Tag Archives: company

Frequent Flyers

March 29, 2017 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

When the world’s elite horses (and riders) arrive in Omaha, an entourage of police and first responders—including mounted patrol—will escort them to the location of the Longines FEI World Cup. The international championship for show jumping and dressage begins March 29 and continues through April 2 at the CenturyLink Center.

European competitors depart from Amsterdam, Netherlands, aboard a chartered Boeing 777 cargo plane that takes more than nine hours to reach Omaha.

The flight requires horses to be loaded into specialized containers called “jet stalls,” which resemble an enclosed stable stall. Jet stalls can hold up to three horses. The charter flight includes a “pro groom,” nine shipper grooms, and a veterinarian—all provided by the company overseeing the transportation, the Dutta Corporation.

Horses at this elite level are well-seasoned air travelers, making the journey seem almost routine, says J. Tim Dutta, the founder and owner of the international horse logistics company.

“Horses are just like human beings,” Dutta says. “Some get jittery, some read the rosary, some like some gin and tonic, some go to sleep before the plane leaves the gate, and the rest are worried about life two days afterward. Everybody’s an individual, and we are ready for each and every situation.”

Any concerns or worries, he says, are the things that can’t be entirely controlled or predicted—such as poor weather conditions or a horse getting sick during transportation.

“You’ve got a couple hundred million dollars worth of horses on the plane, so that’s serious business,” he says. “You want everything to go smooth, and there’s always challenges. But for a guy like me who’s been at it for 28 years, and has done quite a few of them, it’s just another day at the office.”

Once the horses arrive in Omaha, they will be quarantined at the CenturyLink Center for up to three days while the USDA checks for diseases and other potential health concerns.

Veterinarian Mike Black—based out of his Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic just outside of Blair—says any adverse effects of a long journey would be the same for horses whether they traveled by trailer or airplane. It’s not unusual for humans and animals to struggle through temporarily weakened immune systems due to stress and long periods of confinement with other travelers.

“Whenever the animal is put under stress, it will compromise some of their ability to respond to infections,” Black says. “And a lot of horses are carriers of viruses and things. So, as they’re around other horses that they’re not normally around, then things can be spread.”

When the competition opens March 29, folks without a ticket will have an opportunity to get a closer look at all the horse-and-rider teams. The practice area will be free and open to all.

Mike West, CEO of Omaha Equestrian Foundation, hopes to create a fan-friendly and carnival-like atmosphere.

The World Cup is the first international championship of its kind to be hosted in Omaha, he says. Sure, there have been championship boxing bouts in the city. And the NCAA crowns the champions of college baseball in Omaha. But never before will so many world champions prove themselves on local grounds.

Back in 1950, when the College World Series first came to Omaha, nobody could have expected how the “Gateway to the West” would become a Midwestern sports mecca.

“They didn’t know about swim trials; they didn’t know about NCAA basketball or wrestling or volleyball and all the great events that we have now,” says West, a veteran Omaha sports-marketing professional. He previously held management positions with the Lancers, Cox Classic Golf Tournament, and Creighton’s athletics department.

The Omaha Equestrian Foundation is not only dedicated to putting on a good show. West and his colleagues are committed to continuing the city’s relationship with the FEI, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (aka, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports), the governing body for the sports of show jumping and dressage.

“We have an opportunity, but we also have an obligation as an organizer to do a good job. Because if we do a good job, we don’t know what it will lead to, but we know it will lead to something [positive],” he says.

A successful 2017 World Cup in Omaha could improve chances of the World Cup returning, along with its estimated economic impact of $50 million.

“We have to be better than anybody—by far—at listening and delivering on our promise to the fans of this sport,” West says. “And if we do, I think we’ll develop a reputation that if you want to be treated like a fan [of sports], go to Omaha, Nebraska.”

