Episode 08: Transformation in the Midwest


In this episode:

When it comes to making things, there may be no region with more experience than the Midwest. And when it comes to business diversity, the Minneapolis market has it all from healthcare to retail and manufacturing.

On this episode of Ten Thousand Feet, Principal Consultant, Jake Trippel, talks with Vicki Stute, Vice President of Programs and Business Services at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Patrick Delaney, the Founder of KConfs, the organization that puts on conferences like IoT Fuse. Collectively, these two connect with a myriad of businesses and are intimately familiar with the changes they are undergoing during this time of change.

We talk with them about their observations, the talent gap and the biggest challenge Midwestern businesses are facing today.


This episode is sponsored by:

Dell EMC logo

This podcast content was created prior to our rebrand and may contain references to our previous name (OST) and brand elements. Although our brand has changed, the information shared continues to be relevant and valuable.

Episode Transcript

Lizzie Williams: Hey everybody, this episode of 10,000 Feet, the OST podcast was recorded from OST’s Minneapolis office with Account Executive Jake Trippel. Jake interviewed Vicki Stute, the Vice President of programs and business services at the Minnesota Chamber, and Patrick Delaney from KConfs who puts on conferences like IoT views. Patrick and Vicki had some great insights on the changes, businesses are facing as they make the shift to digital enterprises. Enjoy.  

Jake Trippel: All right, Jake Trippel here, a consultant with OST, I’m here with Patrick Delaney the President of KConfs. I’m here with Vicki Stute, Vice President of programming for the Chamber of Commerce.  

Vicki Stute: Good afternoon. 

View Full Transcript

Jake: Yeah. Vicki, tell us about what you’re doing there and tell us all about you.  

Vicki: Certainly. Well, thank you for the invitation today to participate. I am the Vice President of programs and business services at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been with them for about a year and a half. And prior to that, I spent my time in other local chambers of commerce throughout the State of Minnesota. So it’s great to work with the business community across the entire State of Minnesota. A little bit about the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce: we serve about 2,300 businesses, all types of companies and non-industry specifics, so everything from the mom and pop retail store on Main Street to the large corporations and manufacturing across the state. We have about half a million employees that we represent within those companies, and about 75% of our members are small businesses. So companies that have less than 100 employees. And much of our programming is focused on small businesses because we know that that is where the economic growth of Minnesota will come from. It’s where we started as a state, and the economic vitality for the future will be in our small business market as well.  

Jake: And small business is still considered 100 employees or less, has that changed at all? In your view of that? 

Vicki: That’s how we consider it. I know I think there’s probably some metrics at the federal level where they’ll look at 500 or less employees for Minnesota, about 80% of the companies in Minnesota are small businesses with less than 100 employees. So- 

Jake: And is there any dominant industry– you cite– you talked about being industry agnostic. Is there anyone dominant industry you’re seeing all the time or is it tech or is it healthcare related? Or what are you seeing?  

Vicki: I think the beauty of Minnesota is the composition is very diverse. We have a very strong manufacturing base. We were– we have great natural resources that many companies were founded, financial services and retail certainly is prominent with headquarter communities throughout the corporation. But certainly, technology is driving many of the new innovative companies that are popping up. And so, they bring a new dynamic to our entrepreneurial market here in Minnesota. So we’re excited. But again, Minnesota is very diverse and continues to grow in that manner.  

Jake: Thank you for that. We also have Patrick Delaney, President of KConfs. And, Patrick, before this we were talking about– I don’t know how many things you’ve got going on nowadays between all the conferences went up. But tell us a little bit about KConfs and all the fun things you got going on. 

Patrick Delaney: Absolutely. Absolutely. So yeah. So, Jake, we’ve known each other for a while, a few years now – 

Jake: A little bit. A little bit. 

Patrick: Yeah. You’ve been a huge supporter. OST has been a huge supporter of what we do. It’s essentially a community tech building. So, we started a conference a few years ago called IoT Fuse. And that’s under a nonprofit called IoT Fuse. The mission of which is basically to raise all boats within this area of the tech space that deals with connected devices. And when I talk about connected devices, I’m talking about all the little stuff that goes in the things or your Amazon Alexa. When we started, there was no Alexa. There was no Smart Home type stuff. We were just talking about it as theoretical. We started in 2014. We’ve always kind of known that electronics are increasingly getting internet-connected, and that is affecting every aspect of our life and every industry.  

