Alerus: Guiding You Through Your Business Life Stages

Written by: Brady Drake

From startup to succession there’s no doubt that advice, funding and assistance are all vital for the success of your business. Because the need for each of these ebbs and flows with the evolution of your business and the world at large, there’s no exact playbook a business can rely on to get to where they want to go. Decision making is dynamic and the options at each stage of development are limitless. Thankfully, the expert advisors at Alerus are here to help. Let’s take a look at a few companies that have improved their business alongside Alerus.

Bringing Dreams To Reality

Dr. Tamra Schue-Garberg and Rick Schue, Owners of Altaire Clinic
Dr. Tamra Schue-Garberg and Rick Schue
Owners of Altaire Clinic

Like many in the medical field, Rick Schue, founder of Altaire Clinic, knew a lot about his practice, but he needed help when it came to opening his own business.

The first thing Rick needed help with was projections. Jessica Hoppe, a senior business advisor at Alerus, worked after hours nearly every day to put together strong projections and get Altaire Clinic, a cosmetic and dermatology clinic in Fargo, launched.

“There was a question when I was starting if I would even have loan availability,” said Rick. “When you’re looking at just laser expenses, you’re talking about half a million dollars on that alone. I wasn’t the best with numbers. I had over 20 years of experience in dermatology but working with patients is totally different than working with numbers. Thankfully, Jessica was really good with numbers.”

Four years after opening the clinic with his daughter Tamra, Rick says he doesn’t think things would be the same if he would’ve gone with another bank. Rick, Tamra, and Jessica have continued to work together on everything from understanding cash flow ratios to more recently the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan application process.

“Our staff is basically a small family here and it was really important to make sure that all our staff was 100% taken care of and that no one was affected financially from the pandemic,” said Tamra. “By midnight, we had our form submitted for the PPP. The next morning, the government changed the forms a little bit and Jessica helped us make those changes right away. We had our forms in weeks before our friends in the business community.”

While many of the employees in the business are like family, Rick and Tamra are family. Like many family-run businesses, Altaire Clinic was started by Rick with the intent to turn the business over to Tamra. Alerus helped out with this as well.

“We talked about when it would be a good time to transition ownership over to Tamra and to make sure that they were comfortable and confident that the transition would leave them secure in retirement and financially stable for their golden years,” said Hoppe.

Jessica Hoppe, Senior Business Advisor at Alerus

Jessica Hoppe, Senior Business Advisor at Alerus

Jessica is passionate about her work and committed to working in her clients’ best interests. As a trusted financial advisor, Jessica has great skill in offering valuable advice to clients to help them achieve their goals. She takes great pride in building strong relationships. Helping her clients succeed is the most rewarding part of her job.

Support For Sustained Growth

Justin Axness, President of TF Powers
Justin Axness, President of TF Powers

Hoppe’s work with Altaire Clinic is far from her lone foray into helping with ownership transition. One of the other companies she has assisted during her time is TF Powers.

TF Powers was working on a unique transition of ownership from Dennis Giere to Justin Axness. The company didn’t actually need financing to transition the ownership on the operating side of things; however, they did need financing for the real estate portion.

“We were able to put together some very attractive structures and terms for the real estate portion of the financing,” said Hoppe.

“She was very instrumental in putting together the financing piece for the real estate portion. She’s been really really good to work with and she’s always gotten the job done for us,” said Axness.

Just like with Altaire Clinic, Hoppe’s work with TF Powers has gone beyond a single aspect of the company’s journey. She also helps them with their capital treasury management, 401k retirement plan, and their continued financing needs.

“We have some really complex financial components in terms of different capital needs from a day to day or month to month basis. Sometimes we have projects that span multiple years,” said Axness. “She just really seems to understand how our business works and she’s really been a strong asset for us.”

Hands-On Guidance To Financial Confidence

Marshal Albright, President of Cass County Electric Cooperative
Marshal Albright, President of Cass County Electric Cooperative

Cass County Electric Cooperative began looking into Alerus in the 90s when they were searching for a new 401k provider. The company was already using Alerus for checking account processing and decided to consider Alerus as a 401k provider. Management at Cass County Electric had their employees vote between three companies to determine a new 401k manager. The employees chose Alerus.

“I think it really gave the employees a sense of ownership being able to have a say,” said Cass County Electric President and CEO Marshal Albright. Alerus is now the manager of a sizeable 401k plan for Cass County Electric Cooperative.

“Alerus attends our employee information meetings annually to provide updates on investment performance, investment options, and retirement planning tools and services. Ultimately, we want our employees to have the best experience to help them manage their retirement plans. Alerus also provides one-on-one financial wellness planning meetings for all of our employees,” said Albright.

Cass County Electric’s high performing 401k plan has made the cooperative an even more attractive employer than they already were. Overall, employees are delighted with the performance of the 401k plan and the retirement planning services provided by Alerus.

“I think one of the key things you’ll find with Alerus is they’re willing to listen and make recommendations,” said Albright. “We’ve partnered with them on various changes in the 401k plan over the years, and they are able to accommodate everything.”

Jon Rentz, Senior Business Advisor at Alerus

Jon Rentz

Jon Rentz joined Alerus in 2010 and has more than 10 years of experience in the financial industry. Prior to Alerus he started his career working in public accounting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During his time at Alerus, Jon has served as staff accountant and spent almost four years as a commercial underwriter.

A Partnership Built On Trust

Lonnie Laffen, Founder and President of JLG Architects
Lonnie Laffen, Founder and President of JLG Architects

During JLG Architects’ infancy, current President and Founder Lonnie Laffen was looking for a $50,000 investment in order to secure a computer system that would put them at the leading edge in the industry. Laffen thought he had the green light from another bank in the area, but they pulled the plug after speaking with the corporate headquarters. Thankfully, Alerus was there to help.

“They were able to make those decisions themselves because they were locally owned and locally run,” said Laffen. “They’ve now been our partner for 31 years. I’ve gotten to know everybody there as personal friends and I’ve gotten a lot of really valuable, free advice. It’s gone way beyond a financial management level and is much more personal.”

For example, one of the pieces of advice Laffen received from an Alerus employee was to keep those he was partners with at the same level of ownership to avoid conflicts. “When we go in to own a building, we’re either all going  in or none of us are going in,” said Laffen.

Although Laffen has consistently leaned on Alerus for “invaluable” small pieces of advice here and there, he has also worked with them during big shifts in the company’s structure, including the launch of an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan).

“We were trying to understand how we can have young people buy-in because eventually, you have to transition ownership of a company. There was a point where our company really took off. Our number of employees grew from 50 to 150 people essentially overnight and this brought us to a point where no young people in our organization could afford to buy-in. So, we started looking at an ESOP,” said Laffen. “It was a great move for us. It gave us the ability to professionally find out what we were worth and gave us a path for our future.”

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.