Visit omahaworldcup2017.com for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Revamped Radio

March 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When the band Train came to Omaha’s Baxter Arena for a concert in December 2016, there were plenty of flashing lights and excited fans. “But when the lights go out and the audience starts screaming, there’s no rush like it in the world,” says Andy Ruback, general manager of NRG Media. Ruback knows a great deal about screaming fans—when a big concert comes to town the likelihood is that Ruback had his hand in the planning. His role as general manager has evolved over the years from managing radio stations to include managing events brought to town by NRG Media Live.

The business is a natural fit for NRG, which owns stations ranging from Power 106.9 to 1290 KOIL. The company was looking to the future for broadcasting and leaning toward live shows as a way to increase profitability. NRG used their strengths in connecting people to music to expand into the business of concert production. With the radio stations’ on-air talent knowing their listeners’ preferences, the media company naturally knew what acts had potential to bring in revenue, and which ones might not.

Ruback came to Omaha from Lincoln, where he served as general manager for their NRG stations. Upon his arrival at the NRG offices in Omaha in 2012, Ruback went full speed ahead. He says the intention was never to focus on live shows over radio shows; rather, he called his plans a method for “diversifying for growth.”

Concert production is a challenge that Ruback gladly accepted, but in it, found unique bumps in the road. Some of those bumps included special requirements, such as permits, that needed the legal team’s help. Shock rocker Alice Cooper, for example, required the team to acquire special insurance because of the pyrotechnics involved with his show. Ruback and his team figured out how to get the right insurance, and now know who to ask the next time someone wants to light up fireworks onstage.

Ruback says some of the more surprising challenges he and his team have faced come from smaller, more routine details.

“I would say it’s more about the crowd experience logistics,” Ruback says. “How do we try to work with the arenas to make sure there’s enough concessions on the floor? What should be the entry ticket price? What should be the price for the front row?”

Logistics is the simplest description for the business of producing concerts. Is the specific artist available at the time? Is there enough interest in this artist to fill the seats? Is a venue available on the day needed?

“We could have the great idea, and the right price, but there could be a UNO hockey game and a Lancers game on the night we want, and we’re out of luck,” Ruback says.

It is a revenue stream in which many community businesses desire to participate, and there are many ways for them to participate, including attaching their name to experiences such as meet-and-greets with the band before or after the show, and attaching their name to souvenirs. Attendees at the Train concert, for example, vied for flashing bracelets and cups branded with a sponsor’s logo. Signage prominently displayed throughout Baxter Arena featured sponsor logos.

The scenario is beneficial to everyone involved: the band gets to play to a well-attended venue, the fans get to enjoy the band, and the sponsors get to present their message in an effective way.

“On that day, no other media group is producing a concert,” Ruback says. “So you’re looking at content that advertisers want to be a part of, but no other client can do.”

The diversification proved wildly successful. Ruback says that since 2014, more than 100,000 people have attended an NRG Media Live event. Associate athletic director for University of Nebraska at Omaha Mike Kemp enjoys his business dealings with NRG Media Live and says that when Ruback puts on a concert at Baxter Arena “… it’s not just a concert—it’s an event. He has great vision and ideas and that’s the true charm of what he does.”

“I think NRG Media does a great job of engaging the community to get behind the events,” adds Kemp. NRG Media has the ability to promote coming shows using the radio stations on their roster and their strong social media presence. This equals solid attendance numbers at concerts and happy sponsors.

“Andy’s full of energy and great ideas,” Kemp says of Ruback. “He’s an honest guy with great enthusiasm for what he does.” Rubak’s vision has evolved NRG Media into much more than an organization simply running local radio stations. In fact, the next time there is a popular concert in town, there is an excellent chance that Ruback can be found there, smiling and enjoying the rush.

Visit nrgmedia.com for more information.

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

What a Load of Garbage

February 24, 2017 by

When you hear the words “garbage collection,” you might think of a truck rolling into the neighborhood and a couple of guys hopping off to pick up your waiting bin(s).

It turns out that the Omaha metro area is one of the last places in this country where trash is collected that way.

