Opportunity - Next Exit

Brad and Dee Kain

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In January of 1986, Brad Kain, Class of 1988, passed up an internship with Ernst & Young to work with Jerry Clayton, a New Mexico man who had built an empire of nearly 200 convenience stores from the purchase of a single truck. Brad stayed for a month with the Claytons at their ranch in Farmington, N.M.

 “I learned more in that 30-day period than any other,” said Brad.

Brad returned to campus and started two businesses - one selling carpet scraps to incoming students and the other distributing care packages. The carpet business, partially funded by $1,500 in seed money provided by Jerry Clayton, made over $5,000 on campus move-in days that fall. Brad and co-founders Jean Stangl and Andy Mumma (all Class of 1988) sold the thriving care package business to another student when they graduated.

“These were convenience opportunities, being at the right place at the right time,” Brad says. “Jerry taught me a lot about that.”

It’s common advice in investments to ‘diversify your portfolio.’ Brad and Dee Kain, Class of 1988, have diversified their careers. K&R Consulting – which sells and provides support for small business software to 250 clients worldwide –  is the third business the couple has owned jointly since graduating.

“I run sales, she runs infrastructure,” says Brad. “I can’t imagine not working with my spouse. We have common goals. We go to lunch together three or four times a week. I knew this sort of life could be successful because I saw it with Jerry and Jane Clayton. We go home and turn the business off and have fun with the kids, and at the office we have things to accomplish.

As accounting majors at BV in the early days of the Harold Walter Siebens School of Business, Dee and Brad took most of their classes together. As sophomores, they worked together as part of the student orientation staff. They were among the School’s first management information systems minors. They married in 1988, the fall after they graduated. Brad and Dee earned their CPA certifications and had already secured accounting jobs before graduation: Brad at Touche-Ross, and Dee at a regional firm in southwestern Iowa. During their nights and weekends, however, the couple managed B&B Construction, a paving business Brad invested in with his friend Brian Smith. Brian (the other ‘B’) was an experienced brickwork contractor.

“We started with $5,000 and an old used van, working on residential patios,” says Brad. “I think the thing I learned the most was persistence – you just have to keep going.”

The ConAgra Campus, to be styled after the Old Market area of downtown Omaha, was a sizable contract – $1.5 million – and offered formidable challenges. The team had to secure financing and deal with a number of practical challenges, including torrential rains, theft of generators and hiring reliable employees. Through hard work, Brad, Dee and Brian completed the project on time and on budget.

In 1990, Brad sold his half of B&B to Brian, and the Kains looked for another project in which to invest the profits. They settled on a hearing aid center in Norfolk, Neb. Dee took the lead, managing the office and becoming a licensed hearing aid specialist. Meanwhile, Brad was working in another office, selling AS400 mainframe computers to medium-size businesses, an experience that led the Kains to see an opportunity in branching out to the business that became K&R Consulting.

“The common element is solving problems,” Brad says. “In the B & B paving, it was providing streets and sidewalks to spur a city’s development. At Norfolk, it was helping people to hear. With K & R, it’s helping put systems in place for business.”