Businesses adapt to survive

Nevada’s recession has proven tough on just about everybody.

From workers who have seen their pay slashed to businesses that have lost half or more of their sales, few people — save bankruptcy attorneys and repo men — have seen their fortunes improve in the past three years.

But not everyone has folded under the pressure.

Legions of local professionals adapted to the slump, accepting a reality that has pushed them into new lines of business.

Here, we share three stories of survival, each offering their own lessons on flexibility in the face of hard times.

a remodeled business plan

For nearly three decades, building luxury houses provided great business for Christopher Homes.

The Las Vegas company built more than 1,600 local homes from 1981 to 2008, specializing in high-end properties on golf courses and in upscale master plans.

Then the recession arrived, and as for the city’s housing market, well, you know the rest.

“About a year ago, we really analyzed the market and tried to come up with our best estimate of what the market would look like over the next few years,” said Chris Stuhmer, Christopher’s owner and chief executive officer. “We saw that the amount of business in the future, and the market complexities that are contributing to lower real estate values, were going to create a very difficult environment for us to create and produce houses on a profitable basis.”

So Christopher turned from building new homes to remodeling existing ones. Today, home remodels comprise roughly 90 percent of the business Christopher conducts. That’s a major change for a company that made 100 percent of its sales on new homes before the recession.

It’s not just the revenue source that’s changed. Clients have completely different expectations when remodeling.

“In a successful remodeling job, it’s much more about the experience than the finished product,” Stuhmer said. “We have focused a lot of our attention on managing that experience. We inconvenience homeowners as little as possible.”

Since it officially launched its remodeling business in March, Christopher has remodeled kitchens, added bedrooms and built second floors onto single-story homes. Contracts are averaging about $90,000 in cost, though Christopher has handled renovations ranging from $20,000 to $800,000. The company should have 50 to 60 jobs in its renovation portfolio by March; about 25 percent of its business comes from homeowners who live in houses built by Christopher.

The new direction has helped the company stay in business, but Christopher’s annual sales remain roughly 80 percent below where they were before the recession, Stuhmer estimated. It’s also down to 16 or 17 employees, compared with more than 100 workers at its peak. But Stuhmer said he holds out hope for the long-term future, saying there’s a good chance the company could get back to building the 100 or so homes a year it developed before the downturn.

“The market isn’t going to stay the way it is now forever,” Stuhmer said. “The question is how long it takes to come back. We’ll need significant improvement in the local and national economies, as well as some job growth, before any material changes happen in our local market.”

driving growth in a recession

Dale Amos bought local payday-lending outfit Star Loan Centers in December 2007, just as the nation’s recession was getting started.

It might seem like a fortuitous investment, given the greater need for cash advances that typically comes with a slumping economy. But like practically any business in Southern Nevada’s especially deep downturn, Star Loan Centers needed a boost along about late 2008.

That’s because collecting on payday loans became particularly difficult in the recession. If a borrower skips out on his obligation, a lender can get a court order to garnish the borrower’s wages, but that’s possible only if the consumer has a job — an increasingly scarce proposition in a state that leads the nation in unemployment.

Plus, the legal wrangling can take months or years. The business must take the borrower to small-claims court and win a decision. That can take six months or more; Star’s portfolio contains cases that are well over two years old.

With auto titles, on the other hand, there’s no court action required to collect on a loan, and when someone does default, the repossession process can conclude in as little as a week.

So Amos, Star Loan’s owner and president, decided in November 2008 to add car-title loans to the company’s services.

“I just happened to be a car guy. I knew about cars,” Amos said of the business decision. “I looked at our loss ratio on payday loans, and I looked at the drawn-out collection extravaganza. For the most part, people are not going to lose their vehicles. If they go on unemployment, we’ll work out a payment arrangement. People do what they can to avoid losing their cars.”

Today, car-title loans make up 70 percent of Star Loan Centers’ portfolio. That success on the auto side has enabled the company to be more selective about the payday loans it makes, Amos said.

“There’s just a huge demand of people needing money. We over-scrutinize now,” he said. “We can pick and choose our business at this point.”

Title loans have also allowed Star Loan Centers to grow in the downturn. The company’s portfolio has expanded 300 percent since March, Amos said, and it’s negotiating a lease on a second location to complement its original outpost on Sahara Avenue.

