Kevin Brown Selected as Midwest Executive of the Quarter

Home to Fortune 500 companies, business giants and outstanding educational institutions, the Midwest houses some of the best and brightest industry leaders in the nation. Four times a year the Midwest Executive of the Quarter (MEQ) award honors a person who exemplifies these characteristics. This quarter, Kevin Brown, CEO of Omaha Steel Castings, has been selected as the MEQ.

Through dedication, enthusiasm and results, Kevin exemplifies what it means to be a leader in the Midwest. In addition to decades of experience as an executive in the service, distribution and manufacturing industries, Brown also has an exceptional background in building extraordinary teams that share a vision and commitment to excellence. In less than two years, he built an industry leading team and realigned Omaha Steel’s strategic business initiatives to put the organization back on a path of sustainable growth.

“Our goal at Omaha Steel is to create a well diversified company, creating opportunities for each of our team members. With the move to Wahoo, we have focused our attention on growing our company while creating jobs within our community of Wahoo, Lincoln, Fremont and Omaha,” said Brown.

Before taking his position at Omaha Steel, Brown served as the CEO of RD Industries, a multinational plastics manufacturing company providing chemical containment and dilution control systems. Prior to RD Industries, he managed Nebraska Machinery’s seven Caterpillar, Claas and AGCO distribution facilities across the state. Additionally, he has spent fifteen years in IT, sales and operations leadership positions with both Omnium Worldwide and West Corporation.

Brown grew up in rural Montana and enjoys all outdoor activities. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his wife and three children. He holds an undergraduate degree from Creighton University and attended Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business.

About Omaha Steel Castings
Founded in 1906 Omaha Steel is recognized in the industry as a leading producer of high-quality steel and stainless steel castings for a vast array of market serving the valve, regulator, trucking transportation, mining, defense department, oil and gas verticals.. Their mission is to provide flexible, cost-effective solutions for their customers on time, every time while maintaining the highest standards of quality within the steel castings markets.

The three requirements for nominees to be considered for the MEQ Award are:

  • Showing leadership within the Midwest community by focusing on strategic business initiatives that generate measurable results for their organization.
  • Establishing and strengthening a strong company culture that engages employees.
  • Supporting and leading the way for business education and thought leadership among their staff and community through forward-thinking notions.

Building Employee Trust Results in Long-Term Prosperity


By Brooke Heck, Phenomblue VP, Practice Lead

First day on a job as told from two points of view:

New employee:
Fill out paperwork. Did I file as “1” or “2” on the W-2 form last time? Take photo for ID badge. Where are the restrooms? Pick out your favorite kind of pens. These are all typical “first day” activities at a new job. You are excited, nervous and maybe even a little anxious about the decision you have made because you have already told everyone (thanks to Facebook) you landed “the best job ever!” Then the first day comes and goes and it really didn’t live up to your expectations. The gel roller pens you had at your last job are not the kind they use here (note to self: raid the supply closet later) and the initiatives you will be working on are not like anything they mentioned in the interview. You feel a different “vibe” from the day you interviewed and you have text messages from all your friends and you mom asking, “so!?! Tell me how your first day at #thebesttjobever is going!” You feel deflated. You aren’t so sure anymore you made the right decision. And this is not because of minor things like pens. It’s because no one reinforced you made the right decision or demonstrated how important you are to the organization. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. You feel like you are part of a checklist of things that had to get done today.


Hiring manager:
Ok, I have two new people starting this week. I have to get paperwork printed out, notify IT of the new employee, get a security badge for them, assign a laptop, tell their manager to take them to lunch….


How many of you reading this have a structured onboarding plan at your organizations that assimilates new employees purposefully and authentically? A plan that is focused on desired outcomes vs. checking off a list? Reinforces to the candidate they made the right decision, starts to build trust with them and turns them into loyal brand advocates?

