Local business leaders give tips for success during 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes luncheon

Union photo by Gretchen Teske

The Union hosted 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes, a luncheon aimed at promoting local business ideas on Thursday, Feb. 20.
Union photo by Gretchen Teske The Union hosted 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes, a luncheon aimed at promoting local business ideas on Thursday, Feb. 20.

WASHINGTON — A crowd at the KC Hall in Washington heard from six local business leaders who gave their best advice for being successful in ones career.

The event was hosted by The Southeast Union and sponsored by Latta Harris, LLP and Washington County Hospital and Clinics. Business leaders spoke on a variety of topics but one of the most popular ones of the day seemed to be finding passion and using it as a tool for customers.

Leslie Allender, owner of RePurpose It and Co-Owner of Carson’s Plumbing and Heating Services, spoke about working for customers instead of just working with them. She encouraged the audience to think about growing other people’s businesses by providing services they could not get anywhere else, such as a professional relationship and putting the customer first.

By networking with other people and providing the best service, Allender said the business will grow because people not only want quality product, but quality customer service.

“Your best customer is those what have frequented your stores, know who you are and what you do and will refer your business to someone else,” she said.

Janelle Johnson, First Vice President of Commercial Banking at Hills Bank, echoed that sentiment saying that success is driven by the relationships cultivated through work. By remembering one is always representing themselves and their business, this can be worked on daily.

All jobs are centered on relationships, she said and by adding value to the customer, value is added to the business as well.

“We have to find a way to differentiate ourselves from others; a way to set ourselves apart from the competition and for me that’s adding value,” she said adding it comes in many forms but by taking the time to get to know the customer and work with them is what has worked for her.

Finding passion for something and being willing to take a risk was the message of Eric Hahn, managing partner at Bazooka-Farmstar Inc. Hahn said when he first started working at Bazooka, it was a risk but he understood the risk of failure because it was a calculated risk.

Luck plays a factor in success, he said, but to him it’s all about being willing to jump into decisions and take big steps to grow. Self evaluation is important for continual growth and lifelong learning, he said, as well as finding a mentor.

“Here’s the deal: the world is a big place. There’s a good chance there’s someone in life whose been through what you’re going through or knows someone who knows what it’s like to be in your shoes. You have to be able to ask yourself what you want to be better at and if you find people who are doing that, learn from them,” he said.

Starting something new and being willing to be a beginner was the message of Michelle Redlinger, Executive Director of the Washington Chamber of Commerce.

“Know it is brave to be a beginner,” she said.

Redlinger said she went to school for business but ended up in nonprofit work. Throughout her career, she has had to not only be a beginner, but someone who asks for help, a step she encouraged everyone take.

“If you’re willing to feel a little bit of embarrassment, shame and you’re willing to fail there is no end to what you can do,” she said.

Being true to oneself and authenticity were also two of her talking points. Redliner said making the most of situations and being honest with oneself helps create a stronger reputation.

“One of the most valuable reputations we have ... is our (own). It is very important to guard that at costs. Profits can be lost and regained but repairing a damaged reputation is far more difficult and I encourage you to cultivate it with purpose,” she said. “Purpose is a feeling.”

Listening not only to oneself but to others was the message of Jennine Wolf, Director of the Washington County Health Department. Wolf said in her job, she has to approach people with the goal of getting them to listen to her.

By putting herself in their shoes, being understanding and having answers to their questions she is able to accomplish that, she said. Good communication is the key to all success and promotes good cooperation.

“How we communicate to people, how we present ourselves, how we say what is good and what is not, is the backbone. Everything else stems from that communication. We have to have that centered first,” she said.