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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In Defense of Procrastination

I have a confession to make:  I can be a terrible procrastinator.

I don’t procrastinate with some things, like client projects, but I put many things in my life off until the last possible minute (or begin them, put them on hold, restart, etc.) – things such as starting landscaping projects, cleaning my office, doing my taxes, even writing this blog post.

I had a note on my calendar over a week ago that I was supposed to be drafting this blog post. As usual though, I kept finding convenient excuses to do something other than this blog post – I took the kids to the pool, exercised, cleaned the kitchen, folded the laundry, got caught up on some long overdue weeding . . .

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Securities and Your Business: An Overview for Beginners

As an entrepreneur with a great new idea, probably one of the last things you want to hear when you’re raising money is: “Oh, and we also need to make sure you’re compliant with securities laws.” It’s yet another hurdle to clear on your way to bringing your idea to market. You know you’re supposed to care about it, but you may wonder how it really has anything to do with your business. 

Let’s break it down: Does your business use other people’s money? If the answer is yes, then securities laws likely apply. 

What is a “security” anyway? This is actually a complicated question that courts have grappled with over the years.