Monthly Archives :

April 2021

beautiful backyards

Think Spring! Top Tips From Our Clients Who Help Make Backyards Beautiful

Think Spring! Top Tips From Our Clients Who Help Make Backyards Beautiful 900 600 Kari Switala

Spring is officially here! And while it may not always feel spring-like here in Minnesota (April snowstorms are all too real, whether we like it or not!), it’s that time of year when we turn our thoughts to tidying up our outdoor spaces. As the weather gets warmer and the days grow longer, we are eager to spend more and more time outside. That season is nearing where we’ll spend long days working in the gardens while the kids play outside, followed by grilling on the deck for dinner and maybe a s’more or two by the fire. If you’re as ready for those days as we are, it’s time to start thinking about spiffing up your lawn, gardens, and deck. 

We recently talked with three of our clients who specialize in making outdoor spaces beautiful. Read on to learn more about them and the trends they’re seeing this year in landscaping, decking, irrigation, and lighting. We’re certain you’ll find some inspiration for your yard!

McDonough Landscaping, Inc.

McDonough Landscaping was one of our very first clients when we started out 10 years ago! They are a small, family-run design/build landscape construction company that has served the Twin Cities metro area since 2003. They specialize in landscape design and installation of residential projects, from small front yard plantings to large outdoor living spaces. Their goal is to provide their customers with sustainable, high-quality landscape design and installation while providing excellent customer service from start to finish. The team at McDonough loves the work they do, and it shows—check out their gallery of past projects here! 

WFM: What would you say is the #1 trend in the landscaping industry right now?

MM: With COVID hitting last year, calls for patios and/or fire pits have increased a ton. It seems like every other call is for one or both of these with people spending more time at home and wanting to utilize their yard more.

beautiful backyards-fire pits
WFM: What was one of your favorite projects from last year? 

MM: It would be a project we did in Woodbury where they just wanted to add some simple outdoor living space to their yard. It wasn’t a big space but the client’s backyard usable space went from small and cramped to spacious and stylish with the addition of their beautiful stone patio and outdoor living area! It just goes to show that you don’t have to have a large space to be able to create some amazing outdoor living space for your yard. 

As you can see, the team at McDonough Landscaping do an amazing job of making backyards both functional and beautiful!

Backyard Before
Backyard After

Do you dread the landscape work that comes with the beauty and warmth of a Minnesota spring? Fear no more! McDonough offers seasonal landscape maintenance services for the warmer months like planting bed cleanup and mulch topdressing services. Contact them to schedule your spring cleanup service today!

Skip’s Sprinklers & Outdoor Lighting

For over 43 years, Skip’s Sprinklers has been a family owned and operated business offering irrigation design and installation, as well as landscape lighting. They use simple lighting and lawn hydration to help you turn your backyard into a peaceful haven. Their founder, Skip, believed in the finest service and quality in all aspects of the business. They strive to maintain this belief in all of their work, and the results speak for themselves. Skip’s Sprinklers never takes shortcuts, always offering unparalleled quality of work and outstanding customer service. 

WFM: What would you say is the #1 trend in your industry? What new exciting thing should homeowners watch for?

SS: Smart controllers are becoming huge in this industry! The need to go inside customers’ homes is a lot less with this option, which is very appealing in the current situation. Also, the user-friendly apps that come with the smart controllers are very helpful for both customers and contractors! 

One of the smart controllers we recommend is the Hunter Hydrawise. It is a robust and reliable high-end residential controller that offers simple programming and the potential for expansion as needed. A smart controller like this can really make keeping your lawn properly irrigated a breeze!

WFM: What was one of your favorite projects from 2020? 

SS: A new build lighting job in Hastings! The customer was very open to letting us do the most and it turned out lovely! It works very nicely with the landscaping they added last summer!!

Landscape lighting has the ability to add both safety and beauty to your yard. It enhances your landscaping and allows you to use your yard later into the evenings, giving you more time to enjoy your lawn and gardens. 

