September, 2015

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Creganna Medical Job Fair

Creganna Medical will host a job fair on Sept. 23 from 12:30-5:00pm at 5905 Trenton Lane N, Plymouth. Click here for more information about the company.

New State Law Mandates Business Recycling

Effective Jan. 1, businesses in the 7-County Metro must recycle at least 3 materials. For more information, assistance, and grants, click here or contact Bjorn Olson (612) 334-3388 x108.

Gears & Gadgets

Save the date for the next Gears and Gadgets on Oct 28. For information contact Marni Hockenberg by email or 952-500-9542.

Upcoming Workshop and Tour at Steinwall

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Article Index

Leaders Alliance-Deanna Comeau, TURCK, Incorporated
Article by: Deanna Comeau

Deanna Comeau is a Continuous Improvement Specialist with TURCK, Incorporated in Plymouth, Minnesota, and has been there for 25 years.

Look Outside to Develop Inside Talent
Article by: Kathleen Pytleski

Recently the CEO of a large non-profit organization finished a one-year formal mentoring partnership as the “mentee.” Yes, the mentee.

HR Insights-Kari Rosand Scanlon
Article by: Kari Rosand Scanlon

Kari Rosand Scanlon is a Human Resources and Training Specialist with JEM Technical in Orono, Minnesota, and has been there for 4 years.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Partners: The Value of a Properly Funded Buy-Sell Agreement
Article by: Thomas Patnode

As an entrepreneur, you know that starting a business is challenging.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: An Invisible - But Costly Injury
Article by: Monique Hammond

I always had excellent hearing until one day ─ Bam! ─ my life changed.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The August MN Business Conditions Index fell to 51.9 from 54.8 in July.

Leaders Alliance-Deanna Comeau, TURCK, Incorporated

Deanna Comeau is a Continuous Improvement Specialist with TURCK, Incorporated in Plymouth, Minnesota, and has been there for 25 years.

TURCK is a global, customer-oriented premium partner for reliable, industry-specific automation solutions. Providing more than 15,000 sensor, interface, connectivity and fieldbus technology products, as well as HMI/PLC solutions and RFID systems, TURCK offers highly efficient solutions for factory and process automation.

How long have you been a member of the Leaders Alliance? Of which group(s) are you currently a member?
TURCK has been a company member of the Manufacturers Alliance for 10 years.    
I have been a member of the Leaders Alliance Lean Enterprise Peer Group for over two years.

How, when, and why did you get introduced to the Leaders Alliance? What was your main reason for joining?
I took on a new role as the Continuous Improvement Specialist, and I needed to see and benchmark how other manufacturing companies succeed in CI and how Continuous Improvement programs develop and run. Not only that, I also wanted to network with other CI leaders on what creative ideas they have to build up employee engagement. On a personal level, membership has helped me a great deal on improving my Lean skills.

When you last hosted a Leaders Alliance meeting, what value did you (and your co-workers) receive from hosting a peer group? Do you have a topic in mind for the next time you host a peer group?
We have now hosted two meetings at Turck, and each time we have taken away many new ideas on how to improve our CI efforts. Hosting and benchmarking can generate new approaches when you hear other people’s perspective on what they see your company is doing.  

Can you tell us about a meeting that exceeded your expectations of the benchmarking tour, or a time when you were able to apply what you learned from a host company or guest speaker?
I usually take back 2 or 3 new ideas from every place I have toured, not only from the factory tour but in the host presentation as well.  We have considered or implemented feedback on several topics from cell phone use policies to training program ideas.

Have you used the members of your group to help solve an issue?
Yes, many times I have reached out for more feedback or peer information to help me out with issues. It is a fresh set of eyes to help when I get stuck.

How would you describe peer-to-peer sharing best practices to your colleagues?
The feedback you receive from manufacturing peers is helpful in many ways. Sharing best practices provides a benefit not only for your company but yourself as well.

