Smart Solutions: Navigating The Economic Landscape

the economic landscape

As the Great Recession slowly recedes, Minnesota businesses are growing by better utilizing talent, implementing best practices, and reinventing how they approach the marketplace

by Fran Howard, Ingrid Case, Julie Kendrick, and Suzy Frisch

August 27, 2012

Eight months into 2012, the U.S. and global economies remain anemic as government leaders and international banking and finance officials continue to fail the masses. While Minnesota business leaders expressed increasing confidence that matters would soon improve during the six months ending March 30, such confidence dropped back to year-earlier levels by the end of June.

Yet the majority of the 365 privately held businesses responding to a Twin Cities Business/Fredrikson & Byron survey in late May indicated they’re still growing their operations, even though economic uncertainty remains what they consider as their greatest challenge.

How are they stimulating this growth? When asked this question, 51 percent of survey respondents said they’re developing new, profitable ways of serving the marketplace; 46 percent indicated this includes partnering more with other organizations. Many are improving operations—by better utilizing and upgrading their information technology systems and processes (42 percent said they’re doing this); implementing Six Sigma practices; better managing and increasingly, paying for quality talent; and replacing B-level performers with new A-level employees. Among survey respondents, 17 percent stated that they’re making better use of talent; 13 percent indicated they’re communicating better with their employees.

What follows are the stories of five Minnesota business leaders who are growing their companies’ revenues and earnings by following one or more of the strategies just mentioned. Three of these individuals also will share more details and answer questions about their approaches during a Smart Solutions breakfast panel discussion on September 25. See below for more details.

June Schelde

A Manufacturer Broadens Its Customer Base

June Schelde, Occupational Development Center

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Don Kotula

Slowing Store Expansion, Changing Products And Sales Channels

Don Kotula, Northern Tool & Equipment

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John Noseworthy

Building A Network To Meet A Flattening Patient Base

John Noseworthy, Mayo Clinic

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Robert Dufresne

Getting Lean, Pulling Together

Robert Dufresne, Dufresne Manufacturing Company

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Ronald Kirscht

Fighting—and Winning—the War On Waste

Ronald Kirscht, Donnelly Custom Manufacturing

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