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From ‘bad news’ to business success, family grows consulting firm centered on tech, culture

Posted in ,   |  June 25, 2024

The phone call from the corporate office came as a shock — and then a catalyst.

Almost 25 years ago, Bob Pope received word that the strategic consulting office he worked for in North Dakota would be shutting down in 30 days.

“After the shock, we asked ourselves ‘What is the opportunity here?'” his wife, Lorie, said.

They both came from homesteading and entrepreneurial backgrounds, and it wasn’t long before they answered that question with another question: “Why not us?”

Think of the phrase “Don’t waste your sorrows,” Pope continued. “Which really means ‘Look for the opportunities in life.’ Many come packaged as bad news.”

The bad news blossomed into an impressive family business success story for the Pope family, who founded Nexus Innovations on July 1, 2000. They’d dreamed of owning their own business for years, and both were ready for a change.

“Little did we know how many times we were going to need to rely on wisdom with courage in our journey!” Pope said. “It’s been an adventure — sometimes wild and exhausting and other times full of celebration and such reward.”

Nexus Innovations now has strong presence across the Upper Midwest, with offices in Bismarck and Fargo. There are 23 Nexus consultants, plus contractors that join the team with projects.

Pope shared the family’s story recently on the Prairie Family Business Association’s podcast, “Family Business Connection.”


“The Pope family is a great example of a family who shows up to learn and engage because they ‘don’t know what they don’t know,’” said Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the Prairie Family Business Association.

“They have been excellent members for many years. Bob, Lorie and (son) Jordan are assets to family businesses they come in contact with through PFBA. As they work on their own future as a multigenerational business, they are walking alongside family businesses who are also on the journey.”

We caught up with Bob and Lorie Pope for a closer look at their business as they look to transition it to the next generation.

What was the initial vision when you started the business?

Bob Pope: The dream had to have a powerful purpose that would motivate us to keep going in the rough times and a sense of a calling to build it. It consisted of building a strategic consulting firm that met the needs of clients in the Upper Midwest area — a business that had a purpose and strategic mission reaching beyond just “doing business” and would provide services that genuinely helped organizations become empowered through technology and solutions, successful and help reach the next level by providing top-notch consulting services.

Lorie Pope: However, there had to be deeper purpose in touching lives to help navigate change in the business world. It would need to be built on trust, with healthy productive communication, commitment that led to great results. Our core foundation had to facilitate building relationships and developing consultants that were true leaders to bring high value to the customer, great culture, and serving the community. We prayed a lot to discern God’s direction.

How would you describe Nexus Innovations to someone who is not familiar with it? What would you say is the company’s niche?

Bob: With a focused range of services and solutions, Nexus is a Microsoft Gold Partner, offering game-changing solutions that enhance productivity, collaboration and communication within organizations. Nexus offers strategic software development consulting services stretching across the software development life cycle, from business process analysis and improvement, software design and architecture, software development services, quality assurance, project management services, business intelligence consulting, SharePoint/Office 365 and organizational consulting.

Lorie: What this means for clients is having a powerhouse of solutions and the opportunity to work with relationship-driven Nexus team members who are passionate about helping clients win. Nexus’ value is in the complex, difficult problems that companies face. Nexus consultants have seen a ton of organizations’ technology environments and helped implement software projects that are critical to success. Sometimes that’s heavier on custom development, sometimes it’s heavier on using capabilities built into the software, and it’s always understanding the change management needed. We also have expanded into consulting with businesses due to demand for healthy culture to bring about the results that are needed.

As a tech-centered company, growth and evolution probably are natural, but how has the business evolved with technology in recent years, and how do you see it continuing to evolve?

Bob: As we all know, technology is rapidly evolving at an increasing rate, and that absolutely has impact — not only on us but also on our customers and potential customers. Many of the tools and technology we use every day didn’t exist 10 years ago. Five years ago, it may have been emerging as someone’s wild idea, and even one or two years ago — or months ago! — we may have just started using it ourselves, much less being able to help others use it.

Across our offerings, as the capability of technology increases, the expectations of our customers increase as well. Oftentimes, project work that would have provided significant value a decade ago is now part of the baseline expectation, and we continuously adjust and advance what we do technically to be able to provide that level of value to our customers.

Lorie: Our team, and our technical team especially, must continue to commit to a growth mindset and be “forever learning,” so that we can provide the best possible insight and guidance throughout our projects, current and future. Fortunately, while this has an effect on a lot of what we do, the how we do what we do evolves at its own pace.

The delivery of our services is and will continue to be grounded in our core purpose of empowering our customers for success and guided by our strategic anchors and behavioral values. For us, that’s the real secret sauce, and we believe that even as the technology world rapidly evolves, we can and will continue to provide value to our customers through adherence to these principles.

Expansion of our business is always going on with additional offerings and new clients. Location isn’t as big of a factor now because of excellent technology for virtual capabilities. COVID took down many obstacles, and it’s easier than ever to do business.

