Category Archives: Minneapolis

Strength & Vibrancy of Twin Cities

There was a display at the Cargill room in the Downtown Minneapolis Library a few years ago, celebrating the sesquicentennial (150 years) of Minnesota. It contained displays showcasing Minnesota’s inventions over the years. They included an extensive array: Medical (pacemakers, etc.. work by Bakken and many others), Computer, Food (wheat varieties created by Borlaug, credited with saving  the lives of millions; zillions of apples and much more at the University of Minnesota). Also random things like the Tilt-a-Whirl, Roller Blades, and Spam (which has, again, saved the lives of millions probably).

The University of Minnesota, one of the original Land-Grant institutions, has been doing everything possible to improve life for Minnesotans – and Everyone – since the 1850’s. I graduated with a degree in Accounting from there. I don’t know if you can tell. Anyway, even with the University’s various campuses and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system,  we have a wealth of smaller Universities and Colleges as well. Truly something for every interest and life path.

We have much more diversity here than others imagine. Minnesota schools  are helping kids learn English in addition to their own languages – 200 different languages are spoken in their homes. Our four main languages in Minneapolis are English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong. We are a vibrant community of cultures, ethnicities, neighborhoods  and communities.

We have a thriving arts community, more theater per person than almost anywhere else, storytelling, dance, live music and much more.

Politically, there’s just no end. But let me just stress our high voter turnout, and leave it at that. Except to also mention politics at its best – the Center for Victims of Torture, based in Minneapolis, doing everything possible to heal the human spirit.

That is one nonprofit of hundreds in Minnesota – part of a thriving nonprofit community that seeks to ensure the vitality and well-being of its citizens and address today’s challenges in coordination with government entities, foundations, benefactors and volunteers; in a way that is transparent and accountable.

We have a thriving technology arena with innovation and real-world application, new breakthroughs and efforts to bring technology’s benefits to as many as possible.

Our Minnesota State Fair is perhaps a good place to stop. For many on the coasts (the reason this post exists, see here and here), the State Fair justifies your belief systems about Minnesota. And, as I’ve said before, there’s a certain level of inevitability about all this which I accept.

Despite that, I’ll just say this: the State Fair is like life.

You have huge numbers of people, all of whom are doing what they want to do for their own reasons. Some have brought to the Fair the best of their years’ efforts – animals, artworks, recipes, large vegetables, seed art. Some have brought information and arguing points to try and change others minds and spark action. Some have brought items to sell, and/or money to buy. Many are artists and performers, there to incite joy, laughter and dancing. Many-many are present to take it all in and have a wonderful time.

There is a little bit of almost everything, and a zillion choices at every turn. You can – as in life – decide what experience you want to have, and then set about to have that experience. Things may go a different way, and you can adapt. There may be streets filled to the brim with unwashed masses – and alternate routes. Long lines at these times, shorter lines earlier/later. Coupons and deals to utilize. Extensive work and volunteer opportunites. Too much heat, rain, cold and blah days, disappointment, social goings-on with drama and heart break, families (in matching t-shirts sometimes) with best intentions, crying babies and their huge baby carriages always in the way, people moving about with assistive technology, people physically adjusting themselves to all those around them constantly, people who’ve been coming to the fair for decades, people who only recently landed in Minnesota and are still just their bearings, breaking technology and the newest in kitchen convenience. It’s all there, it’s all in the Twin Cities, it’s all the same in slightly different ways everywhere.

We are completely engaged in what we’re doing here. You are welcome to join us. It’s ok if you want to keep doing what you’re doing where you are. But we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing our own selves, in any case. Namaste.

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Filed under Business, buy local, Community, Cooking, Entrepreneurship, Food, Fun, Infrastructure, Leadership, Local, Marketing, Minneapolis, Minnesota, NonProfits, St. Paul, Technology, Uncategorized

Rankings – Twin Cities

List of high rankings recently for Twin Cities

(Note, given our inherent modesty, it’s excruciating to pull this all together, but in moments like these the struggle is part of the reward).