Omaha mayor Jean Stothert wrote in a March 2016 press release, “I feel like our current service is way outdated.”

Efforts to modernize have been underway for some time now, according to an email from Justin Vetsch, 30, the Omaha senior district manager for Waste Management. Waste Management is the company that handles the City of Omaha’s garbage collection services.

“Back in November of 2016, upon the city’s request, Waste Management implemented a pilot program which showcases what a modernized collection system would look like, with automated trucks and standardized 96-gallon carts for trash and recycle,” Vetsch says. “This pilot program will conclude in April. The feedback and comments that Waste Management has received from residents indicates the pilot area is going well.”

Mike Shrader, 57, is the owner/manager of Premier Waste Solutions, a private company servicing Sarpy County, northern Cass County, and western Douglas County. He has been in the waste-collection industry since 1975 and hopes the city’s new system works as well as it has for his company.

“The vast majority of municipalities across the country use some form of a carted system,” Shrader says. The old model of collection, in which employees rode on the back of the truck and picked up the trash, has not been viable since the 1990s. “It’s hard to find individuals who are willing to do that kind of work, week in, week out.”

The Shrader family, looking for a different model, was introduced to an automated pickup system in Arizona, in which the garbage trucks use mechanical arms to pick up 96-gallon carts. What used to be a two- or three-person job now only needs a driver, and the carts hold about three times as much waste as a residential garbage can and can be wheeled around instead of lifted.

With the exceptions of the city of Omaha, Bellevue, Carter Lake, and Ralston, every other community in the area is what Shrader called a “carted community,” though there’s a pilot program underway now in Bellevue that is similar to the one in Omaha.

Overhauling the system is expensive, Shrader says, which is why it has not happened yet, but changing to this automated system brings with it a number of advantages.

Safety

“Not only is it more efficient for the hauler, in a sense of one-man crews, it’s also safer,” Shrader says. “When we look at the injuries across the nation … it’s usually the second or third person that’s on the truck.”

Aesthetics

When everyone in the neighborhood has the same carts, Shrader and Vetsch say, it gives the neighborhoods a sense of uniformity.

“A modernized system would also include easy wheeling, and standardized covered carts with lids, which are more aesthetically pleasing to have lined down neighborhoods versus loose bags and individually selected cans,” Vetsch says.

Environment

If you have ever had your trash can tip over in a stiff wind, then you know it is a hassle to retrieve trash strewn about your curb and lawn.

“The lids are attached, and they’re on wheels,” Shrader says. “They do a better job of withstanding some of the wind.”

The carts will still fall if the wind is strong enough, but they have an easier time remaining upright, and the lids help make them more “critter-proof,” Shrader says.

Vetsch pointed out that having fewer trucks on the road is good for the environment as well.

“As part of the current pilot, Waste Management is collecting the recycling in 96-gallon carts every other week,” he says. “With recycling collection every other week, it reduces truck traffic in the city’s residential neighborhoods, along with reduced emissions from fewer vehicles.”

Recycling

“Going with a cart system for the recycling is probably the bigger plus,” Shrader says. “Not only do you have a lid on your recycling cart, but you have the capacity of 95 gallons versus 18.”

“In most cases, the ability to have a cart with a lid for recycling dramatically improves recycling participation, as a household may be currently limited due to the recycling bin’s size,” Vetsch says.

The future of Omaha’s garbage collection has yet to be determined, of course. Like any new system, Vetsch says, there will probably be a sense of hesitation.

“I really hope this pilot program works for them,” Shrader says. “It’s like coming out of the Dark Ages.

“If the city would accept that program, I think they’re going to be very, very happy with that for a long, long time.”

Visit wasteline.org for more information.

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

Buy Omaha Profile

Our industry is too often focused on the completion of transactions as the measure of success.  At OMNE Partners, we build relationships by providing best-in-class real estate services and looking beyond a single transaction. We believe in treating our clients’ businesses as our own, with great care and end-to-end attention to detail, which only exists in a true partnership.

