Tag Archives: Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce

Going to the Dogs

November 3, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Want to know how much fun it is to work at Omaha digital marketing firm Ervin & Smith? Just ask Peanut, Gwen, Duke, or Daphne Jane.

They won’t talk to you…but you’ll probably see their tails wagging.

“Any week we have probably a couple dogs in the office,” says Heidi Mausbach, Ervin & Smith president and CEO. “You find them at your desk begging for a little treat. They follow their owners around the agency.”

Erivin-&-Smith2The furry friends are there as one of many workplace benefits garnering Ervin & Smith attention here and nationally. In February the agency founded 31 years ago by Executive Chairman Doug Smith made the 2015 Best Places to Work in Omaha list sponsored by Baird Holm and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. That came three months after Advertising Age ranked Ervin & Smith number 13 on its list of 40 Best Places to Work in Advertising & Media based on hiring practices, benefits packages, salaries, office perks, and more.

“You spend…a good percentage of your life at work,” Mausbach says. “You want to be at a place you love to come to. People do love it here. You don’t dread Monday morning.”

Even if you’re on vacation—which is unlimited at Ervin & Smith, as are sick and personal days. The new leave policy, established in January 2014, is among the most intriguing initiatives at the agency.

“People are free to come and go as long as they are fulfilling their client commitments and meeting their other goals,” Mausbach says.

So have employees been abusing the policy with copious vacation days? Mausbach can’t say—Ervin & Smith isn’t tracking days. If there’s any challenge to the time-off policy it’s been with employees not taking enough personal time. Mausbach, who joined the agency 15 years ago, was among those who took “a lot less” vacation than she typically would.

“People need vacation to recharge and get inspired to continue to love what they do,” she says. “A lot of times when you give people that break they come back more energized and with great ideas. It makes them happier, it makes us a better company.”

While employees appreciate the flexibility the policy allows them to get away from work, Ervin & Smith has seen benefits in the office—less idle activity, greater communication and collaboration, and, perhaps best of all,  fewer and shorter meetings as employees focus on goals and commitments.

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The company also allows employees to work from home as needed or even full-time from cities across the country (one Ervin & Smith employee lives in Oregon, another in Colorado). The company also established an annual “Slush FUNd,” giving each employee $100 to spend on something that will enhance company culture, such as a popcorn machine. Some pooled their money to buy meditation classes open to everyone. Others adopted a family at Christmas.

Workplace enhancements can be simple. A couple of years of ago the agency added a ping pong table. Sometimes, that’s where the best work happens. “It’s interesting how their minds work,” Mausbach says. “A lot of times they’re playing and brainstorming. There are amazing ideas that come out of work and play at the same time.”

Other initiatives to enhance the Ervin & Smith environment include redesigned offices, an expanded client conference room, a per-person training budget more than twice the industry average, catered lunches and happy hours, and a monthly wellness stipend reimbursing employees up to $25 a month.

The most popular benefit is Flame Schoeder—a professional certified life coach made available for monthly development sessions.

“Of all the benefits, they feel this is the one definitely helping them the most professionally and personally,” Mausbach says.

The initiatives seem to work. Ervin & Smith promoted 12 employees and hired 15 others last year. Its retention rate in 2014 was 84 percent, better than the typical industry rate of 70 percent or worse, Mausbach cites.

Ervin & Smith is building employee relationships. Perks are great. People are better.

Making Ervin & Smith a doggone great place to work.

Ervin-&-Smith

The Cottages

July 23, 2014 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

When newly engaged Ryan Ratigan and fiancé Khilah Butler decided that their downtown apartment wasn’t cutting it any more, most might assume a move out west was in order.  Not for these two.

Butler happened to have attended the Young Professionals Summit put on by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. The event featured a tour of South Omaha given by artist Larry Ferguson, a photographer whose studio is on Vinton Street. She knew she was on to something.

“We knew we wanted to look at the Vinton area,” says Butler. “It has a true neighborhood feel.”

Ratigan agreed that the area’s rich cultural history makes for a unique neighborhood vibe. And the location was a bit away from the bustle of downtown while still being close to the heart of the city.
Butler is a manager at the First National Bank contact center while Ratigan is an attorney. His office is located downtown, but he also often works from home.

