Great Plains Communications Residential Blog

Keeping Your Family Connected

Tag: Small Business

Business Appreciation – Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in Antelope County, NE.

This national treasure called Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park got its start about 12 million years ago. At that time, a volcano in southwest Idaho spread a blanket of ash over many miles, and one or two feet of this powder covered the flat savannah-like grasslands in northeastern Nebraska. Within several weeks, animals gathered around a waterhole in the area died, and their bodies were covered by ash. This preserved their skeletons for today’s paleontologists to study and the public to see.

Travel Back in Time

Visitors have access to interpretive displays and the fossil preparation laboratory and can ask the paleontologists there about their work. The park also includes the Hubbard Rhino Barn, where new fossil discoveries continue to be unearthed. Fossil evidence at the site reveals complete, articulated skeletons of large mammals, birds and turtles, as well as seeds of grasses and trees.

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is in Antelope County, four miles east and six miles north of the village of Orchard. Due to its remote location far from a population center, getting adequate communications services has been a challenge.

A Need for More Bandwidth

Superintendent Rick Otto notes, “The satellite Internet service we’ve been using is limited in speed, and its lag time disrupts any interactive transmissions we’re trying to host. In addition, many of our callers have complained about the poor audio quality of the current phone system. Clearly, changes needed to be made since the local provider was simply not able to provide the level of technology we require.”

To develop a solution to these challenges, Great Plains Communications has been in discussion for several years with the State of Nebraska on a fiber project to bring more bandwidth to Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. The installation is scheduled for completion in August 2017. Funding of the fiber optic cable was made possible by a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

What is Otto expecting after Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park becomes a customer of Great Plains Communications? He replies, “I expect to see a night-and-day difference between our new fiber Internet service compared to our current satellite service. I am also looking forward to having significantly better audio quality during our phone calls. What’s more, I appreciate how friendly and informative the team from Great Plains Communications has been during the planning process.”

Virtual Field Trips

The vastly improved speed of fiber Internet from Great Plains Communications will be especially beneficial. Otto explains, “We’re open seven months a year and get about 20,000 visitors annually. The park is operated entirely with funds generated by admissions fees and gift shop sales; we receive no tax dollars. After Great Plains Communications finishes the installation of fiber Internet service here, we’ll have the speed we need to offer virtual field trips to classrooms all over the world.”

He adds, “These virtual field trips will be a win-win addition to our educational services. Schools will benefit by being able to give students the feel of visiting Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park without the time and expense of travel. And the park will benefit by bringing in the additional revenues generated by the fees for virtual field trips.”

Great Plains Communications is honored to help enhance the capabilities of Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. It’s one example of our longstanding commitment to Nebraska.

Business Appreciation – Paulman Farms

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Paulman Farms out of Sutherland, NE.

Paulman Farms is located in Sutherland in southwestern Nebraska, where Roric Paulman, his wife Deb and their son Zachary, farm nearly 5,000 acres. About 85 percent of the land is irrigated, and the annual cropping rotations include corn, popcorn, dry edible beans, soybeans, winter wheat and sugar beets. In its 40-year history, this family farm has weathered its share of storms, yet an innovative spirit keeps everything growing.

Farm Crisis and Family Crisis

Clearly the most difficult period for Paulman Farms occurred in the 1980s during the farm crisis, when thousands of families lost their farms because of low prices and overwhelming debt. Roric Paulman’s father had encouraged him to get career experience off the farm before joining the operation, which is why Roric and Deb Paulman were working in Omaha in 1985 when Roric’s father called and asked him to come back. Six months later, his father died. The 27-year-old and his wife faced a daunting list of challenges, including bankruptcy, at Paulman Farms that year. But they didn’t do it alone. They took a collaborative approach, assembling a team of advisors including an attorney, accountant and bankers, as well as meeting with the farm’s original landowners for support. While equipment had to be sold and land turned over to Farm Credit, Paulman Farms managed to begin a new chapter in what would ultimately become a tremendous success story. Today, the family owns all of the land it lost in the 1980s, and Paulman Farms has grown to become a $10 million business named as a 2015 finalist for Top Producer of the Year.

Doing More With Technology

In addition to collaboration, the use of technology has enabled Paulman Farms to meet and overcome challenges. This currently includes irrigation water and soil monitoring tools, precision farming equipment and new seed technologies. Roric Paulman notes, “Paulman Farms is a large farming operation, spread over a radius of approximately 26 miles. The low unemployment rate in Nebraska makes it difficult to find enough qualified people to work for us. So part of the answer is to use larger equipment and more technology to increase how much can be done with fewer people. We take advantage of technology such as cloud-based services and remote monitoring that sends alerts when something needs attention. We’re currently working on a system for real-time harvest, which instantly knows the inventory, yields and moisture content. Before using this system, data like this would only be available to us later. It’s a huge deal.”

