November, 2015

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Fullerton Building Systems
Spectrum Plastics Group
Riteway Manufacturing
Custom Products
Wipaire Inc
The Outdoor GreatRoom
Dane Technologies
Top Tool Company
Olsen Thielen 
Nevers Industries 
Verum Staffing
Hire Authority 
Brookdale Plastics 
HealthEast Care Systems
Prima Power Laserdyne
Fishbowl Solutions 
Aspen Equipment 
Glenn Metalcraft 
Northern Metal Fab
ADO Products
Gopher Resource 
GAF Materials 
Central Package and Display 
Post Consumer Brands
Lexington Manufacturing 
Pace Industries

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Upcoming Events

February 7th 2023 09:00 am
- The Role of the Leader Online

February 8th 2023 08:00 am
- Creating Process Maps

February 9th 2023 08:00 am
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February 14th 2023 09:00 am
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February 15th 2023 09:00 am
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February 16th 2023 08:00 am
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February 21st 2023 08:00 am
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February 22nd 2023 08:00 am
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Article Index

Leaders Alliance-Katherine Syverson, Lubrication Technologies
Article by: Katherine Syverson

Katherine Syverson is Enterprise Safety Manager at Lubrication Technologies in Golden Valley, MN, and has been there for 1 year.

HR Insights-Rick Singerhouse, Andersen Corporation
Article by: Rick Singerhouse

Rick Singerhouse is Director of Human Resources with Andersen Corporation in Bayport, MN. He has been with the company for 28 years.

Meet MA Instructor-Judy Hartley, Judy Hartley & Associates
Article by: Judy Hartley

Judy Hartley is Principal Consultant/Owner of Judy Hartley & Associates, Leadership & Team Development in Minneapolis, MN. 

Ask The IP Attorney
Article by: Patterson Thuente IP

This month’s Ask the IP Attorney question involves filing for trademark rights.

How NOT To Grow Your Company
Article by: Mike More

Hopefully this title has grabbed your attention a little. We all want to grow our businesses, but it seems like it is hard to break out of our old habits.

Stay Ahead Of The Pack With Price Transparency
Article by: Diana Zuzek

Um...I can see your beanstalk. Price transparency is a growing concern for many businesses.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The October Minnesota Business Conditions Index slumped to 42.7 from September’s regional high of 53.0.

Leaders Alliance-Katherine Syverson, Lubrication Technologies

Katherine Syverson is Enterprise Safety Manager at Lubrication Technologies in Golden Valley, MN, and has been there for 1 year.

At Lube-Tech, we offer the most advanced lubrication and energy solutions to help you maximize productivity, efficiencies and equipment life — accelerating your performance so you can reach your goals faster and leave your competitors further behind.

Our team is driven to accelerate your performance in three unique ways:

  • Broadest product portfolio: Get the widest selection of lubricants, energy solutions, premier brands and services from one source — simplifying your operation and boosting your buying power.
  • High-performance petroleum innovation: We’ll develop customized product blends and solutions for your specific equipment and in your most demanding applications — for optimal results.
  • Strategic business support: Leverage the expertise of our passionate team members to uncover opportunities, solve extreme challenges and optimize your systems — for better performance and a bigger bottom line.

How long have you been a member of the Leaders Alliance? Of which group(s) are you currently a member?
I have been a member for 2 ½ years. Facilitator of the EHS Management peer group.

How, when, and why did you get introduced to the Leaders Alliance? What was your main reason for joining?
I was introduced to Manufacturers Alliance through attendance at a Lean leadership group being hosted at Eaton in Eden Prairie. During the sharing/brainstorming portion of the meeting, there were a significant number of safety related topics discussed and I inquired whether MA had an EHS leadership resource for the team to tap into. At that time there was no EHS peer group and we began discussion towards developing a business case to create one.  After an information meeting open to all MA members (30 plus in attendance), we established there was a need and have now been meeting now for 2 and ½ years. I joined to learn, shamelessly share and receive best practices and to give back to a functional area which has been my passion for the past 16 years.