After surveying the area for possible houses the couple found their home in The Cottages, situated between Vinton, Spring, 21st, and 22nd streets.

“There are only three stoplights between here and Downtown,” says Ratigan. “You can’t beat that.”

The Cottages were recently purchased by Harvest Development and endured an extreme facelift. Built in the 1890s, the homes were originally used for immigrant meat packers, mostly Korean, working in the stockyards.

According to Autumn Gibson, the director of property management, about half of the 20 rental homes are still up for grabs at the just-opened Cottages.

“We are hoping to entice those who are interested in not only a more urban feel, but also in being a part of the revival of Vinton Street,” Gibson says.

The homes are 1½ stories and can be found in several sizes. Though the homes have been redone from top to bottom, they still evoke a bygone era.

“I like that it’s an older home,” says Ratigan, “but they kept all the original hard wood floors and charm. You can tell that there is great respect for the area that is being preserved.”

The young couple was also looking for outdoor space. The two try to spend as much time as they can hiking and camping; spending weekends by the Platte River, at Indian Cave State Park, and at Hitchcock Park.

Their two-bedroom, two-bath home comes complete with both front and back decks, plus a shared green space. Now they don’t have to hop in the car to become one with nature.

“It’s much more peaceful here and we have a spot to sit outside,” adds Butler.

It comes as no surprise that younger families are finding their way to the Vinton area. It is in a time of revival, says Ferguson. Harvest Development’s renovation of The Cottages and the new families moving in are only part of something much bigger. His studio has been on 17th and Vinton since 1983, and Ferguson has spent the last 30 years watching the area grow.

“When I arrived in the 1980s, Vinton was dead,” Ferguson says. “There were vacant places, property values were depressed, very few people—it was in a state of serious decline.”

Now the street boasts numerous eateries, galleries, beauty salons, carnicerias, and a super mercado. Not to mention the Apollon, which is a new hot spot to experience visual art, theatrical performances, music, and gourmet food.

“When you see big businesses putting money into neighborhoods, you know things are going up,” says Ferguson.

Councilman Garry Gernandt feels that The Cottages is a vital link to the neighborhood’s rebound.
“It creates a good mix to an area that has been in new stages of revitalization for the last few years,” says Gernandt.
Ratigan and Butler are excited to be a part of that mix.

“The positivity of this area is underrated,” says Butler. “It’s very family friendly and a great part of town.”

Elevated Marketing Solutions

January 14, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Elevated Marketing Solutions (EMS) is a full-service, online marketing and web design company that helps owners and marketers make their message pop online. They work with small to medium businesses, from mortgage brokers to weight loss specialists, to give them a creative promotional edge. “We have a true brick-and-mortar business,” says owner Andrew Boehm. “We just specialize in selling online services to local business owners.” EMS’ motto sums up that specialty quite simply: “Growing business online.”

Boehm cofounded EMS about four years ago with his best friend Mark Javitch. “I think we complement each other’s strengths well,” Boehm says. “I do sales and marketing, and he focuses on fulfillment and development.” Both Boehm and Javitch have 10 years of experience in their respective fields, enabling them to help clients create a successful online brand.

EMS focuses on three key areas of online marketing: search engine optimization (SEO), web design, and online lead-generation campaigns. Specifically, EMS specializes in driving traffic to clients’ websites and creating clear and cohesive brand messaging. EMS then uses different marketing products and automation tools to further strengthen each client’s online footprint and create a customized, online marketing campaign. EMS’ social media strategist, Becky Hillyard, will work directly with clients to figure out best strategies for social media and e-mail marketing.

“We love seeing our customers succeed,” Boehm says. “If we do a great job of promoting their business online, they’ll have more money to spend with us in the future. It’s like a giant train, and we are the engine. If we keep the whole train moving then everyone gets to their destination on time.”

EMS is continually looking toward the future to help their clients create complex marketing campaigns by utilizing the latest trends in online marketing. As members of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, BNI and MBA, EMS is well embedded within the Nebraska business community, where they do the majority of their business; however, EMS is always looking to expand. Boehm is confident that EMS will continue to do work with great small businesses in the “Heartland of America.”