On top of that potential second office, Star Loan isn’t done evolving. Amos said he’s in talks with possible partners to open a sales lot to turn around cars his company has repossessed. He’d offer on-site financing as well.

“We’ll be able to handle both sides of the business,” he said.

bringing training back

You’d think speaking the language of your company’s customers is a necessity.

The recession has taught Ronna Timpa otherwise.

Timpa is founder and president of Workplace ESL Solutions, an 18-year-old Las Vegas business that teaches basic English and Spanish to workers in sectors ranging from government to hospitality. In the depths of the recession, many companies slashed their training budgets after determining that it was a luxury to teach employees English as a second language at the workplace.

“They told me, ‘If we’re laying off workers, we can’t have ESL training,” she said.

So Timpa watched as the downturn stole roughly 50 percent of her annual sales.

Her business-saving epiphany came at a May trade show. As she addressed a crowd at a New Mexico convention of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals, an attendee from Florida jumped up and down in the back of the room, telling her that his work force-investment board needed her educational program, but couldn’t afford it on-site. Instead, he could put her materials on the Internet for her, and she could train online at a much lower cost.

“I’d had offers for years to put everything online, so I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ ” Timpa recalled. “The next thing I knew, he sent me a sample chapter.”

The draft helped Timpa see the possibilities. She could customize online training for any business, and she could even reach displaced workers.

“Now, we can reach international customers who’ve been contacting me for years, and we can make them their own curriculum in a heartbeat. We could reach thousands of people at a fraction of the cost,” she said.

Timpa has teamed up with Vegas PBS, which has a work force-training division, to develop her classes. She’s transforming her textbook, “Hotel English,” into an online version, and Vegas PBS will provide closed-circuit video capabilities for instructors to help guide students through the Internet material. Once the final product rolls out in the spring, a hotel operator will be able to stream interactive-video lessons into multiple properties, and combine them with Internet lessons.

But it’s consumers who will benefit the most from the new training initiative, Timpa said.

