The region spanning from the Twin Cities metro area down to Rochester is such a hotbed of healthcare organizations and medical device companies that it’s known as “Medical Alley.” In fact, a 2015 article by EMSI notes that the Twin Cities Medical Alley has far more medical-related jobs than any other metro area in the United States, over 10,000 more than New York. Minnesota is clearly a leader in the medical industry housing such influential companies as 3M, Medtronic, the Mayo Clinic and the Medical Alley Association.
The business reference library at the James J. Hill Center is here to help professionals in the medical device industry find the information they need. We offer a highly specialized database, the American Hospital Directory. This database can be accessed for free at the Hill Center in downtown Saint Paul.
The American Hospital Directory is a tool that medical device sales professionals find invaluable for finding detailed information about hospitals in their market. Data is collected from both public and private sources such as Medicare claims, hospital cost reports and commercial licencors. Using this directory, you can learn a hospital’s specialties, bed count, revenue broken down by services and more.
This type of research is a vital tool in the medical field. To have the ability to compare and contrast hospitals by patient statistics, revenue and services puts you at the top of your game and on the road to success. Stop by the Hill today, have a conversation with one of our business librarians and use this hidden gem.
Written by: Leah Kodner, Business Librarian, 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 protected].
Zach Stabenow is the CEO and Co-Founder of GovDocs. We had the opportunity to connect with Zach about his entrepreneurial journey starting GovDocs and GovDelivery. His story of success and thoughts on what is important are an inspiration for anyone taking the steps to make their dream happen.
How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
It started in a studio basement apartment in the City of St. Paul with a small desk, one Dell computer with a dial-up modem and a futon for a bed. I was fresh out of the University of Minnesota having been in the work force (tech industry) for only two years, when the entrepreneurial bug bit me. My mother was a school teacher turned entrepreneur who started and ran a small business during my childhood and her father had a number of entrepreneurial ventures in North St. Paul so it was probably inevitable that I would have a passion for starting my own business just based on hereditariness. So in June of 1999, I co-founded two companies; GovDocs and GovDelivery with a close friend, Scott Burns, as my business partner.
What are your current projects and or business ventures you are working on?
I currently own and run GovDocs, which is now independent from GovDelivery. GovDocs employs 50 people and growing who have a passion for providing employment law management software, data, and print solutions to the largest companies in North America.
What are the most important things to consider when starting a new idea / venture or start up?
Focus first on addressing a small niche market that is being under served. Then, go serve that tiny market better than anyone else in the world for years, or even a decade. It is incredibly tempting for entrepreneurs to build a business that serves a mass market right out of start-up phase because of the attractiveness of scale, but what I’ve learned is that your business first must prove that it can be #1 or #2 at something on a smaller level before it can advance to serving a mass market.
What resources did you use when starting your journey?
Books. I read a lot of business books and trade publications before starting my entrepreneurial journey. The most useful books that contributed to my business learning though were the historical biographies and auto-biographies of entrepreneurs who shaped our country’s history through business. Ironically, one of those important biographies, was The Life of James J. Hill by Joseph Pyle and I also studied Highways of Progress written by Hill himself. I have found that the most valuable business lessons come from reading and learning from those who have come long before us who are able to offer their life-time perspective of experience, rather than a recent business fad or technique.
How did you leverage the resources at the Hill Center?
Several years ago, I decided to examine GovDocs’ potential for additional strategic expansion from our core product offering. To know whether my market hunch had any validity, I needed more empircal data. A business acquaintance had suggested I use James J. Hill Center’s research library databases to gather data profiles on the largest companies in the U.S. so that I could analyze their geographical locations and other attributes. That data and analysis turned-out to be crucial to convincing me and our leadership team to pursue our next strategic expansion opportunity. Today, we still refer to that data when analyzing how well we are capturing market share.
What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My mother. If she hadn’t made the entrepreneurial leap herself, I wouldn’t have had the front-row seat to see what real guts and determination it takes to risk personal failure and money and to push through all the adversity required to start and grow a business. What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
Getting the very first customer (or set of customers) to purchase and use our products/services has always been the biggest hurdle when entering new markets.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
Research the market you’re about to live in. You can have a huge competitive advantage if you put effort and time in to this step.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are stuck or have had their first failure?
Immediately perform physical movement on activities that will inch your business forward. Make another phone call, write another email, design another prototype, interview a prospective customer… do anything that gets you physically moving and the business forward. This helps bring your mental determination back and it gets one more item done for the business. Then repeat that 10,000 more times.
What is it about Minnesota and the entrepreneurial ecosystem and how has it managed to keep you here?Two key reasons:
- Minnesota has a long and consistent history of incubating some of the most successful entrepreneurs and businesses in the world. That history and tradition motivates me.