My career in commercial real estate began at the Omaha-based, family-owned real estate development firm the Slosburg Company. I was fortunate to work closely with the partners of the firm—their knowledge and advice was invaluable. From there, I moved to the Lund Co. Once again, I was fortunate to work with great people. John Lund and the other founders of the firm, Rich Secor and Jerry Kelley, were significant influences from day one. Working directly for Jason Fisher, Lund Co.’s president, I learned how leadership influences company culture and open communication fosters loyalty.

People who work at OMNE Partners can expect a culture that is committed to collaboration across departments. Everyone here is aware of how important they are to our success. We are very intentional about it. We recently implemented regularly scheduled, very brief (as quick as five minutes), company-wide update meetings. The purpose is to open the lines of communication and ensure everyone is working together outside of what is articulated in an organizational chart. We openly discuss company goals and the specific impact achievement will have on the firm.

One of the tasks we completed through our rebranding was the definition and expression of our principles.  What resulted was the beginning of what would become our manifesto. There is one line that sums it up well: “At our core, we care deeply about each other and the community we live and work within.”

TJ and his wife, Kate, have been married for 13 years and have three boys: Max, Ted, and Gus.

B2B

OMNE Partners
13340 California St., No. 100
Omaha, NE 68154
402-697-8899
omnepartners.com

 

The Brand Brief

February 23, 2017 by

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that greatness is a state of mind. The bad news is that others’ minds decide your state. As with many things in life, this is true for people as well as brands. A brand is, in its most basic description, what people believe, feel, and think about a company. Companies like to think that their brand (or “brand image” if you’re old school) is whatever they’re currently telling the public it is. Which is rare. However, that is the goal. Because when what people think of you matches up with what you claim to be, you’ve hit the branding bull’s-eye.

Great branding is built on a solid foundation. This foundation is commonly referred to as a “brand platform.” Used correctly, a brand platform can act as a launching pad for your branding efforts. Conversely, it may resemble the 10-meter Olympic diving platform, except, instead of water, the pool is filled with buy-one-get-five coupons that cause financial ruin and death by a thousand paper cuts.

A brand platform defines who you are as a company in a way that everyone in the organization can understand—even Chuck in H.R.—by codifying beliefs into a framework that doesn’t change with the shifting winds of accounts receivable. The platform becomes the guiding document in how you speak about the brand and how the brand acts. It is no use marketing something and then failing to live up to those promises operationally when people finally find time to “act now.”

There is no standard template for a brand platform. Most advertising agencies that deal in branding have developed their own process and format. I prefer a classic format that defines a brand purpose (why you exist beyond making money or even your current product), brand position (who you are relative to your competition and audience), brand personality (five or six adjectives, none of which are “sleepy”), and brand affiliation (the type of people your brand wants to attract). Feel free to Google these terms. Other platforms include brand archetypes or variations on all of the above. The important thing is that the platform brings clarity, unity, and direction. So beware the agency attempting to sell you a process that they themselves don’t seem to fully understand—just because it comes with a cool infographic doesn’t make it actionable.

I do not recommend trying to create a brand platform on your own. Anyone inside the company is too close to the situation to be completely objective. Nonetheless, you should be actively involved in the process. An agency that insists on doing everything themselves before delivering a final document fait accompli is probably doing a lot of finding and replacing on a platform they first wrote in 1998.

Once your platform is in place, use it. This is not as obvious as you would think. Weigh marketing decisions against it. Use it to filter operational objectives. Spread it throughout the company so that when an employee gets asked about where they work, they give an accurate answer. Eventually, because branding is a long game, your brand will be cohesive and consistent. And all your marketing will automatically be strategic in tone and message (and media, too, if you’re paying attention).

You will still need to decide on creative directions and tactics, of course, but you won’t have to do the heavy lifting of figuring out foundational principles every time you write a new tweet. Because you will know who you are. And, more importantly, customers current and potential will, too.