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?
Our organization hosted the EHS Management group in October this year and shared our Safety journey. We learned that our path towards a more robust EHS management system and our Accelerate to ZERO Culture-DNA is moving and changing in the right direction.

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?
Each time I attend Leaders Alliance meetings I learn and shamelessly benchmark tools. Recently one of our members shared their lean war room with us and provided a wide array of A3 tools to specifically manage EHS challenges. Although EHS is a vital component of any business, adapting tools to fit our circumstances is like converting from one language to another, it doesn’t always come out as intended. These tools were well thought out and have been a great additional to my tool box. 

Have you used the members of your group to help to help solve an issue?
By far one of the more effective tools of the Peer groups is the brainstorming and idea gathering that occurs at the end of end sessions when we are able to throw out a process that is challenging us and get direct and instant feedback. I have received great ideas on topics like leadership engagement and accelerating culture all the way to how are we deploying the latest OSHA requirement requiring 24-hour notification for more serious injuries.

How would you describe peer-to-peer sharing best practices to your colleague?
Over the past two years we have seen a wide variety of best practices and they always apply if you wait long enough. Not every organization develops their Lean culture at the same rate; however, each peer-to-peer sharing is an opportunity to learn and creates an opening for growth to happen within my organization.

Katherine Syverson is Enterprise Safety Manager at Lubrication Technologies in Golden Valley, MN. She can be reached at

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HR Insights-Rick Singerhouse, Andersen Corporation

Rick Singerhouse is Director of Human Resources with Andersen Corporation in Bayport, MN. He has been with the company for 28 years.

Headquartered in Bayport, Minnesota, Andersen Corporation is the largest window and door manufacturer in North America. Founded in 1903, Andersen is an international corporation employing more than 10,000 people in locations across North America, with sales worldwide.

Since 1903, Andersen has continually demonstrated:

  • Commitment to the building industry and our customers.
  • Innovation that resulted in low maintenance products and environmentally-responsible processes.
  • Commitment to energy efficiency.
  • Commitment to creating high-performance products.

Where did you receive your HR training/experience?
I graduated from Metropolitan State University based in St. Paul with a degree in HR Management. All my experience and training was with Andersen. I was fortunate to be able to grow with the Company and experience different roles supporting different divisions in different parts of the country as the Company expanded its operations. During my career with Andersen I’ve had roles in Learning & Development, Compensation, HR Business Partner, HR Manager and HR Director. I have been fortunate to provide HR Business partnership to operations and functional teams along with 4 different business divisions. All these experiences have helped me learn and grow.

How and when were you introduced to HR and what fuels your passion for the profession?
I learned about HR in the early 90’s as I was trying to figure out my career interests and thus my college focus. Being close to the business and being in a position to influence long term business strategies gets me excited.  Also, one on one coaching of leaders and the development of our HR staff energizes me.

What are your company’s current HR-oriented activities?
Currently we are focused on the following:

  • Talent Acquisition including professional, production, and operations technical positions.
  • Leadership Development – managers of managers and Shop floor leadership.
  • Developing a continuous improvement organization and therefore a continuous improvement culture in our HR organization.
  • Improving and upgrading our HR Technology.
  • Company communication strategies.

What was one major lesson learned in 2015 that you feel others could benefit from reading?
Production employee recruiting has been a challenge as well as retention of these positions. Career pathing in production jobs is important for production employees and can be a way to retain our production employees. 

What are the next steps planned for improving your company HR processes?
We need to be more metric based, measuring all of our processes and reporting on these – measurement should only be for areas that are critical and in a way that will help you determine how to make improvements and driving business results. We created a SharePoint site that houses our HR metrics and strategy documents in a centralized way that we review as a team and with our Business Partners on a period basis. We are always asking ourselves if the work we are doing is driving business results.