And we have a lot of really, as Vicki was just saying, we have a lot of really strong industries, super diverse industries based here in Minnesota. So, we basically started this conference, IoT Fuse, to fuse together all these industries and a little bit of a tech seed around this whole connected device space, and get together and basically tell stories, sit around the campfire, tell stories about what are we doing? How are we going to achieve this future here in Minnesota where, you know, we’re not the center of the world’s technology, and we know, where is really the super, supercenter of everything. We have a decent tech community here, we have a lot of programmers, a lot of electronics and computing that goes back, way far back to the beginning of the days of computing to the 19, late 40’s even. And so we just have this really strong, amazing tech culture; this amazing business culture. And we focused on fusing those people together through that conference.  

Jake: Yeah. 

Patrick:  And then KConfs is basically– we did it as just a nonprofit thing, myself and co-founder Justin Grammens and had some other volunteers. And it just kept growing and taking up more and more of my life over the last few years to the point where I had to spin up a business to manage all the different stuff that we’re doing. So we now run IoT Fuse as well as AgFuse and Agro— Agricultural Technology Conferences-  

Patrick: MedFuse and like do you have like a– 

Patrick: MedFuse, Retail, and Security, T Conference.  

Jake: Cool. 

Patrick: And so you can check all that out at kconfs.com  

Jake: So, I remember as a multi-business or person whose owned multiple businesses in this community for the last 25 years across, I remember the word or the talk about the roadmap for Minneapolis becoming a tech hub. So, Vicki, to you, did we accomplish that? Or have we made the progress that we wanted to, as we’ve been talking about this and this time, what’s your perspective on that?  

Vicki: I think Minnesota has made really good progress in that. I think that there’s a greater understanding of all businesses, regardless of the industry of how technology impacts their daily production cycles and what they’re doing. You know, there’s always room for improvement. And I know that there’s a lot of folks that are very focused on ensuring that we have the right, you know, space, the right innovation to be able to continue to cultivate that type of environment of folks coming in and starting a company and being able to innovate. I mean, Minnesota has, you know, is one of the leading states in the nation around patents. And so I see that continuing for the future and becoming a more robust stream within the full ecosystem of businesses connecting and working together. Patrick, would you feel the same? 

Patrick: I guess, I’m not sure. I would say– I would hesitate. I don’t know what that plan was. I guess, a little bit younger than you. I don’t remember what happened exactly 20 years ago. I was in high school at that time, but– 

Jake: I’m way older than you. Yeah. 


Patrick: Not that much. 

Jake: Got you– My beard is great–  

Patrick: There’s some gray in there [laughs] but I would say, it would be risky for us to, for me for someone like me to say, “Yeah, we’re good. We’re fine. We got it, we got it figured out.” I would say, technology is extremely complex. We have- again, we have a huge industrial base that uses technology. And we have companies that create technology. It’s– and then how do you define that if you talk about patents, you might not be talking about digital technology purely, you might be talking about mechanical patents or, you know, chemical patents or something. So, I guess, when you talk about the digital space in terms of technology, you’re never really quite moving fast enough, and you’re not ever really quite doing what you should be doing, you need to constantly try to do better. And so I would– I guess I would– that would be my answer. I don’t know if we matched up with our plan, but I would say there’s a constant need to learn more and do better and figure out what else is going on.  

Jake: Yeah, that’s great point, I think. It all culminates I think it was what– I’m sorry, I’m probably going to be off it was 2013, 2014 we got named countrywide the best place to do business. I believe it was 2013, 2014. Give or take, and so on. And I think it’s all to, a lot of the things you guys mentioned right are the strong patent right, our culture of innovation, here all our incredibly diverse economy that we have here between medical devices we manufacture and so on, and so on. That I kind of just– I want to jump into a little bit kind of the trends that we’re seeing across the space, across small business and large business who are not– what are the kind of– as you guys are talking to executives and business leaders around their own region, if you will, what are the top three things you guys are hearing the most that is on business leaders or business owners minds these days? Go ahead, Vicki, do you want to start?  

