Balance of freedom and control
BY SCOTT FAINGOLD
“Working here is far different than any sales structure I had ever been in,” said Greg Pacelli, senior account executive, who has been working in sales for Midwest Family Broadcasting for five years. “I’m allowed to take care of my clients and do what I need to do for them – I’m granted the time to get to know them and understand what challenges they’re facing and craft solutions, not just sell packages.”
Midwest Family Broadcasting, self-described as the only independently owned and operated commercial broadcast group in Springfield, provides the area market with four radio stations, each with its own focus and audience: WMAY (news and talk), WNNS (classic rock and pop), 97.7 WQLZ (hard rock) and US92.7 (country hits).
Pacelli says that the fact that he is not micromanaged goes a long way to making Midwest Family a great place to work. “I’ve been in sales environments where I was getting phone calls at seven o’clock on Saturday night or eight o’clock on Sunday morning and that doesn’t happen here.”
Mindy Melton, account executive, has only been working in sales for Midwest Family since May of 2017 but quickly found her niche. “The things that I love here are the laid-back atmosphere and the creativity,” she said. “When you’re in a sales position, sometimes you can have a rough day – they can beat you up – but then you come down the hallway and everybody smiles and high-fives each other and that always lifts you up and makes you feel really appreciated.” Melton said that Midwest Family lets her be herself, which in turn makes her more productive. “One of the things that I’ve heard people say here is that there’s a hundred ways up a hill – as long as you get up the hill, do it your way.” Unlike many sales jobs, Midwest pays its salespeople a salary plus commission, rather than commission only, which Melton says takes a considerable amount of pressure off.
“There’s quite a bit of flexibility in my job,” said Geoff Hagen, account executive, who came to Midwest Family two years ago, after having spent 20 years as general manager of FitClub. “I like the fact that I am educating the client, not just selling them spots but really working on a strategy for their business.” One of the things Hagen appreciates about the company is its sense of fun. “Every once in a while they’ll do a cookout or we’ll throw beanbags in the back or go out on a field trip for bowling,” he said “There’s a lot of positive mojo here – we work hard, we reach our goals and we celebrate when we reach those goals.”
Chris Murphy, operations manager for both WNNS and US92.7 as well as an on-air personality, has been with Midwest Family for 19 years altogether beginning in 1995, with a few stints working elsewhere. “One thing I found when I went to other places,” he said, “is that they are very departmentalized. You know – ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that, your job is this,’ or whatever – and that’s not the case here at all. I can get into anything I want to.”
Murphy describes himself as very community-minded and appreciates that WNNS and Midwest Family provide support when he wants to use the airwaves to help give back. “The station always backs me up if I have a crazy idea, whether it’s broadcasting live for a kazillion hours or doing a remote from someplace, they let me do it.”
“The thing that I appreciate so much is that this company is in the business to run radio stations,” said Johnny Molson, creative services director for Midwest Family and on-air personality for WMAY, who has worked here since 1995. “We’re not just trying to build it up and then sell it – and unfortunately, that seems to be rare in radio. Here, you know the company wants to run a radio station that is going to serve the local community.”
Molson said that one of the things he likes about the company is that it considers the needs and ambitions of its employees. “You are encouraged to go as far as you want to go in the industry,” he said. “If this is just a stepping stone to something bigger, that’s fine, and we’re going to give you tools so that you learn and can be a better employee. And if you want to make this a lifelong career and be a shareholder, you can do that too. Those things are both possible.”
As for the way the staff is treated, Molson says he sees the management style at Midwest as a good balance of control and freedom. “We know what our goals are and they’re unified, there’s a lot of trust here in the staff and in the management. It’s good to have that kind of empowerment.”
‘We work in a very cool environment’
BY SCOTT FAINGOLD
Cindy Davis, president and CEO of Resource One, founded the office furniture dealership in 1987. “I’ve always loved this industry of furniture,” she said. “When we started, we were determined to provide this market with something different. Where I had been working we were just selling the same things over and over, cookie-cutter stuff.” Instead, Resource One has put its energy into innovation, although they also offer more basic, old-school furniture for customers who want it. “We tried to create an environment from the get-go that is very open. We share our numbers in a weekly meeting and the people who work here know exactly where we stand,” she said.
“We are very involved with our employees,” said Chief Operating Officer Craig Mannschreck. “We don’t even like the word ‘employee.’ We like to think we all work together and nobody is better than anybody else. We’ll unload trucks or whatever we have to do, that’s a big thing with us.”
Leigh Boehm has been working at Resource One as a coordinator for three years and said she couldn’t be happier after having first worked for a “big corporate” employer after graduating college. “I was looking for a small business, my parents own a small business. I was working here when I had my firstborn and Resource One was great. When I came back, it was like I was never gone. They were more than accommodating through that whole process. That was huge because a lot of places don’t care.”
