Growing Your Business in Lincoln, NE – 2019
Lincoln is growing and making a strong name for itself as a good place to do business. This was made evident when Nebraska was awarded the 2018 Site Selection Governor’s Cup for the third consecutive year for having the most qualifying new and expanded facilities per capita. For a project to “count” in Site Selections rankings, it had to meet one of three different thresholds—involved capital investment of at least $1 million, created at least 20 new jobs, or added at least 20,000 square feet of new floor area at a business. Lincoln’s growth in the last year definitely contributed to Nebraska’s top overall ranking, especially toward the end of the year. The expansions at Kawasaki, SCHEELS, Nature’s Variety, Monolith Materials, and others helped put the state on top and put Lincoln in a strong position to close out the year in the fourth spot as a city. It’s amazing what our community can accomplish together.
The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce is a key player in the efforts to grow businesses in Lincoln. They work with lawmakers and local officials to advance pro-growth policies. For example, as the 2019 legislative session nears its conclusion, one of the Lincoln Chamber’s most important issues is up for debate by state senators. They joined the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Greater Omaha Chamber in giving the ImagiNE Nebraska Act (LB720) their full support. According to the Lincoln Chamber, here’s where LB720 can greatly help our state:
- Nebraska’s current incentives plan, the Nebraska Advantage Act, expires in 2020. There needs to be a replacement before it expires.
- State incentive programs balance the playing field as we compete with other states for new investments.
- Incentives help us as a state win projects that could potentially leave Nebraska or not consider moving here at all.
- The ImagiNE Nebraska act simplifies the tax credit process for participating businesses and increases transparency for requirements.
- The ImagiNE Nebraska act targets jobs that pay above a certain threshold, meaning good, high-paying jobs.
The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce also hosts monthly events to bring business leaders together and ignite collaboration. Through networking opportunities before and after work such as The HIVE and The LNK, members of the business community are given the chance to share their mission and ideas with like-minded individuals.
Another great outlet in Lincoln when it comes to networking and building relationships is Center Sphere. Center Sphere is an established network that any business owner, manager, salesperson, account representative, etc. can join. New members are encouraged to visit a few different chapters to find a group, time, and location that works best for them. These chapters are made up of about 10–35 other professionals from different industries. When we talked to Cheryl Hansen, the area director for Lincoln Center Sphere, she talked to us about how important meeting people face to face is.
“Word of mouth marketing and networking is absolutely crucial for brand and name recognition,” Cheryl noted. “People buy from people who they know, like, and trust.” Cheryl pointed out that, in addition to the weekly one-hour chapter meetings, Center Sphere hosts monthly networking events for members and guests. This is a benefit to existing members and a way to show potential members how strong the Center Sphere network is. “Our Lincoln area Center Sphere has grown over 200% this last year and we have over 430 members to introduce yourself and your business to,” Cheryl noted.
In Cheryl’s opinion, the most important thing for business owners to factor in to their growth strategy is time. It takes time to build relationships. Sadly, so many business owners become overwhelmed with all that goes into running the business and they don’t make any time to market themselves. This dilemma is exactly what Strictly Business is here for. As a unique advertising tool, our magazine allows businesses to get their name, face, and story in front of tens of thousands of people every month, in print and online. Yes, there is nothing like that face to face connection, but business owners can only be so many places at once. We encourage going to various networking events and getting involved in different referral groups, but to get your business name out on a larger scale, a little investment in advertising is required. Ultimately, it’s all about building credibility.
Along with credibility, brand recognition is also important. We talked to a few professionals who can attest to this fact. Amy Doele, owner of Flicker Promotions, has built her business around providing other businesses with customized, printed promotional items. “I believe that the customized promotional items that we provide can deliver lasting value by generating recognition between our clients and their prospective clients,” Amy shared. “Sometimes, it is hard to track ROI when it comes to advertising. This is frustrating, but it’s true. Someone may call your business and you can ask them how they heard about you, and they’ll say online or that they don’t know. Chances are, they’ve seen your logo or heard your business name enough that they thought of you when they came to a point where they found themselves needing a good or service you provide. It was an unconscious decision. The point is, get out there and make sure people are seeing your brand.”
Another company in Lincoln focused on helping businesses grow by building trust and authority is Infusionmedia. As we talked to Cris Trautner, one of the partners at Infusionmedia, we learned that they influence sales decisions by using content marketing, conversion copywriting, and persuasion techniques to move the potential customer to a “yes.” To reach your market and help drive customers to action, Infusionmedia works with you to build custom tools, including websites, books, and online content, such as blogs and lead magnets.
“It’s hard to stand out in a crowded market, and many markets are crowded with your competitors, direct and indirect,” admitted Cris. “To market themselves more effectively, we encourage our clients to change their mindset from getting customers to building relationships and authority. We ask them to do that by giving something of value first—to solve a problem or provide insight free of charge—so that potential customers begin to see them as someone they can trust and do business with. It follows the reciprocity rule, which we learn as children: if you want someone to do something for you, do something for them first. One of the unique ways we help clients build relationships and authority is by providing book publishing services. There is no better way to build trust and expand awareness of your product or service than by doing a book related to your business.”
If you can’t handle your marketing tasks and planning internally because you and your staff are overwhelmed, or it’s just not in your wheelhouse, hire a competent outside agency or freelancer. Focus on what you do best—that’s where you’re going to make your money.