Vicki: In terms of opportunities and challenges, I would honestly say it’s workforce, workforce, and workforce.  

Jake: Skills, gaps or just finding talent?  

Vicki: All of the above.  

Jake: All the above, yeah.  

Vicki: All of the above. And we know through one of our affiliate partners – Real Time Talent, that we’ll have a workforce shortage of 239,000 people–  

Jake: Wow. 

Vicki: By 2022. And so as we approach that workforce challenge, we have to look at all things available on the table, whether it’s customized training, retraining, automating, using digital transformation to change the way that companies are doing business. So, the more that we can learn as a community as a whole about the opportunities that are out there, the better we will be, because we’re not going to solve the workforce shortage by just bringing in more folks-  

Jake: Do you see that as a combination between public and private, is that a combination like in terms of partnerships with the universities here, whether it’s the Concordia, St. Thomas, or is it a such a combo effort, in your mind? Or is this all going to fall on business in your view?  

Vicki: It has to be a combination. All key stakeholders have to be at the table. We have a program that we’ve been running for a number of years called Business Education Partnerships. At the local level, we’ll work with a local business community through their Chamber of Commerce, and bring to the table other businesses, the K through 12 education system as well as higher learning, and talk about the jobs within that local community. And then bring those partners together to be able to really transform the way we’re educating the youth within those communities, try to keep folks in the community. As kids and as they train, they can start in positions right in high school and out of high school. And move along a career pathway that brings them more quickly into the job market, versus the traditional path of graduate high school, go to a four-year education institution and then look for a job. So-  

Jake: That’s interesting looking at if you guys follow Davos internationally this year, that was the number one thing as well too; worldwide was just lack of talent and, Patrick as the creator of the skills gaps, if you will, as we talk about pushing forward, but I mean, you already know as we talk about everything from the edge device, right to the communication protocols, to platforms, to security, to all these different things. And that–it’s like merged IT, it’s merged software development, it’s merged product design, it’s merged all these things. And is there such a thing as an expert in your view, or what are you hearing through your conferences and stuff? How are people dealing with the mad rush to get things out to market? What skills or what do you see as missing?  

Patrick: Sure. 

Jake: About people developing in your mind?  

Patrick: Well, you– Yeah, it depends on who you’re talking to.  

Jake: Sure.  

Patrick: Who you’re asking.  

Jake: Yeah. 

Patrick: So, are you talking about small businesses or are you talking about– 

Jake: All the above. 

Patrick: Okay. 

Jake: All the above.  

Patrick: So and then are you talking about Minnesota businesses? Are you talking about– 

Jake: Let’s say Minnesota for now. But yeah– 

Patrick: Okay.  

Jake: Just in general, yeah.  

Patrick: Yeah. Because we have– for our conferences and what we do, we have people coming from all over the country, some people coming from different parts of the world. And, you know, so if we were to narrow it down into Minnesota, there is a huge lack of engineering resources, specifically embedded engineering resources, because we are playing in that devices field. There’s just not enough of them at this time. And I think that’s a problem nationwide, actually, as well. And so that’s a huge issue. I would say– so I would agree with Vicki on that. But I would say that that’s from maybe the employer, the larger employer. And when I say larger that might overlap with what the Chamber of Commerce called smaller. So it could be a company with 20 or 50 employees, they really need additional engineers to help them make more money and build more products and provide more design services. So, I’m definitely seeing that as well. But if you’re talking to the type of person who sponsors our event, they might have marketing dollars behind them. Rather than human resources dollars. People tend to come to our conference and the vast majority are looking to try to build a business, although some are looking to hire, as well. And so those individuals with marketing dollars, they’re looking to get in front of people, they’re looking to figure out, you know, how can they develop more business. 

Jake: Sure. 

Patrick: And how can they actually reach people who are perhaps already in positions and if you’re talking about the vast majority of attendees who come to our events, they’re actually engineers and business managers and product managers who are trying to build out this specific technology niche that we’re in. So they’re interested in insights and learning and technical knowledge and deep technical knowledge, to them, the workforce problem is actually not a problem. It’s actually wonderful because that means their wages can go up and they have more to negotiate with. I mean, I have employees as well. Maybe they’ll listen to this podcast, maybe not. But– 

Jake: Yeah. 