Jason Fox is a freelance creative director and writer. He can be found at jasonfox.net and adsavior.com.

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

September 29, 2014 by and
Photography by Sarah Lemke

On a homeowner’s association website tucked away under the seventh tab marked “Contact Us” is an innocuous picture of a United States Postal Service van making its first mail delivery in 2008 to a new neighborhood in postal zip code 68130.

Six years later, the mailman delivers letters to some of Nebraska’s most important movers and shakers. Fortune 500 CEO’s, an NFL football star, and top doctors live along tree-lined boulevards and winding cul-de-sacs in the area known as Legacy. It’s a luxury community located at South 173rd Street just off West Center Road.

A proximity to all that is grand gives Legacy residents a taste of the good life, whether they fancy a lakeside stroll or a spin through a shopper’s paradise.

The tranquil, yet inviting area, all roughly 70 lots of it, was once home to a grand mansion nestled among 100 wooded acres belonging to Crossroads developer John A Wiebe.

It’s not a stretch to say that Wiebe left his own legacy, the gift of nature’s beauty in the form of trees and a lake, to the future residents of Omaha’s Legacy neighborhood.

“He had his own private airstrip and his own private lake, so we benefitted from the pre-existing, dammed lake,” says the president of the Legacy Homeowners  Association, Greg Scaglione. “He also planted all of these trees on the perimeter of his lot, so we benefitted from that” as well.

Scaglione appreciates the privacy and beauty that the older trees provide. “The beauty of having those existing 20-year-old trees to then build your house behind, you don’t really have that in
Omaha that frequently.”

He also points to the interesting design created by developer Jeff Johnson of the Cormac Company. “Professional office buildings are contiguous to our neighborhood. That’s the way the developer wanted it. It’s called high density,” he says. “Once you get on the other side of the hill, you don’t see any of that. You don’t see Life Time Fitness. You don’t see West Center Road. You don’t see the office buildings. It’s like all of a sudden you’re in this little community.”

The Wiebe Reservoir is a popular spot for fishing, and bass, bluegill, and crappie are stocked by the association. “The neighbors are very engaging. You’ll go down to the lake and there will be families fishing. The whole family is out there with the rods
and reels,” he says.

The residents meet annually at a pot-luck picnic by the lake. But impromptu gatherings happen frequently. “Everyone is very welcoming. There’s a lot of parties,” Scaglione says.

With the neighborhood’s proximity to Zorinsky Lake and its trails, it is not uncommon to spot wild turkeys, deer, and the occasional butterfly or two. But should you decide to walk just a few minutes toward West Center Road, you can snag a Venti Latte from your favorite barista.

“The uniqueness of the neighborhood is that you feel like you live in the country amongst trees,” says Sallie Elliott, a Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Ambassador and a Legacy resident. You live away from the city, but you can walk to Starbucks. You’re within two minutes of everything. You can walk everywhere.”  She enjoys dining at Baby Blue Sushi Sake Grille and frequents her favorite design store, Pearson & Company, located in the adjoining Shops of Legacy, an area of high-end specialty stores. “It has unique furniture accessories for staging, new construction, and my personal home,” the real estate professional explains.

Elliott says the spacious acre-plus lots at Legacy are unique to Omaha. “There’s a mix of styles in the neighborhood, from Mediterranean to French to more contemporary lines.”

The homes, all upwards of $1 million properties, vary in construction between brick and stone. “Real stone is classic and timeless,” Elliott says. “I’ve mixed stone and brick to try to be more classic.”

As a testament to the area’s thriving development, Scaglione says there are only two or three available lots left. CEO’s of Omaha, take note.

Elliott’s favorite part of living at Legacy is walking along the Zorinsky trail and seeing her neighbors. “Everybody’s out walking. With a big lot like this, you are separated from your neighbors and you don’t see them as much…unless you’re out walking.”