You clearly have a commitment to company culture as shown by your recognition as a “50 Best Places to Work” in South Dakota, North Dakota and part of Minnesota for 10 years in a row. How would you describe your culture, and what do you do to continue to cultivate it?

Lorie: As Nexus continues to grow and empower its team members, our culture has developed and grown with it and allowed us to attract and retain team members looking for a meaningful, impactful career who share our vision. I invest into the team on a weekly basis through leadership development and training, personal mentorship and soft skills growth to add another layer of value to customer projects on top of technical expertise.

We help each individual find out what is “uniquely yours” to enhance social relations and define roles within teams. Strengthening relationships between team members and developing healthy, productive communication for the success of the overall organization is essential. I help them learn how to build trust with others through intrinsic validation and other powerful relationship tools such as DiSC and Habit Finder.

For someone that works for Nexus, we want them to know we are investing in much more than what they can bring to the table from a skill set perspective. We are investing in who they are as a person, their family and the values that matter. Companies that prioritize culture, especially when leading change, typically outperform their competitors in areas such as consistent growth, improved speed and efficiency, employee engagement and retention, customer satisfaction and profitability. Learn new ways to be a trusted leader that is transparent, connects with others and has the skills to lead with influence.

For many workplaces, the focus is solely on salary, benefits or office vibes, but Nexus has established something much deeper than that, and it wants to invest in team members who are passionate about leadership, self-growth, long-term relationships and utilizing competitive attitudes.

With that said, building a healthy culture is a project that’s never finished; it’s a continuous learning tool to grow and build upon. But at the end of the day, Nexus wants to instill the “servant leader” mindset into our team members — and it really creates for a rewarding work lifestyle. In fact, for nearly 20 years, one of the Nexus traditions is to take the employees and their families to Medora Badlands each summer for two days of fun team-building.

People might be curious about how you balance working closely with your spouse. What strategies have you employed to balance your work and life given you’re partners in both?

Bob and Lorie: Great question! It took a few years to work out the strategies effectively so we didn’t take Nexus home every night, which was not working. Every morning, we go over issues/actions to take care of, pray, develop an action plan and then at the end of the workday, go over it with a progress report. We lead in different areas, so that alone helps to create some space. Bob leads with opening up new markets of business, recruiting and building strong relationships with partners. Lorie leads in Nexus strategic direction, HR, financials and organizational consulting.

We have a high level of trust with each other and are committed to doing what’s right for both our team and clients. We definitely have in place our strategic culture values embedded in our marriage! That includes vulnerability-based trust, healthy productive communication and conflict, weigh-in so there is buy-in with commitment/accountability and being dedicated to results that bring value to others.

How and when did you become connected with Prairie Family Business Association?

Lorie: Friends who owned their business told us about PFBA in 2011 and highly recommended we check it out. Bob and I attended a Lunch’n Learn in December 2011 put on by PFBA about Culture – Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. It totally changed our Nexus culture as changes were made based on a solid, proven model. An organization that has a strong, healthy culture based on trust outperforms an organization with a weak culture. Hands down — business strategy doesn’t make up for it.

What kind of experience have you had with PFBA programs and what you take away from them?

Bob: Our son, Jordan, and I attended the recent Annual Conference and acceleration workshop and found them to be extremely helpful, informative and inspiring because the material provides road maps going forward.

Jordan Pope

Lorie: We also attended Board Bootcamp. We have had an advisory board but are now considering a board of directors. It provided great information and resources. PFBA broadly provides quite a legacy of resources that includes people plus data. I recommend PFBA to many small-business owners and also to farmers/ranchers needing direction on the hows of transitioning to the next generation.

Jordan: Being a member of an Affinity Peer Group for the last 13 years, I have made connections with other second-gen family businesspeople who have become confidants, mentors and friends. The relationships developed because of this group have been more than I ever could have imagined. While I have many friends who are in leadership positions or own their own businesses, having friends who “get” the unique dynamics and privilege of being in a family business through all the ups and downs is invaluable. Without this peer group, I am not certain I would still be in the family business today – the group has been that valuable, and some of the relationships will be lifelong relationships. I can’t recommend joining one of the peer groups enough.

As you look to the future, what strategies are you looking at to ensure the business continues, and how is PFBA assisting with that?

Lorie: We are thankful that our son, Jordan, who has been with Nexus for 17 years, has determined he would like to make the commitment to succeed us in the business. He has strong leadership skills, strategic visionary insights along with alignment clarity and is driving direction. We have been working on the transition plan for years, and that is one of the areas that our association with PFBA has been incredibly valuable, beginning years ago to help us put a strong foundation in place.

We have a plan developed now, and we are working with our attorney, our accountant and a group of advisers to firm up that plan. It is not a quick or easy process. Jordan has taken over in many areas of Nexus Innovations. It’s very special to be able to pass along a legacy down through family. A terrific Nexus team also makes that possible.

Prairie Family Business Association has the support many families are seeking in their family business journey. To learn more about the resources available, start by clicking here.


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