Tag Archives: Jeff Kavich

Company Parties in the Modern Era

January 22, 2019 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

In the fictional world of AMC’s hit television show Mad Men, the parties are a politically incorrect spectacle.

“We have gifts, girls, and games,” office manager Joan Holloway says. Liquor flows until the employees can hardly stand, and the secretary sometimes goes home with someone who is not her husband.

Real companies don’t hold parties like they do on TV—at least not in the 21st century.

“We serve alcohol, but people are not coming to company parties anymore to tie one on,”  explains Amee Zetzman, All Makes Office Equipment CFO. All Makes hosted its 100th anniversary party in September.

Even in places where two-martini lunches once took place, corporate events have tamed. Out-of-town revelers have likened the Omaha Press Club to a Mad Men set. This is due to the rich décor rather than any rowdy antics. The club has been around since 1971 and is located on the 22nd floor of the First National Bank building at 1620 Dodge St. When Rice University held a celebratory party after the school won its first and only NCAA baseball championship in 2003, the carpet was littered with cigars at the end of the night.

Club manager Christine Jones says the club doesn’t do “sorority-style parties” these days. Companies are more aware of the liabilities and tend to tamper down events.

The club’s interior is a lush treat. A redesign in 2008 brought in a warm, inviting charcoal-gray carpet that has mocha-brown swirls. The cream and black furniture complements the immense circular fireplace. The fireplace, topped with a cooper hood, invites people to gather and socialize, and often holds canapés during events. Party-goers snack on beef sliders and chicken or brie wrapped in puff pastry. The bar regularly serves classic Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds. The Blackstone cheesecake is reported to be the original recipe from the hotel.   

Yet the menu and enhanced décor all depend on who is throwing the shindig.

“As long as it is legal to be obtained and done in the state of Nebraska, I will jump through the hoops,” Jones says. 

The Omaha Press Club has kept some of the same clients for 10, even 20, years. Jones calls herself the event planner, dishwasher, bartender…you name it. It’s all-hands-on-deck to run the ship smoothly. In her 19 years as manager, she has seen it all.

News crews or politicians might unexpectedly appear. A Democrat and a Republican could sit at the same table and cause fireworks to ensue. It is Jones’ job to keep it running smoothly.

A six-tier cake, stacked like a skyscraper, once collapsed on Jones as she cut into it.

“It’s falling, falling,” people shouted.

White and black buttercream frosting came crashing down on her.

All Makes Office Equipment had a similar issue this past year when most of their frosted chocolate chip cookies were smashed during a car ride to the company’s centennial party.   

Mishaps do happen, but throwing a corporate party is all about building memories. And if guests are smiling at the end of the night, the event is considered a success.

The Making of a 100-Year-Old Birthday Party

All Makes has occupied the same brick building on the same corner of Farnam and 25th streets for its entire 100-year history—although All Makes Typewriter Co. founder Harry A. Ferer probably never conceived his business would one day sell products for video conferencing.

Last fall, All Makes celebrated its centennial anniversary with a soirée celebrating clients, family, and friends. And the furniture and office-design company knew the perfect spot in which to celebrate.

“People who haven’t been to the building are blown away by the interior,” CEO Jeff Kavich says.

The party lasted for two hours after the offices closed on Thursday, Sept. 20 (from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.). It was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning, including marketing the event to potential attendees such as clients and vendors. A small team of Kavich, Zetzman, and director of marketing Kaitlin Breitag planned the entire event, but many others in the office assisted when asked.

“It worked out best that way,” Breitag says of keeping the planning committee small. “We didn’t want to distract people from their day-to-day jobs.”

The event included roughly 200 guests. Third-generation owner Larry Kavich (now retired) spoke about the company. Acoustic guitarist Rob Hockney and flower bouquets added to the ambience. A variety of hors d’oeuvres—including a miniature “cheese Runza” with red pepper aioli, wild mushroom and parmesan crostini with a hint of truffle flavor, and an Asian five-spiced pork taco with wasabi aioli and cucumber apple pico—were passed to guests so they could easily mingle. Spinach and artichoke dip, grilled beef tenderloin, and marinated vegetables sat at stations. The event also included an open bar, but the happy-hour timeframe minimized the potential for overindulgence.

It was a unique event for All Makes’ unique milestone. On other occasions, if the company entertains, they typically put together smaller parties or lunch events to update clients on the latest office furniture.

“The biggest reason why we threw this party is we wanted to celebrate 100 years of business,” Breitag says. “We also wanted to use it as a way to thank the people who have helped All Makes get to where we are today, especially vendors, manufacturing partners, and our clients.”

Community leaders also attended the event and sung the praises of the 100-year-old company.

“We were pleasantly surprised when Mayor Jean Stothert and Greater Omaha Chamber President David Brown accepted our invitation,” Breitag says. “We were happy they could come. They had nice words about the company; it was exactly what we hoped for.”

And while the celebratory atmosphere encouraged new connections, the planning committee remained mindful that this was a work function.

“In this world, today’s vendor could be tomorrow’s client,” Brietag says. “Today’s client could be tomorrow’s vendor. Bringing that audience together in one area for one event was a way to celebrate a milestone, but it also ended up being a great marketing opportunity. We didn’t want to let that opportunity slip by.”

The company also held smaller events in conjunction with their 100-year anniversary, such as a “100 Years, $100,000” campaign. In this giveaway, one nonprofit in each of the four cities with All Makes locations—Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, and Des Moines—won a prize package worth $25,000. In Omaha, The Autism Center of Nebraska won $25,000 worth of All Makes office furniture, along with a Kyocera CopyStar copier, and a Meeting Owl conferencing solution.

Visit allmakes.com and omahapressclub.com for more information.

