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Story by Lainey Seyler • Photos by minorwhitestudios.com Rick Brock takes a student on a climb.
Climbers take repurposing to new heights Silo Extreme Outdoor Adventures gives local climbers a way to go vertical
ntil recently, Nebraska and Florida were the only states in the U.S. without
any outdoor rock climbing areas. That meant local climbing enthusiasts were stuck indoors or had to travel several hours to find some decent granite. Thanks to Ron Safarik and Rick Brock, Nebraska rock climbers have an innovative new option.
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
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The duo, who have been avid climbers for years, bought a set of grain silos at 34th and Vinton streets near Interstate 80. They are renovating and repurposing the grain silos into the largest and tallest rock-climbing gym in the U.S. The pair is still looking for another investor but the outdoor climbing area is slated to open to the public July 4th weekend. Brock said there should be six 100foot routes and 12 to 14 45-foot routes in addition to some bouldering areas. Entrance fees will run around $12 and rentals should be about $5, said Brock. Classes will be in the $12 to $15 range. They also plan on showing first screenings of adventure films al fresco a couple times a month, projected onto the silos. “We get to repurpose a structure with no other use,” said Safarik. “We get to introduce other people to climbing and give something unique to Omaha.” The silos, at the south end of the Field Club Trail, have been a forgotten eyesore towering over the interstate for years. The city mowed the lawn but graffiti, junk and overgrown trees were overtaking the base of the grain elevators until Safarik, Brock and a troop of volunteers cleared out trash and brush. Construction hasn’t officially started on the interior of the silos, but eager climbers have already placed routes high on the elevators — up to 120 feet — on the west face of the silos. It’s a climb that affords eerily impressive views of the city above the treeline; wind makes the top sometimes a bit brisk, but anchors and rope hold climbers to the towers for a thrilling ride to the top. “The unique thing about the grain silos is how tall they are,” said Safarik. “Thirty-five feet is the usual height for indoor gyms. Our tallest elevator is 180 feet. The sheer verticalness is demanding.” Safarik and Brock got the idea for converting the grain silos into a climbing complex from a similar gym in Bloomington, Ill., called Upper Limits. The business partners have plans to develop the inside of the silos as well as build outside, affixing three-dimensional pieces to simulate outdoor climbing, which Brock says is rarely straight vertical. They even plan to have multi-pitch routes, which would involve setting anchors mid-way up the silos, to www.ReadOnlineNow.com
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help climbers train for longer climbs. This past fall, the silos were part of an art installation that currently graces the west sides of the elevators. A project of the organization Emerging Terrain, the art installation features a juried exhibition of posters made by artists commenting on land use and agriculture. “We are thrilled to be involved and contribute to Emerging Terrain and to give back to the community,” Safarik said. In the coming months, Safarik and Brock are hopeful the city will finish up the Field Club Trail as planned. “The city council has been very supportive and so has the neighborhood,” said Safarik. The pair are also hoping to see their dream project become a reality in the coming months, and to introduce many others, including Omaha’s youth — groups like the Boy Scouts and the Boys and Girls Club — to the sport of rock climbing. “We just love climbing,” said Safarik. “Here’s this opportunity to introduce other people to this sport. It’s such a challenge, mentally and physically.” SILOS Extreme Outdoor Adventures will be open Friday through Sunday. The hours, which are subject to change, are Fridays noon-11 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sundays noon until dark. For upto-date information, check the company’s Facebook page. www.OmahaPublications.com
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how i roll S to ry by L i n da Per si g eh l • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d i os .co m
Vann, out front on the trail, with mountain biking buddies David Gilinsky and David Goldberg.
Tom Vann Mountain Man
hen Tom Vann wants to escape from the everyday stresses of life, he heads
for the hills on two wheels. And not just any bike — a decked-out Specialized FSR mountain bike, which he “invested in” four years ago. The owner of Vann Realty Co., a multi-family and commercial property development and management firm, said mountain biking “gives me that feeling of freedom, and being disconnected from everything. It forces me to focus my thoughts on the ride, and nothing else, and gives me a sense of accomplishment and balance I can’t get doing anything else.” Vann’s love of biking took off while in college. Once back in Omaha, he discovered a kinship in the sport with several childhood friends, including David Goldberg and David Gilinsky. “The three of us began biking together in about 1995,” Vann said. “We’ve been 10
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
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order riding together — both street and mountain biking— ever since.” The three frequently go for a ride in Platte River State Park near Louisville, or in Jewell Park and Swanson Park, both in Bellevue. “We also like to take our bikes over to Louis & Clark Monument in Council Bluffs and ride,” Vann said. “It’s a two- or three-hour commitment. It gives you a sense of being on vacation, almost.” On occasion, the friends plan a daylong excursion or even an overnighter to more distant locales, including Ponca State Park near Sioux City. “Goldberg, myself and two others went to Lindell State Park in Blue Springs, Mo. We made a two-day trip out of it, bicycled about six hours at a time, stopping along the way. We traveled at a slower pace because it was so hilly and technical.” Besides the escapism biking offers, Vann says he appreciates the health benefits of the sport. “Mountain biking creates fitness, and you have to be fit to mountain bike. I just turned 50, and biking has done a lot to help me stay fit at middle age.” Added Goldberg: “Biking has provided us a wonderful opportunity to exercise, travel and see the world from a unique perspective, and bond as friends. I feel very fortunate to have been able to enjoy so many great places with these guys.” www.ReadOnlineNow.com
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arts entertainment S to ry by A a r o n M i cha el s • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d i os .co m
VP of Development, Allen Wachter, with Pizza Machine birthday party coordinator Dody Christian.
Since debuting in Omaha in 2006, The Amazing Pizza Machine has provided food and fun for 1.5 million customers
hen The Amazing Pizza Machine debuted in Omaha five years ago, the idea behind the concept was to “amaze” people with the plethora of activities and opportunities offered by a combined indoor amusement park and pizza parlor. The Machine’s 37,500 square feet of indoor fun, located at 13955 South Plaza, wowed crowds with an arcade, bumper cars and go carts. Throw in a pizza buffet, price it a value and the founders banked the concept would take off. It has. More than 1.5 million people have taken in The Amazing Pizza Machine experience, many being repeat customers, says Allen Wachter, Vice President of Development. The entertainment venue was formed by 6 4 Fun LLC, a group of venture capitalists, in 2006. Managing owners are Mike Alesio and Tony Messineo. The duo also own Valentino’s, based in Lincoln, Neb. Wachter says a strong first impression with customers has produced a lasting one. “It’s always been our goal — our concept — to offer the ‘Wow’ factor, but it really doesn’t kick in until people see it and experience it first-hand,” said Wachter, who, like the other two owners, comes from a restaurant background. “People tend to think we’re only for kids with the pizza/pasta and ice cream bar and games, but this has always been a family experience and always will be.”
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
When Wachter and the other owners were creating The Amazing Pizza Machine concept, they wanted to accomplish — and offer — something unique in the arcade/games/family entertainment market. Besides that, though, Wachter says being cost-conscience has been a big factor in the Machine’s success. The recent recession motivated Wachter and his partners to take a look at the various prices and packages available at the family entertainment center — and they acted with the best financial and fun interests of their customers. The payback has been sustained revenues and profits, despite families having to make difficult choices about how and where to spend their limited discretionary entertainment income. That financial sense kept the Machine experidouble tree BB0311.pdf 1 6/7/11 ence affordable and just as fun, Wachter says.
