In the past eight August issues, I have used a portion of this column to ask a favor. I’m doing so again this year: I would like you to help us identify a small company of notable achievement for an annual project that we conduct in conjunction with Associated Bank and Deluxe Corporation.
In December, we’ll feature our annual Small-Business Success Stories, highlighting eight to 10 small companies with achievements worthy of celebration. If you know a compelling story about any Minnesota company with fewer than 500 employees, we would like to learn about it. It can be a client of yours, a company run by a friend, or even your own company.
What makes a compelling story? It could involve a turnaround, rapid early growth, an unusual product innovation, notable longevity, or the overcoming of an unusual challenge. It could involve growth in a declining industry or a dilemma admirably addressed—or any other attribute engendering admiration.
Do put your suggestion in writing—a single-spaced page or two would be about right—and include the annual revenues and number of employees for the company you are nominating. (There wouldn’t be much context without that information, would there?) Send it to me, please, by August 6. In addition to featuring the honorees in the magazine, we will honor them in person at an awards dinner in January. E-mail is fine, as is the U.S. Mail (Jay Novak, Twin Cities Business, 220 South Sixth Street, Suite 500, Minneapolis, MN 55402).
The evening when recipients of the Small-Business Success Stories awards are honored is always one of my favorites of the year. Another is the night when recipients of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards (see page 29) are announced. The stories of the winners are always entertaining and inspiring; they are also reassuring.
They remind us that enterprise is enduring—and that here in Minnesota (and in the Dakotas and in my home state of Wisconsin, the states from which this region’s Entrepreneurs of the Year are chosen), there is no shortage of engagement in activities that build industries and expand economies. They show us that financial acumen is being combined with entrepreneurial vitality in the process of building businesses.
And they demonstrate that despite a weakened economy, global competition, and unhelpful decisions made in Washington, St. Paul, and other state capitals, there are numerous people, many unheralded, who are ardently developing technologically advanced products, creating innovations in service, enriching employees, and dreaming of better lives.
I found this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards event particularly gratifying because Ernst & Young surprised me with a not-applied-for award in the occasionally used category of “Supporter of Entrepreneurship.” It came with a trophy. I’m not sure I deserve it, but I’m keeping it, and I’ll treasure it. I’ll confess, however, that it was not the award I most wanted to receive this summer.
For six of the past nine years, I have been able to report that Twin Cities Business received the first-place “Best Magazine” award during the annual summer conference of the Alliance of Area Business Publications, a national trade association. Receiving the award is tantamount to being named the best regional business magazine in the country.
This year, that award went to a magazine called Florida Trend. My wife accused me of pouting. I wasn’t. I was merely concentrating. You see, when disappointments arise, it helps to try to find a silver lining, which is not always an easy task.
It occurred to me that not receiving the award might make me attractively more humble. Then it occurred to me that it hadn’t, unless humility and irritation are the same attribute.
Maybe, I thought, it would cause us to examine our efforts and do things differently. No again. My associates and I often examine our efforts—not to win accolades from any panel of judges, but to meet our readers’ expectations.
And then it hit me. It had been four months since I announced to my associates my intention to retire from publishing at the end of this summer, and eight months since I had first discussed it with the president of our company. In both instances, I had vowed to stay fully engaged in my job until my departure. Not getting the Best Magazine award showed me that I had succeeded.
Because if I weren’t as emotionally involved with the magazine as ever, I might have kept myself from being a sore loser.