Deanna Comeau is a Continuous Improvement Specialist with TURCK Incorporated in Plymouth, Minnesota. She can be reached at

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Look Outside to Develop Inside Talent

Recently the CEO of a large non-profit organization finished a one-year formal mentoring partnership as the “mentee.” Yes, the mentee.

She was mentored by a someone from another company, and in fact, another state. She is highly accomplished and enjoys a national presence and reputation in her field. Her comments from the final evaluation of this partnership included: ‘This mentor was exactly what I needed at this time in my career’, and ‘This is the best investment I’ve made since my MBA‘.

So why would someone like that want to have a formal mentor? Well, all of us can grow and develop, no matter what our role is within a company. If we stop developing and learning, we may as well throw in the towel, because that’s called stagnation. This CEO recognized that in order to take the organization to the next level, she needed to expand her capabilities. She decided the best way to do that was to work with someone who had been down that path before her.

Another CEO just finished his mentoring partnership and the board chair commented on how much he noticed the CEO growing in his role during the year and attributed it to the mentoring partnership.

In my view, all mentoring whether formal or informal, is valuable. However, formal mentoring tends to yield more specific results. There’s internal mentoring and cross-company mentoring. I believe formal cross-company mentoring is the most beneficial.

Formal cross-company mentoring is where a mentee is specifically matched with a mentor from a non-competing company. It’s extremely valuable in talent development whether your company’s goal is to develop a pipeline of people to be ready for leadership, expand the capability of your current leaders, or retain talent. It is a tool that can be used for people at any level because the match is specifically for the individual.

What mentees get out of it is someone who has been specifically selected to work with her/him for a specified amount of time. (We recommend one year.) There are specific goals for the partnership, meetings are held regularly whether virtually or in-person, and there are progress checks throughout the year. The mentee drives the partnership and the mentor is there to guide the mentee. Both are trained on their roles, on how to build a successful partnership, and guided throughout the partnership.

The Benefits of Cross-Company Mentoring
Having the right mentee/mentor partnership results in growth for both parties. Mentors want to give back and mentees get to be the sponge. With both being from non-competing companies, they can feel free to be completely candid, adding a significant benefit to the confidential mentoring partnership.

Benefits for the Mentee:

  1. Having a mentor from a non-competing company gives the mentee an outside perspective that can be extremely valuable helping him/her within their own company.
  2. They benefit from a mentor whose experience has taken her/him down the path the mentee is now trying to navigate.
  3. The mentee learns how to accept feedback in important areas such as communication, leadership, and change management. It comes from someone who has no ulterior motive other than to help the mentee develop.
  4. The mentor can help the mentee better understand how to navigate the culture of an organization and its politics.
  5. It is hands-on learning and development with someone solely dedicated to the mentee’s growth.

Benefits for the Mentor:

  1. Mentors tell us they think got just as much out of it as the mentee. It’s reciprocal learning and mentors learn a great deal from their mentees.
  2. It reminds the mentor to listen actively. It’s not about them (the mentor), it’s all about the mentee and how the mentor can help the mentee develop.
  3. Mentors strengthen their interpersonal skills.
  4. Mentors gain great personal satisfaction from helping another develop and it helps them be better mentors within their own company.
  5. It can be helpful to remind the mentor of what people at the level of the mentee are going through in their own companies. They gain perspective from the mentee’s challenges.

Benefits for the Companies:

  1. The mentee’s company benefits from having an employee who is actively growing in her/his career and preparing for the next level or a leadership role feeding the succession pipeline.
  2. Most mentees become more engaged with their work and company.
  3. Both mentee and mentor bring new perspectives to their work and company.
  4. The mentor becomes more effective and many times becomes a better leader and mentor within his/her own company.
  5. The mentoring company facilitates the partnership. This is especially beneficial for smaller companies with limited talent development resources.

Talent development takes many forms. Cross-company mentoring makes it uniquely interactive, safe and confidential. Both mentees and mentors gain skills, perspective, and enhance their leadership capabilities in ways never imagined.