Elevated marketing solutions
801 N 96th St. Ste. 3
Omaha, NE 68114
402-320-5375
info@elevatedseo.com

Omaha Business Hall of Fame

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Omaha Business Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1993 to honor the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary. Since then, the chamber has recognized more than 100 men and women for their leadership in Omaha’s growth. Stories of the honorees inducted during the past 20 years are on display at The Durham Museum.

Five successful business leaders will join them at the museum after they are inducted on April 23 at the Holland Performing Arts Center: Susan Jacques, Mogens Bay, Marshall Faith, William “Willy” Theisen, and James Young.

Proceeds from the Omaha Business Hall of Fame gala support a permanent exhibit at The Durham Museum and provide funding for the Chamber’s Greater Omaha Young Professionals Summit.

Susan Jacques
President and CEO
Borsheims

A gem of an executive, Susan Jacques is one of five business leaders headed for the Omaha Business Hall of Fame. While studying at the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, Calif., Susan Jacques met a classmate who would change the direction of her career.

Alan Friedman suggested she come work for his father’s store in Omaha to gain retail experience. His father, Ike Friedman, owned Borsheims at the time.

Sol “Coke” Friedman remembers that his late brother, Ike, had high regard for Jacques. “She probably knew more about gemstones than anybody in the store.”

Jacque’s passion for gems and jewelry began during her childhood in Rhodesia. She earned her graduate Gemology diploma in 1980 from the Gemological Institute of America. Jacques graduated with distinction from the Gemological Association of Great Britain and in 1982 was named “most outstanding student worldwide.”

Her knowledge, along with business savvy, propelled Jacques from a sales clerk and appraiser in 1982 to the store’s top position in 1994. Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway—Borsheims’ majority owner since 1989—named Jacques president and CEO.

Borsheims has become one of the nation’s largest independent jewelry stores, with 62,500 square feet of space and 100,000 pieces of inventory.

“I’ve watched her grow as an individual and as a business person with the company as it has grown,” says Coke, a retired businessman. “She is just a good person. That might be the highest compliment you can pay a person.”

Jacques is presently chairman of the Gemological Institute of America where she studied. She received the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Jewelry Association and was inducted into the 1997 National Jeweler’s Retailer Hall of Fame. She serves on the Creighton University board of directors and is a trustee of the Business Ethics Alliance.

She and her husband, Gene Dunn, have three sons. The couple recently bought Gorat’s Steakhouse from the family that had owned the restaurant since 1944. Shareholders have gathered for dinner at Gorat’s during the Berkshire Hathaway meeting for years.

In a business that depends on trust and a handshake, Susan Jacques has found her niche at Borsheims.

“She is one of those people if you didn’t know her, you would want to,” says Coke. “Susan has the knack of treating everyone as if they are a friend, which in the retail business is very important.”

On April 23, Susan Jacques will join her former boss, the late Ike Friedman, and her current boss, Warren Buffett, in the Omaha Business Hall of Fame.

Mogens C. Bay
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Valmont Industries Inc.

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A career with Valmont has taken Mogens Bay to Hong Kong, Madrid, and to Omaha’s corporate headquarters. He has led Valmont through a significant period of growth over the past 20 years to become the world’s leader in engineered products for infrastructure and efficient irrigation equipment for agriculture. He heads an organization with 100 worldwide manufacturing locations and more than 10,000 employees committed to making products that make the world a better place to live.

Marshall Faith
Vice Chairman of the Board
The Scoular Company

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In 1967, Marshall Faith purchased a majority interest in The Scoular Company. Now with nearly 700 employees and 70 locations, Scoular serves customers in food, feed, and renewable fuel markets. Annual sales are more than $6 billion. In his 45th year with Scoular, Faith continues his philosophy of providing employees good jobs, good pay, and good opportunities. With a son and grandson in the business, Faith is counting on Scoular continuing at least another 120 years.

William (Willy) M. Theisen
President
Business Ventures LLC

Willy Thiesen

Many entrepreneurs come up with restaurant concepts. Making the idea work on a national level is how Willy Theisen stands out. He founded Godfather’s Pizza in 1973 and, by the time he sold the company 10 years later, Godfather’s was the country’s fastest-growing restaurant chain. The entrepreneur stayed “ahead of the curve” as owner of the Green Burrito chain in 1992 and Famous Dave’s in 2000. Theisen is now owner/founder of Pitch Coal Fire Pizzeria in Dundee.

