Tag Archives: B2B Magazine

Roundtable:

November 21, 2018 by
Photography by Contributed

According to a 2016 study done by the Women’s Fund of Omaha, women make up only 19 percent of the board members at S&P 500 companies, and 25 percent of executive or senior level positions at those same companies.

That same study found that 42 percent of women in Nebraska work in management, a better figure yet. And one method of increasing those numbers may be for women to mentor other women in the workplace.

In this abridged roundtable discussion, B2B talks about mentorship with four businesswomen from Omaha—Anne Branigan, senior vice president of Innovative Services at Greater Omaha Chamber; Melissa Farris, marketing manager at Boystown; Sharon Robino-West, community employment coordinator at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Omaha; and Dr. Maria Vazquez, vice president for Student Affairs at Metropolitan Community College.

B2B: As a female mentor, what do you bring young women that benefits them as younger women in the workplace?

Vasquez: I am just in awe of the young women I mentor. They are dynamic, further along than I was at that age.

Farris: I’m open to being OK to saying “I don’t know.” I want you to be able to collaborate. I want you to find the answer to better the team.

Robino-West: To be able to say I am weak in this area and I need your help.

Branigan: The younger women have been able to adapt to technology so well. The acceptance of that new technology, to me, is something else.

Farris: We have grown up with technology. There is an expectation that this is going to work.

B2B: What do you gain from being a mentor to young women?

Vasquez: I like to see them having the confidence to do things, and if they make a mistake they own up to it. I want young women to be their authentic selves. Accepting who they are and what they can contribute to the workplace.

Robino-West: Last year, there was a Girl Scout who has risen through the ranks, and I asked her what she wanted to do after college. She looked right at Fran [Marshall, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska] and said, “I want your job.” That was so empowering.

Branigan: I really enjoy learning from them. You think of mentoring, and you think it’s one way. But I always appreciate someone making me think, or learn something, or showing me a new way to do something.

Farris: I’ve been on the receiving end. I’m still close to one of my mentors from college [Dr. Eileen Wirth of Creighton University]. One thing that always stuck out to me was her availability. The fact that I maintain that relationship 12 years later is a success.

B2B: Can you give us an example of a great experience with mentoring?

Robino-West: I did a TEDx Talk last year, and I partly did it to challenge myself. I didn’t think I’d get picked. It was about healing by writing. I got done, and I got in the elevator, and there was someone right there, wanting to know if I could speak to a different group. Rita [Paskowitz, a TEDx Omaha coach] “get ready, you’ll be asked to speak on a regular basis.” so I could see him paying it forward and spoke out. I thought “Wow—you just never know what kind of an impact you will make.”

Vasquez: About 10 years ago, I was contacted by someone [Amanda Ponce] to speak in a Latina sorority. We stay in contact, and now she works at MCC. Her growth has been quite dynamic. We’ve always collaborated informally, but now we can do so formally as colleagues. That has been rewarding.


This article was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Cathy Hughes

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Disruptors don’t ask permission. Omaha native and media mogul Cathy Hughes built the first leg of her Urban One media conglomerate by being a disruptor. Nearly 40 years after purchasing her first radio station, Hughes has built an empire that includes 54 radio stations with 15 million weekly listeners; TV One, which serves 59 million households; Reach Media, home of the Al Sharpton Show; and a variety of digital platforms. She has a reported net worth of more than $450 million.

None of it would have been possible, she says, without what she learned in her hometown of Omaha, where she was born to a family of high achievers.

“My mother, father, and grandfather were very committed to trying to improve the plight of our people, and I inherited that,” says Hughes.

She started working in media as a teenager at the Omaha Star newspaper. She learned from Star publisher Mildred Brown and editor Charles Washington that information is power, and that black media is not just about a business, it is about a community service.

In her early 20s, she began volunteering for KOWH, which had recently been bought by a group of prominent African-Americans in Omaha who changed the station’s format from edgier, independent music to jazz, R&B, pop, and soul music that appealed to African-Americans.

“I had always, as a child, aspired to be on the microphone,” says Hughes. “With KOWH, I was, for the first time, exposed to management positions, sales positions, and others, performed by African-Americans. Their example inspired me to become a broadcast owner of what, ultimately, became the largest black media company in the world.”

