Why did I write the book?

I want my family to be happy and to survive in the world.  Prosperity is a bonus; if they prosper I hope they are generous with others.

My premise is that relationships and freedom are the spice of life and that they come from pursuing happiness by having inner peace, an unselfish purpose and some income to live.

My dream is that it will provide help for anyone in their daily lives and some tips for those younger people starting out.

I hope that the older generation sees enough benefit in this that they will want to give it to young people that would rather learn from somebody else’s parent!

I believe this is a great graduation gift, inexpensive and short so anyone can find the time to read it.



I was watching Suze Orman, a personal finance guru, on TV at Lifetime Fitness the other day.  She had a segment called “Can I afford it” where people  send in questions about whether they should make a certain purchase accompanied by their financial position, income debt etc.  There was no closed caption so I couldn’t hear the advice, but caught the gist of the answers, usually “no” given the inquirer’s situations.  As a finance guy I was somewhat amazed by some of the questions. 

I find it interesting that anyone would ask someone else about what they could afford.   I think many people go in to their mess by asking mortgage brokers if they could afford the mortgage.   What others can afford may have nothing to do with what I can afford.   Ms Orman’s usual answer was no, in light of the asker’s financial situation.  Sounded like common sense to me, but I’ve talked myself in to a lot of unnecessary unaffordable spending myself.

While I agreed with what I saw from a financial point, I think the solutions to our financial issues are deeper.  I have come to believe that what all of us really want is to have inner peace, a meaningful purpose and to survive in the world.  Included in purpose is to serve others, our employers, our families, our friends and others.  There are many benefits to having that mentality, better relationships that we all crave, and a  development of unselfish, greedy behavior that only compounds our financial problems to name only a few.  Plus, if we ever get to a position of power, we can coach others to do the same so they can also be successful.

 I recommend a similar solution to Ms Orman, with a few caveats.  First, take care of one’s needs then prioritize the other stuff.  (It is amazing how few real needs we have if we are honest with ourselves) Second, figure out if you can afford the other stuff given your individual cirmstances, and most importantly, determine whether the expenditure helps you meet your main goals of having peace.  Obviously, financial stress is one of our biggest “peace stealers” so we should avoid it as best we can.

Sound too simple?  I don’t think so.  I am one of the best at talking myself in to buying what I want and can figure out how to afford it most of the time.  But do I need all this stuff? 

I think this approach is simple and I am working on this myself with good results.  Less stress and more focus on what I can do for others both financially and emotionally.  It is difficult for me, I will admit that; I want everything also.  But when I get around those with less it makes me more grateful for what I have and that brings peace to me. 

These concepts allow me to pursue happiness, which our Declaration of Independence says our Creator established as one of our rights.  I don’t think we will ever reach a happiness nirvana, but by pursuing it we will be better off than waiting for it. 



What I want for my heirs is to survive and be happy in this world.  I think that is what every parent wants, or should want for their family.

To many it is common sense, get a job, save, manage your finances and trust in God.  But many if not most of us have problems along the way that we either create ourselves or others do that interrupt our inner peace.  That interruption can further our spiral down in seeking survival.

As many experience, most children do not like to get advice from their parents.  I am fortunate that my adult children will still listen to me at times, but prefer to go their own way as they should.  I also don’t think they learn it in school or church.  They hear all the pieces, but have difficulty connecting them like I did,

So, I just completed the unthinkable, I wrote a book to my family showing them how to be happy and survive, “Connecting Peace, Purpose & Prosperity”.  I did it as a memoir of my life and career to make it more interesting and also to provide a legacy for my grandchildren some day.

I am selling this book to others in hopes that they may find it to be what they would like to tell their families too, in a simple, readable 80+ page book.  Short but packed mostly with things I have learned that have been around a long time plus some of my own experiences that may prove to be good examples of how these fundamentals work.

See my book page for more information.


StoneL was a young startup company that needed to raise some equity capital in order to move forward. They had developed a valve monitoring device and were ready to take it to market, but where would they go for equity and how would they get it?