You could end up losing employees you spent a lot of time and valuable resources recruiting and hiring without a plan. Not to mention the residual effects of what they will say to others when they leave your place. At the center of your employment brand you need something that resonates both internally and externally. Your employment brand will do a great job of attracting the right talent to your organization, but it is also the mantra or internal rally cry of your employees. It is the reason they come back to work every day and dedicate their time and talents to your company.

I recently presented at the 1st Annual H.I.R.E conference here in Omaha and spoke quite a bit about the importance of focusing on retention and those ever-important first 90 days for a new employee. As an employer, you have invested an incredible amount of time, money and resources to recruit and hire a new employee. Retention should start the moment you get the signed offer letter back. They are now officially an employee in your organization. What are you doing to continue to earn their trust and ensure they stay?

Focus on the desired outcome of your on-boarding process within the ecosystem of your employment brand; in this case, retention. How do you want employees to feel about the company at every interaction they have those first 90 days and beyond? What are you going to do to ensure you are creating an environment and/or a culture your employees don’t want to leave? It is more than just perks and benefits. It includes listening to employees, asking for feedback and – perhaps most importantly – clearly communicating how their role contributes to the success of the company. If you are just checking the boxes during an employee’s first day, you are failing to capitalize on their first day excitement. You are failing to set them up for success at your organization. You won’t be creating a loyal brand ambassador for your employment brand.

As you can see, retention extends far beyond the responsibility of Human Resources. It takes an entire organization, aligned under the same strategy to gain and maintain trust of both potential and current employees.


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Building Disruption Into Your Digital Strategy


By Joe Olsen, Phenomblue Co-Founder and CEO

The definition of “disruption” is as follows: forcible separation or division into parts. For business, it is defined as a radical change in an industry, business process, etc., especially involving the introduction of a new product or service that creates a new market or the radical change in audience behavior. In other words, disruption isn’t a trend – it’s part of life, especially in the Connected Age.

Leading the disruption of our markets today is digital. Digital is everywhere. As much as you plan your digital strategy, it’s crucial to remember that you can’t plan for disruption – but you can be prepared. You must have defined outcomes while remaining agile and learning to adapt your digital strategy to the roadblocks and new inventions and tools that develop in our ever evolving world.

Once you have created a thorough and documented digital strategy for your business – including a measurable plan and goals – the next step is to integrate disruption. How? By always evaluating new tactics, staying ahead of trends and focusing on consumer needs. Seems fairly self-explanatory but when you look at what kinds of disruption may come your way it becomes clear that without constantly rethinking your business model you will get swallowed up in a sea of lost potential.

Disruption 1: Human Behavior
People are the driving force behind every business initiative. Whether the goal is self-serving or consumer-facing, people are at the core of all activities. In the Connected Age, customers especially drive how brands market and communicate their offerings. It’s not enough to simply incorporate digital into your business plan, you must truly understand human behavior and be aware of the changes that affect the way people interact with organizations and brands. What is relevant in our culture today may not be essential tomorrow.

Disruption 2: New Innovations & Tools
Who remembers flip phones? Or going back even further, phones that were the size of bricks? Now take a look at the phone you are currently using. Quite the difference, right? Not only that, along with your new, sleek mobile device, you probably have apps, email, navigation, etc… all tools that allow more convenience for you to go about your day.

How about at work? Some organizations use tools like Google Hangouts and Slack to communicate faster and eliminate emails. Others use tools such as AnyMeeting to host live conferences with members who are all over the world.

These are everyday examples but think of all the new innovations such as Google Glass or self-driving cars. Maybe those two aren’t the norm now but they have already arrived and one day they will be.

Disruption 3: Economy
You can’t predict the economy to a T. Sure, by checking the stock market and reading international news you can generally see trends and adjust your budgets accordingly. However, there are times that the economy spikes or plummets.

In the wonderful scenario that we are all swimming in pools of money, be wise. Take risks, but take risks that benefit your digital and business strategy. Don’t stray from your goals and engage in actions just for the sake of doing something.

Most of us have been in business when the economy has taken a turn for the worse but it’s not the end of the world. It’s simply a disruption that prove organizations need to constantly be thinking about reshaping their strategies and aligning goals with consumer needs.

