Slocum: The state that works has keys to thriving businesses


No doubt, our state has had great success over the years.

There are currently a half million businesses operating in Minnesota and about 300,000 of them employ only the owner/operator.

Some 94% of Minnesota companies have fewer than 50 workers.

That is not to ignore large employers. With 18 Fortune 500 publicly owned companies, Minnesota ranks ninth nationwide.

More impressive, the Twin Cities ranks 1st among the 30 largest metropolitan areas nationwide and our state ranks 3rd in Fortune 500 companies per 1 million people.

In addition, Minnesota ranks 11th among the states and is home to six of Forbes’s largest private companies, including Cargill, ranked 1st in the nation at $134.4 billion in annual revenues. The state also is 9th in the number of private companies per 1 million people.

All businesses, of course, want to succeed for the benefit of their communities, employees and owners.

Among thriving businesses, certain common qualities deserve mention as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to economically challenge employers, employees and the public in getting back to full speed.

A business plan is not the only element in achieving success, but it certainly helps when crafted wisely and understood by internal and external audiences. Execution of the plan is 90% of the challenge. The mantra “plan your work and work your plan” has long been accepted practice among companies, organizations and governments at all levels.

A positive attitude, accountability for results and consistently high-quality customer service will help ensure companies maintain current workers and attract future ones.

Another key to prosperity is finding the right people to trust in making decisions. Larger companies hire such talent and smaller ones create ways in which non-paid advisors and outside board members effectively offer their insights in confidence.

Business leaders must frequently take calculated risks with clear outcomes in mind. As our nation and world have learned, doing so is required as economic climates have significantly changed over the last two years.

Effectively responding to challenges to America — the Great Depression of the 1930s, various world wars, and the current pandemic — can be successful over time.

Lastly, work-life balance is a goal for many thoughtful employers, allowing workers ample non-scheduled “free time” in their personal lives. For example, Psychology Today magazine interviewed scientists who had found that a creative personal hobby can lead to worker excellence; Nobel Prize winners almost always reveal that they had such outside interests.

Former five-year Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, in writing for Bloomberg about employee burn-out, said that understanding worker resentment was necessary “and you beat it by knowing what is you’re giving up and makes you resentful … I tell people to find your rhythm.” Mayer, a native of Wisconsin, left Yahoo to start her own company in 2017.

Workplaces operating wisely as a team are possible when being intentional about it. Indeed, Minnesota continues to face serious challenges. However, we wouldn’t bet against the state that works.

— Chuck Slocum ( is president of The Williston Group, a management consulting firm. He serves on the editorial board of APG of East Central Minnesota.


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