Even though a lot of things are changing in the way we view tv these days, the industry will adapt as it always does, and will be around for a long time.
Sjoberg’s Cable is a cable TV, phone, and Internet provider located in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, a primarily Scandinavian community about an hour from the Canadian border. Born and raised in Minnesota, Dick Sjoberg has lived there all of his life. He’s been happily married to his wife, Holly, for 41 years and has a son, Ben, who works in the family business with him. With his free time Dick enjoys hobbies such as landscaping, woodworking, and escaping to his Canadian cottage with his wife when time permits. He is also very active in many foundations and boards in the area such as the Minnesota Broadband Task Force and the Blandin Foundation, working to bring broadband to rural communities
Z: We asked Dick about the origins of Sjoberg Cable…
Dick: In 1946 when my mother and father returned from the war effort they started an appliance store selling radios, TVs, vacuums, kitchen appliances, and laundry equipment. In the early 1960’s color TVs became the new thing and my father soon realized that in order to sell color TVs in the area he needed a stronger signal. So in 1962, Bill Bresnan, later to become the owner of Bresnan Communications, helped the elder Sjobergs start up their own CATV company. In 1976 my brother and I took over the family business and for the next 22 years I’ve led a happy life filled with work and family and the cable tv business grew. But by the year 1998 it was clear to me that things were changing rapidly and we added high speed internet and digital data offerings for our customers.
Z: When did ZCorum come into the picture?
Dick: As Sjoberg’s Cable grew, the need to better serve the customers also grew. We were using a provider called ISP Channel to handle most aspects of our broadband business. But at the end of 2000, with almost no notice, ISP Channel made the decision to close their doors.They told us we had a little over a month to make other arrangements to provide broadband for our subscribers, so we called on ZCorum. The two companies worked together to successfully transition all Sjoberg’s broadband subscribers and services to ZCorum. “I’ve been very happy with the value and support we’ve received from ZCorum over the years, including the addition of TruVizion and TechVizion on the diagnostics side” said Sjoberg.
Z: As a cable company owner what’s the most persistent problem you face, or what problems do you wish you had a solution for?
Dick: Not enough time! I wish I could get customers up and running faster. As for a solution, I would love the ability to identify issues in the head-end; to see where signals go, in order to make things work at a higher potential than the current 65%, that would be great.
Z: With so much competition in the cable world these days are you using more marketing in your area to keep customers loyal?
Dick: We’ve used cross channel promotion, radio advertisements, newspaper advertisements, and direct mail pieces. We still don’t get into social media very much yet, but I’m very interested in adding that to our arsenal. Some instruction from the ZCorum marketing department to get us started would be great!
Z: Speaking of social, this is a beautiful area of the country. Tell us about Thief River Falls.
Dick: The people living in Thief River Falls are some of the nicest, hardest-working, and intelligent people you’d ever get to meet. It’s a wonderful place to live and I wish more young people would stay in the community. Sadly it’s difficult for many of them to find the kind of jobs they were trained for, so it’s understandable that they leave. One of my goals is to create more attractive jobs in the community to retain the younger generation. Thief River Falls was founded because the local waterfalls were the power source for all the saw mills in the area. Settlers would harvest trees, process them at the mills and place the boards on the railroad lines to transport.
Z: What about the name Thief River? Where did that originate?
Dick: The name Thief River Falls comes from Indian folklore. A Chippewa Chief had a daughter that fell in love with a member of a Sioux tribe in the area. Daughters, especially a chief’s daughter, weren’t allowed to marry into another tribe. But the Chief knew how much his daughter wanted to be with the Sioux warrior, so he solved the problem by telling everyone the river had “stolen” his daughter. Believed by the tribe to be taken by the river, the Chief’s daughter was then free to go live with the Sioux tribe without breaking any of the Chippewa rules. Afterwards the river became known as the Thief River.
Z: With big cities “stealing” away a lot of people from small towns, do you have any parting words for those young people interested in entering the service provider industry?
Dick: You couldn’t pick a better industry to build a career around. It’s very vibrant and is always changing. There’s always a new product or service being introduced, and that keeps it interesting. Even though a lot of things are changing in the way we view TV these days, the industry will adapt as it always does, and will be around for a long time. You’ll be making a very good decision by joining it.
For more information about Sjoberg’s Cable TV, visit http://mncable.net/