Growing Your Business in Omaha, NE – 2019
Omaha is home to more than 45,000 businesses, and that number is constantly growing. With a low cost of living and a high quality of life, the steady economic growth in Omaha, is the envy of the nation. As a local small business with the mission of promoting other local businesses, we are passionate about this community and the companies that thrive here. It’s our goal to help businesses grow, and we know this process isn’t done without a strong support system in place. It’s also not something that can be accomplished over night. It takes time and commitment to build a business from the ground up. In order to get an idea of what it takes to successfully grow a business, we talked to a handful of local industry leaders who have experience in this area and offer services that could help along the way.
When we talked to Gerry Phelan with SCORE Greater Omaha, he addressed that it’s normal for businesses, even established ones, to hit roadblocks or reach a plateau. “It can be difficult for the people on the inside of a business to see new options,” Gerry noted. “When that happens, it really helps to get an outside perspective.”
Too often, existing businesses keep doing things the same way they always have and forget to look at the changes that are going on, not only in their industry, but in technology that drives their systems and marketing. This is where SCORE shines.
“We offer free one-on-one business mentoring,” Gerry said. “Our volunteers represent a wide variety of businesses and industries, so we can bring serious insights to bear on business planning, and since we are run by volunteers, there is no cost for our services. A business at any stage is welcome to use our resources…and they work. Nationally, 71% of SCORE’s clients go into business after initial mentoring, and further benefit from ongoing mentoring as they operate their business.”
Today’s businesses do have an advantage with the ready access to information that the internet offers. The difficulty often arises with the things they don’t see coming, which Gerry refers to as the “Unknown unknowns.”
“At SCORE, our role is help people evaluate their business opportunities and then prepare them to move forward by helping them see all the issues from banking, legal, and insurance, to pricing, sourcing, and marketing,” explained Gerry. “If they will need a loan to get started, that often includes preparing a formal business plan. We then help them after they open by being a sounding board and a resource for those (What do I do now?) questions. Our person-to-person mentoring is vital for our start-up clients and current small businesses. In the Greater Omaha area, last year, SCORE helped start 141 new businesses and helped create 234 non-owner jobs. With our workshops and mentoring sessions, we impacted over 2,500 people last year. That is something we’re proud of.”
Gerry’s background in operations management for large organizations has taught him to invest in detailed planning. He would build budgets, spreadsheets, and Gannt charts because the problems were often large scale and complex, but in small to midsize businesses, that level of planning can induce paralysis. Instead, it makes more sense to break projects down into small steps and then quickly try them out. If something works do more of it. If an idea fails, discard it and try something else. By moving quickly, you can try more ideas and reduce the cost of failure.
According to Gerry, it’s important to plan and evaluate, but ultimately businesses need to be nimble and active. “Too often, existing businesses resist change because it is uncomfortable rather than embracing it to stay ahead of the competition,” Gerry revealed. “Or, they utilize a new internet marketing approach because someone else is using it, versus determining what approach is best for their business. Another problem area is failing to look at the increased cost of doing business, such as materials expense or production costs or the actual cost of delivering a service. Ignoring increased costs will squeeze profit margins. Rising costs need to be examined and reduced or reflected in increased pricing of products and services. Too often, businesses fear they will lose sales and clients if they raise their prices. SCORE helps them evaluate these areas and determine the best approach to take.”
Providing mentoring in two convenient locations (Commerce Village near the Old Market and 108th and Maple), SCORE has much to offer the local business community. Clients who receive at least three hours of mentoring report higher revenues and increased business growth.
After talking to Gerry, it became very clear that having allies throughout the business community is one of the best things a business can do for itself. Today, only about half of small businesses survive for five years, and this is because they often do not have a trusted team of advisors to use as a sounding board. It’s hard to master every aspect of a business, and there simply isn’t enough time to try to master everything, that is why business owners will outsource certain processes to professionals in those areas. This even includes the hiring and recruiting process. When it comes to finding the right people to put in place at your business, Concentric Corporation works with hundreds of well-known businesses in Omaha and across the country, and successfully places top-tier talent in thousands of permanent and temporary positions.
“It all comes down to relationships in our business,” Andy Hawkins, founder/CEO of Concentric Corporation, informed us. “Our proven ability to build relationships and a reputation of trust has allowed Concentric Corporation to grow. We add unique value to our audiences. Listening, understanding the needs of our partners, and then being able to deliver has been the determining factor for us. We are not the kind of company that will try to force something that doesn’t feel right for everyone involved—our value comes from bringing our audiences together when the time is right, which isn’t always immediately.”
Andy believes that talent and culture are of the utmost importance. An inefficient hiring process can deter the two parties from ever getting together and can take valuable time and resources away from a company. That is why Concentric Corporation takes the time to listen and understand what you need in order to ensure the process goes smoothly.
