About Memos to Dan

Tired of mechanical “how to” books about starting and running your own business? In Memos to Dan: Entrepreneurial Lessons from a Father to his Son, you will enjoy the real-life stories of a small business owner – equal parts thoughtful, insightful, funny and serious. Loaded with examples of the advice and guidance offered, Memos to Dan focuses primarily on one business thereby providing a consistent thread of understanding.

Organized in a logical and easy-to-follow framework, the book carries you through the critical steps to evaluate and launch your idea’s commercial opportunities. The fifty memos allow for reading and thinking through a few key topics at a time. They also include “Key Takeaways” to facilitate future easy reference.

Having your product or service idea is just the start. The book begins with the question of whether you are a good fit for small business ownership and leadership. Memos to Dan illustrates that early challenges require a flexible mindset, perseverance and a willingness and ability to be an energetic Jack-of-all-trades leader.

You will learn a straightforward approach to evaluating the commercial viability of your idea. Again, examples abound as you begin preparing and organizing an actual legal entity with a clear vision and strategies for success followed by the real decisions of hiring a talented and diverse team and then executing your plan on a day to day basis.

Memos to Dan also provides the small business owner excellent thoughts and considerations around managing and coaching a team, effectively using your business network to learn and stay ahead of the competition, and knowing how not to let the business run your entire life. While not typically your first thought upon launching a new business, eventually succession becomes a consideration. Written by a father for his son, Memos to Dan covers the generation passing exercise with the critical message the transition process requires careful planning and clear, honest communication.

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Lisa Gundry, Ph.D., DePaul University
This book is at once a professional and personal account of how to successfully launch and run a small business. It offers advice and wisdom to would-be entrepreneurs and to those who are launching and growing a business. The authors write insightfully within a set of 50 brief and easy-to read memos, offering a host of stories and examples on what you need to know and navigate on this journey. From crafting your vision and strategy, to building your team, to managing the finances and having a life outside your business, and much more, to those who are starting, running and growing a business, make sure you get the memos!

Kevin R. Lawler, Venture Capital/Angel Investor
This book is different from any other business, managerial or leadership book I’ve read (in the last 30 years?).  While other business books detail useful and practical business concepts, impart wisdom, or summarize leadership qualities of well known, successful Fortune 500 CEOs, Memos to Dan embodies the human element of being a successful, ethical business owner, whether big or small.  In easy to read, quick-hit, impactful ‘memos’, the reader has a genuine, tangible feel for the challenges and rigor, the sweat and the struggle….and the unbelievably satisfying rewards that come with being a successful owner of a small, family business.  This is an enjoyable and captivating read that would be insightful for any young professional considering a career in business, finance or entrepreneurship.  Memos to Dan artfully demonstrates that true leadership, and success as a small business owner, is also about who you are and not just what you do – that guidance, humility, intelligence, common sense, and compassion, need to be practiced each and every day to achieve desired results.

Patrick J. Murphy, Ph.D., Professor of Entrepreneurship, DePaul University
Memos to Dan is a very practical book – and its practical parts, I must say, are truly excellent. Entrepreneurship is hard to teach effectively because every entrepreneurial venture is patently unique.  However, Memos to Dan balances specific examples with a solid conceptual foundation to make its lessons highly generalizable. The sections on family business are fascinating – especially when it comes to how and when to navigate the often complicated transitions of a company among family members. The information about mentors is extremely novel – I had never thought about engaging vendors as advisors, but now I will utilize this notion in my own lectures and consulting work. The book’s organization is fantastic – it includes a large number of short and specific chapters that make for a very useful handbook.

Mark Linsz, Co-Founder and Senior Managing Partner, My Next Season
An essential read for anyone launching or running a small business.  Having left the corporate world three years ago to launch a business, I found each of the memos to be filled with insights and nuggets of wisdom.  I only wish that I would have read it before I founded my business.

News & Events

We Are on the Radio!

UPDATE – Todd had a lot of fun on the show and is very grateful for the opportunity! In case you missed it, below is a link to the whole ‘Opening Bell’ episode. The interview with Todd starts at the 18:15 mark.


Join Todd on Thursday, April 19th, at 5:30 a.m. on WGN Radio 720AM in Chicago. He will be discussing how to transition your small business from one generation to the next on the ‘Opening Bell’ show with Steve Grzanich.

You can read more about this topic in File #8 of ‘Memos to Dan.’

The Authors

Photography by Maggie Rife | www.maggierife.comTodd Stetson has spent 30 years working at Court Products, first as an employee, then as an integral part of reshaping its path to eventually owning it.  He has served on his community’s park board as an elected official and as a member of the board of directors for a local community bank.  Todd graduated from the University of Wyoming with a BS in Marketing.  He captained and assistant coached the UW Swimming Team.  Todd and his wife, Kathy, have two children, Danny and Julie and one granddaughter from Danny and his wife Laura.  Outside of his professional career his passions are hiking and photographing wildlife in the mountains.

LynnLynn Stetson is a financial risk management executive with over 30 years of experience. He has functionally reported to the Board of Directors for two Dow 30 companies – Bank of America and GE Capital. He has held roles covering consumer, small business and global investment banking risk, including five years in London where his family enjoyed living in and traveling throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Lynn and his wife, Kathleen, have two children, Clare and Griffin. Lynn enjoys the discovery of learning from new people, new activities and new destinations. Like Todd, Lynn graduated from the University of Wyoming and captained the UW Swimming Team. He also earned an MBA at Indiana University.