When it comes to finding a community that supports and empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses, look no further than the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs. Nationally recognized as the place where business starts and thrives, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has the 4th highest concentration of small businesses in the nation, making it the 3rd “Best State to Start a Business” (Entrepreneur.com).
The area’s library systems have long been important resources to enriching life. A new video series called Libraries out Loud out of Kansas City explores how libraries are adapting to the needs of today, including finding ways to support local entrepreneurs. It is not much different in the Twin Cities where in a collaborative effort to support the growing entrepreneurial population, the James J. Hill Center provides resources complimenting the offerings at neighboring libraries.
The Hill often works together with Hennepin County Library and St. Paul Public Library to provide the best business information for entrepreneurs. This has always been part of the Hill’s mission. In our first year in business, head librarian Joseph Pyle explained in the 1921 Librarian Report, that James J. Hill intended for the library to “pick up where the public library ended,” which is exactly where our mission falls today. We fill in the gaps with our unique programs and resources.
On Monday, Aug. 21 from 5:30-7:30pm, Lindsey Dyer (JJHC), Erin Cavell (HCL) and Amanda Feist (SPPL) from our three area libraries will conduct a presentation called “Fill in the blanks of your business plan: getting started with research,” hosted by George Latimer Library. This presentation will share resources, tips and tricks to navigate the best that our metro libraries have to offer. SIGN UP NOW to join this informational free event.
Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or email@example.com.
Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come back the first Tuesday of each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.
FINDING SOFT SKILL VALUE
I used to have a hard time finding my keys. Then I bought this little plastic disk that my phone can make beep. They’re usually sitting right on the counter, hidden in plain sight.
A recent survey of 2.6 million employers reported that 59% have difficulty finding candidates who are proficient in “soft skills.” I believe that soft skilled people are really not that hard to find. They just need to tag their skills with the equivalent of that beeping disk.
Making your own soft skill set “beep” out begins with understanding why they’re “soft”, what are the skills and the value to employers.
Among the most sought-after soft skills are the “4 Cs”: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity.
The term soft skills was originally defined by the Army in 1972 as
“Job functions about which we know a good deal are hard skills and those about which we know very little are soft skills.”
From the beginning soft skills have been associated with misunderstanding.
One of the biggest insights to soft skills is how little we know about them and ourselves. Studies like Sage Journals “Perceived Versus Actual Transparency of Goals in Negotiation” have shown how we believe others see us and what they actually perceive are statistically unrelated. The only accurate way to gauge how you’re being perceived is to ask someone else.
And yet, as Seth Godin points out “what actually separates thriving organizations from struggling ones are the difficult-to-measure attitudes, processes and perceptions of the people who do the work.”
In that aptly titled post, “Let’s Stop Calling Them ’Soft Skills,” Godin argues that the term should be avoided:
“We call these skills soft, making it easy for us to move on to something seemingly more urgent. We rarely hire for these attributes because we’ve persuaded ourselves that vocational skills are impersonal and easier to measure.”
He feels that they are more accurately understood as “real skills” because of their impact on businesses:
“…when an employee demoralizes the entire team by undermining a project, or when a team member checks out and doesn’t pull his weight, or when a bully causes future stars to quit the organization — too often, we shrug and point out that this person has tenure, or vocational skills or isn’t so bad. But they’re stealing from us.”
He then goes on to list nearly 100 different skill sets in five categories that make up his first draft of real skills.
Godin’s argument carries significant weight when you consider how reliant the economy is on soft skills. Three decades ago 83% of the value of an S&P 500 company was in its tangible assets—real estate, equipment, inventory. Today 87% of the value is in intangible assets—ideas, brand, or stories.
Companies that had paid workers to build value with their labor now pay them to create with their minds. The majority of companies’ value can no longer be delivered by trucks. Instead, the majority of worth is created, transmitted and maintained through soft skill mastery.
Developing mastery is also hiding in plain sight. The process is the same one practiced by athletes, artists and entrepreneurs.
More on that later. I have to find my phone.
To be continued….
Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.
Aleckson Nyamwaya has his beat on the pulse of the startup world in MN. He is an Associate @gener8tor, a Dreamchaser @powermovesdev and a lover of all things Tech & Startups. We are pleased to have his monthly insight on Startup Secrets and Sh#$ to Know. Check back each month for his thoughts, observations and featured companies.
The Rise of Venture Capital in MN
And what this means for the startup community
It goes without saying, the Twin Cities startup ecosystem is less than mediocre. The good news is, there are many worthwhile initiatives underway to help change that. One of those efforts is venture capital. In late 2016 & early 2017, Minnesotans saw an increase of venture capital activity.