When it comes to installing and maintaining sprinklers, irrigation systems, and landscape lighting, Skip’s gets it right the first time, every time. Contact them today to get a free estimate for lighting or irrigation installation!

Outdoor Solutions, Inc

Jim and Christy Funk founded Outdoor Solutions in 1997, and have enjoyed building the company into what it is today—a trusted construction company specializing in decks and additions. Their favorite part of their job is the people: they are thankful to work with such wonderful clients and a phenomenal staff!

Outdoor Solutions works to design and build environments that enhance the use and enjoyment of their clients’ homes. It is a licensed and insured general contracting company, offering an array of services including decks, additions, windows and doors, and remodeling.

WFM: If you could share the #1 trend in your industry, what would it be?

OS: With the onset of COVID last year, we’ve seen a big interest in transforming the yard into an outdoor oasis. People are spending more time at home and are using their outdoor spaces as places to “get away from it all” or to entertain friends and family. They’re looking for decks or patios with great views of their landscaping and plenty of space to entertain. Many people are adding features like built-in bars or outdoor cooking areas, fire pits, water features, comfortable furniture…even weatherproof TVs! The idea is to find ways to live more of your life outside.

WFM: What have been some of your favorite projects to work on? 

OS: We love any project where we can help our clients enhance their outdoor areas. A new deck or four-season room can bring a world of enjoyment to your backyard. We love creating spaces that allow our clients to gather with friends and family or simply enjoy the peace and beauty of nature.
Are you dreaming of creating your own outdoor oasis with a new deck or four season room? Contact Outdoor Solutions today for a free estimate!

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry 900 600 Kari Switala

One of our favorite parts of what we do is learning about other industries from our clients, referral partners and trusted advisors. One industry we’ve been learning a lot about these past few years is the financial services industry. Whether it’s filing your taxes, purchasing a home and securing financing or investing your money and creating a legacy account for your children and grandchildren, everyone depends on financial experts at some (or many!) points during their lives.

At Wild Fig Marketing, we are honored to share the company of many incredible women in the financial services industry. We took some time recently to interview four of these women and learn from them. We think you will find their insights valuable! 

This is the final interview in our series. 

We’d like to introduce you to Angela Alvig, Founder and Family CFO at Simplify Wealth.

Hello Angela! Can you please give us a brief overview of what you do at Simplify Wealth?

I am a Family CFO and the founder of Simplify Wealth. We handle the details of our clients’ finances and households so they can fully enjoy life and achieve their goals. In addition to acting as our clients’ Personal CFOs or Family CFOs, we provide wealth concierge services and outsourced support to small business owners. Our job is to make things happen for our clients and keep them organized.

What is a common myth in your industry? 

People think they need to know more before they take action regarding their personal or business finances. This is a myth. There is NO ONE who knows everything. Instead, simply “know what you don’t know,” surround yourself with a team of experts who do know the fine details in their area of expertise, and ask questions when you don’t understand. There are NO dumb questions. I find that people who profess to know the least about finances ask the best questions.

If you could only share one tip (relating to your industry) with small businesses this year, what would it be and why?

Stick to what you love to do—in your life and in your business—and delegate the rest. Build a team of professionals who support you in their area of expertise and free you up to do what you do best. The monetary investment is well worth what you get in return—a life that you love!

Who do you love to work with and what do you love most about the work you do? 

We love working with a wide variety of clients. They may be experiencing a major life transition they need help getting through. Or they may have a specific problem or lack of organization that keeps them from making progress in their life or business. We pull the details together and positive things start to happen. We enjoy clients who are passionate about achieving their goals and see value in delegating the details to us. Working with highly engaged clients really keeps us on our A game and we enjoy that. What I love most about the work I do is that it truly helps people and improves their lives. We hear all the time from our clients that they don’t know what they would do without us.

What’s your #1 go-to resource (websites, podcasts, publications, etc.) for information about your industry?

