When Great Plains Communications (GPC) was founded in 1910 by E.C. Hunt as a Nebraska phone company, human operators manually connected telephone calls by plugging and unplugging cords using a switchboard. As the industry evolved, the company stayed ahead of it, introducing the latest products to their markets including Cable TV and eventually became one of the first providers to lay fiber in the state of Nebraska. Today, 115 years later, GPC owns and operates one of the largest, privately owned networks in the Midwest, serves nearly 200 communities with fiber-driven technology services and continues to grow its business strategically. According to Joe Pellegrini, Chief Operating Officer and President, “We’re just getting started!”

What business model can sustain a company for more than a century? Joe Pellegrini, the President and Chief Operating Officer of Great Plains Communications, recently shared his thoughts about our long-term business model and approach to the evolving telecom landscape in a 5G Talent Talk podcast with Carrie Charles for RCR Wireless.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the factors Joe believes are key to the longevity and continuity of GPC, along with a link to the Century of Connectivity: The Legacy of Great Plains Communications.

A fully engaged atmosphere. One of the key principles at GPC is valuing our team. GPC has more than 400 employees, with over 50% who work and live in the communities they serve. Our employees see customers who are also friends and neighbors and family members at church, in the grocery store or at the local baseball game, which means their commitment is to the customers they see daily. This contributes to a collaborative team atmosphere where everyone wants to succeed for the business and its customers. We believe in this collaborative culture where we grow together and everyone’s voice is valuable to making that happen.


Ever-evolving culture and high retention. Some employees have been at GPC for 25, 35, 40 years and others for seven days. This gives new employees a healthy understanding of GPC’s dynamic history and what it takes to be in a positive work environment where they continue to learn, grow and deliver on the commitment to the customer. It also allows for employees with longer tenure to learn from the newer generation of employees who bring in a valuable, fresh perspective. We’re all mentoring and learning from each other. The company has embraced remote work as well. Although headquartered in Blair, Nebraska, GPC has employees working in all four time zones.


Diversification. GPC has multiple business units we continually feed and care for. Our high-capacity network allows us to provide fiber to the home and enterprises and supports having a robust wholesale division where we serve the needs of regional and national carriers, LECs, ISPs, wireless carriers and other telecommunications providers. We also work with hyperscalers that provide Cloud infrastructure. We engage with our customers to determine their unique needs and pain points, and then leverage our extensive network to deliver customized solutions to solve those needs.


Thoughtful participation in government-led initiatives. Our involvement in government-led efforts to bring broadband further into underserved and unserved areas goes back 15-20 years. Our approach is to thoughtfully participate in government-led funding efforts to expand broadband across our footprint where we feel we can succeed in bringing those services to local constituents, within the governmental time frame and budget.


One of the most important principals: Employees have a voice. Joe’s advice for leaders in any business: “When you’re listening, you’re learning. And you can learn from every single one of your team members, whether it’s someone you’re reporting to or someone who is reporting to you.”


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