James R. Young
Chairman
Union Pacific Corporation

James R. Young

Since joining Union Pacific in 1978, Young has steadily risen in the ranks to the top position. He chairs an internationally focused company that employs 45,000 people in 23 states and 8,000 communities. Young remembers when railroads had a shrinking workforce and concerns about the future. Today, Union Pacific is strong and integral to the U.S. economy. Young has led the evolvement of U.P.’s culture to a dedication to vision, commitment, teamwork, and respect.

Ervin & Smith

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Executives at Omaha advertising-public relations firm Ervin & Smith say the company’s recent growth and recognition as a top place to work and prosper are by-products of its considered emphasis on staff development.

2012 has seen the firm named one of Omaha’s Best Places to Work by Baird Holm LLP and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and as the Best Place for the Advancement of Women by Baird Holm and the Institute for Career Advancement Needs. Additionally, Ervin & Smith made this year’s Inc. magazine list of the nation’s fastest growing private companies after a 54 percent rise in revenue and significant staff increases from 2008 through 2011.

The agency, which employs more than 50 staffers, was founded in 1983 serving primarily financial services clients. While the financial services segment remains strong with clients like TD Ameritrade and Weitz Funds, the firm’s also made splashes with campaigns for such clients as Catholic Charities of Omaha, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Immanuel Senior Living. Ervin & Smith does business out of its own building at 16934 Frances Street.

“We encourage employees to get involved in community organizations and to serve on boards.” – Heidi Mausbach, vice president for Client Relations

Vice President for Client Relations Heidi Mausbach says one reason the company thrives is it hires people congruent with its mission.

“When we’re hiring, we’re very insistent on people meeting the core values of creativity, resourcefulness, accountability, passion, collaboration, inspiration, and loyalty. It’s resulted in a culture of very like-minded, smart professionals. Everyone here works really well together.”

She says core agency practices support professional advancement.

“We do a lot of leadership luncheons. Managers do one-on-one coaching to provide employees growth opportunities and immediate feedback. We encourage employees to get involved in community organizations and to serve on boards—We really believe that helps fuel not only your passion for work but for things you’re passionate about outside work.”

Heidi Musbach, Vice President, Client Relations, has been with the company for 12 years.

Heidi Mausbach, Vice President for Client Relations

Mausbach says the economic downturn led Ervin & Smith to hone in on itself.

“Rather than focusing on what our clients were doing and worrying about what was going on in the economy, we said, ‘Let’s focus on what we can control—ourselves.’”

Through this introspective process, she says, Ervin & Smith identified its greatest assets as “smart professionals always pushing to the next level and never settling,” adding, “As a result, we’re creating an environment where people love to come to work and enjoy what they do. By focusing on our people, we’re retaining and attracting top talent, and when you have the best talent, you attract like-minded clients.”

Co-founder and Executive Chairman Doug Smith has made the agency a haven for women moving into senior management. Sharon Carleton began as a copywriter there and today is President and CEO. Mausbach’s followed a similar career trajectory.

“I started as Doug and Sharon’s assistant,” Mausbach says, “and they gave me a lot of opportunities, they allowed me take some risks, and as a result, I was able to work my way up. Doug has always looked for people who are experts in what they do and can get results. That’s always been our philosophy. And that’s been my experience growing up in the agency. If you can prove and show performance, it doesn’t really matter your gender, your age, or any of that.”

“We’re creating an environment where people love to come to work and enjoy what they do.” – Mausbach

Carleton says, “We’ve never had a women’s initiative. Instead, we’ve always put in place programs we think will help all our employees. Employees have ideas for the company or a client, and we’re allowed to implement them. Over time, those individual ideas and opportunities have added up to a very supportive environment that both women and men appreciate.”

The firm’s Ms. Smith division has gained cachet as marketing-to-women specialists who consult with clients nationwide.

Carleton says Doug Smith nurtures this women-rising-to-the-top culture.

“Our culture has grown naturally from the foundation built by Doug Smith 30 years ago. I’ve been lucky to have him as my employer, mentor, and friend throughout my career. His generosity and encouragement keeps us positive and focused, pushing all of us to manage thoughtfully and strive for continuous improvement.”

For more information about the company, visit ervinandsmith.com.

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