The Culture of Cultured Food: Brinery Owner Talks Compassionate Capitalism

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

Recently, I was able to speak with David Klingenberger, founder of The Brinery in Ann Arbor. He had some wonderful insight into “Compassionate Capitalism,” starting a new business, and how his personal passions and background are integral to his work. Here’s our conversation from inside The Brinery itself:

Can you start with telling me who you are and what you do?

“I’m David Klingenberger, CFO (Chief Fermenting Officer, that is) of The Brinery. The Brinery is a fermented foods business, so we specialize in raw, naturally fermented vegetables. We make hot sauce, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh…” he gestures to the barrels and boxes of fermented vegetables around us.

“I first fermented vegetables at the turn of the century. I was a young farm lad,” he says with a laugh, “and I was interested in all things food: hand-to-mouth, growing food, feeding people…and food preservation is the natural extension of growing food in a local food economy. Fermenting vegetables was to me the coolest form of food preservation, so I really came to this as a lover of the culture of culturing food.”

What’s your favorite part about being a business owner?

“You know, there’s some peaks and valleys. I’m an entrepreneurial type, so I feel like a lot of my strengths are also my downfalls. But when it comes down to it, I’m always into feeding people. I try to practice ‘compassionate capitalism.’ If the whole socioeconomic system fell apart, I would still feed people. It’s not like an app or a video game—this is food. Even if there was a zombie apocalypse, we would still have something of value and be able to feed people. So if there’s a zombie apocalypse…come to The Brinery for some sauerkraut.”

At this point, it’s clear that Klingenberger doesn’t let business get in the way of having fun. He holds up a jar of kimchi, gesturing toward it as if it’s a piece of art.

What did you do before starting The Brinery?

“I was a farmer, a sailor, a general vagabond, hitchhiker, freight train rider, dreamer, rapscallion maybe? I’m 37 now, and I started The Brinery when I was 30. In my 20’s I went between farming and sailing and doing a little environmental education with kids.”

It’s both refreshing and inspiring that a humorous dreamer-rapscallion could become such a successful business owner by the simple act of following his passion for vegetables.

Would you say that you are happier after starting your own business?

“I feel I have potential to take this business from good to great—and by that I mean scaling up sustainably, with our heart and our spirit intact, without ‘selling out,’ whatever that means to you. I started this business starting from my ‘gut brain’ and not my ‘lizard brain,’ and it was fun. I started it not because I had a vision of ‘This is my ten-year plan and I’m gonna be a millionaire by this point,’ I just truly wanted to do something that felt really good, and that was good for my community, and was feeding people. And so now I have a real business (we’re in over 400 stores across the midwest, I have 12 employees…) it can be stressful at this scale, and thinking about scaling up and still maintaining an adventuresome spirit, but that challenge is my greatest adventure—and I love adventures.”

What advice do you have for anyone thinking about starting their own business?

“I would say if you really wanna go for it, go for it. And trust your gut. You have to believe in what you’re doing, and find something that you’re truly passionate about. The success of The Brinery came from both my ambitious spirit but also picking a product that resonated with myself and the greater community.

“But here’s my advice: trial it out. Do a living and breathing, real-world study. Don’t go to business school and write a business plan for 10 years—find a small group of people and make your thing, and get it in their mouths (or get it in front of them) and then if there’s a really great response to it and you think you could actually do it, then scale up. I think a lot of people are like, ‘It’s gotta be perfect,’ but maybe you gotta just lay that egg, and make an omelette with it, and feed it to people. And then you’ll get feedback.

“That’s how I started the Brinery: I started by making sauerkraut with excess cabbage from Tantre Farms, and without a license or any business plan. I just started making it and putting it into unlabeled jars and selling it to people I had known through the farming community. And they knew me because I had built social capital by selling them produce for 10 years. They knew my face, they trusted me because I had been part of the local foods community, and so I sold them sauerkraut. And people were like ‘This is good, we want more,’ and so I built off of that. But I got told early on to pay all this money to take a week-long business course and write a business plan, but my business plan was making a product and getting it in front of real people. And the feedback I got was enough for me to say ‘There’s something viable here.’ Of course you should be competent and you should have a business plan, but make your thing and get it in front of real people—that’s my best advice.”