Two of America’s Top 12 Cities – BusinessWeek

Bike City – # 1 (Bicycling Magazine)

Bike-Friendly City – #2 – CNN

Best City Park System  – Trust for Public Land

Top Best Cities for Young Adults: # 10 (Forbes Real Estate)

#1 City our size for National Night Out participation

Travel & Leisure: High rankings for multiple aspects including intelligence and summer

Dog Friendly Cities # 10 – Estately

Forbes #23 best place for business and career

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Filed under buy local, Community, Entrepreneurship, Infrastructure, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Resources, St. Paul, Uncategorized

Reality

My Paradigm

I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. People on the US Coasts tend to not know where that is, and to not know much about it. I’m fine with that, in general. A current article in the NY Times about the Minneapolis bars/singles scene generated some commentary, and that sparked my thinking about perception vs. reality, in life and in work.

People almost never really see each other, and that is an essential attribute of life, and certainly of business.  And that’s all right.  Our whole selves are not really prime-time ready, not really palatable. We’ve seen comedies involving saying the exact thing one is thinking at every moment – doesn’t work very well. It’s OK to bring our best-constructed selves out to play, intentionally, for best outcomes.

And optimally, we recognize that what we see of others is a constructed picture. We translate and adjust accordingly.

In these current economic times, those translations and adjustments are even more necessary, and that’s what came to mind as I was thinking about New York’s perceptions of Minneapolis.  The economy is enormously challenging for many, many people. It’s hard to know the best way to respond to that at every moment. In this piece I’m exploring ways to do that involving perceptions and reality-constructions.

My take on constructed realities comes mainly from two early fascinations: theater and magic.

Reality Constructs: Theater & Magic

At my first audience experience at Park Square Theater in the 70’s, I was completely fascinated. The space was so small, the actors were Right There, but inhabiting an entirely different paradigm. It was a vivid introduction to the fourth wall (that between audience and staged situation).

I became somewhat involved back stage in High School on the East Coast (where I lived briefly), and then in college, I again became involved in theater, this time in a company called Punchinello Players (second oldest student-run community theater in the US at the time, no longer exists). We did ‘Waiting for Godot’ and other great things, and some that weren’t so great.

Throughout these formative experiences, it was endlessly fascinating to go from the earliest ideas and strategies for putting on a show, through the whole process, to audience reaction and financial outcomes. Particular aspects: knowing the shared script, following the script, improvising in response to the unexpected – were all very useful to my development as a person.

One night there was a bat – a live bat (the building was quite old)- in the green room during the whole show at Punch. Back stage we were very quiet, and moved around as little as possible, in the hopes that the bat would remain still for the duration. And it did! Just like in Noises Off, the drama behind the scenes rivaled that in front of the curtain. And the adage really is true: ‘The Show Must Go On.’

Prior to all that though, when I was 9 or 10, I became fascinated with simple magic tricks. The most important thing was to understand the concept of mis-direction: making a conscious choice of what you want the audience to pay attention to, and acting in such a way as to make that happen. The magic trick of course needed to happen elsewhere.

In both cases, perceived reality is not true. Perceived reality is constructed in a way as to be mutually beneficial to both parties, and it is acted out according to plan, and at the end, both parties are happy.

East Coast & West Coast and… Minneapolis

I’m not upset about how folks on the coasts perceive us here in Minneapolis – it isn’t the truth. There’s no way it could be, most of them have never been here or anywhere but where they live (or the other coast). Their constructions of us are beneficial to them, and they don’t really cost us anything at all. It’s pretty much a win win.

When High School was finishing, and I was letting folks know I’d be coming home to Minneapolis to attend the U, they would say, “But why?? You’re here now; you don’t have to go back there! You can stay Here!”

Some of the messages were:

But you’re OK! We like you! You can stay – you don’t have to go back and be with those lesser-folks!

 Now that you’ve seen what real life is like, how could you give it all up again and go back there?!  Don’t you want what we have, here?!?

 You must resist! Stay strong! Evolving takes effort. You’ve already made great progress. Just stay the course!

