The Gazette wanted to take a look at three women who own or manage businesses in the area. They come from different backgrounds, age groups, and industries.
But they also have many similarities. All three of them are mothers. Two are grandmothers, one is a great-grandmother. They all agree that running a business is hard work and takes a lot of time. They all put a lot of value in surrounding themselves with a strong staff and support system.
And they all three happen to be named . . . Linda
Linda Taylor is co-owner of VK Electronics, an audio, video, and now furniture store in McCook, Nebraska. She is also the mother of two, grandmother to four, and great grandmother to two.
VK Electronics recently re-located to 606 West B Street, the former home of the Chief Restaurant. When she started the business under the name of Video Kingdom in 1982 in the "castle" located at 305 West 10th Street, the store primarily carried a line of home entertainment rentals - video games and movies. The buzzwords then were Coleco, Intellivision, and Atari. They later added televisions and video recorders.
Linda credits much of her success in business to the ability to recognize consumer trends and adapt quickly to their wants and needs. As the home entertainment business changed, so did VK Electronics, adding the Dish Satellite dealership, security systems, and most recently, the Lane brand line of furniture, including home theater furnishings.
Her chosen industry doesn't give her much choice but to adapt because there is fast movement in the consumer electronics field. "You can never rest," she said. "In this business, you have to be ready for change every day."
That transforming spirit is what sparked Linda to start her business in the first place. "We could see the wave of the future, the trend for people to stay at home and enjoy family entertainment," she said.
Her greatest reward has been her customers. She has had the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people, and she enjoys being able to meet their needs. She told of a customer who unexpectedly lost her son to a sudden illness. The customer had a Christmas ornament that the son had given her with a video on it. "We were able to take that ornament and convert the video into a digital format that she could use. It is very rewarding to recognize things people need and be able to fulfill those needs."
VK Electronics employs eight full-time and two part-time people, as well as the two co-owners, Linda and her son, Trevor Taylor. They are constantly training their staff, through webinars and in-house training sessions led by Trevor. When making hiring decisions, they never hire on the first interview, but rather call the prospective applicant back several times to be sure they will be a good fit.
Training is not limited to staff, as Linda spends time daily reading trade magazines, participating in webinars, attending meetings and networking with others in her industry.
Her staff is an important aspect to the success of her business, but Linda and Trevor realize that the ultimate responsibility for their business falls on the shoulders of the owners. "When you own a business, you have responsibility for every decision -- you have to meet payroll. If you make a wrong buy, you are the one to have to figure out how to fix it," she said.
Even though starting her own business and keeping it going throughout the years has been a lot of hard work, Linda recognizes that balancing work with relaxation is also important. "If you don't, you won't stay in business. Workaholics don't last long." She regularly takes time out for family and she especially cherishes her personal friendships. It is also important to Linda to give back to the community.
Linda's advice for would-be entrepreneurs is to surround yourself with a support system that can help you navigate the many aspects of running a business. "You need a good accountant, a good attorney, and a good banker," she said. "And you need desire. You'll end up spending more time than you ever imagined on your business."
She also stresses the importance of having an exit plan, a strategy for passing on ownership when you are ready to move on. She also stresses the importance of developing a business plan that will allow you to adapt and change as consumers, life situations, and circumstances change.
The ability to adapt to those kinds of changes has allowed VK Electronics to grow and prosper over its 30-year history.
Linda Dixon is the Executive Director of Emeritus at Willow Ridge in McCook, Nebraska. Willow Ridge, built in 1994, is a senior living community that offers retirement and assisted living apartments in McCook. The facility has 34 assisted living apartments and 57 independent living units. Linda has been the Executive Director since 2008.
Linda moved around a lot as a child, and living in many different apartments and houses gave her a love for real estate. Out of college, she was a real estate broker. Another influence on her career decision occurred when her mother was confined to a wheel chair due to an illness. Linda was drawn to her current industry as a result of those influences. Managing a retirement living community fulfilled her combination of loves - her love for real estate and her love for helping older people who need assistance.
It's not only the resident who benefits, but also family members. "Caregivers often get burned out," said Linda, "and their health can also decline due to stress. After moving their loved-ones to Willow Ridge, several have said they wished they would have made the move months earlier."
The facility is never static. As some residents leave, Linda and her staff get apartments ready for new residents to move in. "We average two to four move-outs a month for a variety of reasons," said Linda. Keeping the facility full and all positions staffed are two of the major challenges Linda faces.
