The Year of the Leader

Downtown Sioux Falls (Joe Ahlquist/Argus Leader Media)
Downtown Sioux Falls (Joe Ahlquist/Argus Leader Media)

In business, or as a community, we often measure success in numbers.

Sales.

Profits.

Building activity.

Population growth.

They all are appropriate, measurable indicators.

And based on the current optimism I’m finding, I’ll bet by the end of this year the numbers will look, if not record, certainly solid.

The challenge, I believe, is to grow our next generation of leaders as well as we grow our building and business statistics.

So if I have one hope for 2017, it’s that this will become the year of the leader. Because in many corners of the business community, it’s time for some new blood to start making an impact.

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Seven businesses to watch in 2017

Seven businesses to watch in 2017.
Seven businesses to watch in 2017.

From growing tech companies to longtime businesses evolving, these are names you’ll be seeing again in business news coverage this year.

In our vibrant business community, it’s always hard for me to select just a handful of players I think are positioned to have newsworthy years.

But I am confident these “seven to watch in 2017” will deliver interesting, innovative stories for us. I look forward to telling them.

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Schwan: The power of prayer

The Perpetual Adoration Sisters in Sioux Falls.
The Perpetual Adoration Sisters in Sioux Falls.

Regardless of your faith, or if you profess one, it is worth stopping this holiday season at St. Joseph Cathedral.

Go in the parking lot off Summit Avenue north of Sixth Street, walk in the back door, and go through the door on your right.

Inside, you’ll find the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And facing away from you, kneeling, will be one of the Perpetual Adoration Sisters

You can pray as she does, if you choose, or you can simply sit and watch. I promise you will feel an effect.

I first met sisters with this order of nuns in 2002, when they moved to Sioux Falls from Coscomatepec, Veracruz, Mexico, with the help of Bishop Robert Carlson. I still remember my Spanish cobbled together with their English as we put a news piece together about them.

A lot has changed since then, as I quickly found out when I was invited to their home one morning a few weeks ago.

Sister Angelica greeted me and we met for a while in their front sitting room to talk about how the order has grown in Sioux Falls.

There now are 11 sisters, which means the house where they are living on the cathedral’s campus is feeling pretty crowded. Some sisters are living two or three per cell, Sr. Angelica explained.

“We call them cells, but we have to change the name, because it sounds like a prison,” she said, laughing.

“We need more space. Even though we are a cloistered life, we are trying to do the best we can. But when you are living in a house that is not a monastery, we cannot live out our life as it should be.”

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The leader in the laundry room

Patrick Kiley is retiring after 48 years in the laundry department at Sanford Health.
Patrick Kiley is retiring after 48 years in the laundry department at Sanford Health.

About 3:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, a cab pulls up to a house not far from Lincoln High School.

Pat Kiley is waiting for it.

The cab – the driver’s name is Eldon – will take him to Sanford USD Medical Center, where he will arrive early for a shift that starts at 4:30 a.m.

A co-worker will take him home roughly nine hours later.

In between, Kiley will stand over a pile of bedding, surgery linens and towels and sort laundry.

“We met my first day,” his boss, laundry manager Braco Ivanic, remembers. “The first time you meet him, you will remember him the rest of your life.”

That was about 20 years ago.

And even then, Kiley was a department veteran.

He has worked at this same job since he was a student at Washington High School. He’s never left – never even been tempted to leave – until now.

After more than 48 years in the laundry room, he’s planning to retire.

“They sent me over here,” he told me, as we sat down to talk about his career and I asked how he got the job in the first place. The school had connected him with it, he explained.

He then was quick to fill me in on the (pun intended) laundry list of bosses he’s had over the years.

it reminded me what a significant role leaders play in how employees view (and in this case review) their careers.

“He always likes to talk with the manager and bring new ideas,” Ivanic told me. “A lot of people work five years here or there or change titles, but what’s unique is (for him) it’s one company, one job, all his life.”

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‘Making America great again’ starts at home

A home at the corner of Spring Avenue and 8th Street that was renovated by John Koch Construction Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, Sioux Falls.
A home at the corner of Spring Avenue and 8th Street that was renovated by John Koch Construction Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, Sioux Falls.

Regardless of if you believe we must ‘make American great again’ as the campaign slogan goes, there is no denying that parts of America could stand improvement. We all are works in progress.

And this is a story about one business and one house that show we don’t need to wait for Washington, D.C., to make our own tiny stitch in the fabric of our country.

Elections often are about trying to drive change. I think that was the case this year no matter which presidential candidate you supported.

But real, powerful change doesn’t come from the top down. It comes from the bottom up.

So if you need a reminder that this country has the ability to preserve its history and create something better for tomorrow, I want you to drive through the intersection of Eighth Street and Spring Avenue.

Look on the northwest corner and you’ll see a house built in 1886.

It’s among the oldest in Sioux Falls, and if John Koch hadn’t bought it, the former owner “figured whoever he sold it to was going to knock it over.”

“That’s what drove me to buy it,” he told me.

John Koch Construction is known for tackling these kinds of projects.

I toured one house he restored in the All Saints neighborhood a couple years ago. The physical transformation he creates is extraordinary, but that’s only part of the story.

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This is my brand

Argus Leader Media at 10th Street and Minnesota Avenue.(Photo: Jay Pickthorn/Argus Leader)
Argus Leader Media at 10th Street and Minnesota Avenue.(Photo: Jay Pickthorn/Argus Leader)

Little did I know when Teri Finneman sent me a last-minute request to speak to her journalism class at SDSU via Skype last week what it would end up requiring from me.

She doesn’t know what it took.

Her classroom of students doesn’t know.