- Minnesota weather and mosquito’s make for a hardy work force to hire from and build great teams. Whether you grew up here or were a transplant, to endure -15 temperatures, snow and mosquito bites year in and year out will turn almost anyone into a consistently hard-working team member. You can’t get that Silicon Valley.
The James J. Hill Center 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. Visit us in downtown Saint Paul at 80 West Fourth Street, off the corner of Market and Fourth.
Pew Research Center’s fall 2016 analysis on Internet and Technology finds that “people think that libraries are a major contributor to their communities in providing a safe place to spend time.” There are few public “safe spaces” out there that provide a welcoming, neutral and resource filled environment like libraries. So how does this translate to a space like the James J. Hill Center, where entrepreneurs come to network, research and build their business?
The Hill is historically known as the James J. Hill Reference Library. Regardless of the name change, the heart of the organization has been, is and always will be the library. We are one of those “safe spaces” dedicated to creating a place where business professionals and innovators can make mistakes, test ideas and take risks – a place to grow.
Walk in the door, and you’ll experience the business neutral environment – you don’t need to have an established business to use our resources. We are that safe space for the seed level start-up, and even before then in the exploratory phase. According to Pew Research, there is an increase in the need for those experts or guides (we like to call them librarians!) to identify information that they can trust – in 2016, 37% of people said that libraries play a role in helping to identify this trusted information, up from 24% in 2015. This will only grow, as Google provides a starved environment for data you can bring to a board or potential investor, and boards and potential investors demand more data to support risk taking opportunities.
Starting a business or changing careers can put you in murky territory, but our business librarians at the Hill Center are here to help. Our librarians are on-hand to navigate not only the exclusive databases that can be accessed here for free, but also to help seek out other free resources that can be accessed from anywhere. The Hill is a safe space to try something on for size, reach for your dreams and find your potential – and as your guide we promise to give you our honest, expert opinion.
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 protected].
On May 16th and 17th of 2017 the James J. Hill Center was happy to house an important conference presented by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. The conference was on Digital Inclusion. It was an eye opening experience to understand the full scope of our digital world and the work that needs to be done to ensure all people have access and opportunity to grow in our continually growing digital community. We felt NDIA was an important organization for others to know about and took a few minutes to chat virtually with their Director, Angela Siefer.
What do you want people to know about NDIA and what sets it apart?
NDIA is a unified voice representing digital inclusion programs across the country. This role is unique. It is why we exist. Local digital inclusion programs are doing the incredibly hard work of increasing home broadband access, running public broadband access labs, teaching digital skills and getting appropriate devices into the hands of the most disadvantaged among us.
NDIA does this through:
- Developing and empowering a community of practice of digital inclusion programs in our communities.
- Discussing the full definition of digital inclusion, related challenges and solutions with decision makers and partners.
How did your organization begin?
In the spring of 2015, representatives of local digital inclusion programs and national digital inclusion advocates launched the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). We did so because federal policy was being discussed that would impact the work of local digital inclusion programs yet the expertise of these programs (even the existence of these programs) was not part of the discussion. NDIA currently represents over 250 affiliates, most of whom are community based organizations, libraries and local government entities with digital inclusion programs.
What do you feel has been NDIA’s biggest impact so far?
- Developing definitions of digital inclusion and digital equity that have furthered an understanding and increased awareness of programming gaps.
- Influencing federal policymaking (including the modernization of Lifeline).
- Influencing local policymaking, particularly through Digital Inclusion Trailblazers.
- Strengthening programs through information sharing online and at our annual gathering Net Inclusion.
What has been the largest hurdle and / or success your organization has faced?
NDIA is a bootstrap startup nonprofit program. Starting with nothing has been both a challenge and a strength.
What advice would you give to businesses and organizations regarding digital inclusion efforts?
Look for potential partners. The most impactful programs are those that work collaboratively in their communities and have trusted relationships with the individuals they are serving.
What do you see for the future of our digital world?
Technology will keep changing and more digital divides will develop. We as a society can shrug our shoulders or we can work together to create solutions that strengthen our communities.
To read more about NDIA and their continued efforts to increase a unified voice for digital inclusion please visit their website at digitalinclusion.org.
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
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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.
“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to management than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely the lukewarm defense in those who gain by the new ones.” – Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527), Philosopher and playwright
I recently ran across this quote by Niccolo Machiavelli at the Hill entrepreneurial center and would have thought it was written today. Not so, it shows that change has been a process of mis-acceptance for as long as man has innovated on new ideas.
I define innovation as the introduction of new and improved ways of putting ideas into action. In an economic sense, an innovation is accomplished with the first commercial transaction involving a new or improved product, process, or organizational business model. Innovation is then intentional attempts to bring about value from change. These values include; economic benefits, personal growth, increased satisfaction, improved group coherence, better organizational communication, as well as productivity and economic measures.