Patrick: Basically, they, you know, it’s a challenge for me to make sure that, that things are interesting for them to continue working with me and make sure I have a good environment for them to work in because, you know, I really need them and how, you know, how am I going to continue to run this business without my employees? So I guess that’s kind of the way I look at it. I don’t see it as necessarily a workforce problem, I think of it as, how do I really cater to the people who are really important to getting the job done. Maybe it’s just a different kind of perspective because our conferences are really trying to help these engineers and these workers really get access to knowledge to further their careers.  

Jake: I’m heavily involved in the Concordia MBA program, and I’m a graduate of that program and also a doctoral candidate there right now. And I spent a lot of time mentoring MBA students, you know, folks from General Mills and Medtronic and the 3M’s who are trying to get their master’s degree to further their career so– as we talk about transformation, as we talk about change, we talk about the demands or whatnot, are traditional degrees still relevant in your guys’s mind? Vicki, I’ll kind of throw it to you is it necessary now to have that Bachelor’s, that MBA right now with the demands of the skill set that employers are looking for, are they still demanding traditional education credentials if you will, in your mind.  

Vicki: I think the culture of that need is changing, not to say that it’s not important. I’m in the master’s program at Concordia right now– 

Jake: Eeh, sweet. 

Vicki: Myself, not MBA, but the leadership program and so just continued knowledge and education is really important, I think for anyone. So, I don’t want to dismiss the four-year degree or the master’s program or whatever we talk about. But technical education and the jobs of the future are really important. And in very much high demand right now. There’s a huge gap between supply and demand. And so I think it’s important that as we talked to the youth, the kids that are in middle school and high school that we’re providing them the full array of what’s available, as well as the different tracks that we can take to get there, because the traditional track isn’t necessarily the best track for all students. And it’s certainly not going to match the challenge for the future of 2022 or, you know, whatever date we are looking at so-  

Jake: So Patrick outside of our doors here, you know, we have engineers, some of them have college degrees, some of them do not. It just depends would they’ve been able to rise in the workforce and, you know, get paid very well and, and really excel in their careers depending on their skill sets. A lot of them are software developers, for example, right? Where I’ll talk to your current MBA students will tell you that they can’t get anywhere in a large corporation without having that, you know, that master’s credential. They can’t, you know, whether it’s a Fortune 100, Fortune 1000– whatever, they’ll flat-out tell you, that’s why they’re there. And I would argue that’s why just to use Concordia again, why it’s enrollment’s at an all-time, you know, peak at this point. But in your view, and like when we talk about your world is– I mean, I’m surprised we haven’t seen such a thing as connected products degree yet, considering the reality- 

Patrick: Sure. 

Jake: Talked about what you’re saying and talk– if you’re kind of hearing those same things or if it’s just, “Hey if you can come to the table, you can prove it. You can do it. We’re good.” So I’ve seen both. Just share your perspective on that.  

Patrick: That’s such an interesting question. And I feel like we could have a whole podcast— 


Jake: Podcast on that topic. Yeah  

Patrick: Just education and knowledge and, and hey, this is kind of a great– you’ve thrown me like a really nice softball.  

Jake: Yes.  

