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Our philosophy: Our most valuable assets are the businesses growing under our roofs.

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“If you have fun at your job and enjoy the people you work with, the customer can’t help but notice.”

A business record that extends back to 1877 is rare to find. But Patterson has not only endured for over a century, it’s thrived to the point that it is the second-largest dental supply company in North America. Marya Lessard, National Technical Service Manager, explains the company’s resilience as a result of its surprisingly simple customer service philosophy: “If you have fun at your job and enjoy the people you work with, the customer can’t help but notice that you’re smiling, that you’re in a good mood, and that you’re here to help. As long as my customers are happy, it’s a great day.”

The philosophy works. Patterson’s growth led to Lessard’s division outgrowing its space a decade ago. “Patterson as a whole is family-friendly, a great company to work at,” said Lessard. “So when we had to move and expand, my criteria came from that perspective: not too far away from our original location, near major highways to help everyone’s commute, and of course, amenities nearby. I thought hard about where people would go for lunch, and how they spend their time outside of these walls.”

The demands of the constant evolution of the dental business, along with the wide range of services and products that Patterson offers also meant that a new location would have to provide not just one specialized space, but several. “We have a lot of steam from equipment that is being tested, so we needed a space large enough for the machines as well as a space-specific ventilation system. But it would be right alongside the hand piece room, where more heat was needed. Again, our employee comfort and experience matters, because they in turn create the best experience for our customers.”

“Nowadays in today's dentistry, there are so many different new products that we work with that can make your dentist appointment nearly painless,” said Lessard. “So when we moved here, we knew the value of each person having their own space to do what they do best: making sure that our dentists have everything they need. We believe you can relax and enjoy being at your dentist appointment—it sounds odd but it's possible. Our people are committed to making that happen.

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“We’re a group of cyclists building products for other cyclists.”

You probably don’t know it, but if you’ve pedaled a bike for a weekend outing, or if you’re a hard-core cyclist commuter, you’ve used one of Dero’s products. “We’ve been around since 1995,” said Andy Lageson, VP and General Manager, “and we’re a group of cyclists building products for other cyclists.” The company designs and manufactures everything from the simple, one-bike racks you hitch your bike to outside any given building, to high-end, automated, massive bike shelters and locker systems for urban condo developments and university buildings.

“When I joined the company, one of the founders was engineering and designing the products, and we didn’t even really have a dedicated product development process,” said Lageson. “But we’ve been expanding like crazy, and have gone from outsourcing the manufacturing to doing 90% of the work in-house.”

That shift to moving the entire product creation process internally meant a careful rethink of where and how Dero does its work, primarily because of the company’s dedication to bike-centric lifestyles. “Transportation is a big deal for us. We award employees a benefit if they choose to commute using nontraditional transportation, like giving them a $4-a-day credit if they take mass transit. Our first location was next to the greenway bike paths of Minneapolis, and when we outgrew that space, we really wanted to be sure our new location had infrastructure in place, with bus links and biking and walking paths nearby.”

Their search resulted in a versatile office/manufacturing space alongside a key cycling corridor, which also houses almost all aspects of the business: sales, finance, marketing, product development, key manufacturing and shipping steps as well as the full inventory.

A significant portion of Dero’s reputation was also built on custom work: “We can do anything a customer wants within public safety requirements—our aesthetic work is really outstanding,” said Lageson. Even more important to the company mission is Dero’s focus on high-quality, secure bike parking which encourages more riders to use their bikes in their daily lives, reducing car use. And that includes the cyclists under the company’s roof: “One of our favorite features of our office space is that we added an outdoor ramp—so you can ride right into the building at the beginning of your work day.

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“It was like two families moving in together.”

As a wing of a billion-dollar company specializing in high-tech products and services, you’d expect the Kaman location in Eagan, Minnesota to feel cold. Corporate. Impersonal. The opposite is true, and that’s by design: “We started in the basement of a home, and didn’t move into office space until there were 13 employees. We were forced to get an office, because we were sharing desks and juggling schedules,” said Lori Kowitz, District Operations Manager. “We made it work, but realized we needed to find a space that fits our needs as a business as well as a bunch of humans.”

While this particular Kaman division required a space that was functional and safe for combination of light manufacturing and assembly, it also had other specific business needs: “We are a motion control distributor, a systems control integrator, we offer onsite testing and customer training, and do applications engineering and assembly for large systems—and we need the freedom to do what we need to do on all these fronts,” said Kowitz. “We built our success by growing our customer sales. But the way we do that is to encourage growth in our employees, expanding their knowledge and skill sets through training. In turn, that keeps our customers happy because every Kaman person is meeting their expectations.”

The employee-focused philosophy of Kaman was put to a test in 2011, when a company was acquired by Kaman and needed to be integrated with an existing division, with both groups of employees relocating to a new space. “It was like two families moving in together,” said Kowitz. “We had a very large breadth of employees who travel quite a way to work, so we wanted to find a place that inconvenienced as few employees as possible.”

“In addition, we needed to find a location with large warehouse capacity, had proximity to the airport, and was one of the first drop-offs and last pickups for UPS, so we could take advantage of a bigger shipping window to serve our customers. And we found a place that made both groups feel good. It’s because we chose the place carefully, but we also chose the landlord we’d work with. That’s how we truly found a place that met all our needs.

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“We don’t have a tenant/landlord relationship. We have a, ‘Hey, what do you need, how can I help?’ relationship.”

The beginning of Vee Star Entertainment Group was inspired by childhood. “The original owner of Vee was an executive with touring ice skating shows,” said Jack Pence, VP and General Manager. “One of the shows he worked on was sold and he was laid off in 1980. But fortunately, there was a Bert and Ernie sketch from Sesame Street in the ice skating show, and as a result he knew Jim Henson. The exec called Jim Henson, suggested the show do a live tour, and our Sesame Street Live show has been touring since then through today.”

The core of the entertainment company was built on a seasonal rhythm: every summer, the company would put out a tremendous effort to launch that year’s shows. “We didn’t have a permanent shop, so we had to rent space and create a shop from scratch every summer to get all the touring shows ready,” said Pence. “But around 1991, we decided to start both a year-round production services shop, plus launch our Costumes & Creatures shop. We needed a spray paint booth, air exchange equipment for costume storage, a scene shop, and special very bright lighting in all of those. We needed the perfect space so that we could start selling our services to other companies.”

The best thing about the company’s landing spot: a new conference room. At least, that’s what they’ve dubbed the Surly destination brewery that opened across the street. “Of course, we tried to figure out how the brewery being built back here will affect us. But we were very pleasantly surprised.”

One of the ways the transition was eased was Vee’s relationship with their landlord. “I tell people, if you call a realtor, you’ll get hooked up with a lot of properties to look at,” said Pence. “But you will not be dealing with that person. Do your homework, know who owns your building and what their stake is in the building, and know that that is the person you will be dealing with for the long run, not the realtor. By doing this, we avoided having a tenant/landlord relationship. We have a, ’Hey, what do you need, how can I help?‘ relationship.”

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