And other nonsense.  They simply had no idea! They weren’t that different from folks back home, things weren’t hugely better, certainly not more civilized or evolved in any way, and what the conversation really consisted of was group-defined presumptions and superiority constructs – paradigms that fit for them, but were not accurate for me at all.

Their lack of accurate perception could have cause negative outcomes for me if I’d based my actions on them, but I didn’t and everything worked out just fine.

Constructed Reality and the Workplace

Mass media/stereotypical views of our communities are similar to the marketplace for workplace professionals – an aspect of life, but not a defining factor. It’s simply becoming extremely necessary to see the fourth wall, to spot the misdirection.

Constructed narratives are a crucial linchpin in the business world. Employer and clients each present one, and it’s usually carefully crafted. In the past, employment was thought to be an instance of simply providing one’s work skills, and being paid. I believe now it’s much more about providing a skill-set related narrative, and fitting that in to each work situation. While knowing, just like in theater, that it’s a shared process; and also constantly updating it. Passivity is not your friend.

During these challenging times, some people find themselves in the position of being able to take advantage of their workplace power to reduce costs,  increase their comfort levels and so on. The other side of that coin is that others may receive less and/or have to work harder or under more difficult circumstances.  I feel that these aspects are temporary, for a variety of reasons. But even so, actively seeking that particular best workplace mix for you is always useful.

I saw a tweet recently – things won’t get easier until you get stronger.  I feel that the most true part of that is when we get stronger, it nearly always guarantees that things get a bit easier. And gaining strength – same as any other positive attribute – is always a useful goal. Even more so in times like these.

Workplace Challenges

Some perceptions of the work world today are that it will consist almost entirely of short-term ‘stints’, as in this article by William Ellermeyer describes.  I think there will always be more of a mixture, but the fact is employment no longer carries the long-term assurances it once did. Every person who wants to be working tomorrow, whether they are working today or not, as an employee or a contractor, needs to be learning about the marketplace in order to create their best script that most closely matches their skills and attributes to the optimal client/employer.

We have the choice to try and respond to changes in the marketplace in the way that is best for us and best for our customers and our community.  Part of that involves perceiving things accurately – looking for the misdirection, seeing the paradigm that is being presented and the reasons for it.

For instance, take Facebook. It is presenting the image of a portal for people to have social relationships with each other. It is also selling the presence of consumer-social-space to advertisers. Seeing the inherent misdirection is useful in choosing one’s level of interaction with Facebook.

Each workplace consists of individuals, who are unique, and groups that have a particular culture, and activities that are organized in a certain way. Now especially, people in power want to do things according to their own paradigm. They may choose to present an incomplete view of that to co-workers and employees. Over time, additional information and actions may contradict that presented view. It is crucial to take in non-official information and create your own understanding, and to not be surprised by the difference between your understanding of your workplace, and the official ‘story’ in place. Don’t block things out because they are confusing or contradictory. Take in the information, try and construct a way in which it all fits, and try and match your role on stage to the real situation you are discovering. But understand you also still need to fit the official script as well.

Take in more information; adjust your actions today and your plans for tomorrow. Often. Become nimble. Separate wants from needs.

These days require new skills that prior times didn’t as much. It’s important to be honest with ourselves about what we are willing to do, and what we’re not willing to do. About what is important to us in a workplace – ethical context, work being done, staff attributes, managerial culture, geography, marketplace perceptions, long term strategies. And then using that value information in making all these active choices.

Meeting the Challenge

We have to know ourselves well to constantly determine whether we are willing/able to be a match for this or that situation; when the optimal work relationship is in place and when it has ended; what meets our needs best for the next period; and so on, on a somewhat constant basis.

We all have specific quality markers that define our work. In my case, accounting, I define quality as:

Adhering to GAAP and complying with all federal, state and local laws and business best practices; while instituting and maintaining transaction systems that fit the particular organization and are effective; in order to produce timely accurate information that meets the requirements of external parties and the informational needs of internal decision-makers.

