nebraska – His colleagues call him a “legend”. That's because Lauren Kucera has been a consultant for the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) for more than 30 years, helping some of Northeast Nebraska's most impressive and innovative companies launch, grow, and develop. Because I have done so. A lifelong resident of Clarkson, Nebraska, he provides free business consulting support to companies in nearly every industry, helping businesses develop their plans, raise capital, conduct market research, pivot as needed, and more. or helping them make the best decisions during a sale or transition. Next generation.
“Anyway, I had customers in that particular industry. There's a lot of restaurants, hardware, manufacturing. Years ago, I even had customers who would trap beavers and export their pelts to Greece and Russia. “I was there,” Kucera said.
His impact on the local economy is visible in the numbers. Business owners who have worked with Kucera since 1995 report that his support has resulted in more than $288.5 million in capital injections and the creation of approximately 4,000 jobs in the region. His role is part of his NBDC's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) program, which provides free consulting to Nebraska business owners and entrepreneurs.
“What great business owners understand is that it takes a village to create a strong business,” said Katherine Lang, executive director of the NBDC. “Lauren is someone you want on your team. He has a great track record of helping businesses succeed and our clients really enjoy working with him.”
Kucera’s path to NBDC was indirect. He grew up on a farm outside Clarkson. During his second year at Doan College, his father was injured and Kucera had to drop out of school to help with the harvest. Instead of going back to school the next semester, Kucera started farming full time. He met his wife. Plans have changed.
Then the 80's arrived. “The 1980s were really bad for the agricultural economy,” Kucera said. “My wife was an RN, and the farm was eating up our income. Then she got pneumonia and ended up in the hospital. That's when we realized this wasn't going to work. Ta.”
So he did what he now helps business owners do every day – he pivoted. Kucera studied at Northeast Community College and then transferred to Wayne State University. He started working at Bluebird Nursery School and applied after seeing an advertisement in the newspaper for a consultant position at Wayne State University's NBDC.
“I thought I'd probably be here for about 10 years and move on. Thirty years later, I'm here. It's a good place to work,” Kucera said.
Over the years, he has witnessed major changes in the business environment due to advances in technology. Kucera has seen the transformative impact of technology on business since the early days of basic computers with blinking cursors.
“I'll never forget talking to a group of important businessmen in Norfolk 25 years ago. They asked me, 'What do you think about the Internet?' I told them it wasn't going to cost much,” he recalled with a laugh.
A big part of his job now is helping business owners invest in the right technology. “Technology gives business owners the tools to operate more efficiently. From a profitability perspective, something amazing is happening. I can't afford to pay,' and my answer is, 'Can you afford not to pay?'
He's a big advocate for this region and the opportunities here. “We want to keep young people here. We're going to see a lot of companies transitioning over the next few years. The community is bringing in students to shadow certain industries. This “It's a good way to bring in employees who could eventually become owners of a particular business. I think the economy in Northeast Nebraska is pretty strong,” he says. “It's a great place to raise a family.”
And it's a great place to start a business, he says. He cites some of his most successful clients as evidence. “First and foremost, Sand Creek Post and Beam, now Timberlin, they have been really good to me over the years. Columbus Industrial Systems and Supply has become my friend. Fyre-Tec in Wayne – they are doing very well. And the Wayland Doors in Norfolk is an incredible story.”
Mr. Kucera is transitioning to a part-time role and entering a new era at NBDC. He plans to train his successor and visit other NBDC offices across Nebraska. He mentors other consultants and shares his wealth of expertise.
“We couldn't be more pleased that Lauren, who his colleagues call a 'legend,' will be staying on in this new role for a while longer,” Lang said. “He has a lot of knowledge to offer. It's a gift to Nebraska and the business community that he travels around the state to share what he knows.”
What are his other plans? He finally went out fishing in an old beat-up pickup truck he had bought.