in support of a pardon for Snowden. The ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International are behind the campaign to pardon him.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Is Your Entrepreneurial Clock Ticking? And Other Ways the Entrepreneur’s Mind Works…

I started my first business six years ago, after a decade of hobby experimentation and continually increasing requests from the local community. It’s a unique horse treat company, and we continue to sell about 400 dozen per month, with demand currently higher than supply.

I followed that with my next business, the tack shop – St. Croix Saddlery – and started offering new ancillary services, like horse blanket repair, consignment and custom saddle fitting, and now it seems I’m just hooked on this process of generating ideas and putting them into action.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Managing the Risks of Your Relationship with Your Business Partners

Starting a business is an exciting time in your life.  Your days are filled with meeting prospective investors and advisors, and you are eager to go live with your new product or service.  But don’t overlook one of the most important decisions during this time: Who will you go into business with, and how can the risks of that relationship be managed?  
I’m not going to tell you who is or is not a good business partner.  Instead, I’m going to highlight some issues to which you should give special consideration.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Minnesota State Fair Concessionaires: An Easy Fortune?

Every year, I, like approximately 1.8 million others, put on my walking shoes and expandable
waistband shorts to attend the “Great Minnesota Get-Together.” And each year as I indulge in savory snacks, sweet treats, and exactly one vegetable, I hear several fairgoers comment on how they too could make a fortune at the fair if they just “put ________ on a stick” or “baked their famous _________ recipe.” And while someone may have a great idea for a new food item, as any successful State Fair concessionaire knows, running a successful booth requires more than a great idea.