Patrick: Because the name of my company is Knowledge Conferences. We are essentially selling education. We’re not a school, although it’s sort of like a temporary one-day thing where you can go and learn a bunch of technical skills. So, I want to be super cautious and make sure that– that’s obviously a bias I have, you know, I’m here selling education. And there’s this huge kind of feeling or in just culturally across America right now, you know, college degrees, is that the right thing, they become so expensive. You know, a lot of jobs that you can get, you can, kind of bootstrap and teach yourself. But I would just be super cautious because I think there’s a lot of data out there, and listeners can maybe Google themselves, that show that, especially for minorities and women, getting degrees, getting college degrees and getting master’s degrees is almost one of the best ways to improve your lifetime income. And I, you know, so maybe take this with a grain of salt and really, you know, read into that, but I think it really depends on the person, the career and the industry you’re in and everything but certainly in the digital space, I would say, there are tons of niches and tons of needs for people who, just are able to be self-taught, and I think there’s a ton of opportunity for that. But personally, I went to the University of Minnesota and studied electrical engineering, and, you know, I think that’s been pretty good for me. My wife got her MBA– she’s actually Latina. She’s originally born in Mexico, and she got, you know, her MBA and you know, her– through getting that MBA and then through working at Hoffman, which is formerly part of Pentair, you know, she was able to really advance her career and she’s doing amazing right now. So I would say, you know, in Minnesota, if we’re back to the Minnesota thing, there’s a huge disparity of incomes between minorities and white people. And there– and I think– yeah, I think we just have to be careful about who– what we’re talking about and what we’re putting out there. It’d be very easy for me or it would benefit me to say, “Forget traditional education, throw it aside, come to just come to Knowledge Conference.”  

Jake: Yeah. 


Patrick: Just come to my conference. But I guess that’s my perspective. And maybe that maybe that’s not exactly what you are-  

Jake: No, it’s great. 

Patrick: –Looking for. But I also say, “Hey, mate, why not both?” Why isn’t– maybe there could be space for non-traditional education, digital education, traditional education. 

Jake: Yeah. 

Patrick: Seems like we need to grow all of it, is maybe a good way to say.  

Jake: Yeah. Thank you both for that. So as we’re talking about education, we’re talking about the skills gaps challenge, which I’ll just classify it as, right, that employers – large and small, are seeing across the region, sorry, across the country, across the world. People are saying, let’s talk about the future of work a little bit. Let’s talk about what you folks are hearing from leaders, you know, large and small, and so on. There’s like all folks like me who have my concept of bureaucracy and hierarchy and things of that nature, but I see trends of organizations getting flatter, right, because we need to move faster, even more agile. But I’d love to hear your guys’ perspective on what those leaders are? What those visionaries are, I’m talking about in terms of the future of work, whether it be in MedTech or whether it be in health care, whether it be in manufacturing, what are you guys hearing out there as people are talking about whether it’s their workplaces or you know, the products or whatever they’re talking about at the time, but Patrick, why don’t you talk about– 

Patrick: Sure. 

Jake: What are you hearing about for terms of the future of work? How’s it changing?  

Patrick: Yeah, sure. So, maybe I can refer this to something kind of, more current in terms of current events.  

Jake: Sure.  

Patrick: So did you guys see the article about the Ford CEO, saying that we overestimated the impact or the, you know, where automated vehicles might go? See that? I think there was a– you saw that Laura? We have our producer, Laura nodding her head in the back. [laughs] So the Ford CEO said, “Geez, guys, I think we might have overestimated automated cars and their impact on Ford.” And a bunch of other carmakers said the same thing, almost at the same time, late last week.  

Jake: Okay.  

Patrick: But then Tesla said, “No, we’re good.” 


Patrick: We’re right.  

Jake: We’re well-positioned. 

Patrick: “We’re gonna have automated cars by December. What are you talking about?” Of course, Tesla over-promises things. But so, I think how to how to pull that back to your question. I think this is super relevant to all the stuff we talked about with Minnesota and digital economy versus traditional economy and education, so I think, I’m not a super– I’m not an Elon Musk, you know, fanboy or Tesla fanboy or anything, but I think what they have done, that’s very interesting with Tesla and SpaceX is they’ve kind of thrown out traditional waterfall project management.  

So, if you take NASA, you know, NASA said, “We’re going to send a rocket to the moon. Let’s project management this in blocks, and just make sure it gets 100% done right. And then once it’s once these rockets are built, we’ll keep them forever, or the space shuttle. We will keep this space shuttle for 40 years. It’s really, really expensive, but we’re gonna use it for 40 years.” And I think Minnesota has a lot of industries that are regulated, that specializes in like health care. So there’s a lot of that kind of waterfall project management because you just can’t make mistakes like people can’t die. 

Jake: Regulatory challenges the whole– right, all of the above. 

Vicki: Right.  

