Tag Archives: David Brown

David Brown

December 15, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

David Brown and the Greater Omaha Chamber are batting .1000 this year in the awards department and couldn’t be more excited.

And maybe a little superstitious.

“We’re one-for-one,” says Brown, the organization’s president and CEO. “Maybe it’s time to retire,” he adds with a laugh.

In reality, however, retirement is the farthest thing from his mind after the Omaha Chamber was chosen as the 2015 Chamber of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). Brown accepted the award—as well as the 2015 Chairman’s Award—last summer at the ACCE’s Annual Convention in Montreal.

Judging for the award considered organizational excellence, member services and connections, and programs/initiatives.

Among other elements, the chamber’s application highlighted its “We Don’t Coast” branding initiative, its Greater Omaha talent and workforce initiative, and the array of growth-focused services it offers, including its THRIVE business assistance program and YourBizAssist.com.

This marks the first time the Omaha Chamber has taken the steps to apply for the prestigious award—and according to Brown, who celebrated 12 years as the president and CEO this year, this recognition is a reflection of the membership and business community as well as the dedication of chamber staff.

“We’ve never applied for the award before,” Brown adds, “but we knew we had done some amazing things this year and decided to apply.” Brown was the executive director of the chamber in Greenville, S.C., before coming to Omaha. “Awards like this not only give the chamber and its membership national credibility, but they also give the city more credibility. It’s another positive step toward continuing to brand the city and change national perceptions.”

The ACCE Chamber of the Year honor is the nation’s only award recognizing the dual role chambers have in leading businesses and communities. Those honored with this designation have demonstrated organizational strength and made an impact on such vital community priorities as education, transportation, business development, and quality of life.

This year’s competition drew 33 entries from chambers throughout the U.S. To ensure the fairest competition, applicants are grouped into five categories based on annual revenue, membership, area population, and several other factors.

In accepting the award, Brown was quick to acknowledge the collaborative role that the business members play in allowing the chamber to focus on the big picture of growth, business engagement for the membership, and community.

“This award recognizes chambers that can move forward and do impressive things in the community because they don’t have to spend time putting out fires or struggling to assist members,” Brown says. “Because of this, we were able to focus on the ‘We Don’t Coast’ branding initiative, business retention and development, and successful overall execution.”

Brown’s individual Chairman’s Award is given annually to an individual or group that has made a significant contribution to the betterment of the chamber profession.

In his presentation, ACCE’s immediate past chairman Tom Baldrige detailed Brown’s commitment to the association, highlighting his role as chairman of ACCE’s Horizon Initiative Task Force. That group created the architecture of the Chambers 2025 Report, which outlines eight influences that will impact all chambers in the next decade.

“Without David’s help, wisdom, and encouragement in interpreting information and exchanging ideas, the report and the launch of the multi-year 2025 project would never have happened,” Baldrige said at the awards event.

In Brown’s view, he couldn’t have focused his time and energy toward the Horizon Initiative without the ongoing support and stability of the Omaha Chamber membership and dedicated staff alongside him.

“My name may be associated with these awards, but these are honors and recognition that everyone involved with the Omaha Chamber should be proud of because we accomplished them together,” he says. “These are both team awards shared by everyone.”

Visit omahachamber.org to learn more.

David-Brown

Paypal

June 23, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article was printed in the May/June 2015 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Many job seekers from Omaha’s inner-city neighborhoods currently think La Vista might as well be Lincoln—or Egypt. That may not be the case much longer. Linda Dugan, vice president of Global Operations at PayPal, has spearheaded a plan to connect PayPal’s suburban office complex with new hires from North Omaha.

A cohort of 28 new customer service employees began using a pilot transportation program to travel to and from PayPal on May 4.

Dugan explains the program’s logic: “Our idea is that if transportation is a barrier, and we can provide a service from the North Omaha community out to our La Vista office and provide return transportation, then we’re going to help enable them to have a really rewarding career with PayPal; and at the same time bring talented and highly engaged team members into our organization.”

Dugan has pondered transportation accessibility for some time. During board meetings for the Sarpy County Economic Development Council, she listened to other La Vista area businesses lament how some potential hires are logistically incapable of considering job opportunities in Omaha’s outer suburbs.

“Not everyone has a car, not everyone can drive, but we do have the expectation of attendance,” Dugan says. “If their car might not make it 40 miles back and forth every day, they self-select themselves out of consideration. Hopefully by solving this (problem of accessibility), we will get some teammates who want to commit to us because we are willing to commit to them.”

Many people want to commit to PayPal because of their extensive benefits.