Is there anything else you want to add?

“Buy Brinery products at your local store! We have fun naming our products, and that’s part of the authenticity of our business. We’re making cultured food, and part of that is the culture we bring to it—that human element. And that’s the fun and playfulness of it.

“But also, trust your gut brain. People tell you your product needs to ‘solve a problem,’ and some people invent a problem just to ‘solve’ it. My opinion is that everyone needs to eat nutritious food, and these fermented vegetables are integral to proper digestion, immune system, heck, even happiness—the bacteria in your gut are related to the serotonin production in your brain. So I feel kind of okay being a zealot about it. So I’d say trust your gut-brain and make something that’s absolutely necessary for your community.”

And with that, Klingenberger got back to work, leaving me with a smile, a jar of kimchi and a desire to keep supporting the local food community.

If you’re interested, you can buy Brinery products here, or at the closest Whole Foods.

Incorporating a Business: Why You Should Think Green

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

Whether you are already running a successful business or are still in the process of putting together your business plan, it’s never too early or too late to think about a both important and frequently overlooked quality of your company: its sustainability practices. But besides the obvious benefit of contributing to the health of our people and planet, there are countless ways in which going green is advantageous to your business. Here are four big ones:

1. Saving resources saves money

When you use energy-efficient lightbulbs and windows, and are conscientious about your heating/cooling system use, you save big on your energy bill. Also, if you have a kitchen space in your office, using energy-efficient appliances can save you up to 3 times the energy as old appliances.

Another big way to save resources is by going digital with your paper products (or as digital as possible). Replacing paper with emails or blog posts not only saves paper waste, but also saves a lot of money on ink.

2. Government incentives

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “Government agencies, utilities and others offer a variety of tax credits, rebates and other incentives to support energy efficiency, encourage the use of renewable energy sources, and support efforts to conserve energy and lessen pollution.”

You can go here to see what kind of savings your company qualifies for, or you can go here to learn about how you can take an even bigger step and achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for your business.

3. Improve your image

Studies have shown that “almost two-thirds (66%) of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that come from companies who are committed to positive social and environmental impact.” This is a statistic from 2015, and is a higher percentage than 2014’s 55% and 2013’s 50%.

Consumers will most likely choose the more “green” option of similar products or services, and when consumers know that your business is dedicated to being environmentally responsible, they feel better about using it. Establishing a sustainable reputation can only increase your potential customers and clients by opening your doors to those who weigh sustainability into their consumer choices.

4. Increase happiness and productivity

Going green can boost office morale in more ways than one. The simple act of utilizing natural light in office spaces (think lots of windows) improves workplace performance by aiding in both sleep quality and serotonin levels in the brain.

Additionally, according to a study by the Charlton College of Business, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, there is “a significant positive relationship between employee satisfaction and level of perceived environmental performance,” while there was no significant relationship “between employee satisfaction and firm financial value.” In other words, employees feel better about working for green companies, while they actually don’t feel any better about working for financially successful ones.

So, what’s next?

In addition to the sustainable practices listed throughout this article, there are many other great ways to “green” your business, including:

  • -Using real, reusable dining ware instead of paper cups or plates
  • -Using recycled printer paper and/or napkins and paper towels
  • -Providing employees with bus passes to increase use of public transport over personal vehicles
  • -Ensuring access to drinking water that can be used to fill reusable water bottles
  • -If food is a big part of your business, composting
  • -Making sure you turn off the lights in offices or meeting spaces that aren’t in use

Practicing corporate social responsibility is not only great for the world, it’s great for your business as well.

Tips for Crowdfunding for Your Business

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

Mark J. Kohler, M.Pr.A., C.P.A., J.D., is writer for with a very active YouTube channel directed at entrepreneurs. In a recent video, he discusses some crowdfunding strategies for your business. According to Kohler, there are three “rules” for crowdfunding that anyone should keep in mind in order to have a successful experience.