Tony Brown, host of the PBS show Black Journal, which became Tony Brown’s Journal, once appeared in Omaha and was so impressed with Hughes that he invited her to be a lecturer at Howard University despite the fact she was not a college graduate herself.

“He saw that I was so hungry for the opportunity and that this was a passion for me,” Hughes says.

Hughes parlayed that opportunity to become D.C.’s first female general manager of a radio station when she took the reins at the university’s radio station, WHUR, in 1973. She grew ad revenues and helped WHUR go national after creating the program The Quiet Storm, which hundreds of stations across the country adopted.

The ambitious Hughes advanced from manager to owner when, in 1980, she and then-husband Dewey Hughes purchased radio station WOL in a distress sale, an FCC sale in which the price is discounted by 33 1/3 percent if the station is sold to a woman or minority. In this case, the station was appraised at $1.4 million, so Hughes paid $1 million.

The down payment was 10 percent, or $100,000. The FCC also required the new owner to have a year’s worth of operating capital, in this case, $600,000.

“I raised $100,000 from 10 investors—each putting in $10,000 a piece, and then I borrowed the rest,” Hughes says.

Hughes wanted to take the station in a different direction. The new owners conducted a format search in this heavily populated radio market and discovered that, while Washington had several black radio stations, there was a hole in the market for news and talk radio specifically programmed for the black community. With this information, Hughes found her market, and her dollar amount.

“Because I was changing formats, I wanted a $250,000 cushion [on top of the $600,000], so overall I was looking for $1.8 million,” Hughes says. “This was turned down by 32 different banks. The 33rd presentation was to a Puerto Rican woman banker—and she said yes. She was the one that made the difference.”

She dubbed her new 24-hour-a-day news format “Information is Power.” Hughes also jump-started lagging advertising sales, taking them from $250,000 to $3 million in the first year.

Although she knew she could make it work, her lenders were not so sure once they started
seeing numbers.

“The prime interest rate at that was in the mid-20s. My loan was 2 points over prime, so there were months when I was paying close to 30 percent interest on $1 million, and I could not always make the payment,” Hughes says.

She was told she needed to go back to an all-music format because it was a lower cost. Hughes said no. She loved this market, and she wanted to fill the need. She initially scaled back on the news talk programs, but added them back in as money allowed.

But she was not content with owning WOL. “I always wanted more than one station,” she says.

In 1987, Hughes purchased her second station, WMMJ in Washington, which began to turn a profit once she converted it from an easy-listening station into a rhythm-and-blues station.

Her vision and ambition helped her to create a radio network, seeking opportunity where others saw failure.

“Keep your eyes on the prize,” Hughes advises other business owners. “Don’t let anyone discourage you. The best way is to keep the hard times to yourself. You have to be very careful if you are a woman, especially a woman of color, to not let people know about the hard times.”

That stoic attitude, combined with understanding that challenges will come, has helped her persevere.

“Anyone who goes into business is going to have challenges,” says Hughes. “You have an up cycle, you have a down cycle. The key is figuring out whether or not you have longevity.”

Hughes’ business has mostly been in an up cycle. In 1999 she became the first African-American woman to chair a publicly traded company. After the multi-billion dollar company went public, the ever-driven Hughes kicked into high gear, purchasing more than 20 radio stations in 2000 alone, 12 of them in a package deal with iHeart Radio (then ClearChannel) in a $1.3 billion deal.

At the time, it was the largest business acquisition by a black business owner.

“I hope that record has been broken,” says Hughes.

The media magnate added a television network to her holdings in 2004 when her son, Alfred Liggins III, launched TV One. The company again saw opportunity within the black entertainment community, aiming to serve African-Americans over age 30 as BET, the other major black TV station, primarily serves African-American youth.

Though Liggins now runs things on a day-by-day basis, Hughes is still involved with the business, and remains the public face of the company, now known as Urban One. She says she will keep working on bringing media opportunities to her community.

“I don’t see it as success yet; I still see it as a work in progress,” Hughes says.


Visit urban1.com for more information.

This article was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Making a Better Life for Herself

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

One month after the twin towers fell in New York City, Quetzalli Pliego and her three younger siblings crossed the boarder of Mexico into the United States to reunite with their mother and father.