Ultimately the main goal for most, if not all, organizations is to achieve success and prosperity. With outside forces constantly causing disruption, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Find your clear path forward by building disruption into your digital strategy through:

  • Understanding how people communicate and operate in a changing digital world.
  • Implementing technology that fulfills your customers’ expectations and your strategic goals.
  • Being prepared for real-time changes that are out of your control.


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Streck Appoints Phenomblue as Connected Communications Partner

Midwest Labs New Business

The worldwide leader in cell stabilization and manufacturer of clinical and research products for laboratories looks to a strategic, innovative and technology partnership to improve customer interactions.

Omaha, NE – Streck, manufacturer of hematology, immunology and molecular biology products for clinical and research laboratories throughout the globe recently selected Phenomblue as their primary communication partner helping the organization modernize their communications with prospects, customers, employees and the community. Phenomblue will be responsible for re-imagining the customer facing website by defining and aligning strategic business goals with the new communications tool.

“Phenomblue’s analytical and clean approach to strategy is what led us to pursue this partnership. From our first meeting we knew that our business goals were going to be the top priority and engraved in each step of the process. With straightforward deliverables and opinions, Phenomblue’s team made us feel comfortable with our decision to revitalize they way we interact with our clients,” said Steve Bullock, EVP of Streck.

“At Phenomblue we constantly emphasize prioritizing results over activity. We’re excited about working with Streck to define, design and implement a web communications and customer experience plan that will help them create better customer engagement, internally and externally. The way we interact with organizations and brands is constantly changing. It is so important to not only keep up with these changes but align new tactics to ultimately increase effectiveness and maximize results,” said Joe Olsen, Co-Founder and CEO of Phenomblue.

Omaha-based and globally recognized Streck, joins a successful group of regional and national companies who prioritize results over activity, partnering with Phenomblue for measurable business strategy, creative and technology solutions.


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Vendorin Selects Phenomblue as Primary Communications Partner

Midwest Labs New Business

Omaha-based electronic payment solutions provider seeks to expand business growth through a new connected communications strategy by partnering with Phenomblue.

Omaha, NE – Vendorin, a growing Omaha-based electronic payment provider, selected Phenomblue to rethink their position and messaging strategy relating to customer acquisition and activation. Phenomblue will be responsible for driving the strategic business planning behind digital initiatives, branding and sales activities.

“Phenomblue’s receptive and straightforward solutions really stimulated our conversations around rethinking our messaging and perceptions and will help us gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. We were impressed at how different they were from other firms with their focus on business strategy and connecting that to all aspects of the business and how we connect with prospects, customers and the ecosystem we live in everyday”, said Doug Wilwerding, CEO of Vendorin.

“At Phenomblue we like to work with like minded organizations, led by smart people that understand the importance of connecting all interactions and experiences to the bottom line. We’re excited to partner with Vendorin building a platform for long term success creating a sustainable competitive ecosystem for customer activation and acquisition that gives the firm a foundation for growth.”

Omaha-based Vendorin, joins a successful group of regional and national companies who prioritize results over activity, partnering with Phenomblue for measurable business strategy, creative and technology solutions.


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Midwest Laboratories Chooses Phenomblue as Connected Communications Partner

Midwest Labs New Business

One of the nation’s largest testing labs for agriculture, food and environmental analysis looks to a strategic, creative and technology partnership to help modernize the way the company interacts with their customers.

Omaha, NE – Midwest Laboratories, one of the largest testing labs for agriculture, food and environmental analysis in North America, recently selected Phenomblue to help modernize their customer experience. Phenomblue will be responsible for driving the business strategic planning behind the brand interaction and customer engagement including digital strategy and creative and technology execution.

“The world is different today and we’re at a point in our bulinksiness where we need to leverage the opportunity created by digital behavior to create better interactions with our customers to continue to drive the growth of the business and deliver the exceptional service our clients expect,” said Brent Pohlman, President of Midwest Laboratories. “Ultimately, we wanted a firm that not only understood the creative and technology execution, but one that had a business strategy focus and a proven track record of strategically helping grow businesses they work with.”

