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Building Business

Building Business

Self Taught MBA: Going to Where the Going is Good, Part 1

comments (3) August 28th, 2012 in Blogs
FPR Fernando Pages Ruiz, contributor

Located on Ogallalas historic, retail street, Nebraskas Home Improvement Center offers rural customers an attractive showroom and design center that makes Jims business stand heads up above the local competition. 

Still under construction when I visited, Jim is building a home with a warehouse in back on a small (by local standards) acreage a few minutes from his shop. The super-insulated structure will serve as a showpiece for Jims other business passion, energy efficiency. 

Located on Ogallalas historic, retail street, Nebraskas Home Improvement Center offers rural customers an attractive showroom and design center that makes Jims business stand heads up above the local competition. 
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Located on Ogallala's historic, retail street, Nebraska's Home Improvement Center offers rural customers an attractive showroom and design center that makes Jim's business stand heads up above the local competition. 

We have talked about strategies to develop a business niche that works in today's challenging environment. But there's another way to find a productive outlet for your skills and services, and that's to go where the business climate is not so challenging. As of late, I've been seeing news stories about second acts in the building community, and more recently, a "Builder Magazine" piece about contractors following the jobs trail to places like North Dakota, where an oil boom has led to a housing boom.  I recommend reading both articles (just click on the hyperlinks), but both articles focus on big firms and how they seize opportunity when and where it exists. I figure there are small guys going where the going is good, too, but doing so in ways we can relate to. So I picked up the phone and asked around, and ended up speaking with two unique fellows who've moved their business to where the going is good. I'll tell you their stories, both inspiring and informative. We'll start with Jim Sipes and his Nebraska Seamless Gutters.

Going Great in the Grasslands
When you talk to Jim Sipes about his career, he often refers to his faith, and the grateful sense he has been led to opportunity through divine guidance. But you also get the impression that providence may have only played a part, with Jim's keen ear for the knock, and his willingness to open the door to opportunity doing the rest. His approach offers us rich business and life lessons, regardless of faith.

The reason I decided to feature Jim in this blog was his recent move to Ogallala, Neb. Have you been there… or even heard of it? Most of you have not. Just like most of us hadn't heard of Microsoft or Google before it was way too late to invest a few bucks and become billionaires. In this case, Ogallala requires a lot of faith to embrace. It's a little, windswept community of less than 5,000 in western Nebraska, nearly 200 miles from the nearest city of 50,000, and that's Cheyenne, WY. It's the kind of place you may stop for gas and then drive off without a second thought, and I have done this many times in route to Denver. Knowing Jim is a successful man, I knew there was good reason he opened a business in Ogallala, and it was not the great restaurants, the booming population, or the weather.  

Jim grew up in Lincoln, capital of Nebraska, a college town with a small but respectable urban population of about 250,000. It's close to Omaha, a city of nearly 1 million. Jim stumbled into the building trades the way many of us have, after getting laid off from a real job in the late 1980s. Confronting a challenging economy with little prospects of employment, he joined forces with a friend that had just bought a gutter machine, and without any prior experience, he jumped right in-something that became a pattern for him-and his excellent people skills and daredevil willingness to climb tall ladders quickly developed Nebraska Seamless Gutters into a booming business. Well, maybe not that quickly. Nebraska Seamless Gutters began as two guys with ladder racks atop a 1994 Ford Tempo, and grew through hard work and diligent stewardship into Jim's Nebraska's Home Improvement Center today, with 32 employees and a fleet of vans. Over time, Jim added services and product lines including windows, siding and insulation, and won several prestigious business awards.

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Comments (3)

Edward1234 Edward1234 writes: Thanks you for posting this. You might be interested in checking out fine luxury homes by Brejnik Fine Homes ( They build fine luxury houses. Brejnik team consists of qualified and trusted: Architects, Interior Designers, Appraisers / Lenders, Trades & Suppliers, Geo-technical engineers, Structural Engineers, Arborists, Landscape Architects, Pool & Water Feature.
Posted: 4:54 am on May 15th

DavidGerstel DavidGerstel writes: I'm going to stay put, but even so that story about Jim was just plain good reading. -- David Gerstel --
Posted: 11:56 pm on September 28th

DancingDan DancingDan writes: Great piece, Fernando. There are always underserved markets - not always easy to see them. Nor do we always feel like doing it, but that's the opportunity - figure out how to do the things other people (either your clients or your competitors) don't want to.
Posted: 4:57 pm on September 7th

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