Patrick: And the more likely people– or the more danger, the more, you know, you want to prevent people from dying and more regulation. So automated, you know, automated vehicles are very, very, very regulated. Automotive is. So, basically, I think, taking out the waterfall chart, and just kind of using lean methodologies and sort of, you know, lean software, somehow and sometimes that seems to lend itself to a less hierarchical working space. I mean, you could talk to that better than I could actually. 

Jake: I just remember the days we could plan and we could do a three-year plan, and we could stick to that and execute on, it feels like now we have six months.  

Patrick: If six months–  

Vicki: Three years is a lifetime.  

Jake: Yeah, right?  

Vicki: Right.  

Jake: The way speed is– the speed of business today– it’s a good point. It’s like that. 

Patrick: So how do you organize that? You have a lean team, and then individual members on the team need to be able to make managerial decision. What used to be maybe milestones or something in a big long Gantt chart, maybe today, it’s more like, “Let’s just push it to a GitHub report, and whoever wants to push it can push it, it’s up to you, and we’ll kind of craft this thing over time.” So I guess that’s how I kind of see it. I don’t know.  

Jake: It was fascinating. I was talking to the head of digital for McDonald’s last year, Tom Bordeaux. And he was saying some of the same things you both have mentioned, where one in terms of people with skills he’s like, “I don’t even care at this point.”  

Vicki: Soft skills are important, right.  

Jake: Right. He was just saying, “I just need someone who can come in who can build a relationship with somebody.”  

Vicki: Yeah.  

Jake: And this is one of our largest corporations in the country, just out of Chicago. Right?  

Patrick: Yeah.  

Jake: “I just don’t want people who come in and kind of run things.” And he kind of predicted, believe it or not, this is for, you know, a place that builds hamburgers for a living. But it’s an incredibly highly advanced now software organization, if you can believe that. And it’s fascinating how they look at, they don’t even look at things, they’re starting to look at things not even as divisions anymore or even groups anymore. It’s more of like teams.  

Patrick: Yeah. 

Jake: You kind of envision, are we really going to have worldwide 10,000 little teams running around working on three initiatives at a time and seeing to your point, pushing, you know, in a more agile, you know– 

Patrick: Right. 

Jake: DevOps, like fashion, pushing innovation to the market if you will. 

Patrick: Yeah. 

Jake: It was kind of fascinating. I mean, I’ve never expected to hear that from McDonald’s Corporation.  

Patrick: Yeah, and– 

Jake: Not even close.  

Patrick: And it’s the same with Ford and Tesla right now, right, like Ford makes way more vehicles than Tesla, way more. So, for them to throw out the waterfall method, maybe it doesn’t make sense and you know, I’m not giving advice to Ford or anything, but maybe it’s kind of similar with a lot of Minnesota companies, you know, if you have Target or BestBuy or Medtronic and, you know, how much can they use another process organization to do R&D versus waterfall? 

Jake: Last at this, I want to tap Vicki’s expertise here. And you know, all these things align, I think a lot of these things aligned to organizational culture. What are you kind of hearing? Or what are you seeing in terms of trends? I mean, what kind of, I guess you could say from our last five minutes of conversation in terms of innovative culture– 

Vicki: Right.  

Jake: What do you see– you see organizational cultural trends? Where do you see that going?  

Vicki: I think business leaders, small business owners, and even you know, even in large corporations, they recognize that they have to be more entrepreneurial. They have to move much more quickly. They have to push decisions downward in order to continue to be competitive in the marketplace, because they know that there’s going to be another company that’s going to pop up and take their space and their place in the market. So I think folks understand that the overall business environment and the culture of work in the workplace is changing.  

I think the workforce shortage is also pushing that change as well, in terms of the expectations of our workers and what they expect to be able to do on the job and how they do their work. You know, it’s very different, you know, in terms of what the actual workplace even looks like today compared to 5, 10 or 20 years ago, working remotely, you know, the type of employee benefits. All those things are very, very different than what it looked like before. And business owners know that they have to be able to be nimble and be able to change to be competitive.  

Jake: Now, I’d love your perspective on this. I remember when I started my career at 3M Company in 1992 when I was a young spry something. I expected my leaders to know everything. That’s just what it was, right? I can’t even read truly, right. That was my expectation as a young 18-year-old just starting his career. And Vicki I want to talk to you about, how does a leader leads today when truly your workforce probably knows more than you do right now? 

