Tag Archives: Omaha Publications

B4B

July 17, 2014 by

Over a year ago Omaha Publications Founder and Publisher Todd Lemke floated the notion of “B4B” by me: the idea that the relationship between businesses doing business with each other is markedly improved when it is interactive and supportive, rather than one-way as the traditional “B2B” acronym suggests.

“B2B,” Lemke proposed, “is more like one business pushing something at another. It’s like a one-way street. I want you to know this. I want you to sell this. I want to sell you something that I think you need.

“B4B is like doing business more in a way that says ‘I am here to support you. I am FOR you.’ It speaks more to the new age of collaboration.”

That has a nice ring to it—especially given the lumps and bumps of the economy over the last several years and the impact it has had on business. It’s a matter of perspective and focus. If we change our perspective to one that seeks to help other businesses succeed—one that reaches out as collaborator—we all do better. And the good news is; this should be easier than ever with more information than ever available at our fingertips.

Via the Internet we can unearth a variety of resources to help us serve our prospects better. Whether online or in our local market, we can also identify co-collaborators to bring to the table to make the partnership really work.

B4B isn’t a concept unique to Omaha Publications. It is in the vernacular. The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) has published a book with the title and even the cover shows the “4” overtaking the “2” in the acronym. Their preface states, “There are clear signs that the traditional B2B business model designed 125 years ago as a simple ‘make, sell, ship’ approach for early manufacturing companies is no longer capable of delivering the full potential of high-tech and near-tech solutions. B4B seeks to frame what is possible in an age where suppliers are connected to their customers in real time.” The TSIA interpretation goes on to tout the difference as delivering outcomes for customers vs. selling things to customers.

Agreed, but in this new column in B2B Omaha magazine, we will go deeper and wider than the TSIA’s interpretation. We will showcase for readers prime examples of Greater Omaha area companies that are in it to win it by collaborating with one another. This is where you come in. Tell us about your B4B business practice or collaboration. Simply send a note with the subject line “B4B” to editor Robert Nelson at robert@OmahaPublications.com and we’ll be in touch!

Editor’s note: This is the first appearance of a new column that will explore a creative perspective on business relationships. By looking through a prism of business for business, Zaiss & Company’s Wendy Wiseman will examine new models for successful business relationships.

Wendy Wiseman
Vice President, Creative Director
Zaiss & Company

From Lightbulb Sales to Magazine Tales

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Todd Lemke discovered the art of the deal as an eight-year-old growing up in Papillion. One day, his father, Raymond—who believed that allowances should be earned, not given—drove the family station wagon to the old Skaggs store and loaded up on dozens of discounted lightbulbs. When he got home, he got out a map of Papillion, divided it into three sectors (one for each of his children), and told his boys to fan out and sell the lightbulbs. Young Todd dutifully knocked on doors. The exchange with the homeowner would go something like this:

“Are you with the Boy Scouts?”

“No.”

“Are you with a church group?”

“No.”

“Well, who are you with?”

“Just myself.”

(Pause)

“Okay, show me what you have.”

More times than not, he sold a lightbulb.

In many ways, the bulbs shined a light on the path Lemke would take in the future. The youngster with a natural gift for sales became an adult with a knack for creative promotion. Just two years out of college, Lemke combined his skills and launched what would become Omaha Magazine.

Now celebrating its 30th year, Omaha Magazine remains at the top of its game, boasting 36,000 subscriptions—remarkable for a city this size. It’s sold at Barnes and Noble and other bookstores. Additionally, a copy of the publication can be found in every hotel room in the metropolitan area, reaching a half-million visitors to the Midlands per month.

Like many success stories, Omaha Magazine started humbly and underwent several transformations. Lemke, the owner and publisher, guided every stage.

“If you want to know what makes Omaha tick, then you have to know its people. And we do a better job talking about people than any other medium in town. It’s people, people, people, and then food. This town loves food.” – Todd Lemke, publisher

“I graduated from UNL in 1981 with a degree in journalism. I weighed my options and decided to sell homes,” Lemke deadpans, knowing his career choice came out of left field. He explains, “My mother and father sold real estate when I was growing up, and I got my real estate license in 1977 when I was still in high school.”

Lemke may have opted for sales, but he believed in the power of promotion. He advertised the custom-built homes in a weekly alternative newspaper called City Slicker and lured first-time homebuyers to view the models using a P.T. Barnum approach. Newlyweds Greg and Terese Bruns checked out Lemke’s block party one weekend.

“We went out there, and here is Todd dressed up in a clown suit,” says Bruns. “He had bands playing. He was handing out candy and balloons and pop. It was a carnival. And the next thing you know, we’re signing papers for a new house. That’s how we met.”

One day, the owners of City Slicker offered to sell the paper to Lemke. Flush with cash from his real estate deals, Lemke took them up on their offer. It was 1983.

“The first thing I did was turn City Slicker into a glossy, four-color magazine. I did that for three years,” says Lemke. But he discovered that the ad-buying community wanted a readership that was “past the party age.” So he literally dumped City Slicker one day and started another magazine the next day called Omaha Today, distributed free around town.

Seeking to stabilize his investment, Lemke went to a competitor who owned a monthly publication, Our City. It listed all the local shopping, eating, and entertainment hot spots. Lemke thought it would be a good merger “because he had a magazine that was in all the hotels.” The marriage went through in 1987. But there was still a missing piece to the puzzle.