It took Quetzalli (now Quetzalli Pliego Omaña) and her siblings five tries on chilly October nights to finally meet up with her mother and father. Omaña said they were usually detained in the middle of the night by Immigration and Naturalization Services agents and sent back to the border. Finally, they were able to travel in a vehicle.

Omaña remembers leaving the vehicle, getting into a bus, and traveling to a town near the border where her mother and father were waiting for them. She hadn’t seen either of them in two years. Omaña said it took about 10 days from their first attempt to cross the border until they were finally reunited as a family.

Omaña now hears similar stories from other undocumented citizens as a bilingual paralegal at Blackford Law. She is also one of the 800,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy, which was announced by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, at the direction of former President Barack Obama. The policy allows Omaña to continue to work in the United States, and defers any deportation action for two years (provided the recipient is not convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors).

In September 2017, President Donald Trump moved to end DACA. However, three U.S. district courts have challenged the Trump administration’s move to end the program. Under DACA, Omaña is able to both stay in the United States and obtain a work permit. Recipients need to renew their status every two years. While those under DACA’s protections will not face deportation, the program is not a path to citizenship. Those wanting to become citizens must first apply to become a lawful permanent resident and obtain a green card.

While DACA’s fate is in the courts, people who currently have protection under DACA can apply to renew its protections, says Jacob Huju, an immigration lawyer for the Immigrant Legal Center. Huju recommends applicants contact the Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance Hotline if they are concerned about their DACA status.

“It’s important to seek advice as soon as possible,” Huju says.

Omaña’s father, Armando Pliego, moved to Omaha in 1998. Her mother, Micaela Dominguez, came to Omaha in 1999. Armando, who was a professor in agriculture in Mexico, started bussing tables at an Omaha mall before finding a job in construction. While Armando and Micaela were establishing their roots in Omaha, Omaña and her siblings were living with her uncles and cousins in Cuernavaca, which is about 60 miles south of Mexico City. While she was away from her mother and father, Omaña said she was physically abused by some extended family members.

Unlike many undocumented citizens who come to the United States for a better life, Omaña did not want to move to the United States when she was 12. She was already in middle school and had her own group of friends.

“At the time, my friends were everything to me,” Omaña says.

Things didn’t get much better during her first years in Omaha. At the beginning of middle school, she only knew some basic words. Her mother and father took night classes to learn English, leaving Omaña to not only learn a new language, but help her siblings with their homework.

“We were just alone,” Omaña says.

Things changed when she started at North High School. Soon, she was becoming active in community groups like Omaha Together One Community. Omaña started thinking about college, but her guidance counselor said she couldn’t secure scholarships or student loans because of her status as undocumented. Still, her community activism gained the attention of the College of Saint Mary, specifically Maria Luisa Gaston, who was the admissions counselor for Latinas in 2006.

Gaston thought the College of Saint Mary needed to reach out to the Latina community. Specifically, she wanted to target undocumented high school graduates. Gaston began working on securing funding for the Misericordia scholarship, which provides tuition for high school graduates who are also undocumented. Omaña was one the scholarship’s recipients.

Gaston says at least 50 scholarships have been awarded since she began raising funds for it in 2007. According to Daniela Rojas, admissions adviser at the College of St. Mary, 36 students are currently on the scholarship. Gaston said Omaña’s leadership skills were one of the reasons why she was awarded the scholarship.

“She’s always been one of my shining stars,” Gaston says from her home in Miami, to where she retired in October 2014.

Omaña graduated from the College of Saint Mary in 2010 with a degree in paralegal studies. However, the degree couldn’t secure her a job because of her status. Without a Social Security card, she couldn’t find a traditional full-time job. Instead, she set up her own business, Pliego Translation Services. For a few years, she worked as a translator for a few law firms in Omaha. Then, in 2013, she applied for DACA, which grants recipients work permits.

In early 2014, she got a job as a paralegal at Peck Law Firm, where she met attorney Brian Blackford. Blackford established his own firm in October of that year, and he reached out to Omaña to take a paralegal position.

Even though Omaña still had several months left on her DACA eligibility, she applied for a renewal in May 2018. She was approved in August, and her status is now protected until August 2020. Omaña chose to proactively renew her status because she was uncertain of DACA’s fate in the courts.