Vicki: I think for leadership today, individuals, they have to create a vision. And they have to hire really well. Their management team; to be able to make decisions and empower their employees to carry out those directions from the managers. But the leader is really the one that’s, you know, has the 10,000-foot view of what they want the business to be. And they have to empower and trust. 

Patrick: The 10,000 Lake View. [laughter] 

Vicki: The 10,000 Lake View, sure, that too right, yeah. 

Jake: And Patrick going right to your world, I have talked to numerous organizations now, right, as they’ve kind of connected everything, whether it’s in the factory in the plant, I mean, they have systems, right. They start to connect the products, they’re bringing all this data. I keep hearing some of these folks aligned with what Vicki was talking about earlier, you know, data science folks are almost impossible to find now with any experience, right? They’re all in Big Pharma. They’re in healthcare there are in government or whatever they’re doing, right. And they want to try to grow their own. But I’ve heard numerous times, on the last six months, these folks come in, they start growing them, and it almost seems like three to six months later, they’re like, “Where’s my $50,000 raise, because that’s my value on the market.”  

Patrick: Sure. 

Jake: Like, right out. “I’ve been out of school a year.” 

Patrick: Yep.  

Jake: Talk a bit about that. I mean, and Vicki, I wanted you to chime in, too. How do leaders deal with that?  

Patrick: Yeah, I mean, not every business is going to survive, unfortunately.  

Jake: And I am saying this is all your fault, by the way. [laughs] 

Patrick: It’s capitalism. So not every business is going to survive. That’s the kind of spiky truth. Being able to try to dig deep and figure out how are you going to build more profitable business models that– if that’s really, really where you sit with your industry, you’re going to really have to work hard as a manager and as a leader. And that’s so interesting to hear you say, Vicki, that, to hear the Chamber of Commerce, I feel that the Chamber of Commerce has a very traditional view of very– just perfect sense of what’s the traditional Minnesota business environment overall. So to hear you say, “Yes, they understand that being entrepreneurial is important.” That comes with a huge amount of weight. And so if they’re sitting in an industry or even a super small niche where, “Man, they need to transform and they need to change.” You know, are they going to be in business? How much do they need to drive forward and step on the gas in certain digital initiatives, they probably should do some soul searching and figure out how to do that. Another thought that comes to mind off the top of my head is, smaller medium-sized businesses can do some certain things with finance that larger huge corporations can’t do. So you know, larger huge corporations, you kind of you know, you can get benefits and you can pay people, but if you’re a smaller company, you might be able to work of a more of a project-ties basis in terms of, “Hey, we’re going to share a certain amount of revenue of a project or maybe you are even sharing equity.” There are different things that workers can get paid. And now a lot of workers might say, “I don’t want your stinking equity I want, you know, I want cash.”  

Jake: How do I pay for my school loans– 

Patrick: Yeah. 


Patrick: Kid needs to go to his hockey practice. He can’t do that with equity. But, you know, like, I guess, I guess, just trying to really dig deep and really stretch as a leader. It’s just a really critical time because, you know, there’s a lot of opportunities out there and the world’s going to continue to have more opportunities.  

Jake: Vicki, in high demand positions, like we mentioned, right, where people can literally their value feels like it’s going up 30,000 every six months, how do business leaders best deal with that, in your mind?  

Vicki: You know, as Patrick mentioned, it’s, you know, a capitalistic environment and we obviously at the Chamber of Commerce, support that free enterprise system. The market will demand what it’s worth and employees that have the intellect and the knowledge and can bring those skills to the workforce into a particular business. You know, I say, “Good for them.” Right? Because, right run or otherwise, they’ll continue to differentiate themselves. And businesses are going to have to react to it. Hopefully, some will get ahead of everything and continue to grow within their particular space or a particular market. But I think, you know, business owners, you know, generally speaking, they’re really smart individuals, and they’re going to continue to evolve their company and they’re going to find how they differentiate themselves, and they’re gonna create an environment that can meet the demands of that individual employee. And it, again, it’s going to be different and might be, being able to leave early or it might be financially incentive. 