Our go-to resources are the professional advisors and experts that our clients already have on their financial teams—CPAs, wealth managers, bankers, attorneys…We learn from them every day as we tackle details for our clients. I also love the Tim Ferriss Show podcast. Learning ideas and business tips from the highly successful people he interviews has been very helpful for me as I have grown my business.

To learn more about Simplify Wealth, visit their website at www.simplify-wealth.com

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry 900 600 Kari Switala

One of our favorite parts of what we do is learning about other industries from our clients, referral partners and trusted advisors. One industry we’ve been learning a lot about these past few years is the financial services industry. Whether it’s filing your taxes, purchasing a home and securing financing or investing your money and creating a legacy account for your children and grandchildren, everyone depends on financial experts at some (or many!) points during their lives.

At Wild Fig Marketing, we are honored to share the company of many incredible women in the financial services industry. We took some time recently to interview four of these women and learn from them. We think you will find their insights valuable! 

This is the third in a series of four interviews. 

We’d like to introduce you to Angie Wood, Owner of Wood CPA.

Hello Angie! Can you please give us a brief overview of what you do at Wood CPA?

I started my firm in December 2019. I have added two employees and the growth continues! My business focuses on advisory services, accounting, tax planning, tax return preparation, payroll and sales & use taxes. I work with clients all over the U.S.

What is a common myth in your industry? 

That having a CPA is just another costly expense that you can’t afford or that you won’t see value to justify the cost. In reality, a good CPA is an investment in your business and can help you save money by doing things correctly and timely. More and more, the industry is filled with trusted advisors for businesses with proactive advice and up-to-date knowledge. These advisors are a great resource! At Wood CPA, the tax return is just the final result of our year-long planning and not the main focus of our services.

If you could only share one tip (relating to your industry) with small businesses this year, what would it be and why?

Outsource your accounting and tax work! There are constant changes with tax, payroll and accounting. That can be a lot for an owner of a small business to stay on top of and implement. Business owners should be spending their time doing what they do best—running their business!

Who do you love to work with and what do you love most about the work you do? 

I love working with small businesses. Staying up-to-date with monthly accounting work and navigating all of the tax and payroll laws can be a very daunting task for business owners. Therefore, it gets pushed aside. I love taking that burden off of business owners and coming up with a streamlined process to complete their monthly books with accuracy. Once we have that information, I work with business owners on their goals—whether it’s to build up their balance sheet to help secure financing or to strategically plan to save money on their taxes. The statistics on how many businesses fail within the first five years of operation are scary. Having proper financials and tax returns is a huge part of business success.

What’s your #1 go-to resource (websites, podcasts, publications, etc) for information about your industry?

There are many that I use but they are exclusive to accountants. I would say the best resource for a business owner who wants to stay on top of the changes in the accounting and tax industry would be www.journalofaccountancy.com


To learn more about Wood CPA, visit their website at www.woodcpamn.com.

EOS

The Two Surprising Things Traction/EOS Helps With That No One Talks About

The Two Surprising Things Traction/EOS Helps With That No One Talks About 900 600 WildFigAdmin

We’d like to welcome a guest writer to the Wild Fig blog—Sara Stern of Family Business Minnesota! Sara is a trained coach and EOS Implementer™. She has a unique ability to help family businesses leaders maximize the impact they have on their companies, families and communities. She is also a friend of the Fig who has helped a lot of businesses, including a few clients of ours! Read on to learn more about what she does and how it could help your business.

What People Do Talk About

Many people know the incredible power that the Entrepreneurial Operating System (a.k.a., Traction) does for businesses. 

It is a complete, proven system with simple, practical tools to help leadership teams do three things:  

  1. They get a clear vision for the business, and all leaders get 100% on the same page with where the business is going and how it is going to get there. This is a rare and awesome experience in an entrepreneurial company—sign me up!
  2. They also get Traction which is truly what everyone wants. Right?!? It helps the entire leadership team become more disciplined and accountable, executing really well to achieve every part of the vision.
  3. The really surprising and powerful thing you get when you run on EOS is that you become a healthy team. This means your leaders become a healthy, functional, cohesive leadership team—and we all know leaders often don’t function well as a team. And teamwork makes the dream work!