“I would put our benefits up against anyone in the community and believe that ours would still exceed,” she says, speaking from a conference room in the first of PayPal’s two adjacent offices, which house 2,500 employees (working in customer service, technical support, fraud prevention, corporate communications, and other capacities).

The company’s comprehensive benefits package begins on new employees’ first day and covers everything from family to pets. PayPal also offers tuition reimbursement, and Bellevue University teaches accelerated degree courses in undergraduate and graduate levels after regular business hours at the La Vista office.

No matter how good PayPal’s employment benefits might be, unreliable transportation could force job candidates out of the talent pool.

“I am so hopeful that our pilot can prove what I think it can, that by removing the barrier of transportation we can get really great talent that wants the career opportunities,” says Dugan.

The north Omaha transportation program resulted from a brainstorming session with her boss, John McCabe. “We were talking about opportunities and talent, and I proposed an idea of addressing possible barriers in the community for transportation,” Dugan says.

He liked the idea. McCabe agreed to fund a nine-month pilot program. Dugan’s next phone call was to David Brown, president of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. She explained how she hoped to incentivize talent acquisition from north Omaha with PayPal-funded complementary transportation.

“He was amazing!” Dugan says of Brown. More community outreach followed. Brown’s team helped PayPal network with agencies, keeping a pulse on the employment needs of Omaha’s inner-city community.

Representatives from Goodwill and the Urban League joined the discussion, followed two months later by Metro Transit, Omaha’s public transportation provider. The coalition eventually developed a blueprint for a transportation program that allows PayPal to leverage the Urban League and Goodwill’s talent pool while coordinating routes with Omaha’s existing busing infrastructure.

They organized two job fairs during March in north Omaha. Soon after, the company began extending job offers. PayPal’s buses would depart from the North Omaha Transit Center (near 30th and Ames), which is already connected to other bus lines throughout Omaha’s inner-city neighborhoods.

“Our hope is that this cohort demonstrates the same level of engagement that we have received from our talent from across the community, and that will help us see if we are on the right track,” says Dugan. “We are really hopeful that it will make a difference, that it will be great for our customers and great for the community.”

Dugan has deep family roots in the north Omaha community. Her grandmother was a member of Omaha North High School’s first graduating class. Dugan, her brother, and her parents also graduated from the school.

Now she’s able to give back to the Omaha neighborhood that nurtured her.

“It’s all about community,” she says. “Go Vikings!”

1PayPal

Big Brain Productions

February 22, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Joe “Smitty” Smith runs a seemingly typical tattoo parlor Downtown, complete with 13 staff members and regular clients. But it’s what Big Brain Productions, located in the Old Market, also provides for employees (401(k) benefits, paid vacations, and a holiday trip to Costa Rica) that makes it stand out.

“I just try to do what’s right for people who take their careers as seriously as the people I have working for me. I try to live up to the standards that they set in their careers as a shop owner,” Smitty says.

As the company has grown over its last 14 years, so have its employee benefits. For example, Big Brain has been offering health insurance for eight years.

Smitty says he had many ideas about what he wanted his tattoo business to be when he was “young and hungry” but struggles to find new ideas moving forward. This drive has led to the parlor’s most recent changes.

“I don’t think you can stand still ever in business,” Smitty says. “I felt like I was at that point where I was kind of standing still, so I said we need to shake it up a little bit, and that’s why we’re doing that big remodel out there.”

Renovations include taking out a space-monopolizing desk and moving iPads that previously hung on a wall to a new area, where they showcase each of the artists’ portfolios.

One such artist, David Brown, has been piercing at Big Brain for five years. He says he joined the parlor because it was a “good fit.” Brown had worked in restaurant management and found the transition to be natural, thanks to a shared business mindset with Smitty.

“We’re both very customer oriented. The customer experience goes above our personal needs,” Brown says. “It’s taking care of the client, making sure that their experience here is the best one they can possibly have.”

Brown credits the large success of Big Brain to the little things that the company emphasizes.

“You don’t get Best of Omaha™ 10 years in a row without doing all the little things right,” he says. “It’s sanitation, it’s stock, it’s ordering; it’s the staff we surround ourselves with. Smitty has done an amazing job of finding nine like-minded tattoo artists who excel at nine different things.”

Despite a good business plan and staff, Big Brain has suffered its share of hardships in years past. In 2007, the company was selected for a tax audit after the IRS looked into how Big Brain’s accountant was amortizing a construction project. Thanks to incorrectly following an amortization schedule, Big Brain received a large audit bill, which triggered years of extra auditing and working closely with lawyers. “My lawyers said I was doing it right, their lawyers said I was doing it wrong, and, you know, you end up somewhere in the middle.”