Legacy Homeowners Association Secretary Clay Cox says that he loves the great schools and opportunities available in the area.

“My son started working at Immanuel’s Pacific Springs Retirement Community when he was 14, and it has been a wonderful opportunity for him to learn responsibility and the value of a dollar and the value of hard work.”

He also appreciates his neighbors. “We watch out for each other’s kids and property. We love that our kids can go out to bike, ride, or fish and feel safe,” Cox says.

“It’s active,” says Scaglione. “People are active in their business. They’re active in their recreational lives, so it’s a lively community. It’s not a sleepy community.”

20140708_sl_8331

Choosing a Roofer

August 29, 2013 by

As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz said, “There’s no place like home.” For most of us, our house is our most expensive investment, as well as our pride and joy. Therefore, when choosing a contractor to remove and replace your roof, it’s essential to do some research first.

Following the Omaha hailstorm on April 9 this year, many of us were barraged with phone calls, doorknockers, and direct mailers from roofing companies. It can be overwhelming. Here are a few pieces of good advice to follow when selecting a roofing company for repairs:

  • Take your time and try not to feel pressured into making a rash decision. Remember, you are the customer, and you pay your insurance premiums.
  • Check the yellow pages. Many contractors (sometimes known as storm chasers) come from various places (Texas or Colorado, for example) to set up shop temporarily to get your business. They create a phone number with the local area code, and they would NOT be in the Yellow Pages.
  • Ask lots of questions. Where are they from? Where is their office located?
  • Ask your insurance adjuster, friends, family, and neighbors who they recommend. There are advantages of using a local roofing company, such as creating relationships among neighbors to help build the community. By using local products, local companies do their part to build the local economy.
  • Most importantly, a roofer is not going to guarantee another roofer’s craftsmanship. By having a local roofer, not only will you be supporting your local community, you will save time, money, and headaches if something was done wrong and/or needs to be repaired. The level of customer service is at a much higher standard because of proximity.

For more information or an estimate, visit SosMyRoof.com or call 402-830-0449.

Grant Stanley

August 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Anyone familiar with his personal and business histories knows Grant Stanley is a natural-born entrepreneur.

Stanley learned first-hand about his desire to be his own boss when he instinctively started his first business as an elementary school student. While walking through his Omaha neighborhood one day, he noticed the many homes that needed landscaping assistance, and despite having no experience, called upon those neighbors and offered suggestions and recommendations.

Recognizing his drive and ingenuity at a young age, they hired him to do their yards, and a future business magnate was born. He went on to attend business school at UNO—studying analytics and graduating in just over two years—and it didn’t take him long to realize that’s where his true future lay.

“I’m not sure exactly where it came from; I guess it was always just part of who I am,” Stanley says of his entrepreneurial outlook. “I enjoy working for myself, calling my own shots, and making my own decisions. Success or failure, it’s just in my nature.”

With his business plan in place, Stanley set out to find a partner—someone who shared his entrepreneurial spirit and passion for data along with a skill set to complement him.

Wanting someone fresh and undisturbed by the corporate world, he set out on the UNO campus and found Tadd Wood, who was still working on his degree.

“I enjoy working for myself, calling my own shots, and making my own decisions. Success or failure, it’s just in my nature.”

Once he agreed to work with Stanley, Wood decided not to limit his learning to one degree. When he was done, he’d earned four degrees in four years and was set to help Stanley move the business idea forward.

“I still had the landscaping business, but I knew it was time to get out of it,” Stanley says. “It’s our vision to make predictive analytics simple and affordable because all companies, not just the largest, should be able to benefit from predictive analytics and data science.”

These days, the two friends and business partners are elbow-deep in providing forecasting (or predictive analysis) for companies throughout the country and world.

Their up-and-coming Omaha company, Contemporary Analysis (CAN), has a simple message: “We build systems that help you work smart.” It’s their contention that their systems help improve sales, marketing, customer service, employee engagement, and strategic planning—all with the goal of achieving optimal performance with less effort.