How would you describe peer-to-peer education to a colleague in manufacturing?
Peer to peer education and networking is critical for an HR Professional. As an HR business partner it is very important to stay informed about business in general and HR best practice. New ideas and methods are being introduced all the time and staying connected to peers in and outside of your organization can help you stay on top of it. Also, it is just important for manufacturing leaders to be connected to peers across their organization and with peers in other companies and industries. Social media is a great tool to help with peer-to-peer education, as well as seminars, conferences, and memberships. Memberships outside of your own discipline should also be considered to help broaden your knowledge base.

Rick Singerhouse is the Director of Human Resources with Andersen Corporation in Bayport, MN. He can be reached at

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Meet MA Instructor-Judy Hartley, Judy Hartley & Associates

Judy Hartley is Principal Consultant/Owner of Judy Hartley & Associates, Leadership & Team Development in Minneapolis, MN. 

Judy delivers the workshops comprising the Supervision Fundamentals Certification offered by the Manufacturers Alliance. This series of workshops provides participants solid training on six critical areas of supervisory leadership. It is intended to provide all frontline leaders with the essential knowledge and skills foundational to serving in a leadership role. 

How and when did you get introduced to the Manufacturers Alliance?
I was introduced to the Manufacturers Alliance approximately 15 years ago (2000). I had been working for several years designing and delivering training specifically focused on supervisory leadership skills and the Manufacturers Alliance, via my colleague Lynn Moline, asked me to work with them to design, develop and deliver a frontline supervisory leadership series specifically geared to an all manufacturing audience.

What in your experience and background fuels the passion for instructing others?
I have always known what a great impact those in frontline leadership positions have on employee job satisfaction and performance. I also know that many who get put into a frontline supervisory leadership role were promoted to the job based on their technical skills but once in the job what becomes most important are the interpersonal communications skills as well as self-management skills. I love helping frontline leaders learn about these things and providing them with practical tools and techniques that they can apply right away on-the-job to work better with their employees, have more confidence in their jobs and overall perform better in their role as a frontline leader.

If you could teach anyone or any subject, what would your ideal workshop look like? 
I love teaching workshops on the topic of Conflict, Communication and Collaboration. In these workshops I try to provide people with tools and techniques for addressing and managing conflict in the workplace ... and for also preventing some unnecessary/stupid/unproductive conflicts at work. A great precursor to these sessions is providing people with SOCIAL STYLE Awareness and Versatility Skills (skills in recognizing, understanding and appreciating different personality types and knowing how to effectively adjust your approach to different people in order to lessen interpersonal tension and have more productive work relationships).

Can you tell us about a time when you learned something new from a student?
I think I learn something new from a student almost every time I teach a program because I run my workshops in a way that facilitates a lot of sharing of information amongst the participants, not just lecturing/sharing ideas from me. Just yesterday I was teaching a program on Maximizing Team Performance and someone mentioned that to foster teamwork as a "whole company team" they schedule regular monthly meetings between their frontline operations leaders and their engineering department for the purpose of discussing current issues and preventing future issues by clarifying expectations of one another, etc. I thought this was a great practice for improving inter-group relations and one that I will share with other participants in future workshops.

During a workshop, have you used your students to help solve an issue?
Yes. On a regular basis I invite participants to share a real life issue they are struggling with and ask for ideas from other participants. This could be an issue they are having with an individual employee or their employees at large, with their boss, with another department or even with an outside customer or supplier. I encourage all participants to share their thoughts/what's worked for them as I know (from workshop feedback) that participants LOVE the opportunity to learn from each other.
What new topics or material are you currently working on?
One thing I am currently working on is integrating more/new content about managing generational differences as well as cultural differences as frontline leaders approach how they train and supervise different people/different personality types.