Fiber Speeds Up Internet Connection

To take advantage of technology for improved cost-effectiveness and productivity, Paulman Farms needs substantial Internet service, which it gets from Great Plains Communications along with phone lines. “We recently upgraded to fiber for our Internet connection at Paulman Farms. We contracted with Great Plains Communications to put fiber in our area; they did the trenching and installation. This work was completed in 2015, and now with fiber, we get 20 Mbps/20 Mbps Internet speeds. Before fiber was installed, we were only able to get 8.5 Mbps/.6 Mbps. Besides being much faster, the fiber-based Internet from Great Plains Communications is also more reliable,” says Paulman. He adds, “We are generating tons of site-specific data in our farming operation, and the data piece is key to making better decisions. The other thing that’s important is maintaining efficient communication with our employees, agronomists, seed corn people and others. Our phone and Internet services from Great Plains Communications help make it all possible.” What does Paulman Farms appreciate most about Great Plains Communications? Paulman replies, “Great Plains Communications still has a live body in our community, which is not true of other communications providers. As a result, the customer service we receive is better; it’s top notch. What’s more, Great Plains Communications has the pulse of this community, and they contribute to making it better.

I appreciate the fact that Great Plains Communications helps businesses in rural areas get the technology they need not just to survive, but to thrive and grow.” It’s a philosophy that’s echoed in words Roric Paulman lives by: “If you want your community and your state to be a better place, you have to give your time to make it happen.”

Business Appreciation – Mike’s Classic Cars

To show our appreciation for their business, Great Plains Communications would like to start highlighting some of our amazing business customers. We service exceptional people, with stories to be heard and businesses recognized. To start us off, we have Mike’s Classic Cars located in Elkhorn, NE, where quality is the driving force for owner Mike Patak.

Mike Patak’s career journey in Nebraska made a sharp turn in 2004. That was the year Patak opened Mike’s Classic Cars in Elkhorn after 27 years of working in, and then owning, one of the largest pork processing plants in the country, Quality Pork International in Omaha. His change of direction isn’t entirely surprising, given that he’s been an avid car collector for more than 35 years.

In fact, when Patak was younger, he was known to have at least two cars at all times — one to drive and one to restore. In the 1970s, Patak worked at a Ford dealership in Crete, where he gained his knowledge of Fords and Shelbys. Mike’s Classic Cars is the fulfillment of Patak’s lifelong dream of owning a business that sells and restores classic and muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s, with Fords and Shelbys as the focus.

From Selling Meat to Selling Memories 

Is there a connection between pork and cars? Patak answers, “I know quality sells itself. Whether we’re talking about the meat business or the classic car business, people expect quality. That’s why ‘Always Quality — Always Classic’ is our motto at Mike’s Classic Cars.”

Car enthusiasts can get all kinds of expert assistance at Mike’s Classic Cars, whether they want to restore a car they already own or find that car they’ve always wanted. (See the sidebar on page 5 for a list of products and services.) Patak notes, “Our centralized location in the Midwest enables us to be very competitive in shipping autos any­where in the continental United States. If a customer needs the car delivered, we can transport it in our enclosed trailer or make arrangements with a commercial hauler.”

Speed is What They Need

While discussions about muscle cars will often include the expected miles per hour, that’s not the only speed on the minds of the staff at Mike’s Classic Cars. Internet speed, measured in Megabits per second (Mbps), is also key.

Switching Gears to Great Plains Communications

Things changed dramatically in February 2015, when Mike’s Classic Cars switched to Great Plains Communications for Internet service. Mike chose a symmetrical plan with speeds of 20 Mbps upload and 20 Mbps download.

“Our new Internet service from Great Plains Communications is 10 times faster than the satellite service we had before. Things go much more quickly now, which is great, since we do a lot of work online,” explains Patak. “For example, when you’re in the business of classic cars, you just can’t go to a local car parts store to get what you need. We have to search online and work with many different sellers, some in other countries, to find the rare parts required for our restorations.”

Patak makes plans for Mike’s Classic Cars by accessing the information gathered on a variety of industry websites. He says, “We pay close attention to the trends in cars — what’s up and coming in terms of collectibles and what’s selling. The most valuable cars we’ve ever sold would be 1965 – 1970 Shelby Mustangs, which have price tags in the $150,000 – $300,000 range. People are willing to pay a lot to drive down memory lane.”

Congratulations to Our Marketing Team for Their Three Paper Anvil Awards!

