Tag Archives: B4B

Expanding Times, Expanding Horizons

June 14, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Networking groups offer ideas and kindle relationships, but they also have drawbacks. “John” only sees the same people at his networking luncheon. “Bill” might desire to join the coffee group, but he needs to open his store by 8 a.m. And “Jane” doesn’t have $200, let alone $1,000, just to come once or twice per year. 

Michelle Schrage and Jay Miralles can relate, which is why they started Business4Business Professional Society in 2014, using a different business model that includes a variety of networking events like morning coffees, afternoon luncheons, and evening gatherings. 

They have been a part of traditional networking groups, including some based on professions such as bankers, drywallers, or real estate agents. Schrage and Miralles decided to bring together connected, motivated, and forward-thinking people, regardless of profession.

In the first couple of years, B4B’s leadership team and board were concerned that not having a regular, predictable meeting schedule might be making it difficult for businesspeople to connect and engage. It soon became evident that this strategy was actually advantageous. 

“We now embrace it,” Schrage says as the organization enters its fifth year and has hosted more than 100 events, or nearly two events per month. “Our members are busy professionals and we’ve found that they want access but not necessarily commitment…we have a core group of regulars but there are always new people from various walks of life and industries.”

As a single mom to a 13-year-old son and a busy professional herself, Schrage understands firsthand how important flexibility is to today’s professionals. 

The B4B founders discovered early that a lot of people did not want to pay a membership fee for a professional networking group. So, although a $249 one-year all-access pass allows unlimited entry to all events, attendees can also simply pay as they go on a per-event basis, Schrage says. Every event is self-contained and offers something different; i.e., in March, B4B was the first group to host an event on Blackstone Social’s new patio. 

“We maintain that our events are held at places that have a unique, interesting aspect to them whether they are brand-new, not accessible to most people, or not known to most people,” she adds. “It’s a great way to bring people together.”

Event elements may include workshops, efforts to support nonprofits, gala-quality fundraisers, speakers, and behind-the-scenes tours in addition to face-to-face networking opportunities. Speakers have included Firespring CEO Jay Wilkinson, Peter Kiewit Foundation Executive Director Emerita Lyn Wallin Ziegenbein, and motivational speaker Ron ‘Gus’ Gustafson.

“We’re constantly thinking, ‘what’s something new?’” Schrage says. “It gives us a lot of flexibility to keep our eyes and ears open to amazing people, amazing endeavors, and amazing companies we feel the community can benefit from knowing about.”

B4B regular Christopher Pfanstiel, director of business development for Hustad Companies Inc., says B4B has presented opportunities to connect with new people and businesses, and even helped him gain a new client or two.  

“I really enjoy B4B…it’s networking that’s done in a loose fashion versus a very canned environment,” he says. “You meet new owners, and managers, and entrepreneurs…you get to meet the key players and learn a little bit about them and their businesses.”

B4B succeeds because developing a face-to-face rapport is still important and relevant in the age of electronic communications, Schrage says. 

“When you get to share space with somebody, and read each other’s body language, and make eye contact, and exchange ideas that aren’t necessarily electronically communicated, you create strong bonds,” she says. “I think people are missing the mark if they rely too much on technology.”

To find out more about upcoming events, visit b4bsociety.com.

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

Michelle Schrage


October 4, 2014 by

In the last issue of this magazine we explored the notion of B4B, 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 connotes. In that issue I invited you to tell us about your B4B business practices to showcase in this column. We received several edifying submissions, but this one really stood out as one to pass on to readers:

Renze Display has been working with businesses locally for more than 119 years. Started by Gus Renze, the company once designed amazing floats for the Ak-Sar-Ben extravaganzas of the earliest days, and the company was instrumental in the development of the faux city that put Omaha on the map when we hosted the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition. Through the years the company has maintained the ability to develop “really crazy things for people who don’t know where else to go, and very effective mainline display products, too,” said Mike Compton, executive vice president of the firm.

“Our key to longevity and growth to national stature has been our can-do mantra,” Compton added. “We approach every project with the notion that it can be done in some fashion and go from there.” How they do this at Renze Display is where the B4B theme comes in. He told me that when their customers come to them with problems and need solutions, the account people simply will not parrot out answers with assigned costs for off-the-shelf products. They take a minute, draw together all the experts they’ve got, and brainstorm the best solution. They liken their process to what some may know from Disney and “Imagineering,” but at Renze they call it “Renzineering.”

“Renzineering is our way of engineering a solution,” Compton said. “We have great printing equipment, but not that much greater than our competitors in bigger markets. The difference is that the people in those markets have come to count on Renze Display in the Midwest because they know they get better attention from us and collaboration and care about their goals.”

He said that when he read the article about B4B it resonated with him. “Never once in my career have I considered myself a salesperson,” he said. “People come to us because they need something and, like my peers at Renze Display, I am here to help them solve their problems. In fact, so many of my conversations are talking my clients out of buying things because it’s not in their best interest. I may be actually an anti-salesperson!  But in the end when I recommend a smarter solution that costs less and performs better (as I believed it would), the customer trusts me and comes back to me tenfold in a collaborative, business-building relationship. That’s why the phrase B4B strikes a chord with me. We are for our customers.”  When I asked Compton if he thought the phrase had legs, he told me, “If any market can turn this phrase, it’s Omaha.”

I’m with Mike on that one. Let’s turn that phrase.

Wendy Wiseman is creative director at Zaiss & Company, a customer-based planning and communications firm. What’s your B4B story at your company?  Let us hear from you and you may be our next feature. Contact our editor, robert@omahamagazine.com




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