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Staying Power

Meet local business owners who have had a knack for longevity in Tahoe
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By LIZ BOWLING and SAGE SAUERBREY  |  Moonshine Ink

It’s not easy to build a business in Tahoe. High rents, fluctuating seasons, and an ongoing worker shortage all make it difficult to build a successful brand, and ensure it’s strong enough to weather the tough times. There are many however, that have accomplished that feat and become hallmarks of the local business environment. In this collaboration with the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, we talk with three business owners with staying power, about how they’ve made it work, so well, for so long. ~ SS

Wally Auerbach

AUERBACH ENGINEERING  |  21 YEARS

How has Auerbach Engineering Corp evolved from 1998 to now? 

We started in the Trading Post Center with just myself and two others, initially. We soon had way too much work and difficulty finding qualified people, so I purchased a local engineering firm located on Dollar Hill and moved my team there … In 2014 we moved to our current location on the West Shore, next to Tahoe House — oops. Our workload is expanding again, but the past taught me that growth has to be deliberate. We’d rather say no to potential work than overburden the team with difficult deadlines. We currently have a staff of 12 quality individuals, with a great balance of public and private work. If I could find two more “keepers,” we’d have the dream team!

Your span of work is extensive! Are there any projects of which you are particularly proud? 

One part of our mission is to maintain a large presence locally, doing projects that are important to the community. We’d much rather work where we live than travel out of the area and pretend that we know something about what those other communities need, so we work hard to build relationships here in our home towns … As far as projects are concerned, one of the things we really enjoy is bike trails, and are excited to be involved in the newest trails in Martis Valley going to construction next year.

What does it take to run a business in North Lake Tahoe? 

Since the very early days we have been challenged with recruiting and keeping professional staff, and the reason is A) housing and B) winter … In Tahoe, the first question I ask is, "why do you want to live in Tahoe?" and if I get the right answer, I’ll work with the rest. The recession was pretty painful, but what kept us going were the relationships we built over the years with local public agencies who were less affected by that downturn.

Dave Wilderotter

TAHOE DAVE'S SKIS AND BOARDS | 41 YEARS

How has your business evolved from the moment you opened the first Tahoe Dave’s shop to now?

Fifteen pairs of rental skis, one employee, and no cash register to thousands of skis, snowboards, lots of employees, and quite a few cash registers.

How do you motivate and inspire your employees?

I let them be themselves. Although I micromanage to a fault, I really let personalities shine. I try to make the work environment a fun place to be. We are blessed with really overqualified personnel. I try to let them teach me things from their backgrounds and let them progress professionally if they choose.

Where do you see your business in 10 years?

Still here being run and maybe being owned by my employees ... I’ll keep an office just to visit and try to keep scamming new cool ski stuff from suppliers.

Dan Tester

GRANITE PEAK MANAGEMENT  |  20 YEARS

Sponsorship and community involvement: What entities do you support and what nonprofits do you regularly engage with? Why?

Through the Greenbucks program, we have contributed over $41,000 benefitting the Tahoe Fund and the Truckee River Watershed Council. Our employees routinely participate in the Truckee River Watershed Council’s annual Truckee River Day. We participate in these programs because our employees enjoy the scenic beauty and abundant recreation of our area, and appreciate the opportunity to give back.

When and where are you most creative?

In the early morning before the phone calls and emails start picking up. My desk looks out on the Truckee River, which is pretty inspirational combined with a steaming cup of coffee!

What advice do you have for a business starting out in North Tahoe?

Be ready to put in some seriously long hours. Cultivate an awesome work environment — it’s challenging finding and keeping employees in this region. Don’t forget to reward yourself and your employees with that most important asset — time to enjoy all that Tahoe has to offer.

 
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November 8, 2018