Following are examples of companies that have benefited from the programs and services offered by each of the Beacom School of Business outreach centers.

Focusing on Family Businesses

The Prairie Family Business Association formed in 1992 to help families navigate the complexities of being in business together. The organization provides valuable resources tailored to the needs of family businesses through networking opportunities and information on topics such as succession planning, inter-generational communication and tax concerns.

The association serves 238 members across 13 Midwestern states, the majority of whom are in South Dakota.

“Prairie Family Business Association has been part of the University of South Dakota Beacom School of Business for 31 years,” said Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the association. “USD Beacom provides leadership, structure and vision for the association. Across the country, most family business centers are tied in with higher education. It’s of great benefit to be part of the State of South Dakota’s flagship business school.”

When it comes to assisting family businesses, Larschied gave an example of how one of the association’s services makes a huge impact. The association-sponsored family business retreat brings families together with a facilitator to address their businesses in an open and productive setting.

“It is amazing to see the realizations that come out of a retreat,” she said. “Often there are thoughts and desires expressed that have never been shared before. When a family leaves a retreat, there can be a weight lifted off their shoulders. It’s also very rewarding to see what happens after the retreat. Family meetings continue and the family dedicates time and energy to working on their business.”

Managing the succession of a business is a major concern for members of the association, Larscheid said. “There is a desire for the business to stay in the family, but the family needs guidance on structure, methods and pitfalls to avoid. We partner with the top family business advisors in the region to support our members,” she said.

Tura Synhorst, vice president of corporate affairs for Coca-Cola Bottling Co. High Country in Rapid City, South Dakota, is one of three siblings managing a company started by their grandfather more than 60 years ago. Synhorst serves on the Prairie Family Business Advisory Board and credits the association with helping her family steward their business through this generation and the next. 

For example, Synhorst said a family business retreat held by the association helped her family endure a hardship they hadn’t anticipated. The group’s facilitator had asked her family if they had a contingency plan in case her brother, then CEO of the company, could not fulfill his duties.

“At the time, we were fairly young, in our late twenties and early thirties, and we hadn’t talked about that or even thought about it,” she said. “We used that time at the retreat to draft what it would look like for us if that would happen, thinking that nothing would happen for a very long time.”

In just a few years, however, her brother experienced a serious health emergency and had to seek treatment for nearly a year before he could slowly transition back into the business. “We put that contingency plan in place right away me and my other brother knew exactly what our roles were and how our teams could continue to lead and make decisions,” Synhorst said.

The association’s annual conference and affinity peer groups—composed of people who share interests and similarities—foster interaction with other family business owners. Synhorst said her group has forged close ties. “I can pick up the phone on any day at any time and ask members of my group for advice,” she said. “I have formed a tremendous bond with this group and consider it to be invaluable.”

Redlinger Plumbing and Heating Company in Watertown, South Dakota, is another family business that benefits from its membership in the association.

Outside of older redlinger bros plumbing and heating, black and white

Adam Redlinger, a member of the third generation of the family involved in the business, works as an estimator/project manager for the company. Adam said his father and company president, Jim Redlinger, got him involved in the Prairie Family Business Association even before he graduated from the Beacom School of Business in 2012.

The younger Redlinger cited the topics addressed at the annual conference and the professional services offered by the association’s sponsors—including help with legal issues and estate planning—as crucial membership benefits. Like Synhorst, Redlinger finds support through the association’s affinity peer groups.

“The affinity peer groups are a huge help to me because as silly as it sounds, nobody wants to hear my problems and my friends have the mindset that everything must be perfect if you are self-employed,” Redlinger said. “The affinity peer group meetings allow me and other members to share situations with one another in a confidential setting where members can openly offer advice, share similar experiences or simply listen to what others have been going through.”

Association members’ access to professional resources such as attorneys, accountants and consultants has also proven helpful to Redlinger.

“Prairie Family has streamlined the process to find professional resources for myself and many others,” he said. “If I need something or someone to speak with about a topic regarding our family or business, I have these services available with a simple text, email, or call.”

Redlinger mentioned his experience researching the possibilities of offering an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) at his company. “Prairie Family Business Association lined up an ESOP-specific attorney to sit down with our affinity peer group and we fired off questions for an hour,” he said. “Without the association, I would have needed to schedule an appointment with an attorney, and it would have taken a lot of time. That’s one reason we value our membership so much.

Solutions for South Dakota Manufacturers

Another outreach center of the Beacom School of Business, South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions, has a straightforward mission: to help South Dakota manufacturers prosper and grow. In 2021, the organization helped the state’s manufacturers achieve $21.7 million in costs savings, $64.9 million in new investments, new and retained sales of $112.9 million and 531 newly created and retained jobs.

Morgan Larson, business advisor at S.D. Manufacturing & Technology Solutions, said the organization offers myriad services to help companies grow revenue and reduce costs. Automation and workforce development offerings are of particular importance in the current economic climate, she said.

In the area of workforce development, a new course on leadership for supervisors has shown positive results, Larson said. “People often leave companies because of the folks that supervise them, so we’re assisting the supervisors with the tools they need to lead effectively,” she said. Other offerings that focus on the workforce are peer groups that bring together employees from different companies who have similar roles, such as human resource managers and supply chain personnel. “Folks are really enjoying it. Giving people the opportunity to ask questions and gain insights from others in their roles has proven to be incredibly valuable for everyone involved,” she added.

