By Capt. Robert TaylorMay 8, 2017
BOISE, Idaho - Capt. Brandon Nipper oversees two companies. One is the small insulation business he runs with his wife. The other is an Idaho Army National Guard aviation company.
"I set a schedule and the expectation at my full-time job that there will be times where I need to step outside and take a phone call," Nipper said. "There are lots of days where I arrange my work schedule so I can fly that night."
Nipper is a traditional Soldier, but his military position is a part-time job that requires a full-time commitment. In addition to overseeing approximately 30 Soldiers and $220 million of equipment for the Boise-based Alpha Company, 1-183d Aviation Battalion (Attack), he typically flies two to three times a week to remain proficient as a helicopter pilot.
His full-time job also requires a full-time commitment.
Nipper and his wife, Julie, own and operate Insulation Plus, one of an estimated 27 million mom-and-pop businesses throughout the United States.
"It's been challenging to be an M-Day commander and balance the responsibilities and obligation to take care of all the requirements you need to do as a company commander and run a small business," Nipper said.
He tries to get as much done as he can during the additional time he spends on Gowen Field before and after flights.
The Nippers started their company in 2007 with Brandon's father and his wife. Julie managed the front office while Brandon and his father, Stephen, ran the day-to-day company operations. Stephen's wife, Anna, was a silent partner in the company.
Brandon and Julie bought out Stephen and Anna when Stephen retired in 2015, leaving the married couple of 20 years as the sole partners of the business.
Nipper said it's rewarding to work so close with his wife, but admits it can be challenging to leave their work at the office.
"It's really rewarding," he said. "You build up a sense of accomplishment as a couple because you brought this from the ground up. But it's definitely tough to leave those conversations at work. You always bring it home."
Nipper said the pair plan date nights and promise each other not to bring up work during the night and then they hold each other to that promise.
"It's hard sometimes because you're enshrined in it, but it's important to be there for each other without talking about work."
Julie still runs the company's front office. Brandon handles sales and project management. Though he is in a key position at both companies, he sees a distinct difference between running an insulation company and a National Guard company.
He said being a business owner in the service industry requires him to be a good manager but he's required to be more than a manager and a leader as a company commander.
"In the service industry, the focus is on a job and a paycheck," he said. "Soldiers have higher expectations. They want to be led. They want more than just to be managed."
Nipper knows firsthand what Soldiers expect from their leaders. He enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard in 1995 into the same battalion he now commands a company.
He said he wanted to do something more with his life than just have a regular job and that the Idaho Army National Guard offered the discipline and career progression he was looking for at 21.
Today there are additional benefits his membership in the organization provides him, especially as a small business owner: affordable health insurance and a future retirement.
The family business is too small to offer its employees insurance. Brandon said the company pays their employers a higher wage than similar business owners might to help offset this reality to their employees. He uses insurance made available to him through his military service to provide insurance to his family.
"You can't beat the insurance benefits," he said. "That's worth its weight more than anything as a family."
The company doesn't offer employees retirement benefits either, also due to its size.
Nipper hopes to retire from the Idaho Army National Guard after a 30-year career, which already includes a deployment to Afghanistan.
"That will definitely be something that will pay off in the long run," he said. "I'm looking forward to that. I couldn't provide myself retirement benefits without growing the business more."
Brandon sees growing the business as the next step for him and Julie. The Nippers are aware that in order for the company to grow and to reach a point where they can take time off together, they will need to find people capable of replacing both of them.
Brandon is currently attending a six-week training course in Marana, Arizona as he transitions from flying Apaches to Blackhawks. It's the first time he's been away for military training since his dad retired and while he's never more than a phone call away, he said it's been nice to let his senior salesman fill in for him. He sees it as a test for the company's future.
Nipper grew up watching his dad do the same job they would later do together. Regardless if any of the Nipper's three children follow their parents into the family business, Brandon hopes his children learn the same lessons from Julie and him that he learned from his dad.
"The business provides a method for us to hopefully leave a legacy for our children to follow," he said. "Regardless of what they chose to do as adults, this experience is teaching them the value of hard work and stewardship of resources."