The Path to Longevity: Companies Leave Mark on Omaha Through Decades

Undeniably, it takes a great deal of hard work, commitment and adaptability to reach longevity, and many businesses in the area have been triumphant in this pursuit by uniquely understanding their customer base and delivering reliable and consistent services. For decades, companies like Northwestern Mutual, Sadoff Iron & Metal Company and Mitchell & Associates, Inc. have not only survived, but achieved significant milestones over the years.

Success Over Time

Northwestern Mutual is no stranger to longevity, recently celebrating its 150th anniversary. As a Fortune 100 company with top ratings from all four major ratings services, the financial advising company’s success stems from its core purpose to strengthen its communities by delivering financial security for families and businesses across the country, according to Jennifer Brase, managing partner at Northwestern Mutual. 

“Northwestern Mutual has been conducting business in Nebraska since 1864,” Brase said. “Our presence in the state includes over 70 advisers and representatives. In 2021, these advisers delivered over $47 million in death benefits, $3 billion in AUM (assets under management) and $18 billion in force insurance.”

Sadoff Iron & Metal Co., a scrap metal recycling and buying company, is another example of business endurance and stability with 75 years under its belt. While today’s leadership includes Mark Lasky, Jason Lasky and Bradford Lasky, the company’s story began in 1947 when their grandfather Edward H. Rudoy, who immigrated from Ukraine, identified an opportunity to buy the Block Salvage Co. in Oshkosh. Rudoy convinced a Chicago bank and his wife Belle’s family to finance him, and this bold entrepreneurial course of action set the business on its path, according to Jason Lasky, executive vice president of Sadoff.

In 1964, Rudoy purchased the Sadoff Iron & Metal Co. in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Sheldon Lasky, Rudoy’s son-in-law, joined the business in 1972 and the company bought Wisconsin’s first automobile shredder in 1973. In 1991, Rudoy retired and Lasky took over the business. Today, the business operates six recycling centers in Wisconsin and two scrap metal recycling locations in Omaha and Lincoln.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, locally based Mitchell & Associates, Inc. began as a real estate brokerage firm in 1947 and transitioned to appraisal services in 1979. The leadership team is headed by Beth Andersen and Bruce Wilkie overseeing the residential division, and Kevin Hermsen and David Wellsandt overseeing the commercial division.

“It’s been a steady pace of growth,” said Partner Bruce Wilkie. “Now with 11 appraisers, including designated members of the Appraisal Institute, we are one of the largest independent appraisal firms in the Midwest. Having both residential and commercial appraisers in-house has been beneficial for analyzing properties with mixed uses.”

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Standing Out 

One of Northwestern Mutual’s core values is putting people first, whether it’s clients, communities, employees or financial advisers. With this in mind, Brase said the firm has been committed to the fight against childhood cancer and improving the lives of children and families in need through its philanthropy strategy. 

“In 2022, we raised over $1 million toward our goal to accelerate the search for better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for childhood cancer,” Brase said. “In tandem with this work, we partner with a variety of local organizations throughout the year, including Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Sammy’s Superheros, Lolo’s Angels and Camp CoHolo.”

F.E. Saffold office in Lincoln, Nebraska, circa 1908. (Courtesy of Northwestern Mutual)
F.E. Saffold office in Lincoln, Nebraska, circa 1908.
(Courtesy of Northwestern Mutual)

As a leader in scrap metal recycling, Sadoff prides itself on being a safe and sustainable company. 

“We went from believing in safety to really having safety as a value,” Jason Lasky said. 

Sadoff’s employees also understand and embrace the culture, atmosphere and their purpose to contribute to the company. 

“Today’s companies talk about their ‘why,’” Mark Lasky, CEO of Sadoff, said. “Why do people want to commit their careers here or why do people want to do business with you? At Sadoff, we enhance quality of life by creating security through sustainability.”

Mitchell & Associates has found that part of its success and distinction stems from a focus on educating clients about appraisals. 

“We have held several presentations and classes, and remain committed to providing clients with analyses that best help them with their decision-making,” Wilkie said.

