Even the oldest and most established companies were once a back-of-the-envelope glimmer of an idea.
That was the message Wednesday night from First National Bank’s Clark Lauritzen, president of the company’s FNN Wealth Management.
Lauritzen spoke at a mixer held by Straight Shot, the business incubator that connects new companies and their entrepreneurs with older ones and their leaders.
“We were a startup 155 years ago,” he joked.
Since, the Omaha-based operator of First National Bank of Omaha has grown into the largest privately held banking company in the nation, with $17 billion in assets and about 100 branches.
Lauritzen told the downtown assembly of about 75 people that the bank has had a hand in many Omaha success stories because employees and managers abide by his grandfather’s credo of “We are a great big small bank.”
» TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, Lauritzen said, started his company in 1975 with a First National loan secured by his car and house; the first office was in the bank’s basement. Now, the online stock brokerage employs 2,000 people in Omaha and is an industry leader.
“Joe reinvested his profits in the business year after year,” Lauritzen said.
» Gallup became what it was when Lincoln’s SRI bought the famous New Jersey-based polling company, Lauritzen said.
When the Omaha-based company needed money to grow in the late 1980s, Lauritzen said, his family became a shareholder. For about 10 years, Lauritzen said, his father and grandfather were directors of the private company.
» Omaha energy company Tenaska, building a new headquarters at First National Business Park, is a leader in developing electricity and natural gas projects and non-utility power plants, Lauritzen said. “With less capital than most, they have built an incredible business.”
Lauritzen said each of the companies, including his, has many people to thank, as does any successful firm. Part of it is Omaha’s sense of community purpose and commonwealth.
“It is something we have to be thankful for living in Omaha,” he said.