What this means for the local ecosystem
MEETINGS, MEETINGS, MEETINGS. The hype will inevitably lead the community to play a game called “Startup”. Suddenly everyone becomes an entrepreneur with an “Uber for X”. This will be a result of 2 things.
- The new VCs are first-timers, They are too excited about their new found “Gatekeeper” role which will lead them to make mistakes as they adjust.
- Instead of tackling challenging problems, The Twin Cities eco-system will abuse & misuse these funds on stupid ideas that don’t deserve funding.
In this day and age, VCs are expected to have a moral responsibility. Give back to the community in which you serve. The most valuable way to achieve this is through inspiring, mentoring and cultivating the generation of leaders. Perhaps through initiatives put in place by community leaders to develop the strong founders. Such as, mentorship, free mini accelerators, high school/college involvement, EIR programs etc.
My prediction is that half of these firms will fail, crashing and burning to the ground. Only time can tell, specifically the next 3–5 years. It’s important to note that, Minnesota’s early stage venture capital market is still in it’s infancy. Relative to older markets, such as silicon valley. Where firms like KPCB have reigned supreme before the 90’s to this day.
This is our golden age of entrepreneurs-turned-VCs. I am excited to see where this journey leads us.
Bunker labs: A national NOT-FOR-PROFIT 501(C)(3) organization built by military veteran entrepreneur to empower other military veterans as leaders in innovation.
Guest writer: Aleckson Nyamwaya
To sign up for his monthly tech newsletter CLICK HERE.
With some recent archival projects on our plate an article from MPR News caught the attention of Lindsey Dyer our Director of Library Services. “File this under nostalgia: New book pays tribute to the library card catalog“ shares information about a new book from the Library of Congress entitled, “The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures.” It celebrates catalogs “as the analog ancestor of the search engine.” Library of Congress author, Peter Deveraux, states that “There’s tens of millions of cards here. It’s a city block long.” This was a very timely article considering some of the historic catalog items we recently found here at the James J. Hill Center. Lindsey recently took some time to dig up and share a few iconic treats from the vault.
Lindsey: Card catalogs are indeed “cabinets of curiosities” as are the ways we have kept track of information over time. Librarians worked tirelessly to create calm in the chaos of information, cutting and pasting any relevant facts and tid-bits. Take these snapshots in time from the 1980s – gems of nostalgia for Gen Xers and older millennials. What research paper would be complete without the help of the card catalog?
At the Hill, business librarians had a special task of identifying and capturing industry trends – like how Nike is taking over the sneaker industry, or the rise in fax machine sales. While the methods have certainly changed (we aren’t cutting out and taping facts to cards, though I have to admit that sounds cathartic), we still aim to find the best industry information there is, combing databases (paid and free), and translating that information.
We have been, and always will be, an entrepreneur’s best resource!
Visit the James J. Hill Center and it’s reference library Monday through Thursday 10AM to 5PM and check out all of the current resources. Also, ask one of our business librarians for some assistance with a database and see what gems of knowledge you can find to build you business success.
Lindsey Dyer is the new Director of Library Services at the James J. Hill Center, and comes with experience from both public and academic libraries, as well as Target, Corp. and the Minnesota Historical Society. Lindsey lives in St. Paul with her husband and is the mom of three kids. We took a few minutes to chat with her about her new position at the Hill. Come in and join us at the Hill next week during National Library Week to meet Lindsey and her team and participate in free programming.
How did your journey with the James J. Hill Center begin?
The Hill Center inspired me to pursue a career in libraries back in 2005, when I worked here as a volunteer. It is easy to see why – the building draws you in and speaks for itself. Though I had since moved on to new professional opportunities, I maintained an admiration for the mission and staff – particularly the Hill Papers Archivist, Eileen McCormack, whose job I aspired to at the time. I am honored to be back!
What do you want people to know about you?
I am very interested in how library services fit into the broader user experience landscape when it comes to looking for and using information. Libraries have an important task, especially now, to be conduits for authentic and unbiased information that we use every day in business decisions. I think we’ve lost sight of why this is important to talk about. At the Hill Center, we have a unique opportunity to narrow that down to information that entrepreneurs in particular need to get to the next step in their business planning. It’s exciting and inspiring when our information becomes the turning point for a startup.
What has made the biggest impact on your career so far?
Working for both Target and the Minnesota Historical Society gave me a unique perspective on service and management. I like to think that I took the best from both worlds, specifically non-traditional approaches to what accessibility looks like, and have been working to implement some of these things at the Hill Center.