“With our current president, anything could just end,” Omaña says.

Omaña’s other family members are now permanent residents—her parents are both citizens, sister Xochitl became a lawful permanent resident in November 2012, brother Armando in June 2014, and sister Citalli gained permanent resident status in July 2017 after she married a U.S. citizen.

Omaña wasn’t able to become a citizen after her parents obtained their citizenship because she was older than 21 at the time. She could have become a lawful permanent resident in the United States when her father and mother were applying for their green cards; however, while her parents were in the process of becoming permanent residents, an Omaha attorney, who Omaña refused to identify, said her father couldn’t put Omaña on his application. Omaña said the attorney later confided to her that he wished he knew the law better when he was advising her family.

“I think it was malpractice, honestly,” Omaña says. “I’ve talked to multiple attorneys now, and it’s pretty obvious what the law reads.”

Omaña has married, but the man she married is a lawful permanent resident (not a U.S. citizen). As a result, her application to obtain a visa is given a lower priority than people who marry U.S. citizens. While she waits for her resident status to improve, she plans to continue to help people in similar situations.

“I love what I do and where I work,” Omaña says.


Visit blackfordlawllc.com for more information about the firm employing Omaña.

This article was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

She Said/He Said

November 16, 2018 by

Brett Kavanaugh is a supreme court judge.

There were so many dimensions to this situation. Emotions ran high. I put politics aside because I am angry at both parties that seem to put themselves before country. 

Instead of politics, when I thought about what played out in the media, I focused on the question, “What are the ethical implications of the Ford/Kavanaugh testimonies for women and men in the workplace?”

First, for some people, the Ford/Kavanaugh testimonies were an in-your-face example of the double standard that exists. It appears that how she reacted was measured with a different ruler than how he reacted. Let me explain.

For Christine Ford to be credible she had to maintain a calm, measured, unemotional demeanor. If she cried as she testified, she would be seen as weak and unreliable. Yet Kavanaugh could be credible even when he raised his voice and interrupted others. When he showed emotion as he testified, he was perceived as passionate and strong in his convictions. This disparity in gender norms is striking and exists in the workplace. But it puts females at a disadvantage if males are allowed a wider range of acceptable behaviors.

For some people, the highest hope was that the process for making a decision about what she said versus what he said would be fair. Procedural justice should be served. The stakes, the reputations of individual people, are too high for anything less.

The American public had an expectation that the system would not only allow each person to be heard by unbiased investigators, but that exhaustive evidence would be sought, red herrings would be sorted out, and facts would be found. If it came down to she said/he said then clear-headed, fair-minded leaders would calmly and rationally make the best decision based on the exhaustive information gathered in a timely fashion, and then be accountable for that decision.

If we believe that the process is fair, we can live with an outcome with which we disagree.

Many believe procedural justice did not take place. Exhaustive evidence was not sought. Red herrings were not identified and put aside. Expectations were not met. If the senate judiciary system is not just, can we hope that corporate institutions will do better?

We must. We cannot let the distrust and anger felt from watching the senate judiciary process bleed into the workplace. The implications for women and men, working together, will be devastating.

This is a call to action. Our corporate systems must be fair. We must each be able to expect that when we step up to speak up, or when we defend ourselves against allegations, the process used to reach a decision is rigorous and unbiased. 

If nothing else comes from this horrible mess, let’s at least have this one thing happen. Let’s re-examine our organizational processes and ensure that they are just, noble, and true.


This column was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton University.

Cybersecurity

July 9, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was a Black Friday story that had nothing to do with holiday bargains. In 2013, cyber criminals hacked into Target Corp.’s customer database and stole as many as 40 million credit card numbers. Customer names, credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates, and CVV codes were reportedly compromised, presumably so hackers could use the data to make new cards. 

Customers everywhere were affected.

Leaders at Minnesota-based Target were horrified and embarrassed as the hack made international news. Amid criticism that the company should have done more to protect consumers—and an investigation launched by authorities in Nebraska and nearly every other state—Target later implemented a $5 million cybersecurity coalition charged with preventing such breeches from happening again. The total cost of the cyberattack on Target reached as high as $300 million, according to news reports. That included class action lawsuit settlements and money paid to credit card companies, banks, and credit unions.

