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Omaha Legends: Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame Inductees Cut Across a Wide Swath of Endeavors

March 28, 2012 3 comments

Every city of any size has its movers and shakers and star performers in the world of commerce. One function of a chamber of commerce is to recognize its local impact players. It’s no different in my city, Omaha, or with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, which has a Business Hall of Fame for just this purpose.  The following story, to appear in the April issue of Metro Magazine, provides mini-profiles of the latest crop of hall inductees, whose diverse cross-section of endeavors proves there are all manner of ways to make a difference in the commerce of a city.  Most of those being honored are not well known outside of Omaha, but both couples being inducted this year are: Paul and Lori Hogan have created a mega national and international business in their heavily franchised Home Instead Senior Care, complete with a line of books and videos, all of which taken together have helped them nearly corner the market on nonmedical home services for seniors; Jun and Ree Kaneko are, outside of Warren Buffett and Alexander Payne, Omaha’s superstar residents for his much-in-demand sculpture and opera design work and for her artist residency administration expertise and, as a couple, for their much admired community art and creativity projects, including the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and the KANEKO Open Space for Your Mind complex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omaha Legends: Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame Inductees Cut Across a Wide Swath of Endeavors

©by Leo Adam Biga

Soon to be published in Metro Magazine


The latest Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame inductees include a publisher, a PR maven, a businessman-turned-politician, two couples following their passion and “a cotton-picker from Texas” who turned sundries into gold. An April 24 Holland Performing Arts Center gala honors these legends.

Bob Hoig
 

Bob Hoig

Bob Hoig was bumming around New York City when he wound up in the Daily News building. He had no intention of being a journalist, but he needed a job, so he applied. The next thing he knew he was a copy boy. Thus began a 56-year and counting journalism career that’s wend its way from New York to Miami to Nebraska, where the Kansas-Colorado native had roots.

After reporting stints with United Press International and the Omaha World-Herald and editing the Douglas County Gazette, he formed the Midlands Business Journal in 1975 with Rapid Printing owner Zane Randall.

“I felt this market needed a niche paper that looked into small business success stories. That’s something nobody was doing at the time. All this came in the face of many prophecies of doom,” says Hoig, who went solo when Randall bowed out.

Hoig had confidence in his own abilities. “I’ve always been a good salesman and I think I’m a good enough writer and editor that I had the components you need to start a successful paper,” he says. Besides, he knows how to balance a ledger.

The veteran publisher has had hit and miss publications and he’s always learned from his successes and failures.

Satisfaction, he says, comes from “producing a good product that will survive, employ people and not be a burden on anyone,” adding. “I find this work very ennobling because it keeps me alive, involved and thinking.”

 

 

 
Linda Lovgren

 

 

 

Linda Lovgren

When Linda Lovgren left an ad agency to launch her own Lovgren Marketing Group in 1978 she says, “It never occurred to me I could fail. I just kind of looked at it as this is the next step in what I’m going to do, and if it works out that is spectacular, and if it doesn’t there will be another door opening.”

Going in business for herself, she says, was “a defining moment. It takes time to grow a business, to grow relationships, and one connection leads to another connection. It’s this large linkage you begin to build.”

With few women entrepreneurs around, her mentors were all men, among them then-Chamber president Bob Bell. She went on to be the Chamber’s first female president in 2003. She advises aspiring entrepreneurs find the right balance between work and family, just as she did as a new wife and mother.

The Iowa native’s long given back to her adopted Nebraska, volunteering with the State Fair board, Nebraska Kidney Foundation, Mid-America Boy Scouts of America and Habitat for Humanity,

She says she derives satisfaction from meeting the needs of clients, staff and family and “knowing you have accomplished something that has made a difference for all of those people.”

 

 

 Mike Fahey
Mike Fahey
CenturyLink Center Omaha

 

 

Mike Fahey

Heeding his older brother’s advice, Mike Fahey made “the most important” decision of his life when he moved here in 1971 to complete his education at Creighton University. It set him on a path to become an entrepreneur and two-term Mayor.

“It taught me you should never stop trying to improve yourself,” he says.

His next turning point was starting his own business, Land Title Company. “That certainly changed my entire life. It put me on the road to success. No longer was I working for a paycheck per se, I was really trying to build a business. There’s a lot of risk in that but I had confidence in my abilities. It taught me right away you’re only as strong as the people you have around you and I was very fortunate to get myself surrounded by some really good people.”

He regards growing his business his biggest success. “It brought me the greatest joy and with that it brought success. Creating jobs for other people was very rewarding as well.”

He says he applied a maxim from business to the mayor’s office: “Surround yourself with smart people, give them all the authority they need to do their jobs, and then hold them accountable for their outcomes. You get better results.”

He’s proud to have moved Omaha forward with signature projects like the CenturyLink Center and Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. Today he chairs the Omaha Community Foundation and sits on several boards. “Community service is a great way to pay back a city that’s been extremely good to me and my family,”

 

 

Paul and Lori Hogan
Home Instead Center for Successful Aging

 

 

Paul and Lori Hogan

A confluence of events led Paul and Lori Hogan to conceive Home Instead Senior Care. As he learned the franchise model working for Merry Maids he noticed his failing grandmother rebound with the help of family caregivers.