But with that experience in the past, “I sleep well at night knowing I don’t have skeletons in my closet,” Smitty says. “To have them in your business, and deep in your business, what’s left? Now it’s like, come in any time. I push two buttons and make a phone call, and they have all my financial records. Nothing to hide.”

As a self-taught businessman, Smitty learned a lot from this experience and has put that knowledge toward running Big Brain. He handles payroll as well as tax deposits, and over the last few years, the company has grossed over $1 million per year. Despite running the business as well as piercing at the parlor, Smitty says he gets the most job satisfaction out of seeing his employees succeed.

“There comes a point where you’re more happy when your subordinates do something well than you ever were when you were,” he says. “When my kids do something good, it makes me feel way better than when I did it, and it’s the same thing with your employees. When you have somebody else accomplish what used to be your goal, you really take pride in that.”

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D.

August 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., has been teaching and researching business ethics for more than 20 years. She has been professor of Business Ethics at Creighton University since 1991. But the seasoned academic holds a strong belief that ethics discussions should reach outside the classroom and into Omaha’s day-to-day business life.

She found soulmates in many of Omaha’s business leaders who shared her passion for ethics. Working together, Omaha’s business community launched the Business Ethics Alliance in 2008. The group consults, trains, and speaks on ethics.

Founding partners are the Creighton University College of Business, Greater Omaha Chamber, Better Business Bureau, and the Omaha business community. The Business Ethics Alliance isn’t just for business. The group also interacts with college and K-12 students, as well as executives, employees, and entrepreneurs.

Business Ethics Alliance programming focuses on the core values of accountability, community responsibility, integrity, financial vitality, and moral courage. As holder of the Robert B. Daugherty Endowed Chair in Business Ethics & Society, Kracher is free to work outside the classroom. She teaches one Creighton graduate class each year.

Otherwise she leads the Business Ethics Alliance as executive director and CEO, often traveling to countries worldwide.

“Words are power. One of the easiest things we can do is practice articulating our ethics.”

“I spoke in Ethiopia recently, and they said they had never conceived of a relationship between ethics and success in business,” Kracher says.

But companies considering relocating to Omaha are well aware of the relationship, according to David Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber. One Illinois company, reeling from the indictment of the state’s governor, found solace in Omaha’s ethical business community.

“Another client specifically asked us to make part of our presentation about ethical practices in Omaha because they wanted a community that took ethics seriously,” says Brown. “We blew them away.”

Helping found the Business Ethics Alliance brought Kracher a great deal of satisfaction—and an award from the Greater Omaha Chamber as the 2013 Business Woman of the Year. She’s earned it, says Brown: “She has taken a fledgling organization and turned it into something unique to Omaha. It requires business acumen, as well as the ability to work with business leaders.”

Kracher said that ethical business communities have leaders with strong, shared, positive values who are fair to their workforce, give back to their communities, and have honest and accountable employees. The ethical communities have non-corrupt government and nonprofits that partner with for-profits.

She is a columnist for B2B Omaha magazine and co-authored the book Ethinary, An Ethics Dictionary: 50 Ethical Words to Add to Your Conversation. The book sits on many business professionals’ desks around the country. “Words are power,” Kracher said. “One of the easiest things we can do is practice articulating our ethics.”

Professor, researcher, author, columnist, CEO, she also is vice president of Plant Pros of Omaha, which puts her in the small-business arena.

Ethics haven’t changed over the years, she believes: “The ancient Persians used to burn bakers in their ovens for adulterating bread with straw, etc. So bad business has been around for centuries. Good has, too.”

David Brown’s Omaha

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

David Brown did his fair share of moving around before settling in Omaha in 2003 to become president of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Before assuming that post, the Detroit native worked in his home state of Michigan, then in Indiana, before spending a solid decade in South Carolina.

Brown has always stayed longer than the norm for chamber professionals because he also does economic development work and that field requires long-term commitment.

“Economic development is really my first love. The part I’ve grown to love the most is [determining] what to do to improve the community so that it’s more attractive to companies and individuals to stay here or to come here,” he says. “When you do chamber work, which traditionally does not include economic development, you don’t put down as many roots as you do if you’re doing economic development, where you’re selling dirt and really learning about the community. Clients have to see you’re knowledgeable and committed.”

After 10 years down south, he and wife Maggie looked to get the youngest of their two sons settled in school. Moving to the middle of the country held great appeal.

“We wanted to get into a more positive public-education environment for Elijah, who was getting ready to go into middle school. We wanted to get back to the Midwest where our roots were,” says Brown. “Fortunately, the Omaha position was open, and I threw my hat in the ring and got the job.