What many people don’t know or talk about is two other incredible things EOS gives you:

  1. One is Happiness. Gino Wickman read about happiness as he was creating the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and those concepts are woven into the tools we use. 
  2. The other thing it helps with is family business succession. Family business succession, when done poorly, can end family businesses. EOS helps family businesses continue by doing succession well.

So how the heck does EOS do that??!

Family Business Succession

Gino was literally working shoulder-to-shoulder with his own dad in their family business when he started reading every book there was to read about leadership and management and how to run a great business. 

He created two incredible tools that help two generations of a family business get together on what they want from the business. He created the Vision Traction Organizer and the Accountability Chart.

Shared Vision

The first tool is the Vision Traction Organizer (V/TO). It is a 1-page document that clearly outlines the strategic direction for the business and how you’re going to accomplish it. It is a simple and a powerful way for family members to truly agree and commit to where they’re going.

Imagine this—if the leadership team of your family business answered these 8 questions and then agreed to make decisions based on them, how much easier would your conversations be?

  • What are your core values?
  • What is your core focus (your purpose, cause or passion, and your niche)?
  • What is your 10 year target?
  • What is your marketing strategy?
  • What is your 3 year picture?
  • What are your 1 year goals?
  • What are your highest priorities for the next 90 days?
  • What are your issues?

Clear Roles

The second tool that Gino Wickman created that really helps family business succession go well is the Accountability Chart. The Accountability Chart is essentially an organizational chart on steroids. It outlines the functions of the business and what each person is accountable for. When done right it starts with the structure needed for the business and then puts the right people into those seats—not the other way around! It helps family businesses make it clear what skills are needed in the next generation. It also helps family businesses avoid building jobs around family members or keeping family members around that aren’t truly supporting the future of the business. 

When family businesses have a shared (and agreed-upon) vision and the roles you need to accomplish that vision are clear, succession gets significantly better. EOS is NOT a tool made just for family business succession but it is incredibly good at helping it happen.

Happiness

So what about happiness and why do I care about that?

As Daniel Pink pointed out in his book, Drive, when people have autonomy, mastery and purpose, they are more engaged in their jobs. When you like your job more, you’re happier. EOS helps people have autonomy by showing them clearly what their job is through the Accountability Chart. It gives them mastery by showing them where they can grow in the business, giving them numbers to shoot for and processes to follow. And purpose—just looking at a V/TO (Vision Traction Organizer), the 2nd item you see is the purpose, cause or passion of the business. Team members who work in EOS companies have a purpose they are fighting for with their colleagues every day.

EOS helps people like their colleagues too. And that leads to happiness. When you spend 1/3 of your day (or more) at work with people you like, you’re happier. Companies that run on EOS hire, fire, review, reward and recognize their team based on a shared set of values. When you’re surrounded by people who share the same values, you like those people more. When you like your colleagues more, you have fewer bummer moments in your day. When you have few bummer moments, you’re happier. Boom.

Happiness often comes out of keeping things in perspective. It comes out of knowing what is the highest priority and knowing you can get it done. It is about having clarity and confidence that what you’re doing is the right thing and moving you forward. EOS is full of tools like that. Just think about rocks, to-dos, measurables, and the rarely used and very important clarity break!

EOS requires you to have open and honest communication and to avoid politicking in your work and with your colleagues.

Finally – EOS Is designed to help you have the EOS Life. What is the EOS Life? It is this:

  • Do work you love
  • With people you love
  • Make a huge difference
  • Get compensated well
  • And have time for other passions

If that isn’t a recipe for happiness, I don’t know what is!?!!