“I saw that you didn’t have to be doctor or a nurse to really have a huge impact on   someone’s health, particularly a senior,” says Paul. “That experience helped me see the opportunity that existed. Back when we started there were just two options for seniors needing support, a nursing home or your daughter’s home. Now there’s a whole proliferation of options. We’re one of them. Preparation and opportunity met, and we took the risk.”

Lori says having a passion for what they consider their mission is part of their success. Another is filling “a real need” among seniors. Quality caregivers and franchisees are critical, too.

Paul credits mentors Tom Guy and Dallen Peterson of Merry Maids with helping make Home Instead a reality. But

The company’s success has allowed the Hogans to pay forward their good fortune through the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation, the Center for Successful Aging and various resources for family caregivers. “When you are given much, much is expected,” says Lori, “and we really feel it is important to give back to our community and we’re so grateful we’re able to do that.”

 

 

Jun and Ree Kaneko
Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
KANEKO

 

 

Jun and Ree Kaneko

The former Ree Schonlau was an Old Market pioneer when artist Jun Kaneko came at her invitation. Among the few who saw potential for the old wholesale produce district, she established the Craftsmen Guild and Alternative Worksite, Artist-in-Industry Program. Jun shared her vision and the couple formed the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, whose artist residency program is world-renowned.

More recently they opened KANEKO, a complex of creativity spaces.

Together, they’ve helped grow and put the Omaha arts community on the map. She’s one of America’s leading art residency advocates and experts. He found a nurturing place for his art in Omaha, where he’s developed his studio. Omaha is where he first made his popular dangos and began designing for operas.

They appreciate this community making their endeavors possible. “We’ve had patrons who are very inspiring and supportive, that believe in us and stand behind what we’re trying to do even though they know it’s a tough row and maybe a little avant garde,” she says. “Jun feels extremely fortunate, as I do, to be able to have realized those dreams here.”

She says there’s also pride in being recognized “as catalysts” for attracting commerce and attention to Omaha and for spurring the dynamic cultural renaissance the city’s enjoying. “Any mature city’s going to have the arts involved in it and now we have enough. I’m really pleased to see what’s happening. The cultural in-fill has finally caught up with those of us who were out here hanging on.”

Their multi-phase KANEKO project is a gift. Says Jun, “I always wanted to return something to this country. Lots of people helped me to be what I am now, so I feel I need to contribute something back. The best thing we know is creative activity” and thus their “open space for the mind.” He expects the organization and its mission “will keep progressing.”

 

 

 
A typical Pamida store
Witherspoon Mansion

 

 

D.J. Witherspoon

The son of a Texas migrant worker, D.J. Witherspoon was a teacher and coach in the Longhorn State before moving to Omaha in the Dust Bowl years and founding Gibson Products Company with his father-in-law. Witherspoon’s purchase of Marks Distributing Company introduced him to his future business partner, Nebraska native Lee Wegener, and together the two men formed Pamida, a chain of discount general merchandise stores serving rural America.

Pamida was a play on his three sons names: Patrick, Michael and David.

The company’s strategic expansion went viral in the 1960s and ’70s. Witherspoon, the cotton-picker from Texas, and Wegener, the corn-picker from Nebraska, followed a proven formula of acquiring existing businesses in underserved locales and converting them into Pamida stores. Known as an inspirational leader, Witherspoon engendered loyalty among his employees, many from rural backgrounds like his own.

Witherspoon, the company’s majority stock holder, sold Pamida to its workers through an employee stock option plan in 1981. He retired as chairman and enjoyed a life of conspicuous consumption and philanthropy.

Reservations for the 6 p.m. gala dinner and 7:30 p.m. induction ceremony are due April 17 by registering online at OmahaChamber.org/HOF.

There’s No Place Like Home Sums Up Home Instead Senior Care Philosophy


 

 

From oh-so-humble beginnings Home Instead Senior Care has become a huge business that founders Paul and Lori Hogan have built from a single good idea based on some core principals that come directly from their lives, not from a manual or focus group.  This short story provides a glimmer of what makes them and their business tick.  The piece originally appeared in B2B Magazine.

There’s No Place Like Home Sums of Home Instead Senior Care Philosophy

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally published in B2B Magazine

 

Home Instead Senior Care co-founders Paul and Lori Hogan take a similar strategic approach running their business as they do their marriage and family. The principles that guide their professional life are congruent with their personal life because they authentically express the couple’s beliefs.

That consistent message helps explain how in 15 years they’ve grown from a single desk in Paul’s mother’s home to a new Omaha corporate headquarters with 100-plus employees. What began as a handful of caregivers and clients now encompasses 872 independently owned and operated franchises employing some 60,000 caregivers serving more than one million clients worldwide.

 

The Hogans

 

Along the way the Hogans helped create a new industry for delivering nonmedical home care and companionship and are recognized leaders in the field.