If you have never been a mentor, you should. If you have never been a mentee, give it a try. Anyone can be a mentor and/or mentee at a particular time. No matter which role you choose at any one time, look at it as a tremendous opportunity for your personal and professional growth. You’ll never regret it. More information about cross-company mentoring can be found at

Kathleen Pytleski is CEO of Sekstant, a management consulting firm with a mission to align strategy, people and culture. Sekstant specializes in cross-company mentoring, outcome based strategy development for business and non-profits, and merger and acquisition strategy and integration. The company is headquartered in Minneapolis, MN.

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HR Insights-Kari Rosand Scanlon

Kari Rosand Scanlon is a Human Resources and Training Specialist with JEM Technical in Orono, Minnesota, and has been there for 4 years.

JEM Technical designs and manufactures custom values and controls for fluid power applications.

Where did you receive your HR training/experience?
Most of my training has been on-the-job or through in-house training programs. I pursued my PHR certification in 2003 and have maintained my certification through ongoing education opportunities. I most recently completed a refresher course in Safety through the Advanced Manufacturing Education Alliance.

How and when were you introduced to HR and what fuels your passion for the profession?
I was introduced to the field of HR while working for Paychex. At the time, Paychex was just introducing their Administrative Services model into the marketplace. I feel fortunate that I landed in such an awarding field. The best part of HR is that it is a multi-disciplinary. I spend my time supporting individuals at all levels and helping them be successful at work. I also spend my time spearheading company-wide initiatives on a variety of topics.

What are your company’s current HR-oriented activities?
JEM Technical is just completing a two-year project on increasing employee satisfaction, called FOCUS (Fulfilling Our Customers’ Ultimate Satisfaction). Our employee-led committees considered how JEM addresses a variety of topics, including communication, training and team building.

What was one major lesson learned in 2015 that you feel others could benefit from reading?
JEM Technical developed a vision and five core values to support our mission and introduced them to our Associates in June. Our senior management team spent almost 8 months developing these items. While there were a few times when we felt an end point would remain elusive, the discussions were invaluable in establishing these key items for JEM’s bright future. When we see the core values being integrated into daily decisions, we know the time committed to hold multiple discussions was well spent.

What are the next steps planned for improving your company HR processes?
Our next initiative will be related to developing in-house training programs, especially as it relates to onboarding machinists. We are just beginning this process and having been tapping our networks for insights, including other members of Manufacturers Alliance.

How would you describe peer-to-peer education to a colleague in manufacturing?
In one word, I say, “unique.” The monthly seminars are a great way to learn more about how other companies our addressing issues. It’s nice to know we aren’t the only ones facing these challenges. When companies are using a different method, it allows us to consider a new approach. And, when companies are using a similar method, we are still able to consider small enhancements. In either case, we are stretched to think through our own systems.

Kari Rosand Scanlon is a Human Resources and Training Specialist with JEM Technical in Orono, Minnesota. She can be reached at

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How to Protect Yourself and Your Partners: The Value of a Properly Funded Buy-Sell Agreement

As an entrepreneur, you know that starting a business is challenging.

What you may not have considered is how difficult continuing that business can become, especially if one of your co-owners retires, gets divorced, or suddenly becomes disabled or dies.

A business may face significant cash flow problems and internal strife should an owner unexpectedly leave. You might, for example, need to quickly raise money to purchase a retiring owner’s interests or, in the case of an owner’s divorce, disability or death, you could suddenly find yourself in business with his or her family.

Because you have the best selection of options for creating a desired exit strategy before you or another owner leaves, now is the best time to begin planning.

Planning for Contingencies
A well-crafted buy-sell agreement helps ensure the smooth transition of business interests. It should clearly define what happens if you or another owner retires, gets divorced or becomes disabled or dies.

Several types of buy-sell agreements are available to accommodate variations among businesses, including organizational structure, number of owners, whether the owners are related and who the purchasers will be.

Selecting an Agreement
Three common methods for transferring business interests include a cross purchase agreement, an entity purchase agreement and a wait-and-see agreement. Each offers unique advantages along with considerations to keep in mind when selecting an agreement.