Willow Ridge employs 40 staff members, including six department heads, who help Linda in the management of the facility. Department heads supervise various aspects including maintenance, food service, life engagements, business office, sales, and residential care (nursing). The department heads hire the staff for their departments, and Linda is responsible for hiring the management team.
When looking for a manager, Linda looks for a team player who is able to multi-task and can handle stress. "We need universal managers," said Linda. She went on to explain that managers need to be willing and able to help other departments for the benefit of the residents. She also expects her managers to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things that will improve the operation.
Being ultimately responsible for the entire facility is demanding and requires a lot of dedication to the needs of residents and staff. However, Linda also recognizes the importance of personal time. She credits her managers with giving her the opportunity to spend time away from work. She has two very busy children and it is important to her to be there for them.
Linda takes advantage of self-improvement seminars and educational opportunities to better her skills and expertise. Whenever possible, she also utilizes church Bible studies that help her recharge her energy and focus.
She recommends that others who want to pursue a career in management need to be willing to start at the bottom and work their way up. She spoke of a time when as an adult, circumstances required that she move back in with her parental family. She said that she took a job as a newspaper rack driver just to make ends meet. "You do what you need to do to get the experience you need to move up," she said.
"I guess the fact that I moved around a lot as a kid made me understand that you have to go with the flow," Linda divulged. That flexible attitude serves her well in her line of business.
She highly recommends a career in the retirement residence industry. As baby boomers reach retirement age, the need is continuing to increase. At the same time, the wants and needs of residents will continue to evolve. "This industry is not going away," said Linda.
Linda Maiden is the owner/agent for Linda Maiden State Farm Insurance in McCook. The company sells and services property casualty, life, health, and commercial insurance as well as bank and securities products.
Linda started working for State Farm Insurance in 1973 while still in high school. "That was before everything was on computers, and I spent a lot of time filing papers," said Linda. She was a State Farm team member for 14 years, working for another owner/agent and earning her license. When her employer decided to retire in 1988, Linda decided to apply for the agency.
On November 1, 2012, Linda began her 25th year as owner/agent. Her path to ownership is not one she would recommend to others. In fact, she believes it would be impossible today. Since Linda did not have a college education 24 years ago, it took three years and a lot of persistence for Linda to convince State Farm to promote her to ownership level. "Having a college education opens doors," she said, "It helps you get a foot in the door. Not having one almost cost me getting this job."
Besides the challenge of actually getting the opportunity in the first place, Linda sees the many changes in her industry as another challenge she faces. Not only has there been a huge change in technology, but there have also been massive changes in the way insurance companies do business and changes in the legal environment in which they operate.
Her greatest reward is helping people. "I love to be able to be there for my clients at their time of loss," said Linda.
Ownership has given her the scheduling flexibility to be there for her children and grandchildren for all of those special events. She feels she may not have had that flexibility if she worked for someone else. "Not that I didn't have to work long hours," she is quick to explain. "But at least I can juggle my schedule around the important things and work longer hours at other times to get everything done." Linda has three children, three step-children, and six grandchildren.
Another benefit of being an owner/agent is the ability to use her creativity to run the business the way she thinks will best benefit her customers and staff. As an example, she wanted to promote the friendliness of the people in the area and recognize the people who go above and beyond the call of duty for their friends and neighbors, so she developed the Good Neigh-bear Award. In partnership with the Gazette, Linda is able to publicize the many kind acts that are performed throughout the area.
Linda Maiden State Farm Insurance employs five people. She looks for people who are outgoing with a good personality and who can relate to others. When she needs to fill a position, her most important criteria is to find someone who cares about people. "I can train them on insurance or using a computer," she said, "but I can't train them to truly care about people and want to help others."
As far as personal time goes, Linda has two simple words, "Schedule It!" She explains that it is hard to balance work, family, spiritual and personal time, especially when you first start out in business. She said that with last year's hail storms, coupled with training new employees, she found herself working more and more hours. "You simply have to take time to schedule a date night or simply time to do nothing, or you will easily become overwhelmed," she said.
She also highly recommends workshops to recharge the batteries. State Farm provides both industry and personal workshops that cover subjects like time management and using new technology. "I go to every meeting I can," she said, "because I get to gather with colleagues and I learn so much from them."
She also warns that owning a business is not just about being an expert in your profession. You also have to know marketing, payroll, and personnel management. Seminars are available to help with those issues.
She would tell others who are thinking of starting a business to "Go For It", with the caveat that they must complete their college education first. "If you own a business, you need to know how to run a business, and a well-rounded college education will help you with that."