While the damage was done, the retailer wasn’t alone. The financial loss from cybercrimes surpassed $1.3 billion in 2016, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. There were nearly 300,000 complaints to the agency that year from businesses of all sizes.

Such cybercrimes have put companies everywhere on high alert—and looking at what cybersecurity measures they have in place. 

That includes businesses in Omaha. 

“We have to ask, ‘How do we endure security of information, customer privacy, systems compliance, the website, power stations, and landfill?’” says Joshua Mauk, the Omaha Public Power District director of security, whose job includes cybersecurity. “Our job is to implement a security program that helps us achieve all of those objectives across all of the district.” 

“Cybersecurity” sounds like a buzzword, but it’s a real concern among companies and law enforcement officials. The FBI says cybercrimes are becoming “more commonplace, more dangerous, and more sophisticated.” The agency reports that hackers target companies like Target for data and trade secrets, universities for research, and consumers for money and identity theft.

Along with being a monetary hassle, work is often disrupted or stopped altogether at companies, hospitals, even 911 centers. The hackers range from disgruntled or thrill-seeking computer geeks to international terrorists and spies looking for money to fund their operations. Even a small attack is a potential threat to national security. 

Some attacks target hardware and software, such as malware. Others are online fraud and phishing schemes, while yet others are considered “sexploitation,” according to Interpol. 

FBI officials say they have begun partnering with companies and organizations around the country as part of its cyber division’s efforts to boost cybersecurity nationwide. 

OPPD is one of them. The utility is working with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to try and prevent cybercrimes at the utility. If hackers took down OPPD’s system, then every single customer—or 820,000 people—could, theoretically, lose power indefinitely.

Mauk declined to specify OPPD’s cyber security program, citing security reasons. Other companies, including First National Bank of Omaha, declined to comment due to safety concerns. 

“There have been a number of utilities around the world that have been targeted,” Mauk says. “The biggest risk to us is someone coming in and taking down the entire system. The FBI and Homeland Security let us know about new risks, new threats, and we use that information to ensure we are adjusting those concerns to our cybersecurity program.” 

Omaha police acknowledge that while cybercrimes tend to fall under federal jurisdiction, they would investigate a cybercrime that occurred in the city. But most of the time, cyber attacks are conducted by people located in other states or countries—not local hackers. 

Police say some companies may experience a cyberattack, but neglect to report it to law enforcement due to the idea that it might harm their image or reputation. 

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office has a cybercrimes division aimed at protecting Nebraskans from technology crimes through education and, in some cases, legal action. 

Take the Target data breach. Last year, Attorney General Doug Peterson announced that Nebraska had joined 46 other states and the District of Columbia to reach an $18.5 million settlement against the retail giant stemming from the incident. The state received $199,382 as its share. 

Peterson had said it was the largest multi-state data breach settlement to date. 

In October, Peterson’s office released a statement promoting cybersecurity in the workplace: 

“As recent major cybersecurity incidents have shown, cybercriminals often rely on human error—like failing to install software patches, clicking on malicious links, and creating easy-to-guess passwords—to gain access to systems and information. Every member of an organization—from senior leadership to the newest employees—is responsible for keeping information and systems secure. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That’s why strong cybersecurity practices are so important.”

Authorities and security experts worry, though, that cybercrimes will continue and even increase as advances in technology are made. Officials and corporate security teams understand they have to stay two steps ahead, always. 

“This is definitely something we are investing in, from a people, processes, and technology standpoint,” Mauk says. “We will have additional layers of security to always protect the corporate side, critical infrastructure, and plants.” 


Visit the attorney general’s webpage, ago.nebraska.gov, for more information on cybersecurity.

This article was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. 

Joshua Mauk

Elman Print

May 16, 2018 by
Photography by Jeremy Wieczorek

This sponsored content was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/bb0718_flipbook/28

Mark Elman, president of Elman Print, is happy to reveal the secret of Elman Print’s impressive success. “It has to be our staff,” he says, explaining that the reason they’ve enjoyed such great success for more than three decades in Omaha is largely due to an experienced, dedicated staff.

“They’re incredible people,” he says. Elman further explains that it’s the mix of the veteran employees with the younger staff that creates success. “It’s a good blend. The younger staff respects the experienced staff and is willing to learn, while the younger staff brings in the knowledge of new technology to help the veteran staff grow.”