How do you make a workshop experiential and applicable to students?
I do several things. I incorporate a variety of interactive training techniques including, but not limited to use of both small group and large group discussions, written and video-based case studies, one-on-one role plays, small group application exercises, self-reflection exercises, knowledge and skills assessments, etc. One of the in-class exercises most memorable to many participants in my supervisory training programs is the opportunity to plan an effective means of conducting on-the-job training to teach ME how to assemble and package a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This in-class exercise quickly delivers (in a very memorable way) some important points helpful to address in on-the-job training.

Most of my programs have exercises where participants are invited to bring up real/current issues they are facing and discuss these challenges in class to gather ideas from others for addressing these issues. I also include in all programs a "Learning Journal and Action Plan" section included plus I provide participants with electronic templates of various surveys, worksheets, planners, etc. to support them in applying training on-the-job. The Supervision Fundamentals Certification program is also specifically set up to require participants to apply what they've been learning via on-the-job projects which participants must discuss/coordinate with their managers to ensure they are applying training/tools provided to them via the workshops. Those seeking certification must also take and pass content exams for each series workshop topic/program they took from the series.

Judy Hartley is Principal Consultant/Owner of Judy Hartley & Associates Leadership and Team Development. Judy has more than 20 years of hands-on experience developing the supervisory leadership skills of first-line/front-line leaders. She frequently works with organizations on in-house leadership and team development. Judy can be reached at or

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Ask The IP Attorney

This month’s Ask the IP Attorney question involves filing for trademark rights.

If you have a burning intellectual property questions, you can ask it by visiting the Q&A web page or emailing Tye Biasco at Answers to your questions will be posted here in the MA Insider each month.

Q: What are factors go into the decision to register a trademark for a new product?
First, it should be noted that common law trademark rights arise from actual use of a trademark (or “mark”). So, it is not necessary to federally register your mark to enforce your rights in the geographic area in which you’ve used the mark. However, there are significant benefits to federally registering your mark as compared to relying upon common law trademark rights. These include:

  • Nationwide rights, instead of just the geographic area of use.
  • Right to use the ® symbol with your mark.
  • Constructive notice nationwide of the trademark owner’s claim.
  • Additional evidence of the ownership and validity of the trademark.
  • Jurisdiction of federal courts may be invoked.
  • Potential recovery of infringer profits, statutory damages, attorneys fees, and treble (triple) damages for willful infringement.
  • Registration can be used as a basis for obtaining registration in other countries.
  • Registration may be filed with the U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of trademark infringing foreign goods.

When weighing these benefits against the cost of registration (about $2,000 for one class of goods), you should consider the following factors:

  • Is the new product going to be a flagship of your company? If the product will be a significant contributor to your company’s revenue, then federal registration will lock down the source of the product (your company) and protect the product from knock-offs.
  • Is the new product patentable? Names of patentably new products can quickly turn into generic terms. Federal registration will prevent others from using the same term for their competitive products and causing the mark to become generic (e.g., Aspirin was once a trademark).
  • Does the mark easily distinguish your new product from competitors? The better the mark is at distinguishing your product, the more valuable it is as a source identifier, which supports federally registering the mark.
  • Do you expect a competitor to attempt to register a similar mark? If so, federal registration will help prevent competitor registration because the USPTO must consider your registered mark before allowing the competitor’s registration.
  • Is the new product a consumer good? A Columbia University study concluded that for consumer products and services, well-managed brands typically represent 50-80 percent of the total value of their companies. Marks for consumer goods benefit most from federal registration.
  • Do you expect to license the product? If your new product will be licensed for sale or incorporation into another business’ product, federal registration will help protect your mark from marketplace confusion because you can include marking requirements in the license.
  • Is there a question of whether or not your mark may infringe a competitor’s mark or may not qualify as a true trademark? If you’re unsure about the ability to enforce your mark, federal registration provides the presumption of validity as a mark and a presumption that the mark is not confusingly similar to another registered mark.

Other factors can also go into deciding to register a trademark for a new product.  Many are specific to the industry and product. So it’s always the best practice to consult with a trademark attorney before deciding whether to register a trademark.