“We focus on the complete experience with an obsession for safety and sanitation,” said Wachter, who oversees sales, marketing and development as vice president of the business. “Each time, no matter how many times they may have been here, we want families to leave having had a different, memorable experience.” Having recently celebrated its fifth birthday — and birthday parties are one of the business’ 3:54 PM major draws, along with group meetings and
celebrations, parties and corporate conferences and meetings, among other opportunities — Wachter said The Amazing Pizza Machine is just hitting its stride. Constant evaluation by listening and responding to customer feedback and market demands has helped make the business the recipient of the Best of Omaha Family Entertainment Center top choice for the past five years. The Amazing Pizza Machine also recently was recognized by the International Association for Amusement Parks for its excellence in service and variety of offerings. The Amazing Pizza Machine partners aren’t resting on their laurels, though. Wachter says they’re always looking for new ways to amaze. “We have never relaxed with our success because we always strive to meet new demand,” Wachter said. “We are always looking for that next evolution, and we always have several ideas percolating.”
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B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
ranite Transformations prides itself on providing fantastic surface solutions. Whether it’s beautifully engineered granite or post-consumer recycled glass countertops, their technologically advanced products are ready to transform any space, especially countertops. Granite Transformations is the largest direct countertop manufacturer in the world and has over 100 franchise locations across the United States. The Omaha location, 6860 South 118th Street, Suite 104, in the Gateway I-80 business park, opened in February 2004. Not only do they install beautiful countertops and backsplashes, they also offer cabinet refacing, and acrylic bath and shower systems. Transformation is now easier than ever–and affordable! Their products are backed by a warranty and installed by a team of certified professionals. Their unique product lines of beautiful Trend Stone, Trend Glass and Trend Mosaics are manufactured from the finest natural materials from the best quarries throughout the world. Trend Stone is the company’s core product line. These slabs are approximately 95 percent natural stone combined with a specially formulated polymer that provides greater strength and durability than traditional granite. The result is an engineered surface that’s heat, stain and scratch resistant–essentially maintenance-free and backed with the company’s limited lifetime warranty. With new products and ideas being introduced throughout the year, Granite Transformations is used by homeowners, commercial and domestic interior designers, architects, builders and developers worldwide. Homeowners and business owners love the ability to update their space without the cost or disruption of a lengthy renovation. Many consumers today are quite educated about the products they want. They are requesting nonporous, maintenance-free products that are backed by a warranty. They are also looking for a company that has a proven track record, and a qualified, professional staff committed to doing a great job. Homeowners have always been concerned about value in the home. Today, customers are also more environmentally conscience. They are asking about green products and have embraced a growing belief that there is no need to replace when you can reface both countertops and cabinetry with technologically advanced surfaces. Beauty and function are not sacrificed in any way. With remodeling generally comes demolition. With their product and installation process, a homeowner’s existing countertop remains intact and doesn’t end up in a landfill. The average kitchen countertop installation costs approximately $3,500 and can be completed in one day. Their ability to install quickly with minimal disruption has allowed them to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
Brian Neesen Owner
Granite Transformations 6860 South 118th St #104 granitetransformations.com (402) 881-8044 B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 15
n the increasingly competitive online world, having a website that just looks good isn’t enough. There
are many other factors that contribute to a strong online presence. Digital House, an online marketing agency, has found a niche by designing aesthetically pleasing websites and then analyzing and enhancing functionality. “We spend a significant amount of time thinking about the usability of the site by taking into consideration what information is accessed most frequently and how to organize the information so that a user can easily find information,” says Dustin Treinen, who is Digital House’s Project Manager and co-Managing Partner with Herb Harden. Using Digital House keeps a company from having to hire a web or marketing team full time, Treinen says. “They are able to come to Digital House as needed so it ends up saving them a lot of money in salaries and overhead,” Treinen says. Rather than being industry-specific, Digital House works with a broad range of clients, which allows them to offer a wider scope of ideas and experience than a company focused on the same industry would normally have. And the consulting Digital House does goes beyond what you see on the screen. “We are also hired by businesses that have internal marketing departments,” Treinen says. “We are able to provide a fresh perspective to their strategies.” Founded in 2010, Digital House has worked with a wide range of businesses, from sole proprietorships to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. No matter the size of the client, however, Digital House provides the same level of attentive customer service. “Since we are a small firm, we maintain close relationships with our clients and always emphasize providing quality customer service,” Treinen says. “I think one aspect that makes us really unique is that we keep our business very flexible and work collaboratively with other creatives who specialize at specific skills. This is how we are able to provide such a wide variety of services to our clients so they never need to look elsewhere for creative work.” Capitalizing on an industry shift toward the web and away from printed materials, Treinen says his company prides itself on creating a web presence for companies unlike anything else in the market. “I like when we are given opportunities to create something unique for a client and they Dustin Treinen recognize the effort that we put into our work,” & Herb Harden he says. “We love providing our clients with something they are proud to show off.”
Digital House digitalhouseoma.com (402) 957-1662
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
Todd Anderson Painting
odd Anderson has been painting for 25 years. Although college was
not exactly for him, what he learned during those years was that he has a great work ethic and loves to paint. In fact, he loves painting so much that he became self-employed and started a small painting company, which has been in business for 19 years. The painting company works with all types of residential and commercial customers from decorators to contractors. The majority of his company’s work is on residential remodels and interiors with about 20 percent of work going to commercial contractors and 20 percent of work on home and building exteriors. Going “green” has fueled advancement in paint coatings at a rapid rate. Because paints and lacquers can emit gaseous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause adverse health effects in both interior and exterior settings, many paint products have become environmentally friendly— offering low to zero VOCs—and much more durable. Anderson says that most people are not aware of all of the affordable and efficient green options available for paint, so he discusses all of the products with his customers to keep them informed on how to get longlasting paint while staying green. Anderson believes the quality of work is more important than time or money. “A smaller company does things cheaper, better, and more efficiently.” This is one of the reasons why he hires very few employees. “It’s a lot easier to keep control and catch problems, the quality of work is more consistent, you don’t lose as much production, don’t have as much theft…you just gain a lot by keeping it small.” And unlike larger companies where most customers will never meet the boss, Anderson is on the job the every day, listening to his customers’ needs. Anderson and his team have occasionally worked in Lincoln, Norfolk, and cities in Iowa, but they mainly Todd Anderson work in the Omaha metro. “I like the fact that your reputation can carry you a long way in Omaha. Most of my customers appreciate good work, and Todd Anderson Painting many times I’m able to have long-term business firstname.lastname@example.org relationships with them.” (402) 706-2016
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 17
erguson is a diverse wholesale distributor with operations span-
ning multiple business groups. The company, which has been in business for 58 years, is ranked as the largest plumbing wholesaler in North America. It is represented in 50 states with 1,350 locations and 300 showrooms with a tremendous inventory and distribution centers that allow the company to better serve their customers quickly and accurately. Ferguson employs the best professional associates and offers a memorable, high-end customer service experience for all of their customers. The beautiful showrooms are constantly changing and being updated with the latest market trends and allow customers to make plumbing, lighting, and appliance selections for new construction or remodeling projects. Molly Johnson manages the newest showroom location—which is triple the size of the current facility—and has expanded the product lines to include appliances in addition to a vast variety of plumbing and lighting. Johnson explains that consumers have increasingly busy schedules, and because of that, they want their lives at home made easier. Master bathrooms have evolved into “in-home” spas with large walk-in tile showers offering steam, aromatherapy, body jets, rain heads, and built-in speakers to play music. Traditional shower controls are now offered with digital controls that allow the customer to save their favorite shower setting and turn on the shower with a remote control outside of the shower. As for appliances, there are currently three growing trends: induction cook-tops to reduce cooking time, steam features in kitchens and laundry rooms, and efficient washing machines that wash more clothes with less water and less detergent. “I have seen an increase in green products over the past few years, as the market is more conscious of the environment,” Johnson says. “We offer lower consumption toilets, faucets and showerheads, energy star rated appliances, and energy efficient lighting. Plumbing and lighting fixtures have so many options, styles, and finishes available to meet our clients’ individual needs.” Johnson says she loves working in Omaha and buildMolly Johnson ing relationships with people from the Midwest who Showroom Manager have values and integrity. She believes she is fortunate to work with a variety of customers such as homeownFerguson Enterprises ers building or remodeling and designers, builders, and Bath, Kitchen & Lighting plumbers assisting the homeowners. “Creating and buildGallery ing relationships with all of our customers is by far the best part of the business.” 6780 S. 118th Cir.