Rule #1: You have to work with a portal

“You can’t just go out and do this on your own,” he explains. This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re just asking for money on Facebook, you probably won’t get very far. You have to sign up to do your crowdfunding through a licensed, approved portal through the SEC. Kohler also adds that you should make sure the portal you’re using is legitimate! Some good examples include Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, and GoFundMe.

Rule #2: Prepare your formation documents and disclosures

Kohler breaks this rule into five steps. First, you need to have all your formation documents done, whether you’re forming an LLC or a corporation. Next, “make sure you disclose the price, terms, and be very clear on what the person gets,” Kohler explains. “You don’t want to be wishy-washy on this.” Third, you need to have good accounting records that are either reviewed or audited. This adds to the credibility and trustworthiness of your business.

The fourth piece is that you need to have a detailed description of your company. “You’ve gotta really describe what your business is about: the product, the service…and it’s gotta be more detailed than ‘Hey, I’ve got this great idea, check me out!’ and a little YouTube video for two minutes,” Kohler presses. He continues on to say it should be “kind of like a business plan” for your potential investors to see. And finally, the fifth step in this process is that you must disclose all information about the owners and officers. This again adds credibility, and reassures investors that they are putting their money into something legitimate instead of someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing (or someone who is trying to scam them).

Rule #3: Ongoing compliance

This is not only important for the process of crowdfunding, but for the success of your business in general. Make sure you file tax returns, keep good accounting records, and file annual reports to the SEC. “Make sure you budget these out and have a relationship with a firm that can help you provide those annual fees [if necessary],” adds Kohler.

“Under the crowdfunding rules you can raise up to one million from individuals, and anywhere from $2,000 to $100,000 from any one individual [this depends on the financial status of that individual].” If someone makes less than $100,000 a year (or their net worth is less than $100,000), then they can give up to $2,000, or up to 5% of their income or net worth. If someone makes more than $100,000 and has a higher net worth than $100,000, they can give up to $100,000 or 10% of their net income or net worth).

Crowdfunding can take your business to the next level, so keep these rules in mind in order to create the most successful crowdfunding campaign you can!


Why it’s Essential to Incorporate Your Business


Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

Do you have a great idea for a business, but aren’t sure if incorporating it is really worth it? Let’s go over why incorporating is essential to the future and the wellbeing of your business.

1. You shield yourself from liability

This is the most important reason to incorporate your business. Incorporating means that you establish your business as a separate legal entity, and therefore your personal assets and your company assets are distinct; clients and customers, banks, or other parties are unable to reach your personal assets via legal action towards your company.

2. Perpetual existence, management, and transfer of ownership

Perpetual existence means that regardless of what happens to the owners of a business (such as withdrawal or death), the business will continue to exist as its own legal entity. If your business is unincorporated, it will cease to exist if you are no longer able to operate it.

When you incorporate, the management of your business is centralized and established with a Board of Directors or Board of Managers. Shareholders (for a corporation) or members (for an LLC) will usually vote on the Board, or otherwise the company’s officers will do so. If your company is unincorporated and there is no established system of management, it may be difficult to ensure the power structure, accountability, or democratic governance of your business.

Regarding the transfer of ownership, incorporating your business makes this process much more straightforward, because shareholders are able to gift or sell their shares.

3. Tax advantages

Tax deductions are available for incorporated business for operating costs—such as, but not limited to: materials/production, employee wages, insurance and retirement, as well as travel expenses.

4. Strengthen the company’s image

An incorporated business holds far more credibility and therefore more customers willing to trust and pursue its goods or services. This credibility also extends to banks or any other potential investors—an incorporated business is far more likely to gain outside funding than someone who could, in investors’ eyes, be using funding for personal use instead of business.

While incorporating a business may just seem like unnecessary paperwork, it is an imperative step in creating a successful company. And here at Direct Incorporation, we make it easy.


