By DARREN MILLER
Communications Specialist, Iowa JPEC
Like many college students, Nick Garland experienced a bumpy beginning on his academic journey.
When he didn’t get a good vibe pursuing a degree in education, Garland followed a detour at the University of Iowa, earned a BBA in entrepreneurial management, and joined the family business, Nesper Sign Advertising in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Garland has been recognized by the Corridor Business Journal as one of its “Forty Under 40” honorees.
“It’s nice to be recognized for the hard work you have put in,” Garland said. “What has been nice is hearing from friends and family from afar. To hear from people you haven’t talked to in years has been gratifying; they are people that have been involved in my life and made a major impact.”
Garland graduated from Cedar Rapids Xavier High School in 2010 and from the University of Iowa in December 2014. In January 2015 he began working at Nesper, a company founded in 1925 and run by his father Phil and mother Donna for the past 15 years. Garland knew what he was getting into: during summers as a college student, he worked in the shop and gained experience on everything from electrical to manufacturing to painting.
After earning a college degree, Garland returned to Nesper doing sales and working with Department of Transportation regulations. His presence gives the company a fresh and modern feel: when he walked in for his first day on the job, he noticed the company still used a typewriter.
“You learn so much from that first year in the workforce.” Garland said. “I was able to come in and implement Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Access right away. We had a typewriter, and I was like, you have got to be kidding me?”
Garland has been a purchasing agent for the past five years and operations manager for the past three years.
His ability to wear many hats in the business world was cultivated during his time at the University of Iowa.
“The entrepreneurial side of things was appealing because it gives you a taste of all the sections of what it takes to run a company,” Garland said. “Earning an entrepreneurial degree gives you an introduction into business rhetoric so you know how to write, give speeches, and touches on the finance side of things.”
Garland said the most valuable lessons he learned at Iowa were how to stay organized, stay on task, and being able to multi-task. At Nesper, he says, no two days offer the same challenge.
“There is always something that happens that you weren’t expecting,” Garland said. “I like the variety of it, and I like wearing different hats. I like problem-solving and that’s what an operations manager at our company needs to be able to do.”
A lifelong resident of Cedar Rapids, Garland is in his 11th season as football coach at Xavier (he started when he was 19 years old). He is also a school-based mentor for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids.