Tag Archives: Event

Women In Leadership

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP.  This event was about the numbers.  The Twin Cities Business event reveled the 10th annual Minnesota Census of Women in Corporate Leadership…and the news was disheartening.  The Executive Summary states, “With few notable exceptions (the Census) underscores the challenges of maintaining forward movement in diversifying corporate leadership.”

First, for a look at the big picture, the report stated:

  • Across the country, 28 million women hold managerial or professional roles (ION, 2017) but only 24 women lead Fortune 500 companies, and only 22 percent of the nation’s largest 100 public companies have female directors.

Below are a few of the highlights from the Census which analyzed data from 72 Minnesota companies:

  • The Census reveals a challenging corporate landscape, with a net decrease in the number of women holding leadership roles.
  • Of the 37 new directors appointed, only six were women.
  • Women directors of color hold only 3.1 percent of the total board seats.
  • MN companies strive to attain a critical mass of women executive officers and directors.  In 2017, six MN companies attained this critical mass of 30% or more on both their boards and in their executive offices, to receive the designation of Special Distinction.
  • The Census pointed out some of the reasons, including that there are fewer companies in Minnesota so therefore, fewer leadership opportunities.

The moderated discussion included insights from four key panelists including Kweilin Ellingrud, McKinsey & Company; Andrew Humphrey, Fagre Baker Daniels; Cindy Kent, 3M; and Beth Wozniak, Pentair.  The highlights for me included:

  • Women that have responsibility for p&l, more often move into top leadership roles.
  • Women leaders often draw from their experience as competitive athletes.
  • There is a difference between mentored and sponsored.  Cindy Kent shared that many seek mentors but are under sponsored.
  • Be intentional – take on learn & grow initiatives but make your intentions known.
  • Create your own personal advisory board.
  • Choose your boss well.
  • In response to questions regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, Beth Wozniak stated, “You get what you tolerate.”  She went on to talk about high performance workplaces.

More on this topic can be found on the St. Catherine University website.

More photos of the event can be found in the gallery.



  • Shelly Elmore, Publisher, Twin Cities Business


  • ReBecca Koenig Roloff, President, St. Catherine University

2017 MN Census of Women in Corporate Leadership Highlights

  • Joann Bangs, Associate Provost, College for Women and Dean, School of Business & Professional Studies, St. Catherine University

2017 Honor Roll Companies

  • Allete, Inc.
  • Ameriprise Financial
  • Apogee Enterprises, Inc.
  • Best Buy Co., Inc.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc.
  • Deluxe Corp.
  • Electromed, Inc.
  • General Mills, Inc.
  • Homel Foods Corp.
  • Insignia Systems, Inc.
  • Medtronic Plc
  • New Ulm Telecom Inc.
  • Patterson Cos., Inc.
  • Sleep Number Corp.
  • SuperValu, Inc.
  • Target Corp.
  • Tennant Co.
  • U.S. Bancorp
  • UnitedHealth Group

Panel Discussion

  • Kweilin Ellingrun, Partner, McKinsey & Company
  • Andrew Humphrey, Partner, Chair Emeritus, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
  • Cindy Kent, President & GM, 3M Infection Prevention Division
  • Beth Wozniak, SVP & President, Electrical, Pentair (now CEO of nVent)

Closing Remarks



Managing Through The Talent Crunch

MANAGING THROUGH THE TALENT CRUNCH.  This was the theme of Greater MSP’s Investor Meeting held at the Hilton Minneapolis.  Richard David, CEO of U.S. Bank kicked off the event by talking about the need to be bolder in order to compete.  He also introduced Greater MSP’s version 2.0 initiatives to create a remarkable future for the region.

Key initiatives focused on developing strategies to both attract and retain talent and included key partnerships with the following organizations: Greater Metropolitan Workforce Council, Minnesota Food & Agriculture Leadership Initiative and Forge North.  Performance measurements included building the network, supporting employers, generating leads and raising visibility.

People were identified as a critical key asset.  Awareness of the talent and Minnesota advantages was noted as a concern.  Attraction and retention were highlighted as key goals.  The panel included key HR leaders from U.S. Bank, Medtronic and Salo.  They emphasized the need to grow existing talent by reinvesting in them and developing access to opportunities.

A couple of areas I’d like to see expounded on in future meetings include regional strategies related to global competition, cluster development and strengthening middle market opportunities.


More photos of the event are in the Gallery.

The BOLD Awards

THE BOLD AWARDS celebrate industry’s boldest bets, daring strategies, innovative approaches, and collaborative leaders and teams.  This event recognized finalists and winners for their imagination and extraordinary efforts to grow Minnesota.

This was a gala celebration where inspiring stories were shared.  All of the organizations vying for the title of BOLDEST OF THE BOLD were here because they had created new business models, partnerships or services.  The energy in the room was palpable as the onsite voting results of the 300 in attendance were tallied.

The 2018 BOLD Award finalists and winners by category were:


  • Bunker Labs Minneapolis
  • Cookie Cart
  • Cornerstone (winner!)