Now what

If you want more happiness or a clearer path for family business succession—or even more fun—or all of those things, here is what you can do:

  • Email me to get a free copy of the book Traction that talks about all of these tools and more
  • Call me and let’s talk about how this could work in your business

Call or email me today at (612) 220-6559 or sara@familybusinessmn.com. Let’s talk about the future of your family business.

business photography tips

7 Business Photography Tips to Increase Your Bottom Line

7 Business Photography Tips to Increase Your Bottom Line 902 600 WildFigAdmin

Guest Blog: By Dan Iverson
theanthologie.com

Does your company have online curb appeal? These 7 photo mistakes may be impacting your bottom line.

Imagine searching for a new home and you come across two properties that are shaping up to be the perfect fit for you and your family. When you swing by for an in-person inspection, however, you discover the options are worlds apart. One home looks well maintained and features a stunning landscape while the other looks like it’s been neglected for the better part of a decade. In the blink of an eye you realize what you thought was going to be a difficult decision is now rather easy. 

That’s because whether we like to admit it or not we are prejudiced by appearances. In fact, our brains process visual information 60 times faster than words alone, so it’s plain to see how as you’re gazing at a home in a state of disrepair your brain has subconsciously eliminated it from the running and is probably already picking out window treatments for the charming one. Image matters.

So, how does this translate to your business? You need online presence with curb appeal. More people than ever are shopping from home even when it comes to big purchases and what they see first has a huge impact on how they perceive your brand. People may poll their online audience of friends and peers for recommendations for products and services, but as soon as potential customers have your business name you can bet they’re going to search your company online. If your website and social media aren’t grabbing their attention with strong photos your message may be lost, or worse, you may be sending the wrong message about your professionalism. In contrast, high quality images — and better yet, images that put a face to your company — can build trust in your brand before prospects ever hit send on your contact form.

Doing all that with photography may sound confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. And you don’t need to invest $20,000 in camera equipment to do the job right. There are definitely times when you should consider hiring a professional photographer for your branded photography, but if you’re a DIY’er these tips will help ensure you’re sending the right message to your online viewers even if the best equipment you have is a mobile phone.

1. Show don’t tell.

business photography tips

Be strategic about your photos. Think about your picture as a story with no words and always be thinking: “Why am I creating this photo? What is its purpose?” and you’ll be ahead of the competition. Not only will your pictures be more engaging, but they will instantly convey your intended message to your audience and help them to remember your company first! 

2. Look on the bright side.

Photographing your subject in an area with too much sunlight and shadows interfering with one another or in an area that’s too dark can be distracting to the viewer. One of the easiest things you can do for better pictures is to explore your subject at different times of day. You may find that the scene looks completely different at 7 a.m. vs. 7 p.m. As a general rule of thumb midday is the often most challenging time for photos as there tends to be too many harsh shadows. Softer, more-pleasing light can often be found closer to sunrise or sunset. Midday can work, however, and provide a pop of color when the light is even across the entire scene.

3. Declutter.

Another big no-no is to create a photo that just has too much going on. If you want to think like a photographer the mantra may be: simple is best. Remove items from the background that visually compete for your attention with the main subject. Be sure a tool in the background isn’t aligning on center with someone’s face in the foreground. This will subconsciously create tension with your audience. Be sure the space you’re working in is clean, too. If you’re showing off a completed remodel, for example, you’d want to make sure there aren’t boxes, packaging, tools or cords present anywhere in your pictures.

4. Sharpen up.

Modern cameras and mobile phone cameras make auto focus very simple — you just have to know how to use it. Mobile phone camera software autofocuses to the foreground of your frame. However, sometimes what you want to be in focus isn’t obvious. To adjust where you want your camera lens to focus just tap on the screen where you want to to sharpen the image. If you’re photographing something in motion try activating the burst setting on your camera, which will take a number of frames in a matter of seconds. It’s more likely one of them will have better focus than the others. Don’t be afraid to take a lot of pictures. You can delete the not-so-great ones later on.

