Omaha seems like a really small town when Gary Grobeck, as a building inspector for Nebraska's capital city, finds himself inspecting work done on houses that he had bid on as owner of Grobeck Construction.

Photo: Heartland Photos | Chris Ruhaak

“It's the flip side of the coin,” says Grobeck (Big50 2007). Last summer, shortly after being inaugurated into the Big50, he and his wife Diane sold their 22-year-old company. As a business owner, “I was paying benefits for everybody. Now I'm like, ‘This costs me $17 a month?'” he says, still in awe of the perks of government employ. Former project manager Diane, in turn, manages an independent-living community.

The couple hatched their exit plan years ago, intending to grow the business to a point where they could sell it yet still get income from it. When he heard that the city might be hiring, Grobeck threw his hat into the ring. “Five more years and we could have sold for more,” he says, but he knew it could be much longer before another job opened.

The Grobecks sold their office, shop, and equipment to Oldenhuis Contracting, tossing in signed contracts that provide residual commissions. Equally sweet is the music Grobeck still hears in his sideline passion booking roots musicians for Omaha clubs.