Editor’s Note-Hall of Famers (2)
You will be introduced in this issue to this year’s inductees into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame, five of Minnesota’s most accomplished business leaders of all time.
Although each has achieved success in a distinctive way, Ray Barton, Don Helgeson, Don Kotula, William Marvin, and M. A. Mortenson, Jr., have all led at least one competitively superior business organization while making substantial contributions to their communities outside of business. They join a group of 41 outstanding Hall of Fame members inducted since 1999, when my predecessor, Tom Mason, initiated the Hall of Fame and choose of its first class of five inductees.
One member of that group, Earl B. Olson, died last December in his home in Willmar at age 91. He was the founder of Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc., the world’s largest grower and processor of turkeys and an innovative developer of turkey products, including turkey bologna and turkey ham. I first met him in 1974, the year I married his daughter. For the next 32 years, he was a friend, an occasional advisor, and an example of how to live a life of achievement and service.
His achievements have been thoroughly reported. After several years of growing ever-larger flocks of turkeys, he became a processor in 1949, when Minnesota held a less-than-significant role in the turkey industry. By the time he sold his company to Hormel in 1986, it had developed hundreds of new products—turkey rolls, loaves, hot dogs, pastrami—and entered dozens of non-U.S. markets. After the sale, he joined the Hormel board, remained Jennie-O’s chairman, and went to his office nearly every day. On his 90th birthday, he danced at the party and took pride in describing Jennie-O as a company with more than $1 billion in revenues, 7,000 employees, and 1,300 products.
He shared several traits with other successful entrepreneurs, especially an ability to discern opportunities unnoticed by others—in his case, opportunities to sell turkey parts and processed meats, not just whole birds. He focused on long-term goals and long-term business relationships; he eschewed transactions that would cause another party to hesitate to do business with him again. Faced with a dilemma, he would focus on it for days at a time, approaching it from one angle after another.
He could be impatient, however. On a Thanksgiving vacation, Tom Mason and I planned to golf with my son Nicholas, who was not quite 10 years old. Mason suggested that Nicholas drive the cart. “I don’t know,” I said. “You’ve never done that, have you, Nick?” “No,” he answered, “but I’ve driven Grandpa’s Cadillac.”
When was that? “Last summer, in New London. We stayed off the busy streets.” It wasn’t long before my wife asked her father if he thought a nine-year-old was mature enough to drive. “I’m getting old,” he answered. “I didn’t know if I could wait for him to turn 16.”
Olson’s philanthropic activities and volunteer work were extensive. Buildings at Concordia College in Moorhead and Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul are named after him; so are a street in Willmar, a YMCA building, and a Moorhead skyway. He received many awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Stiehl Prize for Excellence in Agriculture. His obituary noted that he was a member of the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame.
In alphabetical order, the other 40 are:
Al Annexstad joined Federated Insurance of Owatonna as a sales representative. In the next 17 years, he opened offices in five states and doubled the number of Federated clients in the South. From the time he became CEO in 1999 until his Hall of Fame induction in 2006, he built Federated into a company with $4.5 billion in assets, annual premiums of $1.4 billion, and a surplus of nearly $1.5 billion.
Elmer L. Andersen, newspaper owner, one-time governor, and longtime chairman of H. B. Fuller. Anderson, who died at age 95 in November 2004, was known for setting and achieving ambitious goals at Fuller, although his favorite newspaper task was writing editorials.
Bill Austin, founder of Star-key Laboratories, the largest hearing aid company based in the United States. As CEO, he guided the company’s growth to more than $420 million in revenues and 3,700 employees. His Starkey Hearing Foundation has fitted 100,000 needy children with hearing devices.
Dale Bachman, who in 1992 became a fourth-generation president of his family’s floral and nursery company, expanding its product lines into plant-care products, tools, and home dÃ©cor items. The company employs approximately 1,100 individuals throughout the year and 1,600 in peak seasons.