Patterson Thuente IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, with offices in Minneapolis and Brookings, SD. Contact them at 612.349.5740.

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How NOT To Grow Your Company

Hopefully this title has grabbed your attention a little. We all want to grow our businesses, but it seems like it is hard to break out of our old habits.

Particularly because they have worked in getting the business to the current level of success. Why mess with success?

The answer is that things change. If you do not take some additional risk, and therefore change faster than the environment around you, any growth is going to be based on luck, rather than a strategy.

How to NOT Grow Your Company:

  1. Focus on pursuing the same strategies, just try harder this time.
  2. Add more salespeople.
  3. Hire people who are “affordable.”

1. Focus on pursuing the same strategies, just try harder this time.
Over and over during my career I see very intelligent, charismatic leaders sell to their board members or CEO a seriously flawed plan. Often these plans promise dramatic growth by spending more time focused on key existing customers or distributors. Yes, there is a chance that this could pay off, in the rare case that you have hot products and new, underdeveloped channel. In this case you are really in product launch mode. For mature products and channels, this is a fool’s errand. Yes, increasing sales with existing customers is important, but you will only get single-digit growth if all goes well.

For a break-through, let’s pursue new channels, new geographies, and partnerships. Where I’ve seen the most success is when the business unit leader or CEO is active in pursuing new routes to market and acquisitions that really change the trajectory of the company’s growth. Taking some risk, but really just re-focusing the time of key leaders in the company to focus more on connecting with new strategic partners, channels, and markets. For example, consider an exclusive distribution arrangement for a competitor’s products. This relationship could eventually lead to an acquisition of the competitor and not only lead to dramatic company growth, but it also re-energizes the organization.

2. Add more salespeople.
In a new company with an underdeveloped channel this might make sense. However, I’ve seen this presented as a strategy with too many companies who claim to be looking for rapid growth. Spending precious time as an executive adding a few salespeople will not change the trajectory of your company. However, see point #1 above. Those actions will.

3. Hire people who are “affordable.”
No company wants to overpay for great talent. However, what is the cost of hiring “B” or even “C” players? These employees will drain the organization in several different ways.

Too many times, organizations (who claim to want to attract and retain top-notch talent) pass on hiring “A” level talent, based on inflexible compensation guidelines. Also, they hide behind “equity,” fearing the current talent will get upset. Let’s break that down.

First, the “A” level talent, assuming they come highly recommended by your respected contacts is coming at a comp level that has been established by the market. If you want to live up to your goal of attracting top talent, this is a cost of playing. Second, why is there an equity problem? Do you have other “A” players that have not been allowed to progress through the company and not been compensated accordingly? In that case, you may have a retention issue also brewing. My recommendation is to have a rigorous career development program in place to motivate and retain key employees. The “A” players will embrace the process and knock the development plans out of the park. You can then reward them for their efforts with new projects, new responsibility, and new roles. I guarantee you they are actually more “affordable” than the team members who paid less, but producing much less. With the key “A” players in their proper role and comp level, new talent will fit right in.

How TO grow your company?
Spend more time on new channel strategies, partnerships, and acquisitions. Put a very disciplined career development process in place that rewards achievers. Make sure you have the right team in place to break out of old habits and pursue dramatic growth.

Mike More is President and Owner of mmersion llc. His passion is establishing and optimizing channels to market. He can be reached at

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Stay Ahead Of The Pack With Price Transparency

Um...I can see your beanstalk. Price transparency is a growing concern for many businesses.

Increasingly sophisticated buyers rely on more reliable price monitoring tools to build rich pictures of market pricing trends. The expansion of ecommerce as a core business model has exposed many companies’ market pricing and discount strategies. Customers merge, often across geographic or other segment boundaries, expanding their awareness of pricing practices. In short, the natural habitat of the obscure pricing practice is disappearing at a zippy rate.