The shortage of people available to join a manufacturer’s workforce influences the organization’s offerings in automation. “We’re focusing on helping manufacturers see the wide variety of automation opportunities out there and helping them learn what parts of their process can benefit from automation the most. We’re also helping them see how putting automation in place can help upskill their current workforce and create a safer work environment,” Larson said. “As technology continues to grow and evolve, it’s becoming more feasible for businesses of all sizes to put in different automation pieces from software to sensors and vision systems to collaborative robots, or ‘cobots.’”

S.D. Manufacturing & Technology Solutions’ training and consulting services helped one fast-growing South Dakota business develop a structure that streamlined production and enhanced the capabilities of their workforce.

Scherer Inc., located in Tea, South Dakota, designs and manufactures kernel processors for self-propelled forage harvesters and provides services in the milling industry. The company had worked with S.D. Manufacturing & Technology Solutions over the past five years to improve business and manufacturing operations and to develop their workforce, which currently totals more than 75 employees.

Undergoing a process called value stream mapping with S.D. Manufacturing & Technology Solutions, for instance, led Scherer to reevaluate the company’s workflow on the plant floor. One result: Scherer changed the plant flow and material handling of its kernel processor roll assembly, increasing production capacity by 250%.

Levi Schmid, Scherer’s director of manufacturing, said they have also applied the value stream mapping process to other areas of the business.

“We’ve done it in several areas, such as our purchasing process,” Schmid said. “It takes some time, and we bring in all involved parties. We map the process out by drawing on a white board and using stick notes. It helps you identify waste in your systems. There might be two people doing the same things and they don’t realize it, for example. And then you lay out a plan and an amount of time it’s going to take to get there.”

Especially useful are the organization’s programs for developing a company’s workforce, Schmid said.

“As a rapidly growing company, S.D. Manufacturing & Technology Solutions had some great training on how to manage your people better and how to develop problem solvers,” he said. “They were really helpful in that area—creating better problem solvers and decision makers on our workforce.”

Big Successes for Small Businesses

Small businesses across the country drive economic growth, and South Dakota is no different. In fact, small businesses account for 99% of all businesses in the state, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

South Dakota’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) became part of the Beacom School of Business in 1985 when the national program expanded into the state that year, said Mark Slade, state director of the center. The center’s programs offer individualized business advising and technical assistance to existing small businesses and individuals looking to start a new venture.

“Over the course of 20-plus years within the SBDC, I’ve personally helped clients raise over $480 million in financing to start, grow or purchase a business,” Slade said. “These have ranged in size from $5,000 microenterprise home-based ventures to $15-million-dollar expansions.”

SBDC services range from helping small businesses access capital and develop a business plan to managing growth and expansion. Businesses also need assistance finding a niche and gaining enough market share to be sustainable and successful, Slade said. Finding and keeping workers is another challenge the center can help businesses address.

The center’s affiliation with the Beacom School of Business provides substantial benefits, Slade said. “One of these has been the Coyote Business Consulting Group. When the pandemic struck, many business school students had internships that were put on pause by area employers who were uncertain of the effects of COVID,” he said. “The SBDC was able to secure interest through our relationships with former and current clients to find enough internship opportunities for these displaced students. Our clients were able to tap into the students and their research efforts as a resource and the students were able to gain valuable hands-on knowledge of what impacts small businesses.”

Two Sioux Falls dentists praise the S.D. SBDC’s help with their businesses.

These professionals met when Kevin Haiar, DDS, a specialty dentist, bought a building where Chris Wermerson, DMD, an orthodontist, had operated a clinic before expanding at another location. During the process, the two discovered they were also veterans of the U.S. Navy and had gained experience serving as dentists for the Marines.

Front desk of wermerson orthodontics office

“Once we connected and realized he had the Navy background as well, and actually a similar path to opening his own business, it’s been an awesome process working together on the transaction. He’s been a good mentor and has given me lots of advice on opening my practice,” said Haiar.

When it comes to running a business, Haiar and Wermerson have more than just their military backgrounds in common. Both men also took advantage of the free services provided by the SBDC as they were starting their practices. Back in 2016, when Wermerson was applying for his Small Business Administration loan, he turned to Slade at the Sioux Falls SBDC office for assistance with the loan paperwork.

“He was very available and made that process really easy. He also checked in about six months after I had started the practice and again at the one-year mark to see if everything was going smoothly,” Wermerson said.

Haiar worked with Daniel Crook in the Sioux Falls SBDC office. “I had to compile all this info for the loan, and he helped me put together the business plan, and he was awesome,” said Haiar. “With me being busy at work, he was available at all hours to text or call at any time, and we were able to get everything done on a tight timeline.”

Another benefit of working with an SBDC counselor is the opportunity to secure additional funding opportunities you may not know about otherwise. For instance, Slade was able to find a grant for Haiar to help fund his website and digital marketing efforts.

“The Beacom School of Business is devoted to meeting the needs of businesses, governments and communities now and in the future,” said Mark Yockey, Ph.D., interim dean of the Beacom School of Business. “This prestigious goal isn’t possible without the help from our outreach organizations that are collaborating with these businesses on a daily basis which allow us to define and develop business leaders for tomorrow.”

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