(Gateway I-80 Business Park) www.ferguson.com (402) 331-0662
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
hen most home or business owners find themselves in need of
a new roof, they start asking around for a referral. Chuck Hackshaw, owner of Husker Roofing, says much of his company’s new business comes to them this way. “With excellence in customer service and integrity being the company’s primary goals, many of our customers [go on] to refer us to other relatives and friends,” he said. “We have grown significantly in the last few years, priding ourselves on quality craftsmanship and the best service in the industry.” Husker Roofing provides roofing, siding and gutters to both commercial and residential customers. Their crews have worked on thousands on Midlands homes as well as some of the largest Omaha roofing projects in recent years: Opus Hall at Creighton University, Nebraska Christian College, Hilton Garden Inn, and numerous large-scale apartment complexes. “By providing both commercial and residential service, we fill a niche that most small home improvement companies and large, strictly commercial companies don’t provide,” Hackshaw said. “And by implementing the proper procedures and having knowledgeable people supporting the office, we’re capable of expanding our services in a brief time.” Hackshaw apprenticed in the industry after college, then spent 12 years working his way into a management position at a large roofing operation before striking out on his own. “My mentor was the general manager of the company, and took me under his supervision to give me the proper experience for reading blueprints and managing numerous crews,” he said. While he enjoys the running a successful business, working on million-dollar homes and multi-million-dollar commercial jobs, it’s the customers that give Hackshaw the most satisfaction. “What I’ve always enjoyed [most] is providing a finished product for my customers, big and small….not just making sure the work is done professionally, and performs to manufacturers’ specifications, but that it also achieves an aesthetic quality. “At the end of the day, when I see the quality work and the smiles of the customers who have put their trust in me, there is no greater reward,” he said.
Chuck Hacksaw Owner Husker Roofing 3716 D Street www.huskerroofing.com (402) 553-0200 B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 19
Omaha profiles “Where Happiness Is”
any of those who grew up in the heartland will remember
the heydays of Peony Park at 78th & Cass streets in Omaha. Founded as a gas station and restaurant in 1919, the park grew into a 35-acre complex including a pool, beach and waterslides, ballroom and open-air dance area and Nebraska’s largest amusement park, and became an Omaha landmark and treasure. Hundreds of thousands of families, concert-goers and corporate guests flocked to Peony Park for outdoor fun and games, and entertainment by some of the nation’s biggest acts, including the Lawrence Welk Band, the Glenn Miller Band, the Beach Boys, and in later years, Pearl Jam and 311. The park closed its Cass Street location in 1994. Today, Peony Park lives on, though in a new locale and in a more intimate setting. The park operates on 22 acres of wooded land EAST of Wahoo, Neb., and includes an outdoor stage for live music (named “The Royal Grove,” after the original), picnic areas, volleyball courts, baseball diamonds, a campground, trails and other amenities. The park offers full catering services, is permitted to serve alcohol, and hosts many corporate picnics, family reunions, organizational meetings and other events for groups from 20-1,000. “Peony Park is still privately held and treated like a family business,” said owner Carl Jennings. “We have between five and 50 employees, depending on the season, and still are known for providing outdoor entertainment and fun. The park operates much like it did years ago.” And Jennings should know. The Omaha native began working for the Malec family, owners/founders of Peony Park, at age 14, maintaining the grounds, busing tables, building rides, and working as a lifeguard and pool manager. After a career in the U.S. Navy, he returned to Omaha and the Peony Park organization. “It became such a diverse company with many real estate properties. I saw a great opportunity to learn and grow there.” Speaking of his eventual ownership of the park, Jennings said, “You might say I was groomed for this job.” Jennings said Peony Park has a strong relationship with Fun-Plex in Omaha. “I view it as our ‘sister park.’ We have a lot of crossover business.” He hopes to build park sales with that relationship, as well as by booking more national music acts to the park’s show schedule. Foremost, Jennings wants to continue the tradition of Peony Park for families to enjoy for years to come. To learn more about Peony Park or booking an event, visit www.peonyparkinc.com or call.
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
Carl Jennings President/CEO
Peony Park 15 minutes west of Omaha -EAST OF WAHOO(402) 391-6253 www.OmahaPublications.com
estoration Solutions is a locally owned and operated company that offers expert services in Mold Remediation and Water Damage restoration. The company provides complete mold elimination in existing residential, institutional, and commercial properties and offers prevention in new construction against the growth of harmful microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, mold, or fungi. Restoration Solutions works with insurance companies regarding all water damage losses and mold damaged property and offers a complete rebuild to all customers to get property back to “pre-loss” condition. Jeff Spidle, owner of Restoration Solutions, founded his company on the values of delivering high quality customer service, making business decisions based on ethics, acting with integrity, and showing responsibility in area of expertise. “We offer peace of mind to our customers. We make them feel confident in the decision to use Restoration Solutions. Any question at any time is welcome and encouraged,” says Spidle. “Jeff worked on residential homes that we built this year, the first one being a Street of Dreams Home. He’s a great guy, easy to work with, and great at what he does,” said Bob Brau of Brau Builders, Inc. in a testimonial for Restoration Solutions. “Jeff’s mold protection is now a standard for all new homes that we build.” Formerly known as Mold Solutions, the company has expanded in their six years of business to a new office location, which includes a warehouse for all vehicles and equipment, and added new staff and technicians to keep up with the growing volume of work. The company has also become committed to delivering environmentally friendly and cost-effective preventative solutions. Using non-toxic, water-based, EPA registered products, they can offer a 25-year transferable warranty for new construction services. Restoration Solutions is certified by the National Association of Mold Professionals (NAMP) and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) in Water Damage Restoration, Mold Remediation (Applied Microbial Remediation), Applied Structural Drying, CPT Repair and Reinstallation, Upholstery and Fabric Cleaning, Fire and Smoke Restoration, Journeyman Water Restorer, and Carpet Cleaning. When asked why he loves doing business in Omaha, Spidle said it’s because of his customers. “Local Omaha people are great to work with because they are used to very different climate changes, and they know how it affects their homes and business properties.”