But I want you to know.

Because she asked me to speak Tuesday about how to become a strong brand in journalism.

It’s a good reflection for anyone in business. What is your brand? I’m not talking about how you try to market yourself. I’m talking about who you truly are and what you represent. That’s what generally becomes your brand, anyway.

I rarely prepare notes when I speak to groups. I had thought a bit about this topic, but I didn’t know exactly what I would say.

My mind, though, went to Anna Quindlen, the award-winning columnist and novelist who somewhat randomly helped inspire me to go into journalism.

She gave a wonderful commencement speech in 1999 in which she talked about the importance of embracing your true self and not getting drawn into the wide range of expectations the world can place on us.

Because someday, she said, “something bad will have happened. You will have lost someone you loved or failed at something you wanted to succeed at very much.”

“And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself. You will look for that core to sustain you. If you have been perfect all your life and have managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where your core ought to be,” she said.

When we think about our brand, we need to start at our core.

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Five things to know about millennials

BridgeWorks speaker Scott Zimmer speaks during Generations in the Workforce: A hands-on workshop with Bridgeworks presented by the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Oct. 19 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center in Sioux Falls .(Photo: Joe Ahlquist / Argus Leader)
BridgeWorks speaker Scott Zimmer speaks during Generations in the Workforce: A hands-on workshop with Bridgeworks presented by the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Oct. 19 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center in Sioux Falls .(Photo: Joe Ahlquist / Argus Leader)

Part of me can’t believe we’re still talking about this topic.

I’m not sure who first coined the word “millennial” or when it started showing up as a reference to the generation, but I know I have been working with this subject for about a decade now.

That makes sense because, while there’s no definitive date when the generation was birthed, the oldest members of it now are in their mid-30s.

Many businesses, though, are still trying to figure out millennials.

Beyond that, they are trying to navigate how to improve the work environment shared by three — and soon four — generations.

This led the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce this week to bring BridgeWorks, a Minneapolis-based team that consults, researches and speaks about generations, to speak at its annual meeting and conduct a follow-up workshop for businesses.

“The idea is that different generations approach things different ways,” Scott Zimmer, one of the presenters, said when I met with him earlier this week.

“Neither approach is right or wrong. It’s just different. Leaders figure out how to balance it.”

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Clinton, Trump and your brand in business

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I wasn’t able to deliver the photo I was planning to include with this week’s column.

I thought for sure a trip to my home state and presidential battleground of Ohio would allow me to take a photo of a street crowded with yard signs for the candidates.

The fact that I couldn’t find one, I guess, backs up my message this week for those of us in business.

No matter who will receive your vote — or, even if no one will receive your vote — there are things we can take away from the candidates’ approaches to branding themselves that apply in the workplace.

“They are the single most unpopular presidential candidates in modern history. That’s not good,” said Karen Leland, CEO of Sterling Marketing Group and author of “The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand.”

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In defense of a liberal arts education

Shelly Gardner teaches a class in entrepreneurship at Augustana University.
Shelly Gardner teaches a class in entrepreneurship at Augustana University.

“Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature.”

The Washington Post headline writer did a nice job with that one, immediately causing me to click on a story last month.

The reporter, Steven Pearlstein, who also is a professor at George Mason University, wrote how his undergraduate students thanked him for the chance to read an 800-page biography of Andrew Carnegie.

When he asked how many of the 24 students were majoring in history, there were none. He asked about English, philosophy and fine arts. There was one.

When he wondered aloud how that was possible, a half-dozen students replied almost in unison: “Our parents won’t let us.”

“Parents are becoming more deeply engaged in nearly every aspect of their children’s lives,” Pearlstein continued. “And it’s carrying over even to their choice of major.”

The head of academic advising at Wake Forest University agreed.

“A lot of students feel pressure to major in business, economics or medicine, said Christy Buchanan, who referenced “helicopter parenting.”

These well-meaning parents are thinking about their children’s job prospects and ultimately the degree’s return on investment.

There’s a perception — and we’ve all done our part to create it — that skills in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math are the key to professional success in an increasingly technical marketplace.

And that’s partially true.

But last week’s Sioux Falls Business Journal cover story, reported by Megan Raposa, suggests that maybe we need to broaden our thinking.

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If only pheasants filled jobs

A shot from the Experience Sioux Falls video for the CVB.
A shot from the Experience Sioux Falls video for the CVB.

I don’t have a great explanation for not sharing this news until now.

But a quick search of other local media shows nobody else did either, so maybe we’re all so used to this storyline it didn’t seem that remarkable.

Here it is, anyway:

The Sioux Falls metro area has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate.

At 1.9 percent, we have eclipsed Fargo at 2.3 percent, and Rapid City and Bismarck, N.D., at 2.4 percent for this distinction.

And while none of us locally made much of a big deal about it, CNN/Money took notice.

The story mentioned our health care and banking sectors and our record construction. The mayor got to call us a boom town. Again.

And then the reporter talked to Steve Hildebrand, owner of Josiah’s Coffeehouse & Cafe, who frequently gets interviewed by national media covering Sioux Falls once they learn of his ties to national politics.

He mentioned raising his employees’ wages to $13 anhour this year in part to be competitive in an increasingly tight labor market.

“It’s a good time for employees. It’s a hard time for employers,” Hildebrand said in the article.

This has been a refrain among business leaders for the better part of several years. It’s the reason workforce development is a centerpiece of the next Forward Sioux Falls campaign and why the state has launched efforts such as its Build Dakota scholarship program.

Maybe that’s why my reaction wasn’t immediately positive when development foundation president Slater Barr told me Sioux Falls had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

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