What has been the largest hurdle and success you have experienced in your career?
I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some talented entrepreneurs, and have had some real conversations about what they need to be successful. I am working towards the hurdle of transforming reference services at the Hill Center to best fit those needs. I want the library to not only give entrepreneurs information – I want us to be the difference between success and failure.
What is it about Minnesota and more specifically Saint Paul that keeps you here?St. Paul – or “Small Paul” – has been my home for 13 years, and it’s the ultimate charmer. I am especially drawn to historic homes, and in fact used to be the Site Manager of the James J. Hill House – the historic house museum to rival them all. This city has a rich history, and it shows.
The Hills’ mission honors the legacy of its founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century. We offer research, programs, and networking for each stage of business development. Our efforts also include services to the broader community through the hosting of cultural and artistic programming and events.
Blue Prints to Business Plans…
September at the Hill was buzzing with visitors from students to entrepreneurs researching blue prints to business plans. It is a prefect example of the vast amount of resources our Reference Specialists have at their fingertips.
Here are some examples of who, what and why people visited us!
- Over 110 researchers welcomed in September.
- Most researchers were from Minnesota, and a few traveled from Wisconsin.
- Several researchers this month came to use our resources to help them develop their business plans.
- The majority of our visitors in September self-identify as entrepreneurs.
- A student from the U of M studying architecture viewed historic building blueprints for a course project.
- One researcher explored sales data and patent information related to exercise equipment.
- We often welcome job seekers, but had one unique researcher this month, who works to support individuals with severe mental illness and conducted job searches on behalf of those individuals to locate potential workplaces near their homes to accommodate transportation limitations.
We look forward to seeing you at the Hill. Contact a Reference Specialist today!
“Great things never come from comfort zones”
Next week is Twin Cities Startup Week a celebration of the “startup capital of the north,” Minnesota. A great time to recognize innovation, creative thinking and economic empowerment. After reviewing some of the startups that have presented at 1 Million Cups St. Paul (every Wednesday 9AM at the Hill) we were impressed by the variety of individuals who made up these organizations, and the creative implementation of each idea.
We started to wonder what characteristic these entrepreneurs possess…these ground breakers, these innovators. We were surprised to find it was not the usual traits that often define a successful business person (i.e. professional, competitive, ambitious). The traits instead were holistic, passionate and creative – not typically the words used in day-to-day corporate environments.
Entrepreneurs are described as the artists of business, the breakers of the mold and the dreamers of our time. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages and races. Their services and products vary from small to large, specific to broad, for niche groups or the entire world. They are for profit and not for profit (some profitable, some just surviving). But all of them have one thing in common. They all start as a dream.
These risk takers go beyond their comfort zone and strive to create a new world. They are the inspiration behind new ideas and revolutions that shape our daily decisions and define our economic future.
After reading about these innovators of change, we wanted to thank them for their willingness to jump, to believe in an idea, to keep an open mind, flexible heart, a passionate belief AND the confidence to persevere when it doesn’t work the first time. We all can learn from them. We all can be a little more entrepreneurial every day.
“If it is still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk”
– Paulo Coelho, lyricist & Novelist-
You can imagine the vast array of questions a resource library gets asked in one day. In my brief time sitting at the JJ Hill Centers front desk on a Wednesday afternoon I was asked, “Can I look up every address I ever lived at?” and “Do you have a book that would show me where to find all the award emblems that can be given to student in school?” Our reference librarians can almost always find an answer and if not, they can point you in the right direction. We are a business reference library and we cover every business imaginable, which leaves us with a vast database of facts and details that people quickly discover can connect them to more information than they may have thought.
But, is there ever a question that is too off the chart to answer? In short, no. In December 2014 the Gothamist reported on a discovery found at the New York City Library. A reference librarian was cleaning house and found a large box of old reference questions from the 1940s and 50s. Questions varied from “What is a life span of an eyelash?” to “What percentage of bathtubs in the world are in the US?” to “Where can I rent a beagle for hunting?” Amazingly enough the system back then was the same as today and a reference librarian called them back with an answer. There were of course question where answers could not be found, but the fact that people asked gives a wonderful nod to the trusted resource a reference library held then and still does today.
Here at the Hill we believe there are no stupid questions. So, if you can’t find it when you search online and you want to dig deeper, contact us. As the esteemed and highly respected Carl Sagan once said “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every questions is a cry to understand the world.” Come learn with us!