One problem was that few people knew what a valve monitoring device was, and worse, few people cared! Wally Stommes, CEO of StoneL explained it to me very simply. In a processing plant there are pipes that carry fluids, on the pipes are valves that let the fluids out that are turned on and off via an actuator, not the kind of twist valve that I have on my outside hose that I think of. By putting a chip in it and letting it communicate to a central PC, a plant superintendent can monitor the processes to be assured that everything is functioning as required. Or in simple language, is the beer getting the right ingredients?

But even knowing that, or believing you understand it, would you invest in such a venture? Well, several people did, and each had their own reasons.

  • One of Wally’s former professors understood the product, and believed in Wally and his partner Gerry Nelson
  • A local guy that liked to invest in companies, knew Wally and Gerry and was willing to bet on the people and product as well as his interest in the community
  • A Twin Cities entrepreneur that had very little understanding of the product, but was immensely impressed with the people and the fact that the founders were buying stock at the same price as they were offering it to him. They were taking no “free” founder stock

So, that is how they got started with angel money. They eventually attracted other investors from around the area and the Twin Cities, (including me, one of my best investments ever!) borrowed money from economic development organizations, and financial institutions. And through very frugal management they bootstrapped their way to survival. Profitable years were few, but they were becoming a well known player in their industry.

But, as most know, investors want an exit plan so for several years Wally spent a lot of time studying and talking with his competitors and possible acquirers. With this knowledge and the relationships he created, they sold StoneL in 2000 to a strategic buyer that understood valve monitors very well and needed the device to complete their product line. All the investors received a substantial return and all the lenders were repaid. With a NYSE company behind StoneL now, they are doing well, growing and building a new plant.

I worked with these people for almost 10 years, my final involvement being helping with the sale of the business. My first project with them was to arrange some financing when they were in a bind and had no idea where to get debt financing. I treasured the people relationship and the profit on my investment as did every other investor/lender that was involved. Just goes to show how profitable it can be to invest in and work with people that are unselfish, have integrity and passion for what they do.


November 2nd, 2007

How passion replaces being “lonely at the top”. A common problem for many owners and managers is that they believe they have no one to talk with about their business. Small business owners often have this problem more that others in that they have few people that are as educated, trained and broad thinking as they are.

So, what is the solution? I think my brother Tom is a good example of how to solve this problem. He just successfully sold five of his six convenience stores that he had built up mostly on his own with the help of many employees that executed his vision. He didn’t get extremely wealthy by some standards, but did very well. How did he make it happen? Mainly, he has a passion for the oil business and convenience stores.

Our father had a small oil business and several gas stations and that is where he started his love affair with the industry. He worked for Conoco for several years learning what others do and learning the business from a macro level. When he bought a small distributorship 25 years ago he had a passion and vision for where he wanted to take it. And he did it, by buying or opening four more stores, all on borrowed capital.

Secondly he built outside contacts to have support people. He probably went to 5-10 conferences a year to learn and network, such as: NACS National Association of Convenience Stores, an organization of stores that has conferences, training and a lot of networking. Tom was on the national board representing the small store owners, an experience that allowed him to meet the big players and get to know how they did things. Oil industry groups. There are many of these that provide networking for all brands and have people from all sizes of businesses attending. He got to know many of these people and now sells fuel to their operations plus has access to their counsel.

Tom has kept in touch with many contacts from his corporate days that provide more expertise for him as well as keeping up with what is going on in the business. CNT Christian Network Team A group of business owners, CEO’s or others that met monthly for breakfast for Bible study and to learn from each other how to solve various business problems that they had encountered. He was a member of a national group of similar businesses that created composite financial data, compared theirs to the others, and met frequently to discuss them. So with his passion for the business and his desire to learn from others he created a great network of people to talk with and support him. Many of the successful people I have dealt with also have a passion for what they do which I believe vastly contributes to their success. The ones I see that just want to make money on their business have a hard time.

My friend Don Harley’s story

I wrote this a year or so ago about a friend of mine who has inspired me to keep on keeping on.  I just learned today that he passed away.

