In 1971, 22-year-old Dale Brenke had wrapped up his accounting training at Mankato Commercial College and was wiping windshields and pumping petrol part-time for Bernie’s One Stop service station on Front Street across from Hubbard Milling. The $1.10 an hour pay helped—somewhat. He was actively searching for a better job, but his search had been impeded by a pesky U.S. recession affecting Mankato.
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Wayne Kahler, founder of Kahler Automation in Fairmont, credits his father with his success. His father, Roy, taught him to “take care of the customer and everything else will be taken care of.”
“I claim my father’s statement,” Kahler says. “If I don’t think a customer is getting what they want, I’m asking questions. A business consultant said I’ve given out too many resources in satisfying customers and have not made as much profit as I could have made. We didn’t retain his services—and we’ve grown and grown.” That growth resulted in a February 2007 move to a 21,000-square foot building in Fairmont’s industrial park.
Fresh from verdant Hawaii, blue crab Baltimore, oil-rich Oklahoma City, and with the possibility of visiting other potential construction projects in Denmark, 34-year-old Clint Brown of Industrial Construction Services (ICS) of St. James barely has time to change his socks before leaving home for yet another construction job elsewhere on the planet. He has become quite the frequent flyer the last thirteen years. Though able to spend only 100 days a year at home and having to work literally every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, July Fourth, Labor Day and Memorial Day ad infinitum, Brown nonetheless enjoys his frenetic life and lifestyle.
In just the last few years, the pace has quickened considerably, in great measure because of anthrax and avian flu fears.
The post-game television interview we all have witnessed: Famous football quarterback after tossing a key touchdown strike giving credit to his teammates for an emotional victory in The Big Game. Yet that made-for-TV, locker-room speech sometimes seems canned, even obligatory, as if spreading the love around had more to do with the player maintaining an image than a true appreciation of his teammates’ contributions.
With genuineness pressing around every syllable, Jeff Thom, founder and co-owner of $20 million-plus and 55-employee All American Foods, gave due credit in this Business Person of the Year 2008 interview to a number of people for his success.
Todd Snell grew up inside Rivieras and Electras.
Similar to being a military child, he moved from town to town along with his mother and two brothers whenever his dad received marching orders from General Motors headquarters. The Snells followed their father to Minneapolis, Billings, Duluth, and Chicago, all before Todd started the sixth grade.
The orange tuxedo—complete with top hat, cane and shiny shoes—is a dead ringer for the one Jim Carrey wore in the movie Dumb and Dumber. But when Tom Fallenstein puts it on to conduct a tour of Costumes Galore, his 9,000-square-foot business in downtown Mankato, the suit is the only similarity to Carrey’s ridiculously stupid character.
At 25, Fallenstein is president and CEO of a company doing more than $2 million in sales in 2006, including $1 million in October alone. Almost 99 percent of that business was conducted online, not out of the storefront he and his family operate on the south end of Mankato’s Front Street. And therein lies Fallenstein’s genius: He’s figured out how to work the Web.