The first patent filed under the name “Google, Inc.,” was on August 31, 1999 – 17 years ago. It was initially started as a research project for “watermarking systems and methodology for digital multimedia content.” It has since become the primary tool for all things people question, wonder and need to know, BUT what did we do before Google and is there a human need to reconnect, be certain and have a trusted “human “source?
The James J. Hill Center is considered the oldest free reference library in the nation and still holds some of the most relevant business research in the country. Reference desks did not become a service until the late 1800’s. The Boston Public Library in 1883 was the first library to hire librarians whose primary purpose was reference and research. Over this century reference services grew to be a trusted direct personal assistant to readers seeking information. The invention of the computer, web and Google has drastically shifted that perspective but not eliminated it. As more time is spent in front of our computers and listening to automated voicemail there has been another shift.
A recent article on the New York Public Library (NYPL) proves reference desks are still a vital and growing way to find out anything from the odd and mysterious to the most challenging. The NYPL receives 300 inquiries per day and one of the number one comments is “Thank God I’ve reached a human being.” At the Hill though the numbers are smaller, the reaction is the same. Business researchers have access to databases and materials that are not easily accessible. This is not to say that reference librarians do not use the web to search for answers but they are experts at sifting through content, picking what is relevant and getting a trusted response, backed up with facts and put in one place.
So the next time you jump on Google and type in “Business Plan Templates” – why not consider coming to the Hill to ask an expert or research some of the most successful businessmen in history figured out. Reference libraries hold the backbone to our past and are the seed for our future.
By Leah Kodner, Business Reference Librarian
Are you looking for a new job or even thinking about switching careers entirely? At the James J. Hill Center, our librarians help people every day with the job search and career exploration process. We have a number of databases that can help you make the transition much easier and help you find your next job sooner.
Selecting an Industry
If you’re thinking of switching careers, you’ll want to do a little research first. You want to make sure that, whatever industry you choose to work in, there are going to be job opportunities. Looking up potential industries in our IBISWorld database is a good place to start. IBIS can tell you about the industry’s performance over the past few years and can give you its outlook for the coming years.
Another source for industry research is the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. The Business Journal publishes articles about industries every week. After learning about the state of your industry across the entire country in IBISWorld, you can use the Business Journal to learn how the industry is performing locally.
The “Current Performance” section of IBISWorld’s report on Libraries and Archives in the U.S.
Performing Industry Research
When you’re researching your new industry, there are a few things you’ll want to know. You’ll want to know what products or services the industry provides, what trends it’s been experiencing, and who it serves. IBISWorld, again, is a good place to go for that information.
To learn about all the recent developments within your industry, EBSCO is a useful tool. The EBSCO database is an article conglomerator, gathering articles from industry journals, news sources, and trade publications. It can keep you up to date on all the latest news within your industry.
Finally, you will want to learn what companies operate in your industry. It will be especially important to discover which companies are located near where you live, so you can begin to look for jobs within the industry. Luckily, we have some great sources for finding companies!
EBSCO articles about trends in the library industry
Finding Companies in Your Industry
The best way to find companies in your industry is to use Gale DemographicsNow. Gale allows users to build targeted lists of companies based on either the SIC or NAICS code for your industry. You can search for companies in any area of the country, choosing from states, counties, cities, Zip codes, or even a mileage radius from a specific address. Gale can also help you limit the size of companies you search for, using number of employees or annual revenue. You can narrow your search to companies with minority ownership, search for only company headquarters, and more. Clearly, Gale DemographicsNow is the most comprehensive way to build lists of companies.
Another way to find companies in your industry is the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s Book of Lists. The Book of Lists contains “best of” lists that have been published in the Business Journal over the past year. These lists provide the top players in a given industry within the Twin Cities metro area. If you are looking to find a list of the local big players in your industry, this is the place to go.
We have a number of other databases that can find companies in your industry. PrivCo can find large private companies, Guidestar can find nonprofits, and Uniworld can find companies with branches in foreign countries. Between all these sources, you can find all the companies you want in your industry.
Gale DemographicsNow list of libraries in St. Paul
If you are interested in working for a specific company, it’s important to research them in-depth. Good sources for individual company research include EBSCO, Gale DemographicsNow, and PrivCo. EBSCO can give you all the latest news updates about the company. Gale DemographicsNow can tell you its size, year established, the number of branches, and its competitors. If the company is private, PrivCo can provide more information than you’ll find anywhere else. With our databases, you’ll learn all there is to know about the company you’re researching.
Part of PrivCo’s profile of The Library Corporation, a private company in the U.S.
Stop by The Hill today and let our librarians help you with your research! The James J. Hill Center is open Monday-Thursday from 10-5.