He will be missed by many. including me


It was about 10 years ago that I met Don Harley through another client. Don produced acrylic awards, marketing them to various promotional item reps. A few years later he asked me to advise him in the sale of his business, which I did (although I didn’t do much) and he eventually he sold his business. The interesting part though is that he was 80 years old at the time, and wanted to sell because he had some other business ideas he wanted to explore. Today he is doing just that by marketing various hand drawings of products that he accumulated over the years as pieces of art. At first I thought he had “lost it”, but I was wrong again, he now has a display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in

Minneapolis! With the advent of computer drawings, his have become almost a lost art. He is working on selling his collection now and is presently having it appraised. Now he is 90, and has ideas for another business after he sells this collection!Retirement isn’t in his vocabulary. He has had many health issues such as stroke, cancer and other ailments that haven’t dampened his enthusiasm at all. I think the key to his success is his attitude and faith.He is one of the most “others-centered” people that I have ever met. He is constantly interested in what others are doing, including me by always asking what I am doing more than talking about his efforts. That and the constant sparkle in his eye have earned him the respect and friendship of many people.I have learned many things from him, including loving what you do, looking for opportunities, and keeping going. I am fortunate to have him as a friend.

Bankers, do you really have a takeout lender?

One of the unintended consequences of overly aggressive bank lending is that many non-bank lenders were taken out of the market because of risk adjusted pricing.  Businesses also got spoiled with easy credit and now need to present sharper proposals to anyone to get financing and often need to be more creative in doing so.

This was my post several years ago:

The interesting thing about a credit crunch is that when it happens, everyone raises their standards.  Many bankers rely on asset based lenders to replace their loans when they are “tired”.  But, asset based lenders may be seeing better loans all the time if there is a crunch.  I’d suggest that bankers look at their loans to see if they can be taken out by others.  I can help with this.

Are loan standards about to change?

Are loans “graded” on a curve?  Most lenders would say that they have rigorous standards for evaluting commercial credit requests.  In most cases that is true.  But some of the aggressive lending shops may grade on a curve.  IE if they have 10 credit requests in the house they may pick the top 3 to work on.  On another day the bottom 7 may end up in the top 3 for them.  I have placed loans with lenders by finding out when they are having a slow time thus getting my deal at the top of their list!

This is also true for examiners, although they also follow standards.  Will your loan fail the curve?  If banks start exiting poor performing credits will you become one of the bottom credits?  You may want to find out where you stand with your financing.

Taxpayer's League

Law of untended outcomes strikes again!

I think we are all aware that the Taxpayers League of Minnesota is one of the most despised organizations in this State, especially by progressive tax advocates. I find this interesting in that I know the story of how it came in to existence.

About 20 years ago I approved some financing for a leveraged buyout of a local business for a man named Mike Wigley. He came up with about $130,000 through credit cards and stretching every nickel he had to make it work. We provided a loan for $7,000,000 to complete the purchase, which he personally guaranteed. If he would have failed, he would have been in personal and corporate bankruptcy immediately. But, he didn’t, and was very successful with it and made a lot of money when he sold the business.

Upon closing his deal he made the trip to his accountant to do his taxes. He was astounded by the amount he owed the governments for income tax! He had taken the risk, employed many people, and been successful through hard work and implementing his plan to own and turn around the business he had purchased. Now the governments wanted what seemed more like a “success fee” than tax.

Later in the day he had coffee with a gentleman that was considering starting a tax payer’s advocacy group. Mike was immediately interested and offered to do the first funding for it. He never had to fund it all because when others heard about it there was money coming in from everywhere to support what became the Taxpayers League of Minnesota!

Today this organization is one of the most powerful in the State, although despised by the “higher tax” people. The candidates that have signed the “no new taxes pledge” have all been criticized by their opponents. Some think this organization has far more power than it should, and maybe it has. This is an appropriate question no matter what your political persuasion is.

Is it a good idea to have an organization like this to keep government accountable? Or, has the government really been “sold” to high wealth people via their higher taxes thereby prompting them to get more involved and try to run it? Do wealthy people just like to “pull the strings” regardless of their political views? Is there a better system that would give us all the feeling of equal ownership of our government? Do the tax laws discourage small businesses in this State? I’d be curious to hear from people that I know about this with your comments on this blog.

Oh, and as an irony, Mike is a very generous person giving to schools, colleges (some very liberal ones at that), arts organizations and many other things in our community. He is a proponent of fiscal responsibility, but puts his wealth to work where he sees it is needed!

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