 

 

For the third year in a row, we received recognition from the Nebraska chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Three programs were recognized this year and we are very proud of our team!   Our Auto-Pay Contest received an Award of Merit in the integrated communications category. The GPC-TV Sports Contest also received an Award of Merit in the direct mail/direct response category.  Finally, our new Enterprise Sales Folder won an award of merit in the brochure category.  Congrats to our entire team who work very hard getting the Great Plains Communications message out there!

Don’t lose your business to lost files

It can be shocking how much data goes along with owning and operating a small business. Between accounting documents, contracts with vendors, customer receipts, human resources and so much more, you’re looking at hundreds of files. These files range from simply annoying to recreate to devastatingly irreplaceable should they ever be lost or damaged.

With viruses, hard drive failure, theft and more potentially putting your computer at risk, it’s important to make sure that your valuable files are securely backed up. Since external hard drives are susceptible to the same dangers as your computer, we recommend using an on-line backup system.

Fortunately, there are companies who understand the value of your business and all of the files that go along with it. Let’s explore a few options for backing up your files:

  • Dropbox – This online portal provides you 2GB storage for free with increasing amounts of storage available for a price. You can then access your account anywhere in the world, even from your mobile phone! Or you can use the site as a simple backup site. The only drawback is that dropbox doesn’t offer automatic backup, you literally have to “drop” files into your account.

 

  • Carbonite – This site does provide automatic updates so that you don’t have to worry about a sudden crash taking away your most recent documents. You also enjoy unlimited data storage for about $10 a month with the company’s small business plan. However Dropbox and Carbonite both stop at storage. If you wanted to keep your computer safe from further risk or enjoy 24/7 support, you need to try…

 

  • Online Backup – Online Backup provides unlimited computer installation, 50GB of storage space, 24/7 technical support and automatic backup for half the price of Carbonite. For the same monthly price as Carbonite, you can get everything mentioned above plus virus protection, 24/7 live tech support and the program will even scan for and run all of your Window’s updates!

No matter how you choose to protect your work files, the important thing is that you back them up! The hours of lost productivity, sales, income and possibly even your reputation isn’t worth putting it off.
Do you have a favorite backup program? Let us know in the comments section below.

Don’t Fear the Blue Screen of Death

Things associated with computer failure tend to have ominous names (my personal favorite is the “blue screen of death”) and it’s no surprise why.  When your computer fails, it can be a heart-stopping experience.

While a complete computer meltdown is the worst case scenario, even smaller performance issues can wreak havoc on your productivity.  A slow computer, one that is constantly displaying error messages or that always seems to freeze at the most inopportune times, means hours of lost time and frustration.  If said computer is part of your payment processing system, then you may also be dealing with customers who become frustrated with slow processing.

You may be surprised to find out that Great Plains Communications can help with these problems.  That’s right; we have skilled computer technicians who can help get your computer back in perfect working order.  What’s even better is that we can perform most fixes online so you don’t have to ship your computer and wait for weeks to get it back.  That’s service most manufacturers won’t even attempt.

With so many features included in our computer repair services, it’s impossible to list them all here.  For more information, visit http://www.gpcom.com/residential/internet/online-pc-support.

And remember, if you have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment.

Keeping the Lines of Communications Clear

Small Business Blog

When a small business gets started it is just that; small.  Of course the goal of a small business is to get bigger; increasing revenue and making larger sums of money.

However, as a business grows so does the complexity of managing the communications. While a single phone line may have worked when two employees made up the entire guest list at the company picnic, it may not work as well when there are enough employees to start up that employee softball team you’ve always dreamed of.

Fortunately there are many solutions for small businesses that need to find an easy and efficient way to route phone traffic.  A PBX system is a strong solution and provides myriad tools to aid in your company’s communications.

  • Route calls to individual extensions
  • Create customized “hold” messages
  • Transfer calls around the office

Saving money is also incredibly important for small businesses so for businesses with more than 12 phone lines, you might also think about a T1 line, which offers a reduced rate when working with a PBX system.

If you have any additional questions about PBX systems or other solutions for managing your company’s communications, let us know in the comments section below.  You can also contact our Manager of Business Accounts, Emily Anderson, at eanderson@gpcom.com.

 

Welcome to the Small Business Series

There’s a reason why small businesses are called the backbone of our country.  According to the Department of Labor, small businesses account for 97% of all employment and 51% of sales in America.

As a statewide company that started as in one city, we understand the challenges of owning and operating a small business.  Making sure that you’re spending money in the right areas and, even more importantly, not spending in the wrong ones are constant considerations.

Our small business blog series will be aimed at helping your business thrive by finding the right mix of products and marketing efforts with an emphasis on the rural small business experience.  We’ll also focus on ways to save money including how to reduce operating costs and target your promotions.

We want this series to be highly useful for our business customers so if there’s a topic you want us to write about, let us know in the comments section below.