Jeff Spidle Owner
Restoration Solutions email@example.com restorationinformation.com (402) 917-7001 B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 21
Nebraska’s largest toner and ink manufacturer. New and remanufactured cartridges available Free pick up and delivery Volume discounts hen Marty Saunders first started his toner 100% and ink cartridge business in 1988, thereguaranteed were only
two toner cartridges out in the market that could be 7632 Burlington St. remanufactured. Today, there are hundreds. And even though 68127 it was not an easy process in the beginning,Ralston, cartridgesNE for color 402-331-1417 laser printers have been successfully added to the wide variety of cartridges that are remanufactured. Retoner, Inc. specializes in remanufacturing and recycling toner and ink cartridges. Every new printer that comes out usually takes a different toner cartridge. This means different supplies and processes are needed to remanufacture that cartridge. All of the cartridges at Retoner, Inc. are tested before and after remanufacturing to assure that the cartridges are getting the highest quality printing available and meet or exceed original equipment manufacturing standards. In fact, Retoner, Inc. is one of the few companies in the area that actually builds their own cartridges and sells cartridges remanufactured in Omaha. Saunders says it is rewarding to know that his company also has a small part in keeping cartridges out of landfills. “Our company wants to help end some of the senseless dumping in landfills and reduce our carbon footprints.” But, above everything, Saunders strives to provide a way for his customers to save money in their households and their businesses. Customers receive the highest quality printing supplies available with a 100 percent guarantee on all products with a savings of 10 to 60 percent over the cost of new cartridges. The company also continues to gain knowledge of the most efficient processes and equipment needed to provide their customers with a quality product. In the past 23 years of business, Saunders and his team have remained loyal to their customers in their dedication to provide the highest quality products and the highest standard of personal service. They have developed personal relationships with a lot of their customers, and many of the customers have returned the loyalty by sticking with the business throughout the years. “We enjoy doing business in the Omaha area because we think the community and the businesses here are genuine.”
The Retoner Inc.
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
Marty Saunders Owner The Retoner Inc. 7632 Burlington Street (402) 331-1417
he Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) has a mission
of making small business better. NBDC provides technical assistance in a variety of programs to more than 2,000 businesses in Nebraska each year. Jason Bousquet’s program specifically works with military-connected individuals and veterans in starting and growing a business. The NBDC Veterans Assistance and Services Program is funded through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and is hosted by University of Nebraska at Omaha, College of Business Administration. “We have a variety of services where we can meet a veteran-owned business along their growth path and help them get to the next level.” These offerings include an online business course for first-time entrepreneurs and assistance in capturing government contracting opportunities for more mature clients, both veteran and non-veteran companies. Beyond their current services, Jason is implementing a business development course into the program. Jason was on active duty in the U.S. Air Force for 11 years before transitioning to the Air Force Reserves; he continues to serve with U.S. Strategic Command. Prior to joining NBDC, he worked for two years in the financial services industry. He moved into his current position with NBDC through his involvement as a volunteer for the Omaha Veterans in Business Forum. At that time, Jason realized he had a keen interest in economic development and he was thrilled to have the opportunity to be brought on board. Concerning his background and his current duties, Jason said, “Being part of the military, it is very easy to connect with and relate to veteran clients and prospects. The networking and marketing skills I learned as a financial advisor have been crucial in making the veterans business program work here in Nebraska. I’m actively challenging my clients to do the same in getting out and actively marketing their businesses to new customers.” Jason’s job is made easier since he is supported by the full NBDC team with several counselors and consultants having military background themselves plus a decade or more business development experience. “Being an idea guy myself, I love being able to work with individuals with vision and passion, who only need a little direction and guidance from our staff to be able to go and do great things with their businesses.”
Jason Bousquet Veteran Assistance & Services Program
Nebraska Business Development Center University of Nebraska-Omaha, College of Business Administration 6708 Pine St. (402) 554-2521 B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 23
lient-centered. Experienced. Detail-oriented. Quailty craftsmanship. These are some of the words Curt
Hofer, CEO of Curt Hofer Construction Inc., uses to describe his Omaha-based residential design and build firm. Hofer is also CEO of Jasper Stone Partners, which invests and manages private equity in commercial real estate ventures. They’re also the reasons the award-winning custom homebuilder/ remodeler has succeeded in lasting 20 years in the volatile home building industry. “Our clients come to us because they’re looking for a team that can take their random, but yet deeply personal ideas about home design and develop a comprehensive plan, then deliver a final product that is timeless in its appeal,” Hofer said. “There is not another building team in Omaha that has the breadth of experience, depth of team and consistent performance that we have.” “Trusted” is another word Hofer uses to describe the company he began in 1991. “One thing that has not changed is the company’s commitment to the integrity of business practices, financial transparency, and building a product that is universally accepted as the best in the business. Our customers trust our team to deliver what they need because we are trustworthy.” Hofer started his company with just $6,000 going door-todoor, soliciting small remodeling projects. “I was a one-man band,” he said, jokingly. “I did whatever needed to get done, and was grateful for every project that put food on the table.” Several years later, he had enough capital to invest in his first spec home. “It was a unique design, and some in the industry thought that a home that did not fit the typical ‘executive-style, West Omaha mcmansion’ expectation would not sell.” They were wrong. ”Omahans not only respected what we were trying to do, but they embraced us. Our entire team and my family in particular feel very blessed to call Nebraska home.” Hofer gives much of the credit for his company’s success to those that have helped grow it over the years, including President Steve Huber, as well as Craig Linnenbrink and Marshall Wallman for their consistent leadership in construction management and design. “It’s the commitment of the great individuals on our team to, year in and year out…give their best to our clients,” that make his firm different than the competition. Though much has been accomplished, Hofer feels his company still has room for improvement. “I think our clients recognize that we are not resting on our laurels or our good reputation… Our best projects are still ahead.”
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
Curt Hofer CEO
Curt Hofer & Associates 2332 Bob Boozer Drive curthofer.com (402) 758-0440 www.OmahaPublications.com
wo years ago, Michelle Kaiser started Alotta Brownies, a small
brownie shop in Arlington, Neb. Within a few months, she realized that the location was not big enough and began looking for a new location. After moving to Fremont, Neb., in February 2010, the shop expanded to a gourmet bakery with a full line of brownies, pastries, bread, cookies, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, bars, and other desserts. All of the desserts and bakery items are made fresh daily from scratch and are never frozen. Many of the recipes come from Kaiser’s grandmother, particularly her old-fashioned White Wedding Cake made with butter cream frosting with a hint of almond. Alotta Brownies also offers cultural baked goods such as rugelach, challah bread, Norwegian school bread, cannolis, and French mousse tortes. Today, the main business of Alotta Brownies is cake. Although baking brownies was the original service, cakes have become a bigger part of the bakery with the expansion of the business. They make wedding, birthday, graduation, anniversary, bachelorette, and stagette cakes, all designed to fit the occasion. “We offer a lot of one-onone customer service that personalizes the needs of our customers,” says Kaiser. “We know they appreciate what we have to offer, and what we do have isn’t like everyone else.” She adds that some of her customers call Alotta Brownies the “Cake Boss of Fremont” because they customize all cake orders to fit the needs of the customer. Beyond brownies and cakes, Alotta Brownies also offers box lunches using scratch bread that is baked fresh daily, a number of corporate event trays—goodies, breakfast, fruit, cookies—and gift baskets to fit many occasions and budgets. The Alotta Brownies staff loves when new customers first come into their bakery. They make over 100 different items on a daily basis; and with so much Michelle Kaiser to choose from, the customers are often lost in looking for all of their favorites among the selection. Customers Owner travel from both in-state and out-of-state just to get their favorite bakery goods, but most commonly the White Wedding Cake, Carrot Cake, or Lemon Bars. “I believe it is the expression along with the second visit Alotta Brownies where my customers tell me that I made ‘the best they had 317 N. Main St., Fremont, NE ever had’ of whatever item they had chosen.”