With a cross purchase agreement, the remaining owners purchase the departing owner’s interest. Remaining owners obtain an increased basis that can result in tax savings if the interest is later sold.

With an entity purchase agreement, the business purchases the departing owner’s interest. Because the funding is provided through the business rather than the owners, as in a cross purchase, the overall process is made simpler, particularly if there are three or more owners.

And with a wait-and-see purchase agreement, there is a sequence through which an interest is made available for purchase.

In a typical wait-and-see agreement, the business has a first option to buy all or a portion of a departing owner’s interest. Second, after the business has had the opportunity to buy, the remaining owners have the option to buy any remaining interest. Finally, any interest not purchased by the remaining owners must then be purchased by the business.

Because this approach is a combination of a cross purchase and entity purchase, the advantages of both are available, and the business and the owners can decide which option is optimal when a buyout is triggered.

Flexibility is Central
All types of agreements offer flexibility in how the business is valued and how interests can be transferred. An agreement, for example, can set a fixed purchase price, define a formula or call for an appraisal to determine fair market value. Similarly, the agreement can stipulate that the payout must be made in a lump sum or in installments.

An agreement can also address divorce. Qualification for ownership, for example, could exclude former spouses of owners. It can provide the business or the owners with an option to buy a former spouse’s interest. It could also stipulate the creation and adequate funding of a contingency fund that would provide the assets needed to purchase the interest of the divorced owner’s former spouse.

Another way for owners to protect their interests is through a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, which should be coordinated with the buy-sell agreement. Pre- and post-nuptial agreements can specify whether the owner’s spouse will have any right to the business on divorce and, if so, the manner in which the business will be valued and divided.

Regardless of the terms, however, the ultimate goal of any agreement is to avoid conflict and confusion by correctly transferring business interests in a timely manner to the desired people with the least possible conflict, expense and delay.

Where’s the Money?
No matter how well it’s written, a buy-sell agreement is only as good as the funding, which makes the actual purchase of a departing owner’s interest possible.

Options include using existing assets, borrowing the money, creating a cash reserve fund, making installment payments and purchasing insurance. The key is to select the combination that meets evolving business needs and provides the required certainty.

Of these options, disability and life insurance are two of the more effective choices for a number of reasons. Both can be more cost effective and easier to administer. Each can protect working capital and help provide the correct amount of financing at exactly the time it’s needed.

Life insurance helps assure funding is available to purchase an interest if an owner dies, while disability insurance helps assure funding is available if an owner becomes totally disabled.

A totally disabled owner may become more concerned with his or her family and personal well-being and less concerned with his or her participation in the business. Buying out the disabled owner’s interest often becomes the logical choice for the remaining owners.

Benefits paid from the policies are generally income tax free, and the cash value of permanent life insurance grows tax deferred and is available to help meet other business needs. Life insurance can also be used to equalize property distribution in the event of divorce.

How the insurance is structured, meaning who will be the applicant, owner, insured, beneficiary and payer, is determined by the type of agreement selected.

Protecting You, Protecting Your Business
You and your partners are working hard to build your business. A properly drafted and funded buy-sell agreement can help protect that vital asset should the unexpected happen. Think of it as a formal exit strategy that can give you options that might not otherwise be available after the retirement, divorce, disability or death of an owner.

If you haven’t already, begin working with legal, accounting and financial professionals who are experienced in the field of business valuation and succession planning. The right team of advisors can help you access your readiness and create an exit strategy so that, when the time comes, you will be well positioned to transition your business on your terms.

Thomas Patnode is a Wealth Management Advisor with Northwestern Mutual based in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. He can be reached at 651-905-6461, or visit his website at

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Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: An Invisible - But Costly Injury

I always had excellent hearing until one day ─ Bam! ─ my life changed.

I went deaf in my left ear in a matter of four hours. Eventually, I lost my job as a hospital pharmacist because of communication challenges. Suddenly, there was so much more to hearing loss than not hearing well, and I had a lot to learn.