“Midwest Laboratories is a phenomenal business, with smart, aggressive leadership, a great growth trajectory and is a leader in their market,” said Joe Olsen, CEO of Phenomblue. “The challenges of the Connected Age are great opportunities for Midwest Laboratories as they look to modernize their brand and how they interact with everyone who comes into contact with it. The company and the leadership are determined to build measurable strategy, innovate and adapt and those are the attributes of customers we love to work for at Phenomblue – because those are the companies that win.”

The selection process included a competitive RFP process run by Midwest Laboratories.

Omaha-based Midwest Laboratories joins a successful group of regional and national companies who prioritize results over activity, partnering with Phenomblue for measurable business strategy, creative and technology solutions.


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Free Bagel Friday Doesn’t Equal Employee Engagement


By Brooke Heck, Phenomblue VP, Practice Lead

A recent study from Gallup found that few organizations know how to truly engage their employees. Thirteen percent of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs,* meaning they are interested in their work and making a full effort on the job. The remaining 87 percent of employees are either not engaged or indifferent — or even worse, are actively disengaged and potentially hostile toward their organizations.

Are your employees engaged? What does an engaged employee look like in your organization? To be fair, it may vary by industry, organization or even the individual. You can’t simply have “Free Bagel Friday” every week and expect employees to be engaged. That’s a nice perk, yes, but what are you doing to inspire them and get them excited about their work in order to drive success for the business? What are you doing to make them feel valued, appreciated, or that their opinion matters? Do all your employees know the direction of the company and how they contribute to overall success? A lot of this starts with management and truly understanding what makes the people you manage tick. What motivates them? Some people are motivated by money (or bagels). Others, recognition. And yet others just want to know they contributed and made a difference.

There are several ways to measure employee engagement. You can do an annual survey, but the key is you have to do things throughout the year so that when the time comes to answer a question about employee engagement, the employees answer positively. A few other opportunities to take the temperature include weekly one on ones between a manager and their team member, monthly team meetings, quarterly team outings, etc. In these meetings, ask questions like: “Do you enjoy what you are doing?” “Are you challenged?” “Are you too challenged?” “What can I do to help you achieve your goals?” Another good litmus test: do you find your employees withdrawing, or when they come to work are they going through the motions, just checking off the boxes? An engaged employee regularly contributes in meetings, or in inter-office communication channels; shares things about the company on personal social media channels; tells others about their job and how happy they are; brings suggestions of new employees to HR; and more.

Recently a company in Omaha demonstrated that they truly understand that engaging employees drives business outcomes. They did a music video to the new Justin Timberlake song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling”. I watched it several times and tried to imagine how this idea came to fruition and then how they convinced their employees to do it. I imagine neither were a hard sell. Watching that video, you can see everyone was genuinely having fun, letting loose and willing to participate. That authenticity came through loud and clear in the video. These are happy, motivated and engaged employees. Mr. Justin Timberlake himself noticed by retweeting and posting the video! But the true measure was the number of employees who posted on social media that it’s a great place to work. And the ultimate coup: their friends and family posting comments like the following: “Love it! What a great group of people. Can I come work with you?”

Source | Gallup


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Successful Sales in the Connected Age – SXSWi 2016

Every March, Austin, TX overflows with entrepreneurs, agency experts and industry leaders who share ideas surrounding emerging technologies and digital creativity. From happy hours to networking and breakout sessions to workshops, SXSW Interactive transforms Austin into a hub of brilliance.

Phenomblue’s VP, Sales and Marketing, Gabe Romero, presented his industry knowledge during SoDA’s Rapid-Fire presentations at SXSW. By focusing on how brands, agencies and organizations need to evolve in order to flourish in the Connected Age, Romero honed in on what it takes to be successful in sales.

Interested in learning more about achieving success in the Connected Age? Send us an email or sign-up for our newsletter to receive monthly updates on industry trends.