“I guess what really trips my trigger is that I can point to things I’ve been involved in that have made [Omaha] a better place and given people jobs. I like making a difference, that’s really what it comes down to.”

“This is my 10th year. We’ve been here about as long as we’ve been anywhere. This is home.”

His devotion to Omaha is such that he’s influenced extended family members to make this their home as well. He enjoys working with people who share his passion for enhancing Omaha.

“There has been a collection of leadership here that seems to have in the back of their mind, ‘How do we improve this place?’ You’ve got this intentional effort to try and improve the place, married with the unbelievable generosity of the philanthropists here and the corporate support for making this a better place. You see remarkable amenities created, not to bring tourists to Omaha but to enhance the quality of life for the people who already live here. The fact that they’ve had a tourist appeal as well is just chocolate on the sundae.”

Add it all up, he says, “and that gives us a competitive advantage over other places where that kind of development and quality discussion doesn’t happen as consistently. We’ve got people who have been able to sit down and say, ‘What is it we need to be a better place?’ and then they’ve gone about the process of getting it done. It’s fascinating to see how quickly some of this stuff has occurred, like the riverfront redevelopment. There was a frenetic pace almost that took place in the ’90s that continued into the 2000s.”

For Brown, there’s nothing better than seeing projects like the CenturyLink Center Omaha or Midtown Crossing take shape.

“I guess what really trips my trigger is that I can point to things I’ve been involved in that have made [Omaha] a better place and given people jobs. I like making a difference, that’s really what it comes down to. It’s very rewarding at the end of the year to sit back and say, ‘What did we do this year?’ and know we made a measurable, demonstrable difference in the community we live in…Not just me, but the team we function with, from our volunteers to our members to our staff.”20130228_bs_7662-2_Web

Brown will be guiding the new Prosper Omaha campaign that seeks to brand the city as never before. Omaha’s aspirational spirit resonates with him and the work of the chamber.

“Omaha’s always been a business town, and the business community here plays a big role in making things happen. We’ve been fortunate as an organization that the business community has looked to the chamber to accomplish some pretty significant things, so over time, we’ve picked up some additional responsibilities. We find ourselves in things a lot of chambers don’t find themselves involved in.”

The Young Professionals Association is an example.

“We have this dynamic young professionals organization that’s involved in virtually every major community activity you can think of,” Brown says. “The management and leadership of that process has been a whole new learning experience for us. There are 5,000 young professionals who, at some point or another, have plugged into this process of making Omaha a better place. We’re mentoring and engaging [them] so they can be leaders in the future. It’s become part of our leadership agenda.”

In terms of projects, he says, the chamber is “getting deeper and deeper into things the community needs. When [then-Omaha Chamber board chair] Dick Bell said in 2004 that the chamber is going to be involved in making sure every Omahan has an opportunity to succeed and every area in Omaha has an opportunity to grow, that [declaration] got us in the community development business. We’re going to help Midtown grow, were going to help NoDo grow, we’re going to help North Omaha grow, we’re going to help South Omaha grow. That changed the way we think about economic development and the activities we’re engaged in doing community development.”

“I like change…It’s something I really embrace. If I don’t see change happening, I’m wondering if I’m doing my job.”

Brown says he likes that the Omaha Chamber not only “provides services to our members to grow their businesses, but we’re also a catalytic organization.” He adds, “That means we’re sometimes change agents. Sometimes we lead. Virtually always we’re conveners. We convene a wide diversity of people that can help solve problems. Advocacy is always a part of the agenda.”

A graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played football and baseball, Brown is a natural people person and team player. “I really like people,” he says.

He says lessons he learned playing team sports “are all things I use every day with our team here at the chamber and with the teams we build within the community,” adding, “The chamber rarely does things ourselves. We always partner with people and collaborate with others to get things accomplished, and that’s a different kind of team but a team nonetheless.”

He also likes getting things done. “I like change…It’s something I really embrace. If I don’t see change happening, I’m wondering if I’m doing my job. I like to come up with new ideas and trust my team to tell me which ones are good and which ones are bad and then see ideas come to fruition. In the end, it doesn’t matter to me who gets the credit, as long as we get stuff done. That’s the way the chamber operates and, in large measure, it’s the way Omaha operates. I think that’s one of the things that makes us unique.”

Away from the office, Brown says he enjoys golf, hunting, landscaping, and reading. Maggie is often by his side. “She’s my best friend, and we do everything together,” Brown says. “She’s been my partner in this whole career process. She’s a great saleswoman. She’s done the trade show and conference thing with me. She knows the spiel. She can pitch just like I can. She’s great with volunteers and board members.”

Keep up-to-date with Brown and the Greater Omaha Chamber at omahachamber.org.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.