It’s safe to say that few organizations will cheer on the additional accountability and apples-to-apples competitive comparisons that will come with greater transparency. Still, some organizations may well benefit from it, and find the playing field is leveled a bit. What we can be sure of is this: organizations that don’t prepare will fare much worse than those that do.

So, what can be done to prepare for greater price transparency? The team at Beanstalk wants to share just three of the recommendations we have for forward thinking business leaders who want to stay ahead of the pack.

Get your value story straight                                                                                
Newfound transparency will almost certainly prompt customers to wonder whether they are getting the best deal. Some customers will move beyond simply wondering, and do some shopping around. For those cases, you must be ready to articulate the value your goods or services provide. Customers pay for value. Generally, customers exchange their money for goods and services which they perceive to have equal or greater value. Don’t overlook the word “perceive”. People perceive value differently (try persuading an iPhone fanatic to switch to an Android device, or vice versa). Consider all possible sources of value, refine the story, tweak it for each customer segment you have, and get ready to tell it well. Make sure you understand how your value proposition stacks up against the competition.

Be ready to explain your pricing rationale, and be disciplined about sticking to it
Most of us know that the price passengers pay for the same airplane ticket can vary drastically. It bothers me that I can endure all the same discomforts of flying in coach as my seatmate, and still pay more for the privilege. How will your customers react when they learn about the prices others are paying? Customers will respond better to this kind of transparency if there is acceptable reason behind the differences, and if your organization consistently adheres to that reason. For example, consumers generally accept that buying greater volumes will lower prices. Even in the case of the airlines, travelers have come to accept that buying a last minute ticket, or one that offers a full refund, will probably cost a bit more. Take time to revisit price policies – the guidelines you should have for how and why you make price decisions. Consider them from your customer’s perspective. Would a reasonable customer accept your pricing practices as consistent and justifiable? Make adjustments as needed. Now is also a good time to reel in transactional outliers. Make sure that the customers receiving the best pricing are adhering to their commitments, too. If you have long-term contracts in place, you may need several years to regain control, so get started sooner rather than later.

Resist the urge to lower prices
Price transparency will produce price pressure. First, a caveat: you may truly find that a price change is warranted. If that decision has arisen from careful deliberation and thorough assessment, then I commend you. However, without such consideration, I would be skeptical that a price reduction would be in your interest. Remember that lowering your price is the easiest tactic for your competitors to mimic. If you lower your price and your competitor does the same, the gap persists. What’s worse is that this new competition is now focused on a smaller profit pool as the market price point has effectively decreased.

As much as possible, look to create new value, focus more keenly on the segments where your value proposition is strongest, and equip your sales team to sell the value of your company, your products, and your services. It’s also worth noting that most trends have a maturity curve – people react to the trend strongly at first, and then, as time goes by, they moderate their behavior or opinions. Overreacting to price transparency by lowering price early on might leave you wishing you had held a firmer line once the dust settles. It’s much harder to regain pricing than it is to give it up.

These three tactics are by no means a comprehensive list. Still, we hope that they offer some solid starting points from which to plan out a response to the inescapable impacts that price transparency will have.

In short, most organizations would be prudent to anticipate that their pricing will continue to become more and more transparent to their customers. Leaders are smart to recognize the associated risks, and can effectively manage this trend with sound preparations. Learn more at or give us a call at 651-356-8148.

Diana Zuzek launched Beanstalk Revenue Management to help companies maximize their profitability and gain competitive advantages through integrated marketing and pricing strategies. She can be reached at

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MN Economic Outlook

The October Minnesota Business Conditions Index slumped to 42.7 from September’s regional high of 53.0.

Components of the index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 38.8, production or sales at 39.4, delivery lead time at 50.2, inventories at 41.9, and employment at 43.1. “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that over the last year, Minnesota added 200 manufacturing jobs for a gain of 0.1 percent.  Our surveys of supply managers in the state point to slight losses into the first quarter of 2016 as manufacturing exports slide even lower,” 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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