“We make sure that the timeless value of a network is implemented,” explained Andy. “Far beyond a database of names or an internet search, our network—built from years of experience and trust—has deeply affected how successful we can be with our clientele.”
Andy concluded with the following advice: “Be flexible. Business never goes the way you think it will. Remember the reason ‘why’ you’re in business and the ‘who’ that helps your company succeed.”
Finding the right talent—an employee who can grow and succeed at a company for the long-term, and an employer who remains happy with that employee for years to come—requires time commitment and careful decision making. Let Concentric Corporation help your business narrow down the options on both sides, creating a bridge between your company and the community’s top talent.
At the end of the day, though, establishing credibility is the best thing a business can do to attract talent and new business. Credibility can be earned on a community level, from referrals and relationships, but we also hear a lot about online credibility. By now, most people are familiar with the term SEO (search engine optimization). This is a term our team uses when explaining the value our clients receive when they chose to invest their marketing dollars with Strictly Business. Since everything that we create and publish in the magazine also gets posted online, our advertisers’ SEO goes up as Google basically “rewards” original content that is back linked to a company’s website.
As a unique advertising tool, Strictly Business allows businesses to get their name, face, and story in front of tens of thousands of people every month, in print and online. What makes our publication special is our ability to promote our clients in so many different ways. Businesses that partner with us pay for an ad space, but we know that an ad can’t tell the whole story. This is why we create free added-value editorial for all of our clients. We introduce the key people at their business through our River City Six columns and we present them as the expert in their field through our feature stories. We also keep them relevant by sharing their exciting announcements in our press section. When a company is growing and expands its building space or adds more people to its team, we want to share that news with our readers. Ultimately, it’s all about building credibility.
Yes, there is nothing like that face to face connection, but business owners can only be so many places at once. We encourage going to various networking events and getting involved in different referral groups, but to get your business name out on a larger scale, a little investment in advertising is required.
With the time you have carved out for networking, we recommend getting involved in Center Sphere. “Center Sphere is in the people business,” stated CEO Brett Boyer. “It helps people connect and stay connected. Our network is about building relationships that far outlast any business transaction. We stand on the belief that long standing business starts and ends with relationship. You do business with people who you know, like, and trust. That being said, our company helps connect like-minded individuals to one another and gives them a platform to develop relationships, not only locally, but nationwide if they desire.”
According to Brett, business is all about having a plan, and then being prepared to change course at anytime. “Your plan should have an end in mind, but the way you get to the end will never be the way you thought it would be!” he exclaimed. “Create a great culture and let it develop your brand. Your brand will, in turn, drive your business.”
Brand recognition really is crucial, and creating a brand cannot be done without an understanding of the marketplace. As a full-service advertising agency, Eleven Twenty-Three prides itself on helping its clients recognize their target market and then reaching that target market with savvy media placement, creative messaging, and promotional opportunities. Part of this process involves using the message to emotionally connect potential customers in a way that can be clearly understood. When done correctly, this serves to elevate a brand.
A great advertising medium for businesses to consider is Boomer Radio. Because every business and service is unique, the Boomer Radio sales team works with each client to customize an advertising campaign that meets their individual needs and objectives. While traditional radio is primarily listened to while in the car, Boomer Radio reaches consumers in the work place.
Boomer Radio is cost-effective way to reach a highly educated and affluent audience. Broadcasting oldies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Boomer Radio is programmed to please the 55+ “baby boomer generation” market. According to the Census Bureau, there are 78 million Baby Boomers in the United States. Boomers dominate consumer electronics, technology, entertainment, health and fitness, and the home improvement retail sectors, and are 35% more likely than the general population to have a portfolio with a market value of between $250 and $499 thousand.
Another important consideration is technology, and by technology we mean your business’s online performance and internal operations. These days, it’s almost impossible for a business to compete in the marketplace without a good website, and it can be extremely difficult for a business when its operations are slowed down by out of date technology. To give us more insight on how to address this, we spoke with Jon Weiss, founder of ShineForth. Jon and his team are passionate about delivering superior outcomes for their clients so that they can stress less and focus more on growing their business. They do that through beautifully handcrafted websites, modern apps, and visionary technology strategy.
“Our team has decades of experience working with clients from around the country,” Jon shared. “We love to code, develop our craft, and build solutions that help businesses grow. It’s our passion and what drives us each day. Whether you need a website, mobile app, enterprise platform, or a technology roadmap that works for your business, we want to be the partner that you trust.”
ShineForth has developed everything from simple websites all the way up to large enterprise systems. While most companies tend to have development capabilities that are limited to a certain space, technology platform or level of project complexity, i.e. small to medium sized websites or simple mobile apps, they have the ability to tackle large, complex projects in a variety of technologies.