This column was printed in the February/March 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.


Retaining Wall

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Good workers are hard to keep. U.S. unemployment rates were remarkably low in 2018. While that is good news for workers, it’s potentially challenging for companies trying to retain their top talent for the long haul.

Competition is fierce. Employees are no longer staying in one spot for years—even decades—just because they earn a decent salary, like what they do, and are comfortable where they are.

Perhaps more than ever, experts say, companies across the country—including those in Omaha—are realizing how imperative employee retention has become in today’s strong job market.

“There’s no loyalty,” says Spencer Brookstein, president of Brookstein and Associates Executive Recruiters. “You don’t go to work for somebody in your 20s and stay there forever. Those days are gone.”

But was this simply a romantic ideal? A 2014 study titled “What Should I Be When I Grow Up? Occupations and Unemployment Over the Life Cycle” notes that, “Young workers enter the labor market not knowing the occupation that they are the most productive in.” This study goes on to note that those younger workers who are most desired traditionally have the highest rates of mobility.

This past summer, the Labor Department released its April 2018 snapshot of the economy, showing the unemployment rate at 3.9 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2000. At the same time, a younger, tech-savvy workforce continues to emerge, bringing with it a new generation of employees who are demanding more than average salaries, two-week vacations, health care, and retirement benefits.

Because of that, Brookstein says, companies are trying to find creative ways to keep their current employees happy.

“With compensation you’ve got salary,” Brookstein says. “Salary is important, but there’s also benefits, especially medical benefits, and perks. Does the company offer discounts to places in town, gym memberships, an extra week of vacation, or special recognition for something done right?”

Union Pacific, according to a company report, offers child care both in-home and on campus for employees, pet care, tutoring and homework help for employees’ children, elderly care, and housekeeping.

U.P. “draws thriving talent, energizes current employees, and develops them to carry out our mission while leading the transportation industry into the future. Key engagement initiatives revolve around our culture, workplace relationships, employee rewards, job responsibilities, and personal growth opportunities,” the report says.

All Makes, which celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2018, has seen an increase in office-furniture business as younger workers desire open-concept offices, which, interestingly, were popular in the 1960s.

“When it comes to recruiting and retaining talent, pay and benefits play a major role, but so does the work environment, i.e., the furniture and workspaces available,” says Amee Zetzman, All-Makes CFO. “Due to the Great Recession and explosion of the ‘gig economy,’ young adults expect remote, flexible, and collaborative workspaces—similar to what they experienced in college.”

While environment and culture mean a lot to younger employees, how do employers turn these values into their value of retention?

Zetzman says that having employees with passion and treating employees with compassion is a strategy that has helped this century-old company retain a great staff.

“We have people that have been at All Makes for more than 45 years, and that’s inspired by their passion for their jobs and loyalty to the company,” Zetzman says. “We strive to treat our employees like family and encourage honesty and open communication. Our office doors are never closed and we encourage people to come to us directly with issues as well as solutions.”

“We also make it a priority to give back to the community, and our employees follow that lead,” says All-Makes CEO Jeff Kavich. “We listen to all requests regardless of size or scope, and take suggestions from our employees for what is important to them. Our team members’ personal circumstances influence our giving.”

Brookstein says that while employees leave jobs, they tend to stay in the same industry they start out in, whether that’s accounting, law, medicine, real estate, or another field.

To retain employees, Brookstein says companies should look at what he called “two sides of the coin.”

First, career growth.

“If you look at it from the employee point of view, you’re looking to see if your current company is offering you growth and not stagnation,” Brookstein says. “You’ve heard of the five- or 10-year plan? I say, look at two or three. Does the employee see themselves doing the same job, working for the same boss, the same responsibilities two or three years down the road with no growth possibilities? Probably not.”

Second, compensation.

“I’m not talking about people leaving for a dollar more an hour or whatever,” Brookstein says. “Nobody’s going to make a switch for that, but they will for more.”

Brookstein continues: “So how do I keep people happy at my company? Pay them above market rate. A company paying 10 percent or more above market rate is going to see their employees staying with them longer.”

Another factor is lower and middle managers. While most people want to do work they love, having a positive relationship with a direct manager can make a world of difference.

While higher salary and better benefits may cost a company some money, turnover is more expensive, Brookstein says.

“Hiring and training costs are exorbitant,” he says. “If you won’t pay someone an extra $5,000 a year it’s going to cost $20,000 to hire someone new and train them. If your employees leave, you’re going to pay many times over what you could have paid them to stay.”

Visit brooksteinrecruiters.com for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Spencer Brookstein sitting with left arm resting on desk

Spencer Brookstein

Amee Zetzman and Jeff Kavich

April 6, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Established in 1918, All Makes has spent 100 years earning the trust of multiple generations of business owners in Omaha and beyond. CEO Jeff Kavich and CFO Amee Zetzman, great-grandchildren of the company’s founder, understand the bottom-line value of creating an up-to-date, appealing business environment. 

Kavich explains, “In a town with low unemployment, companies need to look sharp and be current with the trends to attract good people.” 

Zetzman adds, “Business owners count on us to help them attract and retain employees. We’ve taken local employers on tours of other spaces so they can get up to speed on the latest design trends.” 

According to Kavich, clients of All Makes appreciate being able to select design solutions from a large number of vendors. “As our company’s name suggests, we blend all price points, all styles, and all trends from a large variety of manufacturers,” Kavich says. “By contrast, many of our competitors represent just one manufacturer.” 

In addition to Omaha, All Makes has showrooms in Lincoln and Kearney as well as Des Moines.

All Makes
2558 Farnam St.
Omaha, NE 68131

This sponsored content appeared in Faces of Omaha 2018. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/faces_2018/10