How to Figure Out Your Perfect Business to Start

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

In career coach Ashley Stahl’s less-than-ten-minute TED talk, she addresses one of the biggest questions we grapple with as working adults: “What is the ‘perfect’ career for me?” Once you know they answer to this question, you have the answer to the question of “What is the ‘perfect’ business for me to start?” If you are doing something that is “perfect” for you every day, there is no better way to be happier with your career and with your life.

Yes, I say perfect with some reservation, because there may not be just one perfect career path for you. There might be three pretty awesome ones you have to decide between, and that’s perfectly okay. But the insight that Stahl offers in her TED talk is so simple yet powerful. She goes on to address a question that most of the time we do anything in our power not to dwell on (we’ll get to that later). But first she begins with a bit of her own story.

At age 22, Stahl was set on being a spy for the government. Her entire childhood was spent preparing for her “dream job,” and she had completely immersed herself in anything that would bring her closer to it. Yet one day at work, someone asked her to hold their gun for just a moment while they tied their shoe. She felt like she was “holding death” in her hands, and panicked, wondering how she could ever become a spy if she couldn’t stand the act of holding a gun.

She felt like her entire identity was in conflict with her career. But on that front, she says, she wasn’t alone. According to Reuters, 75% of the U.S. population is “hiding some part of their identity at work.” At this point, Stahl hired a career coach for herself, and in her words, “In our work together I realized how important it is for all of us to tune out the social pressure to find what we love, and tune in to something more significant for your career and your life: who you are.” She came to the realization that changed her life: “Your interest in a subject does not ensure your success in a career with it. Political Science is what I love, but Career Coaching is what I am.”

In order to reach this realization, her advice for figuring out which career path you should pursue is to ask yourself three simple questions:

1. What am I good at?

Think about the skills that you have. This can be anything from math to writing to providing emotional support to friends in need. Instead of trying to figure out your “passion,” try to figure out what you are naturally good at already.

And if you’re not sure what you’re good at, then move on to the next question:

2. What do people tell me I’m good at?

Take an inventory of what other people tell you. Think about anything your friends, family, professors, or employers have given you praise for. Do people ever ask you to teach them how to do things that you do well? Or ask you advice on specific subjects? If you look at what other people have said about you, you may notice a trend that you had never even thought of before.

3. What’s holding me back?

This last question is one that most of us don’t like to dwell on. So many negative thoughts can hold you back in your career. Stahl’s tactic for career coaching is asking her clients to keep a journal for two weeks about all of their fear-based thoughts. “And guess what?” she says, “Everyone’s thoughts are the same.” The most prevalent thought holding people back from pursuing a career that embodies who they are is composed of four short, deadly words: “I’m not good enough.”

Stahl explains, “These words keep your career bar low, and they keep you striving for less in your life, and if you simply pay attention to these words, or your fears, you will rise above them. You are not your thoughts. If you open your emotional backpack and you question yourself, you will unlock your authentic career.”

Instead of letting fear of inadequacy limit your life and career to something you are only vaguely interested in, allow yourself to look these fears dead-on and rise above them. You are not alone in these thoughts. Just think: if our heroes and role models had let “I’m not good enough” get the best of them, they never would have accomplished the things we admire them for. Don’t let fear hold you back from starting a business that will give you the most authentic career you could ask for.

The Three Types of People Who Start a Business

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

There are a lot of reasons for not starting a business—and of course, many of them are valid. But some of the reasons for not starting that business you’ve been thinking about really shouldn’t stop you.

Here are 3 reasons you may be giving yourself for not starting up a business, and here are the 3 types of people who flip these roadblocks right on their heads:


1. Being afraid of failure

This is a big one, and an understandable one at that. The rate of failure in startups can definitely be discouraging. When interviewing about 20 people in the city of Ann Arbor, the most frequent answer to my question of “Why haven’t you started a business?” was the fear of failure or “It’s too risky.”