Jon admitted that running any business in any industry is tough and there will be moments where the path forward feels overwhelming. Businesses that succeed are able to push through obstacles with a relentless purpose and collective drive to unleash the unique value that they bring on the market. It requires tenacity of focus and shared perspective on why you do what you do, who you do it with, and ultimately who you do it for. This is the key to unlocking growth and aligning effort to outcomes that benefit everyone involved. You have to know what your purpose is and how to create unique value in the marketplace.
According to Jon, one of the biggest assets for a business owner is having the right partners in place: “The right partner can add value as a strategic advisor or act as an engine of growth to unlock opportunities otherwise unavailable. One of my goals has been to seek a diversity in business mentors and cultivate business relationships with advisors that I can trust to grow my business. Listening carefully to what worked for them, learn from what did not, pitching ideas for their review and then thinking critically about how to apply the insight they share in a way that helps my business grow. Having an outside perspective from those who have been there and done that is absolutely necessary to grow.”
Jon concluded with the following advice: Be prepared for the unexpected.
“Innovation moves fast, technology can be complex, and getting it wrong can be an expensive setback to your business,” Jon stated. “What worked yesterday, or something that was built last year, may not be able to keep pace with the growth of your business. Having a firm grasp on the technology platforms that support your business is critical. Knowing where those platforms are going is even more important. For those reasons, it is more important than ever to have the right technology partner that can help you achieve your business growth goals with dependable technology solutions that are rock solid, secure, and scalable at the speed of business.”
Ultimately, Jon believes the businesses that have the highest growth rates are the ones that have figured out how to cultivate their culture, attract others to it, and unleash the positive outcomes it creates on everyone who interacts with it. We’ve found that sometimes a company’s physical workspace can make a big impact on its culture. If an office isn’t designed in a way that allows for collaboration and inspiration, it could be what is setting a business back.
Curt Brannon had this in mind when he founded Modern Work Suites & Studios, a unique space where tenants are able to rent out an office space that fits their needs. Professionals who call Modern Work their work home are able to take in a game of pool or ping-pong during their breaks, or converse with their “neighbors” who represent businesses in various different industries.
From one-person studios to large suites that can office 10–15 people, Modern work can accommodate various sizes of business. They currently have a company that is renting out an entire hallway of offices! Altogether, Modern Work Suites has 46 single studios, 18 double studios, nine triple studios, and nine suites. You can take a virtual tour of the floor plan on Modern Work’s website.
“People should love where they work,” said Kate Gallagher, the on-site manager for Modern Work Suites & Studios. “Things like lighting, wall color, decor, desk arrangement, and quality of equipment can impact day-to-day production in an office. Having a fun, positive culture will take a business far. Making sure your business has the space and amenities it needs to be successful is important.”
“A really neat thing we offer our clients is the ability to customize their office space by selecting from a catalog of desks, bookshelves, chairs, and lamps, which is a perk included in the rent,” added Kate. “Our tenants can even choose what color they want their accent wall to be! This allows people to really feel like their space is their own. Plus, businesses have access to three levels of Wi-Fi, a mailing and packaging service, a business service center where things like fax services, copying, and scanning documents are available, a low-impact gym, free and easy access parking, and four separate conference rooms, which tenants can rent for free up to four hours a month.”
With commercial real estate in mind, there are a lot of people beginning to look into investing in real estate to accelerate their own personal or business portfolio. If this is something you’ve considered, we recommend working with one of Berkshire Hathaway AMB HS’s highly experienced sales agents. They will offer you research-based solutions on the acquisition, ownership, and disposition of real estate. As for tenant representation, a Berkshire Hathaway commercial agent can help! From small communities to large business centers, network leasing professionals use their knowledge, resources, and talent to provide optimal real estate solutions.
“We also have a division within the Commercial Division at Berkshire Hathaway AMB HS called BASC or Business Acquisitions, Sales, and Consulting,” Wendy Richey informed us. “The Consulting arm of the division helps business owners assess the ‘health’ of their business. We have two assessments that evaluate key drivers in any business. Each assessment allows us to show a business owner how to get from a score of 40 to 80–100. A healthy business will be in that 80–100 range, and we can help them get there.”
In any business, you need to know who your client is and what they need. To stay above the competition, you need to provide that extra service that your competitor does not. You will gain a respected reputation which will strengthen the number of referrals by current customers.
“The resources available for growing your business are vast,” Wendy added. “Business coaches/advisors, business mentors, technology trends, and industry associations are all great avenues to help you grow. A business owner just needs to reach out; everyone wants your business to be successful just from pure economic reasoning. Our Commercial Division and our Business Acquisitions, Sales, and Consulting at Berkshire Hathaway AMB HS are here to help you achieve success in your business. I’m looking for new success stories!”
We are very proud to live in such a thriving business ecosystem here in Omaha. As a local business publication, it is so exciting to see so many new businesses get started and so many rooted businesses continue to change and grow.