Early Stage

  • Autonomous Tractor Corporation (winner!)
  • Foreverence
  • Roosevelt Energy

Corporate Small

  • Duke Cannon Supply Co.
  • HED Cycling Products (winner!)
  • Inspire Medical Systems

Middle Market

  • Bite Squad
  • Perforce Software
  • Ralco Agriculture (winner!)

Corporate Large

  • Kraus-Anderson
  • Restaurant Technologies (winner!)

The 6th annual BOLD Awards were hosted by ACG Minnesota and held at the Muse Event Center in Minneapolis.  Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) has chapters worldwide representing 14,500 members.  ACG serves 90,000 investors owners, executives, lenders and advisors to growing middle-market companies.  ACG’s mission is to drive middle-market growth.  Elements Group is a proud member of ACG.






Greater MSP Annual Meeting

This event brings together the region’s leaders of industry each year to celebrate the successes of the past year and set out goals for the future.
This year’s meeting was held at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN and led by the Chairman of the Board, Richard Davis and CEO, Michael Langley.  Guest speakers included newly elected mayor’s of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter as well as representatives from big businesses and entrepreneurs.  Entertainment was provided by members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
The theme focused on one very important topic: the region’s economic future.  I couldn’t agree more…a bold vision, alignment, a plan, and communication are needed for region. There were areas of regional growth (the number of airlines increasing) and decline (Fortune companies and workers leaving) shared. This is a region rich with assets. What we do with them in the very near future will be a key indicator of Minnesota’s future. I will be tracking the outcomes of upcoming meetings and looking for the action and new partnerships that come out of this vision.

International Water Technology Summit

The 4th Annual Water Technology Summit was held on at the Metropolitan Club in Target Field Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. A cool glass of water. It’s what some take for granted and others die for.  While dramatic, unfortunately true.  When those in the water industry get together, the opportunities for impact are many. Below are some of the key issues related to water resources and drivers of the agenda for this year’s summit:
  • Declining availability
  • Increasing demand
  • Declining water quality
  • Inadequate infrastructure
The water technology topics discussed ranged from water reuse, global water opportunities, and smart water technology. This agenda was developed by leaders in the industry including:  Ecolab, Dow Water and Process Solutions, Pentair, Tonak Water, Aeration Industries, Wenck, Faegre Baker Daniels, University of Minnesota, Greater MSP, The MN Trade Office, the U.S. Commercial Service, The Metropolitan Council, U.S. Water, Summit Envirosolutions, Cartwright Consulting and Lenz Consulting.
Keynote presentations were delivered by:
  • Ken Thompson, Global Practice Lead Smart Cities/Smart Sensors and President SWAN Council
  • John Stauch, CFO, Pentair
Specific panel topics included:
  • Water Reuse Panels:  Taking reuse mainstream:  state and industry perspectives
  • U.S Commercial Service:  Global opportunities in water
  • Smart Water Panel:  Intelligent business methodologies to modernize innovation in water
  • University of Minnesota student lightning rounds
Networking was also an important part of the event. I engaged in a variety of interesting conversations with attendees including several of the international presenters, the President of the Finnish American Chamber, a representative the UK Consul, and the President of Uponor North America. This growing network is focused on continuous learning and is driving to create solutions in this critical area.


8:30 am – 9:00 am: Registration & Networking
9:00 am – 10:30 am: Water Reuse Panels: Taking reuse mainstream: state and industry perspectives 
Everyone likes reuse, so how do we get more of it here? Our multi-agency panel shares the results of their 2+ year effort to find opportunities and barriers in Minnesota law and their next steps. Industry representatives have a great deal of experience in areas further along the learning curve and can help us understand the business case challenges their customers to consider and the solutions they’ve implemented to meet these challenges.
  • Steve Woods,Executive Director, Freshwater Society
  • Rebecca J. Flood, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Paul Allwood, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health
  • Kelly Lange-Haider, Dow Water and Process Solutions
  • Blake Schomas,Director of Marketing – Total Plant Assessments
  • Nalco Water, an Ecolab company
11:00 am – 11:45 am: U.S. Commercial Service:  Global Opportunities in Water
  • Monica McFarlane Scott, Senior International Trade Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service Minnesota
Presentations by:
  • China: Aimee Jia,Commercial Assistant U.S. Consulate Guangzhou
  • China: Shiqiao (Sophia) Chen,Senior Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Shanghai
  • Philippines: Bebe Montesines,Commercial Specialist, U.S. Embassy Philippines
  • Singapore: Chan Yiu Kei,Senior Commercial Specialist, U.S. Embassy Singapore
  • India: Arup Mitra,Senior Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Kolkata
  • New Zealand: Dhiraj Mani,Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Auckland
  • Saudi Arabia: Mohammed Shajaddin,Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Dhahran
  • South Africa: Mohammed Essay,Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Johannesburg
  • Brazil: Teresa Wagner,Senior Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Sao Paulo
12:00 pm – 12:45 pm: Lunch Keynote
  • Ken Thompson, Global Practice Lead Smart Cities/Smart Sensors and President SWAN Council
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Smart Water Panel: Intelligent business methodologies to modernize innovation in water
As technology development in the water industry continues to advance at an ever faster pace, business innovation is often left behind, struggling to keep up, creating an innovation gap. Companies are feeling the disruptive pressure to adapt to this change in pace and are exploring new ways to develop business agility through creative investing, strategic partnerships and ecosystem alignment. In this panel session, 3M, Uponor, and Toro will share how they are bridging the innovation gap between technology and business through differentiated business models and methodologies.
  • Jen Nowlin, Principal, Accredent