alottabrownies.com (402) 721-9400
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 25
Nebrask a’s only statewide television and radio network, NET reaches more than 1 million viewers and 90,000 listeners each week with commercial-free, educational programming. NET’s ability to provide that coverage will be enhanced by the five-year, $25 million Inspire Nebraska Campaign, which will be completed in 2012 and comes at a time of extraordinary growth for the network. Consider the following: The NET Foundations for private fundraising has grown more than 50 percent over the past four years, providing more funding for the production of local programs; live coverage of NSAA state championships and Husker, Creighton and Kearney sports; and live Legislative coverage both on-air and online. NET Television and Radio audiences have grown by more than 10 percent over the past four years. And more than 585,000 unique visitors, primarily students and teachers, visit NebraskaStudies.org, one of the best sources of Nebraska history in the state. “The fact that our audiences are growing and that the majority of Nebraskans watch NET each week tells us that our programming meets the educational media needs of our state,” says Jeff Beckman, Executive Director of the NET Foundations. “Public broadcasting positively impacts our lives and changes us for the better. For example, NET delivers over 60 hours of non-commercial, educational children’s programming each week – programs like “Sesame Street,” “Curious George” and “Dinosaur Train” – plus documentaries that feature the unique history, people and places of Nebraska.” Nearly 25,000 people and dozens of businesses and Foundationss statewide support NET’s programming. Beckman says that’s a credit both to the creativity of the Foundations staff and the programming itself. “We take pride in practicing entrepreneurialism in a nonprofit setting, always looking for more efficient ways to raise funds and awareness for NET.” Garnering more support from Omaha is the next big challenge, Beckman says, partly because NET is branded as a Lincoln station based on its location on UNL’s East Campus. “Our broadcast signal doesn’t discriminate,” says Beckman. “We cover every square mile of Nebraska. That said, Omaha comprises 46 percent of our viewership but a far smaller portion of our donor base. In order to begin to address that, we have now opened an NET office in west Omaha and are also releasing two Omaha-based documentaries this year – “Standing Bear’s Footsteps” and “Rosenblatt: The Final Inning.” Omaha is critically important to the future of NET.” s
Jeff Beckman Executive Director NET Foundations
NET Television & NET Radio Lincoln Office: 1800 North 33rd Street (800) 634-6788 Omaha Office: Regency One 10050 Regency Circle, Suite 125 (402) 932-2110 www.netNebraska.org
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
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Phil McBride, Carson Wealth Management
During the NFL labor dispute, local financial firms have helped players prepare for the worst
hen summer-like mid-90s heat hit in May, Zach Bowman was sweating his workout in Lincoln, but the one thing he wasn’t sweating was the NFL labor negotiations, or his finances. The former Nebraska Husker, and current defensive back for the Chicago Bears, now entering his fourth year in the league, had been preparing for the labor impasse all season and that defensive nature, and a modest lifestyle, have kept him at ease during the NFL’s labor unrest. “I feel very fortunate to be in the position I’m in,” says Bowman, who has a wife and child. “We saved our money during the season, and we don’t have a lot of payments other than rent and utilities.” Bowman is one of 10 NFL clients – five active, five retired – Carson Wealth Management Group advises. A separate Omaha firm, Feltz WealthPLAN, advises five other active NFL players. Advisors from both firms say conscientious and conservative planning has kept their clients worry-free during a period of high acrimony and uncertainty for the players. Fiscal responsibility has been a major issue for NFL players. It has been reported that 78 percent go bankrupt or are financially stressed just two years after leaving the NFL. The players get paid their 16 game checks during the season, but the expenses are year-round – and the players now find themselves picking up more of the tab, says Phil McBride, a Wealth
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
Brent O’Mara, Feltz WealthPLAN
Advisor at Carson Wealth Management who works strictly with active NFL players. “The main difference is they had to file for COBRA and they lost their life insurance, so it has been tough on them,” McBride says. “Right now, not getting a check isn’t new for them, but having those additional expenses is.” And then there’s been the on-and-off status of the lockout, which has had players preparing to report to their team facilities one minute, and then resuming their home workout routines the next. The real stress of the lockout will build if no labor agreement is in place and it looks like actual games may be lost. For less-established players, McBride says that’s where the real risk comes in. “A couple things to think about: For the new guys, a lot of their money is not guaranteed, and the average NFL career is 3.6 years. These guys aren’t going to be in the league for that long,” McBride says. “Losing games, much less a season, would be a big loss for them.” Brent O’Mara, a financial advisor at Feltz WealthPLAN, says his firm is fortunate to advise mostly veteran players who’ve been smart with their money. “The biggest mistake people make is to not have six to 12 months’ living expenses in cash,” he says. “You don’t want to have to liquidate things to pay the bills. That takes pressure off, and you can focus on workouts and preparing for the next season. www.ReadOnlineNow.com
“The biggest mistake people make is to not have six to 12 months’ living expenses in cash.” “Being an established firm, we’re lucky in that we’re working with guys who are established and have tenure in the NFL. “Undrafted free agents, meaning the 12 to 30 guys picked up after the draft who are on a one-year contract with no check and no guarantee… those are the guys with the most anxiety and the biggest challenges. They’re the ones that really need the counsel.” McBride and Bowman say the planning for the lockout began before the season started. Both praised the NFL Players Association for its counsel to players. “The NFLPA did a good job of educating these guys to put money away in case the lockout does happen,” McBride says, “but this is also something we plan for when we do their wealth plan. We want to plan for the worst-case scenario, be it a lockout or an injury. “For a short amount of time, you make great money, but then you go back to making what a normal 20-something makes, and that’s the hard part. “We hope the career is long, and that the second contract, where you make a lot of your money, comes around, but we can’t plan on that. You just never know in the NFL.” At issue is how to divide the league’s $9 billion in annual revenue. One of the many issues is the owners wanting to extend the regular season from 16 games to 18. But O’Mara says other contentious key issues aren’t getting as much media attention. “The players don’t want an extension on the season,” he says. “And what you don’t read or hear about is that the owners are looking to pass on costs, such as travel expenses and utilities for practice fields. The players aren’t willing to give on that, because that’s what comes with running the business.” Not surprisingly, both advisors side with the players in the labor dispute. “The NFL owners are billionaires,” McBride says. “The players are ordinary guys who have chosen to take years off their life by choosing this type of career. They’re not asking a lot, and it doesn’t seem like too much to be asked to be taken care of.”
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Greg Allen, Bellevue University
Security in Security
Students in Bellevue’s nationally recognized Security Management Program can look forward to job security upon graduation
he increasing number of security threats in the world has generated increas-
ing opportunity for the students of Bellevue University. Bellevue’s Security Management Program began in 2004 and has become one of the nation’s elite. In 2010, the program received the Homeland Security Award from Government Security News for the second consecutive year. The award was in the “Best Training/Higher Education” category. Being recognized as a top program translates into students not having difficulty finding jobs after graduation, says Greg Allen, program director. “A lot of agencies tap into us to get prospective employees,” Allen said. Allen has over 25 years of public law enforcement and private security experience as well as served as an educator for 33 years. He worked as a Director of Security of a Fortune 500 company before coming to Bellevue University. He founded the program in 2004 and the Master’s program in 2005, and says the real advantage of the program is the real-world experience of its instructors. “Teachers are presently in the field,” Allen said. “They know what’s going on and what is being developed to fight the war against terrorism.