Clients who turn to Elman Print benefit from the impressive roster of professionals on staff who utilize both experience and the latest technology to get the job done. In Elman’s eyes, every project is important­—large and small projects receive the same amount of attention to ensure consistent success. 

Elman’s graphic artists and prepress staff are in charge of reviewing the files to guarantee high resolution reproduction. “We make sure the hard work of graphic designers is brought to life accurately, by verifying bleeds, folds, and resolution, just to name a few.” says Elman. “We give our customers a sense of ease when we take over a project—it’s in capable hands”.  

The system works well for a busy company that is accustomed to helping customers with their printing needs. “Using the latest software and hardware, our prepress staff puts the final touches on projects before they hit the production floor,” says Elman.

6210 S. 118th St.
Omaha, NE 68137
402.346.0888
elmanprint.com

Creating a Development-Focused Culture

March 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As Baby Boomers retire, organizations are left wondering who will take their place. Identifying who has the potential to take, for example, the COO’s place in five years can be a daunting task, but it’s a very important one. When organizations don’t make a plan beforehand, they find themselves stuck when the COO decides to retire or, worse, leaves suddenly.

The first step toward transition is to identify the vision for the organization’s future. This serves as a guiding framework for planning future talent.

Then create a culture focused on employee development. When you build this, your employees will be better prepared to take the next step in their career and to help achieve the organization’s vision. Employees also appreciate companies that invest in their growth, so it’s a win-win.

Examine the gap between the talent you have and the talent you need. To identify the talent you need, determine which competencies are critical for your organization. Which competencies will move the organization forward and bolster the culture? Is strategic ability important? Is collaboration?

Identify the talent you have. Get to know your people and their strengths—as well as their opportunities for development. Consider using high-quality psychological and cognitive assessments, multi-rater feedback, and behavior-based interviews. Using multiple methods gives you a more complete and accurate view of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. 

Provide feedback to your employees. Where do their strengths lie? What areas could they work on? Then help employees put together a development plan. Meet with them monthly to touch base on the plan and provide guidance and mentoring. You may also want to consider establishing coaching services. Coaching can facilitate self-awareness, behavior change, and skill-building.

Once you have started a development-focused culture, you can focus on the nuts and bolts of succession planning. Identify who is leaving and when, who (based on their assessment results as well as your knowledge of their skills and career interests) could step in for each individual (keeping in mind that it might be a different successor for each), and what will be needed to develop that potential successor to ensure their success when the time for transition comes. 

Remember that communication is imperative. Communicate the purpose behind development activities such as assessments, development plans, and coaching. Employees with this understanding will be more receptive. Also ensure that you fully communicate the organization’s vision for the future and employees’ place in it. Communicating this information will help employees better understand their path and build excitement around the vision.

Lauren Weivoda, M.A., is a​ ​human​ ​capital​ ​strategist​​ at Solve Consulting LLC.

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Taxes Will Not Be The Death Of You

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Accounting firm Lacey & Associates has been around plenty long. Not nearly as long, though, as the document that hangs on its office reception wall—a 1913 Federal Form 1040 Income Tax Return.

That’s the first return issued following passage of the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allowed Congress to levy an income tax without apportioning it among the states or basing it on the U.S. Census.

The return is a mere two pages long. Figuring taxable income required completion of seven lines. Seven more lines were needed to figure all deductions.

“There wasn’t much to it,” Doug Lacey says with a chuckle.

Not exactly the case more than a century later. Over the years, tax rates have risen and tax forms have grown more numerous and complicated. To the delight of many (and chagrin of many others), Congress and President Donald Trump addressed that last December with passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, one of the most far-reaching tax reform bills ever.

Doug, president of Lacey & Associates and an accountant since the 1970s, has never seen anything like it.

“It’s about as large of a change as I can remember,” he says. “There’s a lot to it, both looking at it from individual tax returns and business tax returns. Every year there would be some small changes…but nothing as big in scope as what we have starting in 2018.”

While the changes seem likely to make filing tax returns easier for the majority of individuals, they also might call for more guidance for businesses. In fact, it might cause some companies to change their very filing status.

“It gives us the opportunity to do a lot of tax planning and meet with the clients more than we probably would have,” Doug says. “To talk to them about how these changes affect them and whether to do anything different.”