“The name [Our City] didn’t do much for me,” says Bruns, who by this time was working with Lemke selling ads. “I mean, I’d call a business and say, ‘Hi, this is Greg Bruns from Our City,’ and they’d go, ‘Huh? Never heard of it.’ I said to Todd, ‘Why can’t we change this?’”

In 1989, Our City and Omaha Today became Omaha Magazine.

Magazines pulled from Omaha Publications' archives.

Magazines pulled from Omaha Publications’ archives.

“The name carried so much more meaning with people,” says Bruns, who soon became the vice president and Lemke’s business partner. “People became more willing to talk with me.”

As the ads increased, so did the content of the magazine. In addition to a thorough restaurant and entertainment guide, Omaha Magazine upped its profiles of people who make this community work.

“Over the course of 30 years, we have done thousands and thousands of great, positive people stories,” Lemke points out with pride. “If you want to know what makes Omaha tick, then you have to know its people. And we do a better job talking about people than any other medium in town. It’s people, people, people, and then food. This town loves food.”

The look of the magazine also sets it apart: thick, glossy, and beautifully photographed. An innovation that really put Omaha Magazine on the map is its annual “Best of Omaha™” edition.

“We started that in 1992,” says Bruns. “It’s absolutely huge and gets bigger every year.”

Lemke, an optimist by nature, says he wakes up every morning with ideas that he can’t wait to bounce off his editors, photographer, graphic designers, and sales staff. His business sense, however, has kept the ship afloat. He expanded his publishing business to include B2B Omaha, a business quarterly; The Encounter, a magazine focusesd on downtown; HerLiving, with articles devoted to women; Family Spectrum, featuring helpful stories on kids, education, and family; and the Old Market Directory, a guide to business and events in the historic district. Equally important, Lemke doesn’t shy away from innovation.

“Print publications have to embrace social media and the internet,” he says. “You can read all our magazines online, and we link everything.”

Lemke never forgets the lessons from long ago, when he sold lightbulbs door-to-door. He learned to look a customer in the eye. He learned to listen to what they had to say. For 30 years now, he’s been listening to what Omaha wants and needs—and chronicling it.

“I’m fortunate. I picked an occupation that I can do for a long time.”

Happy anniversary.

Alicia Smith Hollins and Zelda

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Alicia Smith Hollins, 34, says she was never much of an animal person growing up. Her two sisters sisters were always the ones wanting to take care of the family’s yellow lab, Gunner, and brown lab, Penny, while Smith Hollins was “more into getting into trouble.” But something changed when she and husband Trevor Hollins took in Zelda, a 9-year-old Miniature Schnauzer.

Smith Hollins, a sales associate with Omaha Publications and an alumna of Duchesne Academy, thought about getting a dog after she and Trevor moved into their Aksarben Village home, but they never got around to it. It wasn’t until Trevor’s mom’s co-worker was looking for a home for one of her show dogs that Zelda found her way into their care. “Trevor’s parents’ dog had just died, so they had Zelda over for the weekend to see if they were ready for another dog. But then we took her for a weekend, and she ended up staying with us for good,” she says. 20121219_bs_8082 copy

Zelda originally had just been called Z, which was short for another name that Smith Hollins says she can’t remember. “We figured if we wanted to change her name, it needed to start with a Z, since she was already 6 years old when we got her. So we called her Zelda, which Trevor liked because he loves [The Legends of Zelda] video games, and I have always been fascinated with reading about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.”

One of the things Smith Hollins says she and Trevor liked the most about Zelda was that she had been trained to be a show dog, so she was already potty-trained and didn’t chew up all of their things. However, Smith Hollins did worry that Zelda had experienced some trauma during the somewhat grueling training of the show dog life. “Her tail was cut incorrectly, so she actually couldn’t participate in the shows, but she was bred twice. Her second birth was a C-section, and she apparently almost died.” Another issue Smith Hollins encountered with Zelda was her teeth. “Apparently, Schnauzers have bad teeth, so we took her to the doggy dentist a few months after we got her, and they pulled 11 teeth. The next year, they pulled nine, so she doesn’t have a lot of teeth left, but I think she would be in more pain had we not done it.”

Smith Hollins' son, Logan, plays with Zelda in the family's backyard

Smith Hollins’ son, Logan, plays with Zelda in the family’s backyard.

In terms of activity, Zelda is a fairly laidback dog. Smith Hollins says she doesn’t go on walks or play with toys but rather prefers to cuddle and be petted. “She won’t walk on a leash, [and] she won’t go to the bathroom on a leash because show dogs are trained not to do that, so we really don’t take her for walks…She had one toy she played with for a while, but she chewed it up. I tried to buy the same toy again, but she hasn’t touched it.”

Although Zelda is timid, she has become more protective of the family over time, especially with Smith Hollins’ 2-year-old son, Logan. “I think it’s adorable because she really doesn’t want to play with him, but she wants to protect him.”20121219_bs_8030 copy

She admits that, at first, she feared that Zelda would have a hard time adjusting to having a baby around, as she had always been the baby and slept by Smith Hollins’ side every night. But after Logan was born, Zelda began sleeping by his bed every night and even started barking if someone was at the door.

While Smith Hollins thinks Zelda can have really weird quirks that make her seem somewhat high-maintenance, she says she loves Zelda because she is a perfect lap dog. “If you are having a bad day, she will let you cuddle up to her.”