Its common for businesses to outsource certain aspects of their business. For example, a small business owner might bring a financial advisor into the mix, especially if finances and accounting isn’t their strength. Bethany Arnold with Edward Jones partners with business owners and their team members, including their CPA and/or lawyer, to ensure that the business entity is structured in the most tax efficient way. “It’s important for me to find out from my clients what is important to them and what their goals and desires are for their business,” said Bethany. “Through an established five-step process, we partner together to find out where the business owner is at today, where they see themselves in five, 10, 15+ years, and how they plan to get there, especially if they have big growth plans.”
Bethany also brought our attention to the harsh reality of things not going as planned, which in life, is inevitable every now and then. If you are a business owner with growth aspirations and you invest money into expansion efforts, but your efforts turn out to be unsuccessful, an Edward Jones financial advisor can help make sure your savings support your overall financial strategy.
To help us further understand what it takes to grow a business, we talked to Max Larsen with Max D. Larsen and Associates. Max Larsen was one of the key people involved in developing Gallup. He helped with building its infrastructure, staffing, and even created Gallup’s government services division from scratch. His experience and knowledge makes him a valuable resource for business owners who are looking to grow. The services Max D. Larsen and Associates offers includes executive coaching for improved organizational performance, strategic planning, leadership training, workforce planning and development, and fundraising for non-profits. According to Max, businesses that are successful have a plan for growth that includes consideration of what is likely to happen in the future so they can be proactive rather than reactive.
“Get ready now for what the future may offer you,” Max advised. “Max D. Larsen and Associates will help you identify and align the human capital and financial resources that you will need to produce the services and products that customers want and need. We will help you look at potential opportunities and challenges, determine your desired goals, and develop strategies for reaching those goals. You will need to establish timelines and assign a responsible party for implementing the strategies and then track your progress. Good outcomes follow effective planning for the future!”
As far as current trends or considerations that greatly affect the growth of a business, Max believes that talented and skilled employees are going to continue to be essential for growth. “Be sure that your HR department’s plans focus on recruiting and retaining the human capital that you will need in the future,” Max said. “It is much easier to hire people with the skills that you need rather than trying to train for them.”
Another costly business consideration is technology, especially if your business’s technology is out of date. Not only does slow, inefficient technology waste time (and time is money), it leaves you at risk of being hacked or losing important data that is crucial to your business operations. That is why Binary Net, a leading provider of integrated data center services, exists to support businesses who need to keep applications, data, and communications available and secure. The growth of a business likely means more data usage or cloud storing space, and any size of business is at risk of firewall attacks. Binary Net offers virtual servers; physical servers; different levels of managed packages that include software updates for selected CMS (e.g. WordPress), security monitoring, and backups; domain validation; network device management; network consulting; firewalls; and so much more.
“Binary Net was founded over 23 years ago and, recently, we’ve acquired Lincoln Data Investments, which will expand our existing data center offerings,” announced Mike Edwards, business development manager at Binary Net. “We are the longest running and largest data center in and around Lincoln, serving local businesses with leading data center services, including collocation, suites, virtual servers, and more.”
We also found that mobile e-commerce is up and poised for further growth, which is something business owners should be aware of when reviewing their own growth strategy. According to eMarketer, $1.36 trillion worth of products and services were purchased via a mobile device in 2017, which accounted for 58.9% of total e-commerce. In 2019, that number is expected to rise to $2.32 trillion, or 67.2%.
“Mobile app usage, transactions, and revenues are on a steady rise,” confirmed Renee Sobotka, local representative for Eazi Apps dba True North Technologies. “Year after year, consumers are moving more toward mobile. It’s important to get into the market during the ‘Experimentation’ phase. As mobile habits begin to form and users settle into their go-to apps, engagement climbs, known as the ‘Adoption’ phase. Shortly followed by the ‘Ubiquity’ phase, which is marked by increasing engagement and consumer spend.
Here at True North Technologies, we pride ourselves on providing personal service and award-winning customer support during and after the build process. Encouraging customers to download your app is simplified with our marketing collateral package, which is included in the build fee. You’ll also be able to easily update the app and take the wheel on your marketing campaigns using the Skipper App. You’ll be able to increase foot traffic and e-commerce sales.”
Renee has lived in Nebraska her whole life. Growing up in a small town, she learned the importance of supporting local small businesses. Renee is proud to now provide business owners with opportunities and tools to compete with larger corporations through her own Eazi Apps business, True North Technologies.
“One of the most current and practical ways to help businesses succeed is by developing a mobile app,” she stated. “Customers benefit from loyalty rewards when they download the app, and businesses are able to send push notifications into the hands of their best clientele. Eazi Apps is an affordable way to get a piece of the mobile pie. The company has developed and published thousands of apps to the Apple and Google Play app stores. It’s well-known that increasing customer retention by 2% is the equivalent of reducing business expenses by 10%. It’s easy to calculate your return on investment! If 300 people download your app and 10% respond to two campaigns per month, that’s an extra $1,200 monthly based on a conservative $20 spend per transaction. What could you do with that extra revenue?”
We are very proud to live in such a thriving business ecosystem here in Lincoln. As a business publication, it is so exciting to see so many new businesses get started and so many rooted businesses continue to change and grow.