“One of the things we did before we started the business was we established our set of corporate objectives, which are to honor God in all we do, treat each other with dignity and respect, encourage growth in ourselves and others, and build value in service to others,” said Paul. “As I look back, that is the single most important thing we ever did in the business. The second most important thing is we shared those with absolutely everybody that’s ever joined the company — as a franchise owner, caregiver, staff person. Therefore, before deciding whether to join us or not. you know where we’re coming from. Those two things done in the very beginning have played out now to be invaluable.

“I suspect it’s turned some people off, but those that identify with those values join us and thrive. They can be themselves and can achieve excellence, and that’s really the foundation for the chemistry that exists in the corporation.”

At the heart of it all is the story of Paul’s late maternal grandmother, Eleanor Manhart, whom family members cared for at the home of her daughter, Catherine Hogan (Paul’s mother). Grandma Manhart didn’t want to go to a nursing home. Paul and Lori were among her caregivers. The example of how Grandma thrived with personal, attentive, in-home care gave Paul the idea for the business. “Slowly her strength came back and she regained the will to live,” he said. “Without that experience there wouldn’t even be a business. It was the impetus to give me and Lori the confidence this is needed and it works.”

He learned “the fear of being isolated, lonely and institutionalized” is universal, as is “the basic human need” or desire to stay at home. “That was the inspiration — the promise of home,” said Paul. He also learned “It’s not so much how well the towels get folded,” it’s how well people connect. The quality of that connection has become the paradigm for Home Instead’s model.

“It’s one relationship at a time,” he said, “and the larger we get the more important it is we continue to find ways to focus on our core strengths, and our core strength is our relationships with people. We’ve actually measured it. The most important aspect of our service between our caregiver and our client is the relationship.”

That relationship model is expressed in a new Home Instead tag line: To us, it’s personal. “We all realize that is the key to success yesterday, today and the future,” said Paul. “So that’s a way we continue to build upon our core strength. It’s aspirational. Every time that phone rings, that’s how we deal with people.”

“As we get bigger we keep going back to those core values and with every decision  ask, Does it line up with our core values? If it doesn’t, it’s best we don’t do it,” said Lori, “and I think that’s been a really good guide for us to measure against.”

Home Instead is highly selective in awarding franchises. It has to be the right fit. A proprietary evaluation system is used to determine if candidates possess the right mix of five key talents deemed necessary for success. Paul meets every prospect.

 

“Caring and competitiveness are two of the five I’ll talk about,” said Paul. “If competitiveness is really high and caring’s really low that’s a bad formula, or if caring’s really high and competitiveness is low you’re not going to be aggressive enough to do what it takes to make it. We’ve turned down 25 to 35 (applicants) a year for the last seven or eight years, where the chemistry was just not right. If we were out just to sell franchises and put more money in the bank we wouldn’t care about that, but that’s obviously not a good approach because the more that don’t make become a bad reflection on the brand.

“I think another part of the formula is we’re not a public company, we’re privately held. Therefore we can make those decisions, we’re not pressured by quarterly earnings statements that compel you to sell just to make the numbers. Not having that pressure continues to be to our advantage.”

Communication is essential. Paul and his senior team leaders maintain contact with franchise owners. “We’re always getting feedback from our franchise owners before we go into making our next year’s plan. Therefore we’ve always been out in front of things — issues and challenges and opportunities as opposed to being in crisis mode. It’s helped us as a couple to continue to enjoy the business, build the business, feel like we’re in control of the business…”

Home Instead was not the first nonmedical home care provider, but it introduced focus and professionalism. Paul first learned the corporate world working at Merry Maids, an Omaha-based company that found franchise success. Founder Dallen Peterson became a mentor. “I saw how he took a very simple service concept — home cleaning — and made it a professional service by developing a system that ensured quality work,” said Paul. “So I took that experience into this and I was the first one to really do that in the industry. Secondly we focused on doing one thing and just doing it really well. Before we came along there were other home health companies doing both medical and nonmedical, and there still are today.”

Building a niche, Lori said, has proved smart, as Home Instead’s positioned itself as THE expert in the private duty home care field.

“We have the goal by 2025 to be among the world’s most admired companies by actively changing the face of aging,” said Paul. “Today, the face is fear. We want to replace that with hope. We want to replace loneliness with companionship. The old face is institution — we want to change that to home. That’s why we’re writing a book called Stages of Senior Care, Your Step by Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions (McGraw Hill).”

The book is slated for a fall release.

Home Instead does public awareness campaigns via print, video, online guides that help adult children and older parents navigate aging issues early on. There are tips on how to start the conversation about Mom and Dad’s living arrangements, bringing home care into the picture, et cetera.

Opening this fall will be the Home instead Center for Successful Aging, a partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The mid-town drive-up facility will offer health and wellness services and clinicians and will conduct research. Said Paul, “We sponsored that center because we want to be a part of the solution. Maybe Home Instead can be a part of discovering some breakthroughs about Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s and so on. We’re going to avail to UNMC the thousands of clients we have to help with clinical trials.”

The Hogans view their work as a calling. “We see it as our purpose and we see it as our mission,” Paul said. “It makes us feel like we’re doing something relevant and we realize how that’s not easy to come by. We recognize how special that is.”

“We feel blessed,” said Lori.

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