But as this picture shows, there are two routes you can take in response to fear. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that of course they were afraid of failure, and still might be fighting that fear. But the difference between these people and those who choose not to start up is that these people are afraid of failing—but they do it anyway. If we don’t keep optimism in our outlooks, the future looks pretty bleak. Instead of letting the fear of failure stop you from trying, think about it this way: the only way to fail is to not try. And if you need some extra inspiration, check out this Forbes article to put things into perspective.

2. Worrying that you don’t know what you’re doing

Again, this might seem like a deal breaker for starting a successful company. Yet, regardless of whether you have an actual lack of business knowledge or you do in fact have knowledge but are a normal human who grapples with impostor syndrome, this is something that can definitely be dealt with. Take Rene Greff, for instance, the co-founder of Arbor Brewing Co. in Ann Arbor. In her words,

“I was a philosophy major and [my husband] was a political science major, so we had no business experience. We knew nothing about setting up or running a business, and we kind of just did everything by the seat of our pants.”

And 20 years later, Arbor Brewing Co. is still a thriving brewpub in Ann Arbor. In the words of Bob Helber, founder of Continental Capital Real Estate, Inc., if you are an aspiring entrepreneur,

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way, because mistakes are probably what makes you a better business owner. And you never know whether or not you’re going to be successful if you don’t take that leap of faith.”

And lastly, from David Klingenberger, founder of The Brinery,

“I got told early on to pay all this money to take a week-long business course and write a business plan, but my business plan was making a product and getting it in front of real people. And the feedback I got was enough for me to say ‘There’s something viable here.’ Of course you should be competent and you should have a business plan, but make your thing and get it in front of real people—that’s my best advice.”

While figuring out the logistics of your business is important, it doesn’t require an advanced business degree. One of the most successful local entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor, Mark Hodesh, never even graduated high school. In this day and age, it’s incredibly easy for an entrepreneur to take initiative and find endless online resources to help get their bearings on the basics of entrepreneurship—and most of these resources are free.

3. Not having enough funding

This is a tricky one, but if you think about it, there are actually countless businesses that require little to no startup funding: these include anything from online boutiques or website design to music lessons or tax advising. But even if your business does require funding, over 90% of small businesses are successfully started via personal funding. While this may end up taking more time, the advantage is that you alone own the business and are free to take all control.

The difference between someone who lets this roadblock get the best of them and someone who doesn’t is that even in seemingly hopeless financial situations, entrepreneurs will find a way to make it work. There are countless options to get outside funding for your startup. These include, but are not limited to: startup incubators, friends and family, angel investors, crowdfunding, and small business grants. If you are struggling to find a way to fund your business, the U.S. Small Business Administration is a great place to start.

In conclusion

There are endless ways you can convince yourself not to start up and incorporate a business, but the thing is, anyone can be one of these 3 types of people. Instead of letting fear prevent you from pursuing your passion, take a step back and realize that everyone is facing the same fears. It just that some people choose to rise above them.

Ann Arbor’s Entrepreneurial Legend: Mark Hodesh, Founder of Fleetwood, Downtown Home & Garden, and more

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

“I’m a much better person in the morning,” Mark Hodesh laughed after I approached him in his store around 10:30 am. Personally, it was still very much “morning” to me, but when you’re legendary Ann Arbor entrepreneur Mark Hodesh and show up to work around 4 am every day just because you want to, I guess 10:30 is pretty late. We agreed that I would come by earlier the next day in order to sit down and talk about his story. And talk we did. Mark is the founder of Ann Arbor’s beloved Fleetwood Diner, Downtown Home & Garden, Bill’s Beer Garden, and Mark’s Carts, all of which are located at the corner of Ashley and First Street downtown. We talked about his journey as an entrepreneur and his advice for anyone thinking about starting their own business. Here’s our full conversation:


How about we start with who you are and what you do?