Jake: Right. 

Vicki: Or, a lot of folks talk about the gig economy today and yeah, you yourself, you know, as a consultant, and you’re kind of doing your own thing and you lend your expertise and you do a project and you move on and that is changing and evolving as well. So I think businesses that can react, and again, be nimble and shift the way they think and the way that they do business- they’ll be in it for the long run.  

Patrick: Yeah, yeah. What about– That’s a great point. What about, you know, if- So, if it’s a more traditional business, what about rather than saying, you know, “I gotta level with you, we can’t pay you 30,000 more dollars. We don’t have that. We can do X more dollars, and we can change the work environment? Like what if we, you know, what if we change the work environment, like, we really value you, and we really think this is an important part of our business. Like, what about this? What about this other benefit? Or what about this other thing? Can we keep you on for that?”  

Jake: Yeah.  

Patrick: I think that’s kind of the direction.  

Jake: Go ahead.  

Vicki: And it’s happening in, you know, traditional industries. We have a manufacturer up in Central Minnesota and they moved to a smart factory and they’ve increased their productivity by bringing in new digital systems, workplace safety has been, you know–  

Patrick: Yeah. 

Vicki: –helped through that process. And so even the traditional industries are making many changes and understand the relevance of what artificial intelligence and technology and all the things that we really started this conversation around, are transforming those industries as well. So-  

Jake: We’re gonna have to come back and do a series of conversations because I could talk to you folks all day long about a whole host of topics. She just started one, we could spend another hour on that one alone, right. But no, thank you both for your time. This has been absolutely awesome. I enjoyed the time talking with you. And anyway, for our wrap up, we want to talk about what– we talked about OST, where our International Headquarters, of course, was a formerly a game factory. We want to end with talking to you guys what’s your favorite games. What do you guys like playing these days in your spare time? Go ahead, Patrick.  

Patrick: What do I like playing? Or what’s my- 

Jake: What’s your favorite-  

Patrick: Favorite chosen game for this conversation?  

Jake: Yeah. 

Patrick: Because I don’t play this game. But I found this really interesting 1980’s game in a pub – an Irish pub, near Ralph. It’s called the Dubliner the- 

Jake: Yes. 

Patrick: The game’s not the Dubliner, the pub’s called the Dubliner, [laughs] it’s in St. Paul–  

Vicki: It’s a good name for a game. 

Jake: That’s right.  

Patrick: It’s a Dubliner, what do you do? It sounds like a drinking game. But at the Dubliner, they had this dusty old game from, you know, the 80’s and it’s called Adverteasing. And I have no idea how to even play the game. But it’s basically like Trivial Pursuit. But every single card just has old advertising slogans. From the ’50s through the ’80s.  

Jake: Cool.  

Vicki: Yeah. 

Patrick: Yeah, so awesome. And so I make my staff, go through these cards for fun along with me, because it’s like, it helps you think about better copy and better copywriting and I have no idea how to play it. But that’s my favorite game.  

Jake: Vicki, how about you?  

Vicki: You know, I will always go back to just plain old poker. Is always has been one of my favorite games. I learned it as a really young girl from my grandmother. So I have fond memories around playing poker and still today and– as I think about why, why poker, I go back to the leadership question in terms of the traits of a good leader for the future and a little bit of strategy and a little bit of luck, right? 

Jake: So you have a pretty good poker face?  

Vicki: I do. I’ve been told I do  


Jake: I am putting my wallet away as we speak. And for me, I have a 16, a 13, and an 11-year-old, so I’m forced in the world of NBA 2K19, Fortnite, and god knows what else because that’s in my household what feels like 24 hours a day. I don’t know. I can’t say it’s my favorite. I just have to live it.  

Patrick: Is that on a system or a computer or– 

Vicki: Online. 

Jake: X-Box. 

Patrick: X-Box. 

Jake: Online. 

Vicki: Talk about digital. 

Jake: Online PC games, yeah, one or the other. 

Jake: All the above.  

Patrick: All the above. [laughs] 

Lizzie: OST changing how the world connects together. For more information, go to ostusa.com/podcast.