Simple yet very effective, and considering they are competing with big hitters like IBM and serving clients throughout the world (but largely in Omaha), they are more than holding their own.

“All of our services tie into predictive analysis using database information and looking for patterns in the data to help us predict the future,” says Stanley, who founded CAN in January 2008 and brought Wood into the fold a month later. Both were just 20 at the time.

“Data is a great driver to determine what is likely to happen, particularly with human behavior and patterns. In the case of most of our business partners, we use this information to determine sales, buying patterns, and other historical indicators. It’s all science.”

And chemistry—something the two definitely share as they continue to grow their business and fulfill their dreams.

Planning Your Company Party

August 26, 2013 by

It’s that time of year again to start thinking about planning your next company party. Unsure how to make this year’s party a success? Amy Lackovic, event production director at planitomaha, gives practical, step-by-step advice.

Where to start? Lackovic says to first consider the attendee experience. “Employees want to attend an event where they can be themselves,” says Lackovic. “It is important to create an environment where they feel comfortable enough to open up to their peers and really get to know one another.”

The next thing to consider is the budget because this will determine everything from the invites to the location. If your budget is tight, Lackovic suggests these steps to saving money: go with electronic invitations instead of print; use preferred vendors with discounts; reuse décor, florals, and linens from other events; eliminate labor costs by doing it yourself; control your event timing so you do not run into overages; and limit alcohol consumption.

Once you have the budget in place, start looking for the event space. “You should lock in your event space as soon as you can,” says Lackovic. “Typically, you should lock in your space at least six months in advance.” When finalizing the space, Lackovic recommends asking about cost and deposit, number of people it can hold, catering options, AV options, location (easy for the majority of your attendees), and any limitations the venue may have.

“Employees want to attend an event where they can be themselves…where they feel comfortable enough to open up to their peers and really get to know one another.” – Amy Lakovic, event production director at planitomaha

Theresa Farrage, ballroom event specialist with Scoular Ballroom (which just underwent a complete renovation), suggests remembering two things when selecting a venue: your vision of the event and your guests. “You should definitely keep your big picture in mind but also don’t forget about the little details,” says Farrage.

Simple details that make a big difference may be included in the venue’s overall cost; just be sure to ask the key questions. “Is there a security guard on premise? Does the fee include table and chair rentals? You may think you’re getting a great deal, but once you factor in the cost of a few amenities that don’t come standard, you may be in for a big surprise,” says Farrage.

Farrage stresses booking your venue well in advance. “If you have your heart set on a venue, be flexible with your dates. Booking your event on a weeknight or during the off-season will often save you money.”

Once the venue is chosen, Lackovic breaks the event down by the remaining essentials: entertainment, decorations, personalization, menu, and gifts.

Entertainment

“Revisit the question of ‘what do I want the attendee experience to be?’ If it is a more social and lively event, I would suggest a band, as they have the ability to strongly interact with the attendees. If it’s a networking event, I would suggest going with simple background music or even a DJ.”

“If you had an area to splurge on, definitely look into spending the extra dollars on entertainment,” says Lackovic. “The entertainment can make or break an event.”

Decorations

“Adding lighting to your event can add a dramatic effect and ambiance. Adding some soft seating around the venue can also make the event feel more chic. Make sure you utilize everything the venue has to offer. Sometimes, your venue has in-house décor options included in the rental fee.”

Personalization

“An easy and cost-effective way to show this is to have a personal note of gratitude from the employer or manager. Another avenue is to offer incentives in the everyday workplace, such as a ‘Jeans Day’ or a floating PTO day the month of their birthday.”

Gifts

“It is not a necessity to provide a take-home gift, but it may leave a lasting impression on the attendee. You want to make sure that whatever item you decide to give away can actually be useful. We have seen people go toward more tech-savvy items such as branded cell phone power docks or USB drives. This way, their gift will not only remind the attendee of the event or organization, but it will also make the person more inclined to keep the useful and unique gift.”

