Guest Column: The importance of making lasting connections

Guest Column by Tim Penny


After several busy months of taking advantage of warm weather, the leaves start to drop from the trees in preparation for winter and I am reminded of the importance of slowing down and connecting with others. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, we are spending this season connecting with many of our partners in our 20-county region at several major events.

We recently held the Entrepreneurial Bridge Event in Austin for the fifth year in a row. Business owners from around our region spent the day hearing from inspirational speakers and learning from each other to help their businesses grow. This year’s theme was Achieving Greatness, and we were exposed to many ways of doing this. John McHugh, director of corporate communications at Kwik Trip, talked to us about the importance of creating a culture of community and compassion, and finding a purpose in the workplace. Cindy Ebert, president of The Growth Collaborative, walked everyone through a series of interactive sessions to help them hone in on their leadership styles and develop a goal-setting system to support growth in the business and the entrepreneur. We also heard from Mike McCabe, former director of air warfare at the Pentagon, who taught us the importance of being a strong leader by creating a culture in the workplace that others can buy in to.

We also saw greatness from the college students who participated in the student competition portion of the Bridge event. Their inspirational business pitches ranged from stylish headbands to robotic defense mannequins for sports training. I’m always amazed by the innovation that comes from our youngest entrepreneurs. Three winners — JockLab, 2True Headbands, and School Shark — walked away with prize money to invest in their businesses, which we hope will support their ideas in taking root and sprouting into lasting businesses in our region.