  • Bill Gray, CEO, Uponor North America
  • Sunidh Jani, Manager, 3M Ventures
  • Dana Lonn, Managing Director, Center for Technology, The Toro Company
2:00 pm – 2:15 pm: University of Minnesota Student Lightning Rounds
  • Paige Novak: Joseph T. and Rose S. Ling Chair in Environmental Engineering, Co-Director, MnDRIVE: Environment
Student Speakers:
  • Xue Zhen
  • Michael Schwab
  • Jovan Popovic
  • David Goldfeld
  • Hanna Miller
2:30 pm – 3:15 pm: Afternoon Keynote
  • John Stauch, CFO, Pentair
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm: Networking Reception

Innovation at Optum


Optum hosted the most recent Product Management and Development Association (PDMA) meeting. The event was well attended by product development and management practitioners, academics and service providers in a variety of industries and knowledge areas, including new product process, strategy innovation, market research, tools & metrics, organizational issues and portfolio management.

The evening began with a tour of the impressive Optum® Experience Center in Eden Prairie.  The high-tech space is used to highlighted the changing health care landscape while demonstrating new partner and customer-focused products and services. Some of the Center’s features included: (1)  a media wall using multi-touchscreen technology, (2) the Showcase, featuring 270-degree projected imagery and video, (3) an Optum Operations Center providing real-time access to Optum activity worldwide, and (4) a range of collaboration spaces.

Next, a panel of product development professionals shared the essential need for the convergence of product development and data analytics in order to improve the customer experience, and in turn, the acceptance and profitability of a new product in the marketplace.

The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) is a community of more than 2,000 members whose skills, expertise and experience power the most recognized and respected innovative companies in the world.  It specifically focuses on the unique set of integrated activities involved in the full lifecycle of product development and management, including innovation.

Target Startup Accelerator

One of the ways Target has chosen to pursue innovation is through the development of startups. This is a common strategy employed by companies looking to find the next technology, products and services to advance their initiatives and give them an competitive edge.  Accelerators by definition provide startups with mentorship, office space and often capital.
Today I had the opportunity to tour Target’s Startup Accelerator and meet Kirsten Nielson, director of innovation.  When asked why Target had chosen this path, reasons included:
  • Maintaining the pulse on retail innovations and innovators
  • Exposure to startups
  • An opportunity create the future of retail
Target selected Techstars Retail as their partner to drive the three-month intensive startup accelerator focused on bringing new technology, experiences, products, and solutions to retail. Techstars provides startup companies with funding, mentoring, office space, exposure and access to their worldwide network of entrepreneurs.  According to their website, this includes more than 2,700 investors, 1,200 alumni companies and 180 staff.
The Target Accelerator began in October when the application process opened.  In this case, Target cast a wide net.  They wanted to reach out to retail technology companies to see what they could attract.  Areas of particular interest were consumer products and consumer internet.  What they were not interested in selecting were companies just looking for distribution through Target.  The search efforts paid off with over 500 applications received from 45 countries.  The interview process ran from November to March and 10 companies were selected by June.  Companies that did make the cut, were provided feedback and in particular those that ranked 11-20.
The accelerator ran 13 weeks from June to September.  There are three phases of the program: (1) mentor and engagement feedback, (2) guidance on product and market fit and (3) preparation for fundraising.  Entrepreneurs were encouraged to share their biggest challenges so they can be connected to the right mentors.  Alignment of resources is a strategic priority.
The 8,000 square foot space dedicated to the accelerator initiative is located on the skyway level of 33 S 6th Street, connected to the Minneapolis City Center.  Work and meeting areas, internet and whiteboards are provided.
Atif Siddiqi shared the story of his company, Branch Messenger, and how he used the Target & Techstars program to build a business case. He leveraged the network to get feedback at every level at Target.  He then piloted his product in 10 Target stores to get key metrics.  Solving a problem for Target, they are now in 133 stores. Branch Messengers is an employee self-service platform that empowers hourly shift workers to manage their work lives in real-time and enterprises to instantly address staffing and operational needs at scale.
Speakers at this Product Development & Management Association (PDMA) sponsored event included:
  • Ryan Broshar, Techstars, managing director
  • Atif Siddiqi, Branch Messenger, founder and ceo
  • Kirstin Nielson, Target, director of innovation