“My business career has been associated with this street corner for forty some-odd years. I founded Fleetwood diner and started it in 1972, and three years later sold the diner and purchased Downtown Home & Garden, which at the time was Hertler Brothers. Then my wife and I lived in Maine and had a summer hotel there: it was a nice 20-room, 20 bathroom, full dining room, summer hotel. And when Hertler Brothers started to do poorly in the mid-90’s, my wife and I moved back to Ann Arbor, took over the store, and we’ve been doing well here since.”

Adjacent to Downtown Home & Garden sit two more of Mark’s ventures: Mark’s Carts, a collection of outdoor food carts founded in 2011, and Bill’s Beer Garden, a beer garden selling Michigan craft beer and wine, founded in 2012. To say he and his wife have been “doing well” is a bit of an understatement—Hodesh reigns over almost an entire block of Ann Arbor, and a highly-frequented block at that.

What are some things you like about being an entrepreneur?

“I didn’t have so many choices in life. I didn’t get out of high school, I’m kind of unruly…so a situation where I could take charge just suited me better…that’s what led me here. And I always work for the public. I love the public adoration, I like being in contact with my customers, and enjoy their applause when they choose to give it.”

And he certainly gets applause. Mark’s Carts won an award from Business Review just months after it opened, Downtown Home & Garden has received more than one Reader’s Choice Award from Current Magazine, and Downtown Home & Garden, Mark’s Carts, and Bill’s Beer Garden have Google reviews of 4.4, 4.5, and 4.6 stars, respectively.

What have you learned from starting so many businesses?

“So I’m not a great planner. I’m detailed when I get focused, but I don’t plan from the beginning to the end necessarily. I like to do part of a project, assess, and keep adjusting all the way through it. When we took over this store in 1997, I didn’t really have any idea about a Beer Garden or Marks’ Carts, those were incremental thoughts that came along later. And to a lesser degree, we now sell a lot of clothing—I wasn’t thinking about selling clothing in those days. I’ve learned that customers change, circumstances change, and I try to stay with them. But each thought appears as a good idea and I think, ‘Well, we can try that.’ Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Mark Hodesh | Photo by Benjamin Weatherston

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting a business?

“Different people start businesses for different reasons. Sometimes it seems like a pretty straightforward path to riches—but it probably isn’t for a lot of people. So I think you have to face the reality that you might fail. And that scares people. If you grew up in a household where your parents worried about money, it might be hard to put down your pile of silver and bet on the future. But while my family certainly wasn’t wealthy, we didn’t worry about basic needs, and I’ve inherited that. When I start something, I figure that if it doesn’t work out, there will be another opportunity in 6 months and we can get going again. So be fearless. That may be impossible, but it certainly helps if you can be fearless going ahead.”

This sentiment has been echoed by both entrepreneurs and scientists alike. For instance, in cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot’s TED talk on optimism, she explains that “Optimism is not only related to success—optimism leads to success.” It makes us work harder towards our goals (and leads to better health, too)! So thinking about all the ways your business could go right, instead of worrying about all the ways it could go wrong, is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Anything else you’d like to add?

“It’s a rewarding life. I like it. It suits me. The work sometimes is dealing with employees: having employees takes some skill and some patience. They all have lives and needs of their own. But the reward is great. Watching people grow up—watching our high school kids turn into college kids, turn into entrepreneurs or working someplace…I like the whole continuity of the community. I just like, as life rolls on, watching the chances come and participating in the continuum. That’s my story. That’s my short and simple story.”

Personally, I’d call a 40+ year entrepreneurial career more of a “long and multifaceted” rather than “short and simple” story, but hey, I guess time flies when you’re having as much fun as Mark. Not only has he built up a wildly successful street corner, but he talks about it with such humble delight that it’s easy to see that this is exactly where he wants to be. To him, this life was never a question— 4am wake-up call and all.


8 Ways That Sports Can Help You in the Office

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

Yes, playing on a sports team teaches you a lot about playing that sport. But it also teaches you so much more.