For example, Wilkie said some clients call for an appraisal but really need some consultation. Therefore, the team is able to determine the appropriate next steps through open communication. 

“Others may ask about specific circumstances for a tenant they have and we help them understand the options available,” Wilkie said. “Our firm is also recognized for handling complicated valuation situations such as estate residences and special-use facilities.”

Sadoff Iron & Metal employees celebrating 75 years. (Courtesy of Sadoff Iron & Metal)
Sadoff Iron & Metal employees celebrating 75 years. (Courtesy of Sadoff Iron & Metal)

Harnessing Longevity 

Since 1858, Northwestern Mutual’s mission has been focused on providing a plan that’s customized to meet its clients’ unique financial needs. This individualized approach has played a large role in its longevity, according to Brase. 

“Our unique method and commitment to our clients has resulted in our policyholders keeping their policies with us on average 40 years,” Brase said. “Additionally, Northwestern Mutual’s long standing presence in Nebraska, and across the country, can be laddered back to our growth mindset, especially on career and educational focus. Our inclusive and innovative environment has resulted in our advisers staying with Northwestern Mutual which can be seen through our fifth year advisors’ retention rate being over 96%.”

Throughout Rudoy’s and Lasky’s careers with Sadoff, they became leaders in the community, which also contributed to the company’s long standing presence. 

“Community involvement is something that Edward valued — to invest back into the area and help it thrive,” Bradford Lasky, executive vice president of Sadoff, said. “This value has passed down to our father and now to us.”

The Lasky brothers said they are determined to continue the traditions set forth by their grandfather and father. 

“Edward and Sheldon’s philosophy was that our best method of growth was to grow with our customers,” Mark Lasky said. “That was the foundation of how the company started and it continues through today.”

Experience is everything for the team at Mitchell & Associates, but equally important is a willingness to expand the company with trainees, which has been a key component to longevity.

“Many of our peers view the task of training the next generation of appraisers to be risky as it could lead to training your future competition,” Wilkie said. “For us, we have always strived to have a proper balance of experienced appraisers and trainees willing to learn. If adequately taught, those trainees can become vital keys to growth and continued success.”

In fact, Wilkie said three of the four current owners began their careers as trainees with the firm, and the fourth owner is third generation in the real estate profession.

Steering Forward

With significant achievements in tow already, these companies have significant goals as they forge ahead. 

Northwestern Mutual remains committed to continuing its business for another 150-plus years, Brase said. 

“Our company is focused on placing an emphasis on generational planning so our clients’ family and their future generations are set up for financial success,” Brase said. “We are recruiting advisers of all demographics and backgrounds across the country on an ongoing basis to ensure that we remain relevant to our clients and fulfill their unique needs.”

When reflecting on Sadoff’s future, the Lasky family knows where they want to go and how they are going to get there. 

“We see ourselves as stewards of the business,” Mark Lasky said. “There’s a need — it’s a mature, basic business but it is also a backbone to the economy.”

In addition, sustainability is becoming more of a priority for businesses and organizations and Sadoff has been taking actionable steps to make this a reality. 

“We’re helping our company be a provider to others, so they achieve their sustainability goals,” Jason Lasky said. “We’re seeing that as a desire and as a need.”

With the increased need of electronics in daily lives, the company began its newest recycling expansion with the addition of its R2-certified Sadoff E-Recycling & Data Destruction company, which began in 2016. Since branching out in this area, the company has assisted many more clients meet their security and sustainability objectives. 

As the company continues its work and dedication for the next 75 years, the Laskys said Sadoff is honored to share this milestone with its employees and the community. 

“When you have successes, you celebrate, reward, recognize and respect the people who got you there,” Mark Lasky said.

The team at Mitchell & Associates looks forward to continuing its steady growth through education and commitment.

“It is undeniable that the company owes a great deal of its success to our employees, who have remained loyal and invaluable throughout the years,” Wilkie said. 

One thing is certain — sustaining a business for many decades requires a number of factors, some of which include a strong culture, realistic vision and the ability to evolve in order to meet the changing needs of customers. Fortunately, the Omaha community is home to many businesses that have stood the test of time.