“We can reach so many people with this. Customized training (online) doesn’t replace face-to-face learning, but it gets everyone excited about speaking English to their customers,” she said. “And the more people you have trained in (English as a second language), the more you’ll have people talking with your customers and giving exceptional service.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at
jrobison@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Hooters owner talks about room upgrades at his hotel-casino
George Ruff, founder and senior principal of Trinity Hotel Investors L.L.C., owner of Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, talks about recent room upgrades at the hotel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Passengers Discuss Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air passengers voice their views on the airline at McCarran International Airport on April 16, 2018. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes Trump tweeted his concerns about the company on Thursday. This isn't the first time Trump commented on the issues via Twitter. August 2017 December 2017 Amazon did hold back on paying state taxes in 1995, but the company has been routinely collecting state sales taxes since then. In 2016, the company's report from the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed it paid $412 million in taxes.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
eyecandylab CEO shows augmented reality during NAB
Robin Sho Moser, CEO and co-founder of eyecandylab gives an augmented reality demonstration at his booth during the National Association of Broadcaster Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Trends in access to capital for local black business owners
Denette Braud, owner of Braud’s Funnel Cake Cafe, talks about what owning her own business means to her.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Adobe unveils #HackTheBracket application for March Madness
Adobe unveiled their #HackTheBracket application at the Adobe Summit trade show at Sands Expo. People can use data from Adobe Analytics to make their bracket for March Madness. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Adidas Signs Yankees' Star Aaron Judge
Adidas Signs New York Yankees Star Aaron Judge The slugger is set to don a new set of stripes this season after signing with the apparel company. Aaron Judge Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal includes branding on his batting gloves and wristbands. Judge, the AL's reigning Rookie of the Year, was previously under contract with Under Armour since 2014. Judge won the American League Rookie of the Year award last season after setting an MLB record for most homers in a rookie season (52).
Esports athletes are sponsored, too
Meet Red Bull-sponsored professional esports player Daryl S. Lewis, better known by his in-game name Snake Eyez. Nicole Raz Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Bettor Investments turned into a bad bet
Bettor Investments formerly operated a Nevada-licensed entity betting operation. The company promised “conservative growth, profits and stability for our investors.” Matt Stuart, who ran the fund, shut it down in late 2016 and never made good on an agreement with shareholders.
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design Get your thinking caps on because the company is looking for a new cup that's easier to recycle. The $10 million grant challenge sees Starbucks partnering with investor group Closed Loop Partners for the project. According to CNN Money, Aside from the new cup design challenge, Starbucks stated it will test a cup with an inner lining made from plant fibers to prevent hot liquid from leaking. Will you join the challenge for #Bettercups?
Las Vegas bartenders who worked the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival question what they were paid
Reneé Black, left, and her husband Griffin Black talk to the Review-Journal at their home in Las Vegas, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Reneé was a bartender at Route 91, and Griffin was a bar back. They were hired as independent contractors, but received forms months later indicating they were employees. They also were never paid their last day of tips. Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Bad-beat jackpot money will finally be awarded
People who thought they had won in Station Casinos’ “bad beat jackpot” poker promotion were unhappy. They waited months to get paid. And now the bad-beat jackpot is gone.
New developments coming to Las Vegas' Craig Road
Gina Gavan, economic and business development director for North Las Vegas, discusses new development projects on Craig Road in North Las Vegas. Art Marroquin/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
Dallisa Hocking And A Grandmothers Psychic Gift
Dallisa Hocking’s new “boutique soul center” pays tribute to her late Grandma Ellie. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Can't pay the IRS? You do have options
There's a little more than five weeks until this year’s tax filing deadline of April 17. But many small business owners are wondering, “How am I going to pay my taxes?” When owners haven’t set aside enough money to cover what they owe the government, they have options. — The easiest and cheapest alternative may be to dip into personal savings. — If you have available credit, you may want to borrow from a lender or credit card. — Also, the IRS can work out an installment payment plan.
Amazon Offering Discounted Prime Memberships to Medicaid Recipients
Amazon Offering Discounted Prime Memberships to Medicaid Recipients Individuals with a valid Medicaid or Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card The $5.99 membership can be renewed every year for up to four years. The reduced Prime membership comes with the same benefits of a standard one, including free two-day shipping, Prime Video, Prime Music and Prime Now. Last year, Amazon also joined a USDA pilot program that allows those receiving government assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to buy groceries through online markets like Amazon's FreshDirect or Walmart.
Jeff Bezos New Net Worth Revealed, Still Richest Man Alive
At the end of 2017, Bezos was estimated to be worth $112 billion, earning the top spot on Forbes' world's billionaires list. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the Amazon founder's net worth is now $127 billion, which the report states is the combined wealth of 2.3 million Americans.
Dick's Sporting Goods Ends Sale of Assault Weapons Florida School Shooting
Dick's Sporting Goods Ends Sale of Assault Weapons Florida School Shooting The retailer announced the move in an open letter and an appearance by CEO Ed Stack on 'Good Morning America.' Ed Stack, (Good Morning America) Ed Stack, (Good Morning America) Dick's is also ending the sale of high-capacity magazines and sales of guns to people under 21 years old. The company ended the sale of assault weapons at Dick's-branded stores after the Newtown, Conn. school shooting in 2012. However, they were still selling them at its 35 Field & Stream locations. Nikolas Cruz, 17, shot and killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14.
Black History Month panel gives Las Vegas entrepreneurs advice
Five people with experience in business and government spoke Friday to the Urban Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas Among their advice: line up potential clients before starting a business, attend networking events and seek advice from experts in the industry The chamber, founded in 1980, has hundreds of members and focuses on the welfare of black-owned businesses in Las Vegas
Nevada's tech talent
Nevada is 13,325 jobs short of the top 10 in-demand information technology ecosystem occupations.
Las Vegas Ballpark breaks ground
The Las Vegas 51s throw a celebration to break ground on their new stadium in Summerlin.
The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck has arrived in Las Vegas
McDonald's Planning Big Change for Happy Meals
McDonald's Planning Big Change for Happy Meals The restaurant chain has made a pledge to make one of their signature meals healthier by 2022. Happy Meal choices will be hamburgers and four- and six-piece Chicken McNuggets. However, parents will still be able to ask for cheeseburgers. Here are a few more key notes: • Bottled water will be added • Chocolate milk will contain less sugar • More fruits, vegetables and grains will be served French fry sizes will also be smaller. McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. will serve Happy Meals containing 600 calories or less by June. Ernest Baskin, professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University (Money)
Life
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like