As someone who has spent more than two thirds of their life playing some form of organized sport—whether it’s basketball, soccer, track and field, or cross country—I’m able to witness firsthand how drastically it can affect your life. Some sports skills (like how to shoot a free throw) aren’t super useful in everyday life, but if you’ve ever played a sport, there are so many skills that will always be with you—whether in everyday life, at the gym, in the relationships you build, or in the office. Here are some of the most helpful ways that sports can carry over into your work life, starting with the most obvious:


1. Teamwork

There is nothing better to teach you teamwork than—you guessed it: working with a team. In sports, if your team doesn’t work together as a whole, it’s almost impossible to succeed. Learning to both step up when you need to, and delegate when practical is essential in the office. Being selfish or not taking the team’s needs into consideration won’t get you far in sports, business, or life in general.

2. Communication

The best sports teams are constantly communicating. In a game, you are always talking to your teammates, telling them where the other team’s players are moving, where they should watch or cover, or which play to run.

There is no such thing as too much communication in sports: when things get hectic, communication helps everyone stay calm and organized. In the workspace, effective communication is what helps keep things running smoothly, and reminds coworkers that they’re part of a team and that their input is important.

3. Pushing through the tough stuff

No one likes doing sprints at the end of basketball practice. But if you want to be able to run up and down the court for an entire game without dropping to the ground with exhaustion, you need to be in shape.

In the office, not everything is fun and games. But in order to become the best you can be, sometimes you have to do tasks that are challenging or (possibly worse) mundane, but necessary.

4. Handling pressure

On a similar note, sports involve not only pushing through challenging situations, but high-pressure ones as well. If you’re facing a full-court press in basketball, or are on the free throw line at the end of a close game, being able to have a level head in high-pressure situations is an incredible skill to have. In the office, this could apply to everything from making important financial decisions to public speaking.

5. Leading by positive vs. negative feedback

No one likes the teammate or coach who yells at people constantly when mistakes are made. While constructive critiques are important and necessary, it is also just as important to give positive feedback when things are going well.

This builds morale, gives people confidence, and if people’s accomplishments are recognized, they’ll be more willing (and happy) to work hard for the benefit of the team. This leads to the next point:

6. Commitment and accountability

When you are part of a team, you are going to do everything in your power to not let your team down. This means showing up on time for practice (or work), and showing up ready to games (or meetings). And if you can’t do these things, it’ll be for a good reason that you’ll be sure to communicate with the team.

7. Improvisation and problem-solving

In a game, if a play or tactic isn’t working, it’s time to problem solve and make changes to your strategy, instead of trying the same thing over and over.

The same applies in the office—customers, trends, and technology are always changing, and it is imperative to adapt to these changes. Being able to evaluate the situation and change tactics is a huge key to both work and life.

8. Optimism

Lastly, it’s impossible to succeed on a sports team without optimism. Sometimes, your team will lose. It’s going to happen. But instead of hanging your head and giving up all hope, it’s essential to bounce back, work harder, and take on the next challenge with even more fervor. Without optimism, we don’t give ourselves anything to work for or look forward to.

Whether or not anything discouraging has happened in the office, it’s so important to be optimistic. Entrepreneurs need to be optimistic that their new business will succeed. Sales representatives need to be optimistic that they’ll make the sale. Again, without optimism, we don’t give ourselves anything to work for or look forward to.

If you’ve ever played any kind of organized sport, I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to these skills. Sports are not only fun, but are one of the best life coaches you can find. Maybe that company softball team isn’t the worst idea, after all…


What is it like to run a business with your spouse?

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

I was able to talk with two different local Ann Arbor entrepreneurs about their experience starting and running (very successful) businesses with their spouses. While the prospect of doing so may seem to some like a dangerous venture, these two couples have been able to work side by side to run wonderful Ann Arbor businesses—and here’s what they have to say about it:

Rene Greff & Matt Greff, Arbor Brewing Co.