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
Ugly. Chair. Contest. “All of the instructors in our program have several years of experience in this field, from working with the Department of Homeland Security to a retired FBI Agent who was in charge of the Oklahoma City bombing. “They bring real-life situations to the class.” Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science or a Master of Science in Security Management. The program numbers (how many?) create the largest combined undergraduate and graduate program in the nation, Allen said. The Security Management programs are endorsed by A.S.I.S. and U.S. Strategic Command, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and FBI. Students pursuing the Bachelor of Science in Security Management take required classes, including: Introduction to Security; Risk Analysis; Physical Security Methods; Security Administration and Management; Fundamentals of Homeland Security; and Principles and Practices of Effective Emergency Planning. Students pursuing the Master of Science in Security Management take courses that include: Homeland Security Principles and Practices; Terrorism and Homeland Defense Fundamentals; Critical Infrastructure: Analysis and Strategies; Emergency Preparedness and Management; CyberSecurity and Information Protection; and Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Analysis. Allen added that because of the uniqueness of the program and having no age requirement for positions, there are public and private sector companies looking for graduates. “With our program, it’s a cohort program,” Allen said. “You start with the same students that you finish with and you have the same instructor throughout. What that does is you learn from other students, students learn from you.” Allen said that one class wrote a textbook used in the U.S., one did a risk assessment for a Fortune 500 company, and another class gave a presentation on critical infrastructure for the National Homeland Security Conference. “It’s unique how these classes come together and formulate a thinking mode that everyone in the security field can learn about,” Allen said. There is an open enrollment in Security Management, according to Allen. www.ReadOnlineNow.com
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“This allows the person with a dream to get into the security field with no knowledge, and teaches them what they need to know so they can get into the profession,” Allen said. “There is no prerequisite for work experience. We bring together the people that have experience, that need an education, and those that have no background and see how they mesh things.” The students are encouraged to apply for the Palace Acquire Civilian Internships, which provide the intern positions in security investigations, risk assessments, executive protection, physical security, security planning and other experience. The internships are full time, three-year programs that include full benefits. Six graduates of the BU program were offered Air Force internships, which is the highest number of students representing a university, Allen said. “The Palace Acquire Internship program is connected with the Department of Defense. Bellevue University is one of eight colleges and universities in the United States that are affiliated with them,” Allen said. “You must be a have graduated from the Security Management undergraduate program or have one year in the Master’s program to be allowed into the program. “A student will be stationed at a United States Air Force base and train for a three-year time period. After that time, if the student has received a certificate from the program, they can negotiate their salary in the six-figure range.” Additional information about the Security Management program is available at www. bellevue.edu. www.OmahaPublications.com
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Not doing laying out. Text in. Iâ€™ll re-flow with phoBlue Crossâ€™ Big Fish tos. After guiding two of the biggest changes in the history of his company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Nebraska CEO Steve Martin is busy positioning his company as a leader in health care reform
S to ry by Co r e y R oss • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d i os .co m
Steve Martin, left, seen in his office in the brand new 10-story building (above).
ounted over Blue Cross and Blue
Shield of Nebraska CEO Steve Martin’s desk is a gigantic king salmon that he caught in a charity fishing tournament hosted by the late former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens in 2006. After an hour’s fight, Martin plucked the fish from the Key Nigh River. At 51 inches, it was the biggest fish Martin ever caught and one of the three biggest in the tournament. In his professional capacity, Martin knows all about timeconsuming projects with big end results. In 2010, Martin oversaw an office relocation to a 10-story new headquarters in the Aksarben Village neighborhood and an overhaul of its claims conversion system all while negotiating the turbulent waters of health care reform. Like landing that fish, the net result was huge. The move, which took place after the first of the year, saved Blue Cross $2 million in operating costs, and the claims conversion will have its own savings payoff. Needless to say, no local CEO had a 2010 quite like Martin’s. “We’re in the middle of two mega-projects – two of the biggest in company history – and the government drops health care reform on us,” he says. “And then they demonize the health insurance companies, or at least the politicians did.” That said, Martin reflects on 2010 as one of the best years of his career. “It was a very exciting time so it didn’t seem like a lot of work, even though we were working all the time,” he says. “It was exciting because we were in the process of finally coming to grips with the fact that we had to change health care. And B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 35
everybody’s got to change.” Martin’s next big challenge is positioning Blue Cross as a leader in the new health care environment. The company’s 2010 moves will help them do that, but Martin says there’s much more to be done before 2014, when the majority of the reform changes will take affect and 30 million uninsured will be adopted into the health care system. “As we continue to carefully manage health care reform changes and how they affect the insurance industry, our end goal remains: to help deliver quality and affordable health care,” Martin says. “We look at these challenges as opportunities to only get better at serving Nebraskans.” A native of Horton, Kan., Martin attended Washburn University, where he played football and was in pre-med. Martin’s junior year, he decided to participate in the school’s nursing program, which made for an interesting sight in the hospital’s halls and patient rooms. “I was an offensive lineman in the nursing program,” he says. “It probably helped that I was 280 pounds. None of my male colleagues gave me any grief about it.” Doing that work, however, was part of giving Martin a well-rounded view of health care. He made the leap to insurance when he helped construct PPO programs for worker’s compensation in Kansas and Missouri. “We brought a lot of worker’s comp rates down by half,” he says. After taking graduate classes in business, finance and statistics, Martin moved to Omaha to start a high-tech health company for a group of investors that specialized in end-oflife care. “We took care of patients at home before Hospice.” When that company was sold, Martin was hired by Blue Cross to do some modeling and take over reimbursements. “I thought I’d be here a year. That was 25 years ago.” From there, Martin advanced through the company by
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
being a change agent. “Blue Cross started going through a lot of changes and they kept throwing me at the changes.” Ultimately, that led him to the top office in 2002 after Blue Cross lost its president. “I’d always been interested in the big picture of how health care plans work, and they chose me,” he says. As CEO, Martin was aware of the need for a new office space but didn’t begin the search until five years ago. He said the old location at 72nd and Mercy wasn’t conducive to creating a corporate campus. “And it had dangerous crossings and intersections. Employees were struck by cars.” Martin said the search had three criteria: 1) A multi-tenant office building. 2) A space to attract tenants 10 to 20 years out. 3) A lease at or under the current cost. Developer Tetrad agreed to those conditions, and agreed to make Blue Cross not just a tenant but a partner, and was able to construct the new building on ground located near the tech center and Peter Kiewit Institute. Martin says the move couldn’t have worked out better. “It’s pretty rare that you move people into a new home, lower your cost and have a place that helps you in a 25-year window,” he says. “Our goal is keep driving the cost of insurance down.” That’s in keeping with Blue Cross’ not-for-profit status. Under that arrangement, Martin says the company makes an average margin of 1 percent on its policies, 2 percent in a good year. Beside cost-cutting and management, a healthy reserve fund helps Blue Cross keep its premiums low. “We’re not in the business of making money, but we have to make enough to stay in business.” While the move was taking place, so was undergoing the conversion of its claims system, which Martin likens to “performing a brain transplant while you’re still walking around.”
