20 Questions with Greg Neimi, CEO, Nexstar

Originally published: 07.01.09 by Terry Tanker

Nexstar is a member-owned business development and best practices organization for independent contractors. Terry Tanker recently interviewed Greg Niemi, the group’s CEO. They discussed growth strategies, high-performance teams, making an honest dollar, and where the industry will find its next-generation workforce.

1. What toys are in the garage?

I have a small assortment — ’65 Harley M50. Ski-Doo snowmobile. Sea Ray Runabout. Downhill skis. Convertible. Bicycles (with flat tires). Snowblower (that I actually like to use).

2. What is the most interesting thing you own?

An original dealer clock from my grandfather’s Hudson car dealership.

3. How would you finish this sentence: People would be surprised to know I …?

. . .wrestled at 98 pounds for two years in high school.

4. You worked for Trane Co. for 21 years before coming to Nexstar. Does the Trane experience play a role in the work you do today?

It plays a huge role. Trane is a great company. I received a diversity of experience. It was a great springboard for me for gaining experience working with contractors, marketing, field service, finance, leadership and management, process improvement, and more.

5. What would your colleagues say they expect from you?

Performance. Counsel. Honesty. Guidance. Clarity. They expect me to lift them up when they may be down by helping them get focused on the right things.

6. How do you build high-performance teams?

We build our culture with a shared vision, common goals, high expectations, and accountability.

7. What business principles guide you?

It is all about people and gratitude. Everything begins and ends with thanks.

8. What are your core organizational values, and how do they impact your success?

At Nexstar it’s our Code of Ethics and Member Values. Personally for me those values are integrity, never failing to respond, never touching a dishonest dollar, and having a heart.

9. Under your leadership, Nexstar has achieved the highest level of membership, member retention, and satisfaction in its history. What’s your secret to success?

We share our vision with clarity and purpose. Once that’s accomplished, it’s up to our membership, directors, and talented staff, and they are the ones that deserve all of the credit.

10. What competitive advantages does Nexstar bring hvacr member service providers?

Being plugged into a network of high performers and models to emulate. We also provide systems and tools, training, and a way to keep up with trends.

11. Nexstar is member owned and governed. How does this impact your leadership and the organization?

Leaders are very visible in tightly held organizations, but leading in a fish-bowl makes you stronger. You must be a role model, practice what you preach, be highly accountable, and employ best practices.

12. Are there parallels between your business/leadership philosophy and your overall philosophy of life?

Absolutely. People are good. People want to do good things. Life is all about simple things. People care to do business with those who care. I’m somewhat of an idealist. I love when everybody is smiling: customers, employees, partners, etc.

13. Are there any bright spots in the current economy?

Several. Its probable that we have seen the bottom because the rates of decline are showing signs of improvement, and we are seeing positive indicators.

At the same time it is really tough, the toughest I’ve seen. This recession has been of historic proportion.

My goal is to help people keep their chins up. Your head must be up in order to see what lies ahead.

14. How do Nexstar members continue to grow when the market is not?

They grow with more solutions — specifically line extensions, trade extensions, market expansion, marketing, and guidance from our business coaches and fellow members. Our members practice fundamentals, have sound financial management, and have a “can do/will do” attitude fueled by the Nexstar support system.

15. What are the most important things leaders do when the economy falters?

It’s important for them to see themselves as the victor, not the victim; and it is a good time to re-examine everything they are doing.

16. What products and services do you think are most marketable to consumers today?

The solution is more important than the product. Consumers want solutions that reduce energy costs, are scaled to smaller homes, don’t always require wholesale replacement of equipment — they are emphasizing repairs more — and they are priced right.

17) What fundamental business areas do contractors have to focus on right now?

Being profitable. Period. They need to have cash reserves to continue marketing but should consider alternatives such as electronic listings versus printed lists. And they can’t forget about their people. Companies need to train to retain the best.

18) Where will the industry find its next-generation workforce?

The industry will face an even more serious labor shortage when recovery occurs. Responding begins with attracting talent to the trades. We all have a responsibility to do this. The good news, in general, is enrollment in trade schools is now rising as people re-train themselves.

19) What is the most exciting thing happening at Nexstar right now?

Change. Social Media.

20) Business owners are very serious right now. What can they do to promote and practice fun in the workplace?

Today we are having a sidewalk chalk art contest to celebrate Independence Day, if weather permits. If it doesn’t, it will be a flipchart art contest. Easy, simple, no-cost, and fun. There are so many things, like putt-putt golf, bowling, cooking out, contests, prize wheels, dress-up theme days. Just commit to doing it.

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