According to my physicians, obnoxiously loud music at a church fundraiser the day before, contributed a great deal to my woes. Up until that time, I had taken my hearing totally for granted, just like everybody else does. However, the experience turned me into a sworn enemy of excessively loud sound.

An often under-appreciated work-related injury
Certainly, noise is all around us, but for those who work in what is usually referred to as an “industrial” environment, the risks of noise-induced hearing loss are well known. Major portions of the workday can be spent at ear-harmful sound levels.

Reminders and postings regarding the use of hearing protection may go unheeded as all too many employees consider ear protection bothersome or unnecessary. Might one question the fit or the type of protection in such cases? Do people understand their risk for noise-related hearing loss and what that will mean for their future?

Although hearing loss prevention and hearing conservation are part of company Safety Training Programs, they are often not given the attention they deserve. Unless there is a catastrophic injury, such as a ruptured ear drum, noise-induced hearing loss is a silent and invisible injury that does not cause pain. It is not life-threatening and therefore easy to ignore. And so, when it comes to training time, hearing injuries tend to be trumped by the “visible,” obviously reportable ones, those that bleed and maim and hurt due to falls and other impressive accidents.

It even took the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) some time to become wise to the incidence and consequences of noise-induced hearing loss. Established in 1971, it was not until 2004 that it required separate reports for hearing injuries among the “non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses.” In 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 11% of all such injuries and illnesses were due to adverse hearing events. Industrial hygienists have mentioned to me that it is impossible to know how many hearing threshold shifts actually go unreported, as people feel that they “recover” on their own. But do they? Also, might they fear for their jobs?

Costs of noise-induced hearing loss: dollars and quality of life
Noise-induced hearing loss is expensive in terms of productivity, hard cash and employee quality of life both on-the-job and off-the-job. As a chronic communication challenge, its consequences affect every aspect of a person’s life ─ socially and professionally. It quickly becomes a serious safety and health and wellness issue for employees and employers alike.

Safety Training: learning at work
Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable yet permanent once it sets in. Learning about it at work is all the more important because of a lack of general public awareness on the issue. The effects and consequences of loud sound on hearing and well-being are not common community knowledge and must be taught on the job.

Ultimately, workers need to understand all of the reasons why venturing out into a noisy industrial environment without ear protection is as unacceptable as not wearing a hard hat and safety glasses.

In the end…

  • Education is the best bet for motivating employees towards hearing safety compliance
  • Avoid hearing-safety training short-cuts
  • Treat all injuries with the same degree of importance
  • Don’t underestimate the impact of this “invisible” injury on the business bottom line
  • Monitor compliance with all personal protective equipment
  • Instruct employees on noise-reducing strategies and on hearing protection options
  • Involve employees when deciding on hearing protection choices as they have to live with them 
  • Reinforce the hearing protection message during regular safety meetings
  • Encourage employees to report hearing and hearing protection issues to their safety officer 
  • Let employees know that Safety is not only for the benefit of the company. It also goes a long way to preserving their own well-being both on-the-job and off-the-job.

I once saw a safety slogan that stated: 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 eyes, 1 nose—Safety counts.

The goal must become to change the slogan to: 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 eyes, 2 ears, 1 nose—Safety counts. For indeed, it does!

Monique Hammond, industrial consultant on work-related hearing issues and public speaker is the author of What Did You Say? Contact her: or email

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MN Economic Outlook

The August MN Business Conditions Index fell to 51.9 from 54.8 in July.

Components of the index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 54.8, production or sales at 49.3, delivery lead time at 56.2, inventories at 49.8, and employment at 54.9. “According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Minnesota’s level of manufacturing employment is virtually unchanged since January 2015. Minnesota job growth in durable goods, especially metal manufacturing, offset job losses among nondurable goods producers. Our survey results over the past several months, point to positive economic gains for the overall state economy for the rest of 2015 despite weakness among manufacturers,” said Goss.

Dr. Ernest Goss of Creighton University, used the same methodology as The National Association of Purchasing Management to compile this information. An index number greater than 50 percent indicates an expansionary economy, and an index under 50 percent forecast a sluggish economy, for the next three to six months.

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