Earl Bakken, inventor of the modern battery-powered heart pacemaker and cofounder of one of the world’s leading medical technology companies, Medtronic, where he was CEO from 1957 to 1976 and senior chairman until 1989.Jill Blashack, the founder and CEO of Tastefully Simple, a retailer of gourmet foods that grew from $1 million in revenue in 1998 to $110 million at the time of her induction in 2006. In addition to its 320 employees, the company engages 20,000 consultants to sell products at home-tasting companies.
Ralph Burnet, who developed Coldwell Banker Burnet into Minnesota’s number-one residential realty company with more than 3,000 sales associates. He founded Burnet Realty, a predecessor company, in 1973 with a personal investment of $18,000.
James Campbell, a former CEO of Minnesota’s largest bank, which he developed into a leading commercial lender. During his tenure, assets of Minnesota banks within the Norwest/Wells Fargo system grew from $5.9 billion in 48 separately chartered institutions to $52 billion within one institution.
Curt Carlson, widely proclaimed “ultra-entrepreneur” and founder of the Carlson Companies, which include Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Country Inns & Suites, and T.G.I. Friday’s.
Kenneth Dahlberg, heroic and heavily decorated World War II pilot who developed the first all-in-the-ear hearing aid and founded Dahlberg, Inc., which expanded to $100 million in revenue before selling to Bausch & Lomb in 1994.
Mark Davis, who transformed the humble St. Paul Creamery into Davisco Foods International, the largest supplier of cheese to Kraft and the world’s largest producer of whey protein isolates. Davisco produces a million pounds of cheese per day and generates more than $700 million in annual revenues. Another Davis company, Cambria, produces more than $100 million in quartz countertops per year.
Dorothy Dolphin, founder of Dolphin Staffing, a temporary services firm dispensing 20,000 W-2 forms a year. She later became owner of 14 fast-food restaurants and a six-branch bank with more than $200 million in assets.
Ronald Fagen, Granite Falls– based builder of flour mills, meatpacking plants, power plants, corn- and soybean-processing facilities, and more than half of the nation’s ethanol production plants. At the time Fagen was inducted in 2005, his Fagen, Inc., had grown to $500 million in annual revenues and employed 1,400.
Tom Gegax, cofounder of Tires Plus, which improved the experience of tire buying with professional assistance and waiting-room amenities. When the company was sold in 2000, it had become a 1,600-employee, nine-state, 150-store chain with $200 million in annual sales.
Edgar Hetteen, the “grandfather of snowmobiling” and founder of the companies that became Polaris and Arctic Cat, and all-season vehicle-maker ASV.
Ebba Hoffman, who in 1955 was a newly widowed homemaker with two small children, an eighth-grade education, and a debt-hobbled company. At the time of her death in 2000, she had expanded it into a 2,000-employee, $300 million office-products powerhouse.
Stanley Hubbard, known for transforming supposedly “unworkable” ideas into successful enterprises, the biggest of which has been United States Satellite Broadcasting, which launched its first satellite in 1983, when few homes had satellite dishes. Equally innovative was CONUS Communications, which allowed local U.S. stations to gather news reports throughout the world.
Irwin Jacobs, who built Genmar into the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational watercraft, with $1.1 billion in sales and 5,000 employees, but is best known as an investor in underperforming public companies who awakened management groups to their obligation to deliver value to shareholders.
Robert Kierlin, Minnesota state senator and cofounder of Fastenal, Inc., in a tiny Winona storefront in 1967. He built it into a 7,000-employee company operating 1,600 stores, 12 distribution centers, and a 3,500-vehicle fleet of trucks.
Harvey Mackay, author of six business books, including Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. He turned a tiny company into the Mackay Envelope Corporation, a 500-employee, $100 million business, and exercised community leadership that helped keep the Twins in Minnesota.
Whitney MacMillan, who in 18 years as CEO of Cargill, the world’s largest privately held company, led it to a threefold increase in employees and a fivefold increase in earnings.
Richard “Pinky” McNamara, who made a 36-year career of buying and resurrecting bankrupt or foreclosed-upon businesses, and who became the CEO of Activar, a 600-employee, $100 million holding company. At one point, he owned and directed 25 companies at the same time.Ken Melrose, who became CEO of the Toro Company in 1983 amid doubts that it could survive, refashioning its product portfolio and helping achieve a 25-fold increase in its stock price in the next 22 years.