I am going to continue to do that, even when the marketplace changes the workplace relationships and structures.  Over the years through it all I continue to prioritize my most essential workplace actions, doing the rest as much as possible, and communicating about my work within the language of the marketplace today and my workplace relationships.

It requires constant re-thinking; comparing  current demands not to how things used to be done, but to what optimally can work now. There is constant prioritization, value definition and horizon scanning. This article by Christine M. Riordan in the Harvard Business Review is an example of the constant re-formulating I’m talking about.

Back to the theater: the marketplace forces are similar to that bat I mentioned, perched on the mirror backstage during the show: it’s a hurdle. It has to be incorporated in to our actions, but it doesn’t have to exert undue control over the quality of our work or our well-being.  We can still do our best and coordinate that process into the ever-changing workplace narrative.

The show goes on.

And Minneapolis continues to be its authentically wonderful, albeit imperfect, self – regardless of external simplistic perceptions of it.

Ed. Note:

There is a likelihood of future revisions of this piece. I tend to do that for a bit, it’s what works best for me. For those of you who’ve already read this, it won’t take anything away or change it substantively: just will increase the clarity for those coming after you.
The other thing is, I may add links – to external pieces, and to related pieces that I’m going to write in the future. If any of you reading this have opinions about notifying readers of that, I’d be interested.
I could add links added to this section for instance, or in a separate page, or not at all. So any thoughts on that are welcome.

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Filed under Business, Community, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Minneapolis, Social Media, Uncategorized

Workings – Accounting

Returning Online Message to the World. Hello World!

I do accounting, and I don’t talk about it. Almost ever anyway. The one time I do talk about it.. well, it’s this blog post! This is my sole episode of self-exposition, hopefully a foundation for the rest of my social media life going forward. There are links to this, so that other main posts can be as pithy as self-awareness suggests they be. I hope this is illuminating to those interested, while still not getting me in any trouble. (Maintaining that delicate balance is strenuous, hence the singularity of this event).

Accounting is a dynamic, variable, and intrinsically-confidential process that most people in the best of times are unaware of. In the current moment, the accounting process has been rendered even more invisible, because of the paradigms that have sprung up around it.

Talking about it in an interesting way that is relevant to others yet also maintains all necessary confidentiality is generally impossible. Despite that, I’m going to share some information about it this one time, in re-joining the social media world after a long absence.

In my work, I create and maintain accounting structures and practices that enable efficient, correct financial transactions; and that also result in those transactions generating a data trail. I do additional steps with sets of transactions at periodic or project-specific intervals, to put that transaction data into specific patterns. And then I turn that data into information, both to meet external requirements and to provide useful organizational and programmatic information to internal managers and staff.

All of that is done within the framework of GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), as well as federal and state laws (regarding payroll, sales tax, and all sorts of other things), particular structures established within specific grants, and the body of established practice within each entity.

A significant part of the work is also engaging productively with the organization itself, participating in relevant decision-making, sharing information, and implementing change proactively; also helping with the organizational work itself sometimes.

All of that happened a certain way when I started out, in the mid- to late- 1980’s. That established ‘normal’ for me. I thought things would always be that way. I imagine now that, if they had, it’s possible I would have ended up in a certain comfort zone, a set of habits and practices within which I would have been content in a static way, and work would have existed within 9-5 and the rest would be my personal life.

Instead, things turned out differently.

These accounting practices in general have since been subject to a series of pressures that I did not at all foresee when I started out – as is the case with many work practices. I may write more about them at some point, but here’s a brief description.

Quickbooks – which I can honestly say I identified as a very mixed change agent right from the very beginning – operates on the basic premise that accounting as a theoretical framework or structured practice really doesn’t exist. Anyone can do it. There are qualifiers inherent in that statement over time, but that’s the basic gist. Anyone can do it, and any negative outcomes from that process are manageable. If outcomes are to be better managed, you can get help after the fact to fix it. (Stop rant now/)

And while I support all small businesses and entrepreneurs, and I know it’s been an effective tool for many to some extent, I am critical of the messaging and the implementation and the reaction to it by the other entities. (And that last part is something I’ll probably never talk about, which leaves a gap, but so be it).