Steve Martin, center, leads the school of fish of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Nebraska.
Connect with 5,000 prospective customers.
All in all, the moves are part of positioning Blue Cross for the new health care environment that’s beginning to take shape. Martin says the future is more cost-efficient and all about putting information in the hands of the consumer. “Research shows that 30 percent of the health care Americans get is useless. That’s a lot,” he says. “We want everybody to get all the care they need, but our hope is that over time, with data and resources, what works and what doesn’t will be more transparent to the public. “We’re hopeful we can facilitate a better dialogue with your doctor.” Nebraska is also a progressive state for electronic medical records, which means it could be among the first to see a truly revolutionary change for consumers. The Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NeHII) is a collaboration of Nebraska health care organizations, hospitals, physicians and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. The vision of NeHII is to be a leader in the secure exchange of health information, enabling a healthier Nebraska. “In two years, we could be the first state where you can coordinate health records online,” Martin says. “When we get to an environment like that, you may not even need claim systems. You may be able to tap in and do everything.” Blue Cross is also playing a role in the future of health care, Martin says, by supporting innovation. “Omaha was chosen as an incubator for new enterprises using orphan technologies from the Academy of Science,” he says. “We’re very involved looking for health care companies. I’m glad Omaha is going to be a magnet for more of that.” When he isn’t at work, Martin and wife Amy Haddad are fixtures at many of the city’s charitable functions. Beyond that, his hobbies include collecting caricatures. His office contains a collection of sketches of everyone from Warren Buffett to Pee Wee Herman. His wife is a fan of the office artwork, he says, but not the fish. “So when I leave, I’m going to have to find a home for me and the fish,” he jokes.
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B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
real estate s to ry by a l a n co l s o n , p.c . B l a n d & A ss o ciat e s , P.C . , cpa s
2011 Commercial Tax Deductions
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f you’re a commercial real estate owner, this is the ideal year to make improvements on your property and save on your taxes. Some property improvements can now be counted as an expense, rather than a capital expenditure, in 2011. That means the cost of certain types of improvements to property can be written off in one year, instead of depreciating those costs for the term of its useful life under IRS guidelines. This single-year write-off is also known as First-Year Bonus Depreciation. You can use this deduction when you do a simple improvement, like putting in new flooring or appliances for a current tenant. Or, you can go all out with a leasehold improvement to attract a new lessee or hold onto the ones you already have. There are no dollar Commercial Property limits or income restraints on your improvements. Improvements That In order for leasehold improvements to qualify, Qualify For 100 Percent they must be made by the lessor or lessee to the qualiFirst-Year Bonus fying portion of a nonresidential building subject to Depreciation Deduction: a lease. The improved property must be occupied • Interior signs and Exterior signs exclusively by a lessee or a sublessee. • Floor coverings The improvements must be installed more than • Appliances, furniture three years after the date that the building was first • Qualified Leasehold Improvements placed in service, so you can’t use this deduction on • Electrical, plumbing and new construction. sprinkler systems If you start a big renovation project during 2011 • Light fixtures but don’t finish it this calendar year, the costs of the • HVAC equipment improvements that are actually placed in service • Ceilings, doors and windows before January 1, 2012, are eligible for the deduction. • Drywall, millwork The costs of the improvements placed into service on or after January 1, 2012, are not eligible for a 2011 Qualifying Land tax-year deduction. Improvements: All of this was clarified by the IRS-issued Rev. • Parking lot, sidewalk Proc. 2011-26 – an addition to the Small Business • Landscaping Jobs Act of 2010 and the Tax Relief Unemployment • Adding lights and light poles Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act • Exterior signs on the land of 2010. At the same time, Section 179 expense was Improvements/Situations expanded to include a maximum of qualified leasehold that DO NOT Qualify: improvements of $250,000. You will probably benefit • Enlarging a building more from the bonus depreciation deduction because • Adding an elevator or escalator it isn’t subject to a maximum dollar limit, especially if • Structural components benyou are going to have significant tax liability for 2011. efiting a common area “We have been encouraging our clients to take • Internal structural framefull advantage of this opportunity,” said Jason Fisher, work of a building President, The Lund Company. “For tenants, it’s a • Garage and related long-lived huge incentive to either relocate their business or garage improvements spend money in the current leased space. For owners, • Leasing to a related party this provides the chance to invest in their property • Residential real estate, in which at and/or their tenants. It’s a true win/win situation.” least 80 percent of rental income Please contact your accountant for more inforis generated from dwelling units mation about how you can take advantage of these tax-year savings.
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 39
omaha! S to ry by L i n da Per si g eh l • Ph otos by m i n o r w h i t e s t u d i os .co m
Desperate Husbands BBQ Savor the flavor of the most honest, sinful bite you’ll ever take
hen people hear the name
Desperate Husbands BBQ, most are compelled to smile and some even chuckle a bit. But when they taste owner Mike Popelier’s homespun creations, they have a different reaction: surprise. “We do a lot of customer sampling at Hy-Vee to test out our new products,” said Popelier, who launched his meat rubs, sauces and marinades business last fall. “We recently did a chicken and seafood sampling to test our new citrus rub. “The reactions we got were fantastic. People said they’d never tasted anything like it.” And that’s just the reaction Popelier is going for. Popelier has been active in the competitive BBQ world for years, attending statewide and regional Kansas City Barbeque Societysanctioned contests. Several of his neighbors share his love of barbecue and enjoy competing as well. “My wife, Lisa, came up with the 40
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
name for the bunch of us, Desperate Husbands BBQ, and it fit us, so it stuck.” Last fall, after leaving his job in management and a 25-year career in the copier business, Popelier decided to parlay his passion for BBQ into a business, taking the tongue-in-cheek moniker as his company name. He solicited the help of his wife, a teacher’s aide at Neihardt Elementary in Millard, as his bookkeeper and administrative assistant, and he’s never looked back. Desperate Husbands BBQ debuted with Popelier’s steak rub (which was 10 years in the making) and a pork rub in September 2010. He launched two new products in December—his honey BBQ sauce and his Country Attitude sauce. Three more products—a citrus rub, and marinades for beef and pork—were introduced in the first half of 2011. Based on sales and feedback on his DH BBQ Facebook page, customers have been eating them up. All Desperate Husbands BBQ products are made here in Omaha. “In fact, I create everything out of my own home kitchen,” Popelier added. “I use very high-quality ingredients in my products, and that’s what’s propelled my business. They aren’t the cheapest out there, but they’re definitely unique. The www.OmahaPublications.com
flavor of my beef rub is absolutely phenomenal.” As of May 1, Desperate Husbands BBQ products are on the shelves at 75 grocery stores throughout the Midwest, including many Hy-Vee, Super Saver and Fairway groceries. He’s currently negotiating with two other grocery chains, which may result in an additional 300+ stores being added. Popelier credits the Hy-Vee grocery chain for much of his success. “Hy-Vee has sponsored me in my contests for years, supplying the meat… They were the first to carry my products. “Today, my full product line is available in Hy-Vees all over Omaha, in Lincoln, Des Moines, the Quad Cities…and we’ll soon be in South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Kansas.” The BBQ rubs and sauces have also helped sell more than a few pounds of Hy-Vee meat, Popelier added. In recent weeks, he’s teamed up with the stores’ chefs to season, cook and sell ready-to-eat steaks, ribs, pork tenderloins and other varieties at grilling stations set up outside Hy-Vee entrances. Since joining efforts, “They’ve seen record sales,” he said. “At one Lincoln store, we prepared 400 pounds of beef brisket, plus some ribs, and completely sold out in two days.” Popelier hopes to open a restaurant of his own someday, but for now he’s happy to just keep step with his growing business. New hires to conduct product demonstrations are in the short-term plan. In the not-too-distant future, that help may come from his own kids. Both his sons, Bryon, 11, and Tyler, 15, have competed in the Nebraska BBQ contest, and even won their divisions when competing two years ago. They’ll be there again competing this July. It seems they’ve inherited their pitmaster skills from good ol’ dad. www.ReadOnlineNow.com
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 41
social media S to ry by j oa n Lu k a s & L e sl i e K l i n e Lu k a s
Connecting with Customers
How can you engage your customers and do it for free? Get your business involved with social media
o a business owner, the free part grabs your attention. But after you’re in social
media from a business perspective, you will value how beneficial it is to engage with your customers online. If you do it right, your customers will become third-party advocates supporting and spreading the good word about your business— and that’s priceless. In this article and in the coming months, B2B will explain and explore social media so that you can learn new ways to connect with your customers. Social Media Stats
A 2010 Cone Consumer Study found that individuals who engage with companies via social media are more likely to: • Share information about the company across their own social networks—62 percent; • Purchase the company’s products or services—59 percent. B2B social website http://socialmediab2b.com posted these stats:
Among surveyed B2B marketers who conduct social marketing, 26 percent cite LinkedIn as their single most important social tool, 20 percent cite Facebook, 19 percent cite blogging, and 14 percent cite a customer community as their top tool; B2C (business to customer) are more focused on Facebook, and B2B are more focused on LinkedIn and video. Also note that B2B companies are utilizing blogs more.
