Becky Roloff, veteran business and nonprofit manager, offers insights

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Minneapolis YWCA CEO Becky Roloff spoke at the Women’s Health Leadership Trust awards celebration.

Becky Roloff, CEO of the Minneapolis YWCA since 2005, inspired more than 800 attendees last week at the 35th anniversary of the Women’s Health Leadership Trust.

Roloff, a graduate of St. Catherine University, who interrupted her business career to earn a Harvard MBA, started as a grain trader at Cargill and served in top roles at Pillsbury and what is now Ameriprise, breaking through a few glass ceilings along the way.

Her remarks were titled: “Am I Getting Wiser, or Just Older?” They were marked with the wisdom, insight and humility of a collaborative leader.

“The main message was be true to what you want to do,” Roloff said in an interview last week. “Know the number you need to be financially independent and choose your work. Choose your legacy over stuff to accumulate. My sister died of cancer at 33, leaving young children. Time, not money, is the nonrenewable resource. Use your time well. But bloom wherever you are planted. Defend your ideals. Use any power you have wisely. Make decisions for the good of all. The leader must take 100 ­percent responsibility for results. And always have an exit strategy!”

Roloff took a pay cut but got her favorite job at the YWCA, which runs fitness facilities, day cares and programs that develop girls and break down barriers of race and class.

“When we help a girl pull back from the criminal justice system or not get pregnant … it may cost us $2,000 a year to keep her in that program,” ­Roloff said. “We have a 75 percent chance that girl won’t go back and offend again … and that can save taxpayers at least $15,000 a year [compared to community corrections].’’

“Social justice and capitalism must live together. I liked business, and this job is twice as hard as running a business. I have all the infrastructure costs, with the utilities and building maintenance and employees as a business. Our employees don’t make as much as they might in business. So, we need good ‘investors’ — foundations, individuals and companies.’’

 

CEO Bill Cooper makes money and news at TCF

Bill Cooper, whom I met more than a quarter century ago, will be the boss at TCF Financial until he sells it, I’ve always believed. Cooper was prepared to peddle the bank to U.S. Bancorp or Bank of Montreal or another buyer in 2007, according to speculation in the trade and financial press at the time.

But they didn’t meet the board’s reported demand of $30-plus per share. Cooper returned to TCF from a brief Florida retirement in 2008 to retake the CEO reins during the Great Recession. TCF, a consumer bank that relied disproportionately on ­customer fees, struggled after Congress and the Federal Reserve restricted some of banking’s more profitable businesses after the near-collapse of the financial system.

TCF’s performance lagged behind the industry in 2009-12, and the stock still trades about half its prerecession highs. But the numbers are improving and institutional shareholders have been adding to their positions the last couple of years. TCF has found success as an expanding financier of auto dealers and equipment leasing. It reported great first-quarter profits.

Last month, Cooper, 70, and his board, got hit by a nonbinding shareholder vote rejecting his $4.8 million pay package. Cooper has responded by noting better performance last year, that TCF brass didn’t get bonuses the year before and that its compensation consultant, Towers Perrin, approved the plan.

Bill Frels, the dean of Twin Cities portfolio managers at Mairs & Power Growth Fund and a TCF owner, said he’s not that upset about Cooper’s pay and others won’t be if Cooper can get the stock from $15-$16 per share to $20 per share through improving performance or a sale.

“I think [Cooper] is interested in selling, but he wants his price,” said Frels. “His price was too high a few years ago. I don’t know that he would take $20, but that would be a fair price today.’’

SHORT TAKES

Xcel Energy achieved a milestone last Sunday when wind power at one point peaked at a record 46 percent of customer power needs in the company’s Upper Midwest service territory.

“This record reinforces Xcel Energy’s position as the No. 1 wind energy provider in the nation,” said Dave Sparby, CEO of Xcel’s Northern States Power of Minnesota.

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