Outsourcing of financial work has been another huge sea change. I only ever briefly worked for ‘Corporate America’ – but the shift from there of people looking for work has been substantive in the arena I do work within. It’s been just as impactful of the shift from the bottom up caused by the Quickbooks mindset. I was angry at India – you know, that one big entity that is India-of-Outsourcing-Fame – for a time; and then ended up in a discovery process with India, and became very fascinated and enthralled. More about that some time too perhaps. Not angry now (not directed there, anyway!).

And the last huge change has been the recession of course, which has had pervasive effects in the number of employment options for everyone everywhere in accounting, and the related pay scales. I know it didn’t affect me nearly as much as so many, but it’s still been quite a change agent in my life.

My mother has worked in organizational consulting in the practice of nursing for several decades; familiarity with her practice and implementation of it has fueled my belief that I could adapt sustainably to this all, and keep going. And I have done that. Some aspects involved have been SWOT, Social Media, continual learning and the serenity prayer.

I’ve considered other options, and explored some, discarding them due to the long lead-in time required, market aspects, investment requirements, my own interests/skills/strengths and so on.

The main other area I was interested in early on, and partway through my college career – computer technology – has also been very over-populated; in addition it’s been dominated by monopolistic entities and the barriers to entry at this point are as high as my interest level today is low. It still works well for me to simply focus on accounting software, and to some extent the relationships with related other software packages, web technologies and operating systems, although I haven’t done as much with that lately.

Writing and everything about the written word – always a primary interest core to my being – remains as an internally-rejuvenating interest only, for the time being at least.

So as a result of those pressures, and those explorations, and every experience to date, I’m still in accounting but it’s quite different from how it was in the 80’s. Not only no more ledger paper (sigh), but organizational paradigms are very different, cost pressures are huge, and regulations/adherence monitoring is much more significant. It’s a 24/7 continually changing social-media-enriched client-focused experience, very different from how I thought my career would be way back when.

I’m continually grateful that I have been able to continue in the practice of accounting, in a sector of it that I’m happy to be in (nonprofits, and entrepreneurial entities), in physical locations that are often Downtown and always transit-friendly, with organizations that are doing great work and people that are truly wonderful.

The social media result is that I’m here, but talking about myself as others do gehts nicht – it’s not going to happen.

I’m thinking now, after being away for a while and within my current complex work situation, that I may write something once a quarter or so, about distillations and non-specific accumulations that might have relevance.

The whole rest of the time though, my online presence is about the goals of my work, which is to support entrepreneurs, creativity, adaptation, communities, and best possible futures. Sometimes that support lends itself to writing, such as new technologies or new impactful situations etc.. but I like to support the writing of others who have invested much time and energy in doing that well also – I respect their commitment to that process.

There, hopefully we’re all still standing and no lasting damage has been done.I know I feel Better.

So you see, my lack of original writing: it’s just the way my work is.

Although I know it’s true – the one constant in life is change!

Comments/feedback always welcome! Thanks for visiting.

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Filed under Accounting, Business, Community, Entrepreneurship, Minneapolis, NonProfits, Social Media, St. Paul, Technology

Clarified content issues – Part I of II

Hello World!

I’ve been away for a while – actually since right before I took on a huge new work project! It as honestly correct as far as timing goes, when exactly my last post was. So there’s that.

And now I’m starting up again, which makes me very happy. Paved roads, where before was less structure, make more activity possible. And all that.

I’m starting off with myself, then will branch out from there.

This is the first of two posts about why my online professional content is different from most on Google +. Because yes, Google + exists and is all that it is and will be, and as I’m activating over there as well, it’s impossible to ignore the disconnects. So I’m writing them down, to process them and then move on to whatever will co-exist with them.

In this post, I’ll share one of the main ones, and then in a longer post will be the other main one. That’s a longer post, already written, now having time pass, unattended processing, cold dawn of a new day (which we have lots of here in Minneapolis, so that’s good), and all that.

