Eight hundred and fifty businesses. One hundred thousand new jobs. Twenty-five billion in capital investment. If it weren’t for attorney Nick Niemann, Nebraska may have been in a different financial and economic place than it is today.
“I felt a great sense of satisfaction…to do something great for the citizens of Nebraska,” he says.
Niemann rubs his chin as he talks, meticulously and thoughtfully selecting each word. As a partner at McGrath North for 32 years, this may come naturally to him now. As one of the co-creators of the Business Model Generation program, he is used to planning essential insights for businesses. Five thousand entrepreneurs and business leaders now use it as a strategic tool.
Whether an owner, employee, or family member, there is a vested interest in growth. It is Niemann’s job to ensure these companies stay successful. His approach is to go beyond the normal services a business succession planning attorney would provide. He believes it is much better to have in-depth knowledge of a company’s model.
For example, if a longtime founder of a company passes away, Niemann will have a detailed plan already in place so the business can continue. Those plans are based on the essential concepts of grow, protect, control, and retire, but each succession plan needs to fit hand-to-glove. In other words, it needs to be tailored to the specific company.
“This is the secret most businesses don’t know,” Niemann says with a smile.
He speaks from experience. Niemann’s Foods was born as a corner market back in 1917 by his grandfather. It transformed into a small chain by the early 1940s in Quincy, Illinois. When his father passed away, Niemann had already worked everything out so the fourth generation supermarket would continue to thrive.
Growing up surrounded by a family very active in owning and operating companies, from farms to real estates to restaurants, was a guiding factor in why Niemann wanted to become a lawyer.
“It gave me the opportunity to see the importance of the job,” he says. “I wanted to bring success to those who own a business.”
Cathy Fitzhenry, chair of Vistage International Omaha CEO Boards, described Niemann as a “lawyer sage.” He sits on the advisory board of Vistage, answering CEOs tough questions during his “coffee with Nick” chats.
Fitzhenry says she has never met someone quite like Niemann who sees ideas with tactical and intuitive eyes. He is like an architect with a blueprint so it becomes an idea of what the corporation wants to accomplish, whether that is an estate, succession, protection, or profit plan.
According to Niemann, the biggest mistake is when companies become stuck in the “business model myth.” In other words, it is the belief that if their business model succeeded in the past, it will again succeed in the future.
Movie rental giant Blockbuster, for instance, may have failed because advisers failed to understand the dynamics of a changing world.
“They got Netflixed,” Niemann says with a laugh.
The perfect partnership between lawyer and owner is all about trust, loyalty, and respect. And when a business expresses a sense of gratitude and peace of mind, Niemann knows he has done what is necessary to protect them.
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