E-Commerce: Top 10 Tips For Success – Infotec

Joe Olsen, Co-Founder and CEO of Phenomblue, presented “E-Commerce: Top 10 Tips For Success” at Infotec on March 21. Infotec is one of the Midwest’s annual tech gatherings focused on meshing technology, business and innovation. Organized by AIM — who recently went through the Rova process to identify their own brand needs and future picture of success — Infotec gathers more than 1,000 attendees and brings together the best and brightest tech professionals to share ideas and promote networking opportunities.

Olsen’s presentation broke down the key differences between today’s successful e-retail operations in comparison to those in the past. Fresh off the success of Killer Instinct, his 10 tips focused on the biggest disruption of our modern era, the Connected Age, and what impact this shift has on organizations in relativity to their success. Killer Instinct is a launch property of Creata, one of the world’s largest promotions companies, which created a new e-commerce division to augment their manufacturing and promotions offerings. Under the name Ultimate Source, we partnered with Creata to strategize, design and develop a business solution that provides market validation and delivers a compelling e-commerce experience while also serving as a template for future clients and stores.

“Success is really about prioritization,” said Olsen leading into his first tip.

1. Define what success means to you, your business and your brand.
2. Remember that digital is not technology, digital is a behavior.
3. Narrow your focus – have a comprehensive strategic and measurable plan for why and what.
4. Hire an experienced retail manager to lead your team.
5. Embrace change, be responsive and stay focused on your consumer.
6. Integrate content and commerce for a cohesive customer experience.
7. Focus on customer reviews and let them do the talking.
8. Deliver on all expectations when delivering a modern online shopping experience.
9. Checkout should be easy regardless of the buying process.
10. Track everything and you will know where the holes are.

These e-commerce tips not only have relevancy in online retail but are applicable to any industry. The “strategy first” mindset enables organizations to define, plan and tactically execute projects for ongoing success and growth.

“Joe Olsen (@JoeOlsen) asking ‘what is success?’ How would we answer that in education?” tweeted Kristina Peters (@Mrskmpeters).

Want more details relating to Olsen’s “E-Commerce: Top 10 Tips For Success”? Send us an email or sign-up for our monthly newsletter to receive tips like these and other industry knowledge.

What’s Your Definition of Success in 2016?

By Joe Olsen, Phenomblue President and CEO

In 2016, you will change and your business will change. Control the trajectory.

Over the next several weeks, if you’re like me, you’ll read hundreds of articles on what will happen in 2016. Predictions for the new year are abound but the only real truth is that everything will change. In fact, it is never not changing. The world is changing. The markets are changing. Your employees and customers are changing daily. So many things you cannot control and very few things you have some to little control over. Depending on the size of your company and the company you keep, the impact these changes have and your ability to manage them change will vary. So while I’d like to spend the rest of this small amount of time we have together telling you what exactly to expect and how to position yourself, instead I will focus one core nugget of truth I think will provide a more realistic impact regardless of the makeup of your organization.

Where are you going? Does everyone agree? Do you have the ability to get there? These are the questions you should be asking and addressing regularly. If you focus on these questions, defining them completely and measuring the success of them, the change around you simply becomes a constant variable that you adapt to and not a moving target or an enviable outcome to be avoided. These questions sound simple and straight forward but you would be surprised at the amount of interactions I and the rest of our team has regularly with organizations that do not facilitate focused conversation in these areas. Organizations that do not have these answers defined are less efficient, less effective and ultimately much less likely to achieve success. After all, how do you achieve success if you don’t know what it is. How can anyone help you if they don’t know what it is? How can anyone stay motivated in the cut throat business of growing a businesses if they cannot align their efforts to the success of the business.

While you’re thinking about 2016 and what the future holds, consider the fact that you cannot control the change that is coming and all you can do is adapt to the change in line with your business strategy – your definition of success. Focus your energy inward and watch the results of an aligned organization when change intervenes – an organization that is nimble, adaptive and inspired. In 2016, its these organizations that will succeed.

Wishing everyone a successful desired outcome in 2016.



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