5. Give it some space.

Too often I find when a team member is tasked with creating employee portraits the standard practice is to push them right up against a wall and stand very close to one another. For business portraits and headshots have your subject stand at least a few feet in front of a wall or background. This will help to ensure attention is clearly on the individual and not something else. You can also have a little fun with this concept if you put even more distance between the subject and the background to tell a little more about your company by subtly including some visual cues to your services in the background.

6. Photograph from different angles.

Not every picture is compelling from eye level, yet that’s where so many people are holding the camera for 99.9% of all of their pictures. Try kneeling down, or using a step ladder to gain a new perspective from above. Most pictures of physical spaces used to show off your business location, for example, often look better when photographed at or near hip level. You may be surprised that laying down completely may create a truly unique image, too.

7. Frame your subject.

A more advanced composition technique is to use the environment to frame your subject. This combines many of the tips above and helps to instantly draw viewers in to the message you wish to convey. Aside from doors and archways, keep your eyes open for patterns with arching trees, rows of lights or even railings to help isolate people and highlight them in an unexpected manner.

Learn more about Dan Iverson and Anthologie at www.theanthologie.com.

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry

Helpful Tips and Insights From Minneapolis Women in the Financial Services Industry 900 600 Kari Switala

One of our favorite parts of what we do is learning about other industries from our clients, referral partners and trusted advisors. One industry we’ve been learning a lot about these past few years is the financial services industry. Whether it’s filing your taxes, purchasing a home and securing financing or investing your money and creating a legacy account for your children and grandchildren, everyone depends on financial experts at some (or many!) points during their lives.

At Wild Fig Marketing, we are honored to share the company of many incredible women in the financial services industry. We took some time recently to interview four of these women and learn from them. We think you will find their insights valuable! 

This is the second in a series of four interviews. 

We’d like to introduce you to Susan Anderson, Senior Vice President at VisionBank.

Hello Susan! Can you please give us a brief overview of what you do at VisionBank?

I am the Senior Vice President at VisionBank and I am involved in the lending process, from developing businesses and underwriting credit requests to managing the ongoing relationships. Most banks and bankers are not involved in that process in its entirety. I find it beneficial because I really “know” my clients and can better advocate for them when they have a need.

What is a common myth in your industry? 

That you should bank with someone in your neighborhood or close to your home or office. I do not discount the value of a bank that understands the “neighborhood” but you should be able to have a relationship with a bank anywhere in the metro area or beyond. Most people never go to their bank—they don’t have to. It isn’t just the big banks who offer all the services you need. You should be able to conduct all of your banking affairs remotely. One exception to this is a business that relies heavily on cash. However, they could still transact daily cash needs at a local bank and use a different bank for their lending needs.

If you could only share one tip (relating to your industry) with small businesses this year, what would it be and why?

Stay in communication with your banker. If you don’t have a banker, go to a community bank and establish a relationship. There will be a point in your business when you will need someone who knows you and your business and will be willing to assist you to the best of their ability. Think of the PPP (The Paycheck Protection Program) process and the stories you’ve heard from many small business owners who weren’t able to get their applications processed or were told they didn’t qualify when they did. They probably would have had a different experience if they had a personal banker. You don’t know when you will need someone to help you out so establish that relationship in advance.

Who do you love to work with and what do you love most about the work you do? 

I love working with small business owners and helping them make their dreams a reality. Sometimes they aren’t quite ready for bank financing. In those instances, we try to provide them with direction to get to that point. I really enjoy learning about different industries and business practices. I have the benefit of many years in this profession which allows me to work towards finding the best, most creative loan structure for each client. We keep our loan policy to a minimum to allow for greater flexibility in structuring transactions.

What’s your #1 go-to resource (websites, podcasts, publications, etc) for information about your industry?

I feel like we have the best internal team and we are able to work together to determine the best next steps. We discuss things and bounce things off of one another frequently. Occasionally I go to ICBM (Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota), but not often. For “outsiders” who are looking for information, the FDIC reports on every bank and the information is available to the public. That said, hopefully you have a banker who can answer any questions you have! 

To learn more about VisionBank, visit their website at www.bankwithvision.com.