Menu

“Within the past couple of years, the menu options have expanded quite a bit. People are much more health-conscious, so it is extremely important to plan ahead for those attendees who may be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.”

Jennifer Snow, owner/director of operations at Catering Creations, dishes on the latest ideas in food: “A current trend has been to take street foods, comfort foods, and bar foods and put an elegant and upscale twist on them…this makes the food fun and familiar for your guests and still gives them an opportunity to try new flavors.”

Some examples of comfort-food-turned-haute-cuisine are Gouda cheese-stuffed sliders or a French fry station with truffle aioli and caramelized onion ketchup. Another trend is to “bring out the kid” in your guests. “Everyone loves a classic sundae station with chocolate sauces and whipped cream—and don’t forget the sprinkles!” says Snow. “Or what about a pretzel cart traveling with assorted toppings like nacho cheese, honey mustard, or even chocolate sauce and chopped nuts?

“We are currently working on our holiday menus to include customized caramelized popcorn stations with several varieties of sweet, salty, and savory popcorn mixes such as a Cajun caramelized popcorn with nuts and chocolate,” shares Snow.

“A current trend has been to take street foods, comfort foods, and bar foods and put an elegant and upscale twist on them.” – Jennifer Snow, owner/director of Catering Creations

Not every event needs shrimp cocktail. If your company is on a tight budget and you still want to include a nice seafood item, Snow suggests crab and shrimp cakes, which are still delicious but less expensive.

“It has also become trendy to use some of the less expensive meat options and add savory flavors and tenderness by slow braising them. This saves costs versus ordering beef filet,” says Snow.

“Coffee service isn’t always needed for a hot summer event but always plan on more coffee drinkers for events during the holidays,” says Snow. “Try throwing in a fun option like a specialty coffee and hot chocolate station to add condiments such as chocolate chips, caramel sauce, whipped cream, or peppermint sticks.”

There you have it—expert advice on how to make your company party one to remember. Now get to work!

Time to Get LinkedIn

I like Facebook. I entered this social media space with a passion, thanks to the Creighton students I was teaching at the time. I have more than 1,000 friends, including my four teens, because I bought their computers and iPhones and because I want to embarrass them.

But my teens have actually moved on to Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine, and I feel the need to move on myself, with a renewed passion, to LinkedIn. There are a few reasons I recommend you do the same.

The first is that it’s important as a professional to separate your personal and business lives. Facebook can make that a little dicey. The second reason is opportunity. LinkedIn is now the world’s largest professional network. It limped along for a time, being one of the world’s “older” social networks, but it’s cracked the code on changes in technology, target, and services for professionals that make LinkedIn the ideal place to connect.

With more than 225 million users in 200 countries, LinkedIn gives you access to 2.7 million business pages, 1.5 million groups, and your share of 1 billion endorsements. How you leverage all this is up to you. My advice: Spend more than the average 17 minutes per day on the site to get your profile up to speed. Follow industry leaders, post so you get followed, and enjoy the ride! Here are some specifics to get you started:

  • Download the LinkedIn App for your mobile device (Android, Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone).
  • Complete your profile. This helps LinkedIn connect you with people you used to work with and people in industries similar to yours.
  • Build your network. Import contacts from all your other channels. Invite people you know to connect with you. Add a personal note about how you know the individual and why you want to connect. Go further than the typical template invitation and make yourself memorable.
  • Join groups that interest you. Look for groups that you’re marketing to or that may help you move your business.
  • Consider forming a group. Lead the way and post. Refer to articles.
  • Build a Company Page, especially if you are an entrepreneur.
  • Check the Channels (business news topics) on LinkedIn Today, the site’s e-zine. LinkedIn will recommend Channels, but you should check in regularly to follow Channels that help you improve in your career.

Wendy Wiseman is Vice President & Creative Director of Zaiss & Company, a customer-based planning and communications firm in Omaha.