John Mooty, partner for more than 50 years at the law firm now known as Gray Plant Mooty and 24-year chairman of International Dairy Queen, which he and partners rescued and refocused in 1970, after performing a similar turnaround at National Car Rental.
Mahendra Nath, who arrived in the U.S. with $800 and an engineering degree and became an employer of 3,500 people at 130 fast-food restaurants, two hotels, and nine commercial and residential properties.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson, a longtime businesswoman and community activist who became CEO of the $7 billion Carlson Companies in 1998 and promptly implemented plans to expand. As the company’s vice chair in 1994, she arranged a merger of Carlson Travel and Wagonlit Travel, expanding the company’s reach to 140 countries.
Ron Offutt, one of the world’s premier farm operators. At the time of his induction, his operation included more than 200,000 acres of potatoes and other vegetables, a 21,000-cow dairy, three potato processing plants, and RDO Equipment, which was operating a nine-state array of dealerships selling $535 million in John Deere equipment and Volvo and Mack trucks.
Jeno Paulucci, founder of Chun King, Inc., Jeno’s, Inc., and Luigeno’s, the maker of Michelina’s and Yu Sing foods. He later became the second-largest land-owner (after the Walt Disney Company) in Florida.
John Pellegrene, marketing paragon and retailing innovator who transformed Target’s bull’s-eye into an icon of branding, invented the Dayton’s Santabear, created the first computerized bridal registry, and promoted the Target-funded restoration of the Washington Monument.
Carl Pohlad, buyer and builder of soft-drink bottlers, banks, and companies engaged in investment management and broadcasting—and owner of the Twins, which he kept from leaving Minnesota in 1980. The team went on to win two World Series championships.
Gerald Rauenhorst, founder of the Opus Corporation, which in the past 50 years has built more than 2,000 commercial buildings throughout the U.S.—and changed the skylines of the Twin Cities.
Thomas Rosen, who joined his family’s feed, fertilizer, and farm-chemical business in 1972; became CEO in 1991; and expanded its revenues from $550 million in 1998 to $2 billion in 2005. Its beef plants butcher and process 7,000 head of cattle per day; its chemical and fertilizer business spans 17 states.
Alan “Buddy” Ruvelson, who opened the nation’s first Small Business Investment Company and helped build Minnesota’s venture-capital industry.
Richard Schulze, the founder and chairman of Best Buy, the $36 billion, 1,120-store retailer of electronics equipment, appliances, and recorded music and movies. Schulze opened his first store in 1966 and showed a remarkable ability to adapt to changes in consumer demand.
Robert Sparboe, who moved to Litchfield, Minnesota, in 1954 to establish the Sparboe Chick Company with his life savings of $5,500. At the time of his death in November 2005, he had developed a $260 million operation that annually sold 2.4 billion eggs laid by more than 10 million hens.
Glen Taylor, who in 1967 bought a company with 30 employees and now employs more than 14,000, including the members of the Minnesota Timberwolves, which he bought in 1994. Taylor served for more than 10 years in the Minnesota Senate.
Daryl “Sid” Verdoorn, who in 25 years running C.H. Robinson, from 1977 to 2002, transformed it from a $150 million seller of fruits and vegetables to a $3 billion, 3,900-employee, multi-modal international shipping company.
Manny VillafaÃ±a, a “serial entrepreneur” who founded Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc., which developed pacemakers for 2.3 million patients; and St. Jude Medical, whose mechanical heart valve is worn by 1.5 million patients.
Win Wallin, who was chairman and CEO of Medtronic from 1985 to 1991 and continued to serve as chairman until 1996. During his tenure as CEO, Medtronic’s revenues rose from $370 million to $1 billion, and the number of its employees nearly doubled to 8,500.
Wheelock Whitney, former star investment banker, CEO of Dain & Company, candidate for governor, teacher of management at the University of Minnesota, and part-owner of the Vikings.
With your guidance, next year’s inductees will be every bit as impressive. Feel free to e-mail me your nominations any time during the next eight months at jnovak@ tcbmag.com.