Sound like entrepreneurism? I think so, to the entrepreneur that means transformation of creative ideas to accountable, actionable changes. Maximizing customer value and experience is a core principle in innovation. The entrepreneur needs to understand that ‘emotion trumps logic’ and that their audience needs to feel and experience the value brought by their innovation.
We are a society of habit and as Nicolo Machiavlli’s quote shows of the past, the same is currently true. The creation of new must provide a value proposition that goes beyond current habits to prevent sabotage from those who feel threatened by change.
To generate “Transformation from Innovation” identify and target market your change agents early so they may become your evangelists to help you articulate and promote your values.
Jeff Brown positively transforming the way people grow their personal business brand.
• Board Member, Coaching, and Strategy for Fortune 500 companies to start-ups
• Developing and transforming ideas into something superb
• Creating accountable strategies to helping clients where they are stuck or want to go
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.
James J. Hill Center Community Engagement Specialist, Maggie Smith, shares her experience at her first “design session” with 1 Million Cups.
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a design session. If that sounds vague, it’s because it is. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I was told it was a “participatory workshop, wherein diverse stakeholders co-create solutions.” Over the two-day session we used a variety of collaborative activities to break down the posed issue, and come up with viable solutions based on questions and concerns relating to the issue.
Simply put, it was a room full of strangers working together to create actual solutions to a problem that connected all of us.
A concept we heard over and over during our session was “don’t just tweak, transform,” meaning don’t just edit the existing structure to make it better, completely rethink and rebuild. This concept really resonated. As entrepreneurs, our ideas are often born from seeing a problem and wanting to solve it. Some succeed, many do not. The reasons for this are varied, but this mantra, if you will, changed my focus and lens for looking at why ideas succeed and how to ‘up’ your creative game.
It seems many solutions and ideas for startups are simply tweaks, upgrades and adjustments made to an existing platform. But what if everyone who saw a problem they wanted to solve took a step back and broke it down before building the idea back up? Our design session started with breaking down how the problem made us feel, finding themes within those feelings and then finding questions we could solve related to the themes. Questions like, “how might we create an experience that pulls people into deeper engagement?” “How might we reduce isolation and increase inclusion? “How might we make resources both educational and community focused?”
Once these questions were established, the brainstorming began. A lot of problem-solvers head straight to actual brainstorming. But next time try adding these few steps beforehand and see if you get different ideas, or if the problem/solution goes in a direction you weren’t expecting.
From there the brainstorming took a normal path. Narrowing down ideas, deciding how viable they were and road-mapping for the future.
The process was intensive and surprisingly tiring, but fun. And most importantly, it worked! Our small group of strangers came up with four solid, viable and feasible ideas.
Imagine what you could do with people you knew, and more time.
The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. You can hear from new startups each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul.
Networking. We often hear how dreaded it can be for professionals. People feel awkward, uncomfortable and fake, but we know it’s important – some might say vital – in today’s workforce. Networking has the potential to lead to job opportunities, partnerships and increased knowledge about the community and business network around you.
We’ve seen the most beneficial relationships here at the Hill come out of our networking opportunities. According to an article from Hubspot, 95% of professionals surveyed say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships. So how do you make these connections? Here are three simple ways we feel are a great starting point.
First, find a networking group that appeals to you. Business networking is hosted here at the Hill the last Wednesday of every month for an hour before 1 Million Cups – both great networking opportunities but there are many around the twin cities and with a little research on your industry or interest you will be surprised at the variety.
Second, when it comes to networking, practice makes perfect. It is a skill anyone can learn. It is easy to find helpful articles with tips and tricks to make networking less painful like “7 Tips for Networking” and “Learn to Love Networking”. Advice varies from focusing on topics you’re interested in, to asking open ended questions to keep the conversation flowing, to knowing what you want to get out of the interaction. But what this all comes down to is effective communication with your peers and colleagues.
Third, communicating clearly and effectively in a professional setting is crucial to successful relationships and partnerships. So what makes a good communicator? How do you understand your own communication style? The Hill is hosting two sessions of “Communicate in Color” to help answer these questions. Learning how you as a leader communicate, and how others communicate with you, can lead to a positive and rewarding environment for you, your peers and colleagues. Presenter Scott Schwefel is a communication expert and serial entrepreneur who has spoken to over 1,000 companies on how they can leverage new communication strategies to increase sales, profits and productivity. We’re excited to have him share his resources and knowledge with our entrepreneur community.
By incorporating these three important tips you can feel more confident in your networking skills. And by joining us here at the Hill at any of our upcoming events you can practice! You never know what will come of a short conversation.