With these many changes, some may worry about being audited, but accountant Scott Lacey says business owners, especially small business owners, can relax.

“There could be even fewer audits because they have simplified the tax code,” Scott says. “And typically the IRS doesn’t audit small businesses.”

Lacey’s firm has roots to the 1940s when his father, George, began providing bookkeeping and tax services part time. Doug joined him in 1977. In 1991 he began Lacey & Associates. His son, Scott, joined the firm in 2005 and is happy to be part of the family-run company.

“I realized I’m going to get more pride out of providing this service than I will staying at a large corporation,” says Scott, who previously worked in finance at First Data Corp. “The thing that I like the most about the shift is, in a smaller company, you have to have your hands in all the pots, you have to deal with the computer company, you have to pay the bills, you have to make the coffee, you have to do everything. I feel like I’m making more of an impact, but you also don’t have typical 9-5 hours, so you’re working nights and weekends quite a bit.”

Located in Ralston, the company will file 2017 returns for about 1,200 individuals and 150 businesses.

“I still get to work with some of George’s clients, or their children,” Scott says. “It’s kind of an honor.”

The Laceys have waded through multiple tax changes. They say the most important thing to know about the 2018 tax changes is that not everything is known.

The Laceys have done all they can to understand the changes, reviewing the bill, listening to online podcasts from tax experts, and reading summaries published in various industry newsletters and periodicals.

“There are certain things that even people running the webinars don’t understand or say we have to wait and see some more examples of how this works,” Doug says. “We’ll have to look at it and see the ramifications of all the different changes.”

Scott says the company will continue to keep on top of the changes.

“Sometimes the [government] adjusts the new laws throughout the year. I fully expect to see some adjustments throughout this summer and fall.”

That said, Doug expects several of the changes to have significant impact. For businesses, he points first to drops in the tax rate.

For C corporations, which pay income tax, rates drop from a high of 35 percent to a flat rate of 21 percent. “That’s why you’re seeing the stock market doing so well and seeing some corporations bring some of their different locations out of Europe, Africa, and South America back to the United States,” Doug says. “They figured out what it’s going to save them, and they’re trying to bring it back to the United States.”

For S corporations, which pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to their shareholders, the tax rate drops to a flat 20 percent.

The changes, Doug says, might lead some of his clients to switch from a C-corp. to an S-corp. “Or vice versa,” he adds.

Also of significance, Doug says, is a change to equipment write offs. Previously, that came to 50 percent of what the equipment cost. That’s been changed to 100 percent of the cost.

For individuals, Doug cites several changes as most important:

A drop in all tax brackets and new withholding tables.

A raise in the standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return from $12,700 to $24,000. That change alone, Doug says, is likely to lead most people to forgo itemizing deductions as in most cases they won’t exceed $24,000. “The IRS anticipates that people using the itemized deductions will go from 30 to 10 percent.”

The $4,150 personal exemption is being eliminated.

An increase in the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. The amount of the credit that is refundable increases to $1,400.

For now, the Laceys and their team are focused on handling the rush of 2017 returns. Lacey & Associates will work round the clock to make sure clients receive the best service possible.

But though definite answers won’t come until later this year, he knows the questions will come now.

“The clients are going to come in and say, ‘How does this new tax law affect my income tax?’” Doug says. “We’re going to tell them a few things, but there’s quite a few complex issues here, especially in the business area, that we can’t really say right off the top of our head how it’s going to affect them.”

From left: Scott and Doug Lacey

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Valmont Industries Inc.

October 6, 2017 by

This sponsored content appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/bb1117_final_flipbook/42

Global Leadership Grown from Midwestern Roots

Like most great companies, Valmont began with one person who had a vision, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a strong desire to create something of lasting value. So strong was that desire, he put his life savings—$5,000—on the line. That man was Robert B. “Bob” Daugherty.

In 1946, following the war, Frank Daugherty (Bob’s uncle and mentor) encouraged Bob to consider business opportunities. Bob took his uncle’s advice, investing in a farm machine shop in Valley, Nebraska. From those humble beginnings grew Valmont. The company leads the world in the five primary business segments: engineered support structures, coatings, irrigation, utility support structures, and energy and mining. Valmont conducts business in over 100 countries, and its 10,000 employees operate from facilities in more than 23 different countries. Valmont is publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol (VMI).