The main difference between me and other online work content providers (all still bloggers? or is that too specific I’m thinking?) is that I’m not doing this to gain more business, or to gain business at all. I’m currently booked/ overbooked, and my current client-work-set relationships of variable, part-time projects are all potentially long-term, certainly open-ended, right-of-first-refusal etc… So I may be available for some new situation in the 2014-2017 range, or not then yet even. Or before, but hopefully all current will remain long term. If I didn’t just jinx it, that is.

In fact, that’s why I’ve been off line for almost a year! So this post kind of goes without saying.. but since there’s always a continuing concern about self-promotion vs. being a bot or a real person vs. correct ways to promote others etc.. I just thought I’d explicitly state this once at least.

Instead, my online content is to further the same goals I have in my work: support of those entrepreneurial and nonprofit entities whose work I support, who are part of that collective community with an eye to a positive tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, and for your patience. Comments welcome.

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Fun Friday: Gay Pride!

Clarity Solutions celebrates Gay Pride for the wellbeing of our entire community.

We urge all citizens of Minnesota to vote NO on the marriage amendment in 2012, and to help organize the defeat of that amendment until then. The constitution is not about discriminating against groups of people. Our community is most well when all members of our community are well.

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Filed under Business, buy local, Community, Fun, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Uncategorized

Site-Member Profile: TigerOx Painting, LLC

Date Established: 2001.

Business/Organization Name: TigerOx Painting, LLC

Owner/Executive Director Name:

TigerOx is a partnership between four equal partners, Anders Christensen, Ceridwen Christensen, Rachel Taylor and Jeremy Wikre.

When we first formed our company, we were very much four individual contractors. Each one of us was involved in every area of the business, because that is how we were used to doing business for ourselves. It took us a long while to differentiate our responsibilities.

Anders, with his much broader experience in the industry, naturally is much more involved in the public interactions: meeting clients, doing estimates, etc. Jeremy does production management. Ceridwen moved away from production when she was having her children, and took over the marketing and estimating aspects at that point. Rachel is currently on maternity leave.

Product/Service:

TigerOx Painting, LLC, is a residential painting contractor, but saying we are painters doesn’t capture the full scope of our work. We do both interior and exterior painting. The function of exterior paint is not purely aesthetic. Paint also should behave as an unbroken skin protecting your house from the elements, especially from the intrusion of water. We never paint damaged or unprepared surfaces, and a large portion of any project we undertake is spent in preparation for painting, not in painting itself. For our interior projects, the same standards apply. We paint only after the plaster has been patched, the stains sealed, the peeling paint scraped away.

The members of TigerOx have long histories with historic Minneapolis houses, especially Anders. Anders has been interested in historic restoration and the history of building styles in Minneapolis since he bought a Victorian house in the 70s. Because of that long association, TigerOx can rehab old fashioned double-hung windows, refinish old woodwork, hang wallpaper, remove wallpaper. Not only can we do this, this is the work we enjoy.

Unique Features/Competitive Advantage:

Our unique features are part of our skills. We have broad skills and long experience with older homes. We are happy to take on odd, small or complex projects, projects that might otherwise require several different people. We have a number of regular customers who have us come in every couple of years and perform a punch list: repair a doorknob, repaint a closet, refinish three window sills. We are not just tinkerers though, and have successfully completed large painting projects, from painting the entire interior for a couple in St Paul, room by room, or painting an exterior in Minneapolis which included more than sixty traditional storm and sash windows.

TigerOx Painting is very aware that when we work on your house, it may be our work place, but it continues to be your private space. We earnestly endeavor to minimize the disruption of the painting process, from putting away tools nightly, to cleaning up paint chips and debris as we work. With the passage of new EPA standards for dealing with the preparation of areas with lead paint in them, this isn’t just good sense, this is now the law. Lead paint is present in any home built before 1978, and that means that almost all of the houses we work on have lead paint in them. We are are a lead-safe certified firm.

Contact Information:

Web site: www.tigeroxpainting.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/TigerOx-Painting/107581559263214?ref=ts

Phone: (612) 827-2361

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