Photo by Doug Coombe

Rene explains, “It was quite a roller coaster ride. We were in our late twenties, and my husband was a home brewer. He was working a corporate job that he hated, so we thought that it would be an amazing thing to open our own brewery so that he could become a professional brewer. I was a philosophy major, he was a political science major, so we had no business experience. We knew nothing about setting up or running a business, and we kind of just did everything by the seat of our pants. So as you can imagine, we hit a lot of bumps in the road along the way. But for all of the stress and the problems,  it’s amazing. In a restaurant, it’s so important to have a good team. We always say we can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Arbor Brewing Co. has now been going strong for more than twenty years, so it looks like Rene and Matt have gotten everything worked out, no matter how stressful things may have been in the beginning.

Kathy Sample & Bill Brinkerhoff, Argus Farm Stop

Photo by Patrick Dunn

When I asked Kathy what it was like to run a business with her spouse, she made it clear that it had never been a problem. “Oh, it’s great,” she explained.  “One of the things people told us before we started—and it would be the same rule for any kind of business partner—is to pick your tasks and stick to them. Bill’s analogy is that it’s like playing soccer: if the ball goes by, not everybody goes after the ball. You know when you go after the ball, and the other guy knows when he goes after the ball. We know what our roles are and we know what our skills are, so we’ve divided it that way. And then we hired an awesome staff. If you don’t have great people that are committed to your mission, its not the same. That’s the important thing.”

Argus has now been in business for almost two years, and there is not a time I’ve been in the store that it hasn’t been absolutely packed with shoppers or coffee shop-goers. Kathy and Bill know many of their customers by name, and greet them in the store as if they were family. Working together seems like second nature to them.

Mike Gustafson & Hilary Gustafson, Literati

Photo by Daniel Brenner

While I was unable to speak directly with Mike and Hilary, their story is well-known to any book lover in Ann Arbor. Mike and Hilary both grew up in Michigan, and then moved to Brooklyn together. When they heard that Borders was going out of business, they wanted to make sure that Ann Arbor had a bookstore to replace it. They moved back to Michigan, started their bookstore, and ended up getting married while running their business together. Their success has only increased over time, and they are going on year number three of operating smoothly in downtown.

From these examples it’s clear to see that doing business with your spouse certainly isn’t a hurdle to success—in fact, it might just be the key to it.

What’s the difference between management of S-Corporations and LLCs?


Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

When trying to decide between forming an LLC or an S-Corporation, it is important to know the differences in how the companies are owned and managed. The terms used for each type of company are more than just colloquial differences—a stock certificate is different than a share certificate. Here’s what you should know about these discrepancies:

Shareholders vs. Members

A shareholder is someone (or a group of people or company) who owns at least one share of a company’s stock. S-Corporations have shareholders with stock certificates, while LLCs have members with share certificates. Members, (which can be one or more persons, a corporation, or LLC) rather than owning a specific number of shares, own a specific percentage of the company. An important limitation for S-Corporations is that they can have a maximum of 100 shareholders, and all shareholders must be legal U.S. citizens. LLCs do not have these limitations.

Rights and Transfer of Shares

Shareholders can easily transfer their stock to another shareholder, while the process for LLC members can be slightly more complicated. S-Corp shareholders are able to attend meetings, vote on corporate matters, serve on the board of directors, and sue officers and directors for things such as fraud or misrepresentation. Members, if part of a member-managed LLC, can participate in the management of the LLC in the same ways. This usually happens when there is a small number of members. However, if the LLC is manager-managed, this job is done by a Board of Managers.

Board of Directors vs. Board of Managers

S-Corporations are managed by a Board of Directors, which are elected by shareholders. The Board of Directors then appoints the CEO. In manager-managed LLCs, the Board of Managers can be voted upon or self-appointed—something decided in the company bylaws.


Of course, S-Corporations and LLCs have many things in common. Both forms of business give owners liability protection, and both are only taxed at the personal level (instead of at both the corporate and personal level). LLCs require less red tape and are cheaper to set up, so an LLC could be a good choice if you’re a new business owner. However, fast-growing businesses looking for investors could benefit from incorporating as an S-Corporation. Looking at the nuances in management can help you decide which form of business is right for you.