Making a Difference Every Day

Valmont creates ever-improving lighting and traffic structures to guide the way, communications towers that keep people connected, utility structures that bring power to homes and businesses, and irrigation equipment that helps grow the food to feed a growing world population.

If you’ve driven under the lights of the Dodge Street expressway, been to a game at TD Ameritrade Park, or noticed a Valley Irrigation center pivot irrigating a field, Valmont has touched your life. Valmont’s products can be found on the Golden Gate Bridge, Chicago’s Navy Pier, Daytona International Speedway, the Copenhagen Opera House, and Singapore’s Garden by the Bay.

Valmont touches billions of people around the world every day. According to the International Energy Agency, 1.2 billion people don’t have access to electricity. Valmont is helping to design and build the infrastructure that will bring it to them. The United Nations reports that by 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.6 billion people. Valmont is at the forefront, helping ag producers manage the finite fresh water supply required to feed the world’s growing population.

A Steel Company Focused on People

Valmont’s culture places a premium on its employees having passion for its products. All 10,000-plus members of the global Valmont family pride themselves on being people of integrity who excel at delivering results. With nearly 30 percent of all promotions coming from within, employees at every level have opportunities to take their careers in any direction and to nearly any place in the world.

According to Valmont Utility Engineer Barbara Cunningham, “You can learn about yourself and fine-tune your professional goals at Valmont. Some people start in one field, then find that their passion is in one of the other departments. Valmont will foster and encourage this type of growth.”

Valmont’s Midwestern roots continue to move the company forward. Dig deeper, and one will find those roots are the people who comprise Valmont and the culture that unites them.

1 Valmont Plaza
Omaha, NE 68154
402.963.1000
valmont.com

From The Editor

February 23, 2017 by

B2B Magazine started 2017 by highlighting the many successful women in business around Omaha, and this issue, we bring you the best of the city for business needs.

This contest is a bit different from the Best of Omaha, where the ballot is published online so anyone in the community can choose their favorites. In the Best of B2B contest, the winners are nominated on ballots printed in the 20,000 copies of the winter issue. Each issue of the magazine contained a ballot—a chance for readers to vote on favorite businesses that cater to the local business community (for example: business lunch, carpet cleaning, and much more).

How many of us can truly say we love our work? I do, actually. I look forward to coming to the office. A big part of this is that I work with an incredible team of creatives and salespeople, and one lizard. Yes, lizard—Spike the bearded dragon. Spike came to visit a couple of years ago when the publisher and his family left for Europe, and he has been with us since. He’s docile, usually sitting under his heat lamp hanging around. Sometimes when I am really feeling overwhelmed, I walk downstairs to his aquarium and watch him for a moment, sunning himself, enjoying life.

In the spring issue, we bring you the story of Envoy, which keep cats, dogs, and even a hedgehog in the office. Employees keep treats for the fur-ployees at their desks, and if one of the pets turns up missing, the whole office helps in finding their special friend.

What about you? Do you have a pet in your office? Does your office allow you to bring your pets to work? Or do you vote nay to keeping or having pets in the office? Does the fur or the smell bother you? Follow us on social media and join the conversation (@omahamagazine on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram).

We also have other incredible articles in this issue. Like many forms of traditional media, radio is looking for alternate ways to increase revenue. NRG Media has found new business opportunities through concerts.

Ride-sharing has become a popular trend in the past several years. While people are more prone to call for an Uber in a coastal city where the cost of owning a car is prohibitive, Omaha does offer alternatives to jumping into your own vehicle when you want to go somewhere. One of those alternatives is Zipcar. This car-sharing service allows users to access one of several fleet vehicles in the area by reserving a time and date for a car. The vehicle is then available for the reserver to use by the hour or the day.

And if you need to go outside of the city, traveling to Silicon Valley just became a bit easier by flying on United Airlines’ nonstop flights between Omaha and San Francisco.

This issue of B2B, like all issues, proves to be an adventure. I hope you enjoy it.

Daisy Hutzell-Rodman is associate editor of B2B, a publication of Omaha Magazine LTD. She can be reached at daisy@omahamagazine.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This letter was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.