How to Get Started
Social media are tools that fit into a broader brand/communication strategy. Take something 42
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
you do well and leverage it with social media. Forrester’s POST method is easy—People, Objectives, Strategy, and Technology. What people do you want to reach? What are your business objectives? What strategies will you employ to reach those people and your objectives? What technology will help you get there? Does YouTube make sense for you to show educational videos? What about establishing a Twitter account to entice people to “follow” you because of your expertise? How about using LinkedIn to find business prospects or employees? And don’t forget Facebook— it can’t be ignored with 500 million people using it daily. Can conservative businesses like banks utilize social media? Recently launched, www. facebook/BankoftheWest, already has more than 3,000 likes. Bank of the West took something they do well and leveraged it via social media. July 1 marks the 21st year of Bank of the West Celebrates America—the popular free concert and fireworks show in Memorial Park. The bank wanted to engage the community by having them vote on a favorite up-and-coming band to open this year’s concert. “We launched the Bank of the West Rockin’ O!maha Band Contest on Facebook. Social media helped us take something local and give it national exposure,” said Robert Dalrymple, Executive Vice President, Bank of the West’s Great Plains Division. “On Facebook, people across the country will be able to vote online for their favorite band to help determine the winner of the contest. It is an additional way for Bank of the West to reach current and new customers across our footprint.” The Bank of the West Facebook page is a good model to follow. It doesn’t sell products but instead uses a conversational tone and style, engaging and answering customers’ and others’ questions in a timely manner. It is an example of how social media can showcase another part of your brand’s personality while raising awareness of your business. Joan Lukas is Co-owner of Leslie Kline Lukas, which specializes in PR, social media and fund development consulting. www.OmahaPublications.com
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FIVE EASY STEPS TO A CLUTTER-FREE & ORGANIZED OFFICE
s there too much clutter in your office? Since an office space is a place where you usually spend the greater portion of your day, it’s important to make it as comfortable as possible. The following steps will help you be more organized and clutter-free at the office: 1. You’ve Got Mail – Resist the urge to check your email every time it alerts you. Instead, set specific times to check your email throughout the day or even turn off your email for a while. Focus on the task at hand versus constant multi-tasking. 2. Me Time – Schedule appointments with yourself. Use your calendar and schedule appointments with yourself to complete tasks and focus on certain projects. Don’t let yourself be interrupted. Set reminders in your calendar to keep on track of your personal and professional goals. 3. De-Clutter – Learn how to purge all the “stuff” you don’t need. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I used this?” Recycle it or pass it along to a co-worker. 4. Do It Now – Are you a procrastinator? It usually happens because we avoid the tasks that are not as fun. Deal with it. Use your priority list to make sure the most important things are done first, whether you like it or not. 5. Prep Work – At the end of each day, spend 5-10 minutes getting organized for the next day. Review your calendar, gather any information you need for meetings, clean up your desktop and create a to-do list for tomorrow. If your office requires more than a “cleaning” (like new furniture), please visit All Makes Office Equipment Co. at 2558 Farnam St. The All Makes team is trained to help you make design and furniture purchases that fit your office atmosphere, your work style and your budget.
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
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B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011
Vacations, China & Ethics his summer I had the oppor-
tunity to travel to Beijing and Shanghai, two of the largest cities in the world. One of the joys of travel for me is firsthand experience of the business ethics issues we only hear about in the media. Travel makes these moral issues personal. For example, when someone sent an email with a link to a YouTube video, I couldn’t open it in China because YouTube is blocked. It’s the same for Facebook. Google and gmail were spotty, likely because the Chinese government had required Google to share private client information with them and rather than succumb to the demands, Google pulled their servers from the mainland. Chinese people masterfully work around governmental technology policies. For example, they sign into anonymous.com, a website that allows them to surf many restricted websites. And citizens subscribe to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for $30 a month. VPNs act as private internet highways that allow users to access social media sites like Youtube and Facebook. Vacationers can use these “work-arounds,” too. But there are a plethora of other technology and ethics issues for vacationers in China. And the majority of them have to do with pirated videos and software. For example, I had the opportunity to upload P90X, an extremely popular exercise video series, for free (it costs $120 from the Tony Horton website). I could have bought the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie for 12
Yuan (approximately two U.S. dollars). And I could have purchased Microsoft Word for 200 Yuan (approximately $32 U.S. dollars). Many vacationers fill their luggage with pirated videos and software. Is it morally acceptable for me to do the same? I’ll be honest – I’m tempted. But then my mother’s voice enters my head – “just because everyone else is jumping off the bridge doesn’t mean you have to do it, too.” And even though bringing home pirated software is widespread, I can’t get my mind around it. Because people have the right to get paid for the products they produce. Tourists are stealing when we purchase pirated movies and software while in China. Why do vacationers come home from China with their luggage filled with pirated dvds when they wouldn’t dream of buying pirated software back home? My best explanation is that when we are traveling it’s as if we are in a dream. Things aren’t real. Buying pirated videos and software just doesn’t feel like we are stealing from someone. It doesn’t feel personal. Until, of course, we are going through customs as we reenter the United States. If we are one of the lucky ones to be randomly pulled into secondary customs, then our pile of pirated and counterfeit purchases will be confiscated – and it will feel very personal indeed. B e v e r ly K r ac h e r , P h . D. E x e c u t i v e D i r e c to r , B us i n e s s E t h i c s A l l i a n c e c h a i r o f B us i n e s s E t h i c s & S o c i e t y Co l l e g e o f B us i n e s s , C r e i g h to n U n i v e r s i t y
B2B Omaha Magazine • Summer 2011 47
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