Boehm said that while her previous job had been a great experience, Resource One is a whole other ballgame. “I can’t say that at my old job I woke up in the morning like, ‘YES! I wanna go to work!’” she said with a laugh. “We work in a very cool environment. I get to sit in the best of the best of the furniture world and there’s a lot of young people working here so we always have that vibe of, ‘Wow, it’s so modern and so young.’”
It is common for businesses to describe their staff as “like family,” but in the case of Resource One, it is not merely an analogy. Cindy’s son, Chris Davis, has been an account manager for the company for almost five years. “I grew up around Resource One,” he said. “As a teenager I was in and out of trucks and dumpsters doing furniture installs, mostly in the role of cardboard jockey.” Davis returned to Springfield to work at his mother’s company after about a decade of living in Chicago. “The company was always there and calling me – and my mom was literally calling to see if I wanted to join the business. One day it just clicked,” he said.
Davis said he started in the company as a “glorified receptionist” and that he learned a lot about administration while in that role, but then was surprised when he was transferred to sales after 90 days. “At first I thought it was a punishment but turned out to be a great fit,” he said. “Our company motto is ‘Improving Lives By Design’ and even though on one level it’s a clever little play on words, it’s really true,” he said, referring to the ergonomic quality of Resource One’s high-end offerings. “Our products are created to be conducive to happiness and wellness. And the more comfortable people are at work, the better their overall lives are.”
Davis described the overall feeling around the office as both hard-working and fun. “Everybody busts their butt around here and there’s not a lot of clock-watching – in fact, the day is over before you know it,” he said. “People love their jobs here – I can tell. I love my job – and it’s the first time in my life I could ever say that.”
Knowing the importance of laughter and smiles
BY SCOTT FAINGOLD
Staab Funeral Homes, established in 1937, is one of Springfield’s most reliable and venerable institutions. Standing as a bulwark against the encroaching corporatization which has befallen the funeral industry as a whole, three generations of the Staab family have remained dedicated to providing personal service to families during their hardest moments, while providing a stable and supportive environment for their small staff of non-family employees.
Chris Wiseman, family service coordinator, has worked for the Staabs for 28 years. “The Staab family is my family,” she said. “They are awesome people. They get that it’s God first, family second and work third.”
Before working at Staab, Wiseman had been a stay-at-home mom with a husband who worked full-time at the Athens school district. “I was raising six kids and had to budget and be smart with finances,” she said. “My first Christmas here – a Christmas bonus had never entered my mind – especially having just started in April. I will never forget that bonus because it was just a gift from heaven.”
Wiseman’s husband is older than her and had a pacemaker put in about 15 years ago. “One winter we were snowed in and I get a phone call from work and it was PJ saying, ‘How’s it going? How are you guys doing? Do you have snow out there? I’ll be right there!’ I thought he was kidding me. But in a half an hour’s time, here he is with the truck and a snow blade, scooping my drive, making a path from my house to the road. What boss is going to do that? The owner of a company of this magnitude is at my house scooping me out!”
“Working for a family business is nice,” said Carole Puls, family services office manager, who has been with the company for 22 years. “I’ve worked for bigger, more corporate businesses and this is just a closer atmosphere with your co-workers and with the owners. The Staabs are great to work for, they pretty much trust you to leave you be to do your job and care a lot about their employees. I feel that if I needed help with anything in my life, I could ask them to help and they would be there.”
Cory Brown, funeral director, has been with Staab since 2009. “I am a musician, a pianist, and PJ Staab had seen me play music at a couple of funerals for family members that had passed,” he remembered. “We had a meeting to discuss some concerts that he wanted to do at the cathedral. I’m also tech-savvy and memory videos were becoming popular at that point.” During that meeting PJ Staab offered Brown, then 22, a part-time job. “I worked services and in the hallway and out in the parking lot, did office work and then I ended up going to mortuary school a few years later. They said, if you want to go to school we’ll save a job for you here as one of our funeral directors.”
For Brown, one of the best things about working for the Staabs is that they encourage his musical endeavors. “Teamwork is a very big part of things here and things can get very hectic – we can have five funerals in a day and two or three visitations that night and it’s kind of go-go-go. It’s not uncommon to work a 60- or 70-hour week. But we also all have our own personal lives outside of business so we try to help each other out and cover for each other,” he said.
He said people might be surprised at the amount of humor the Staabs bring to the table. “They are lighthearted people and like to joke around,” he said. “Of course, this is a very delicate business and the majority of the time there is a lot of sadness. But they still know how to make their employees smile and laugh. Mark Staab has told me that his dad and his uncle told him that if you can’t have a little bit of fun and smile and joke around with what you’re doing, it’s not worth doing. That is true in any business but I think it’s especially true in the funeral business – at those appropriate times you need to be able to smile a little or it would just be somber all the time.”
Employees are valuable members of a team
BY SCOTT FAINGOLD
Originally formed in 1972, the Orthopedic Center of Illinois is providing what its website describes as “superior orthopedic care to residents throughout central Illinois and offering a full continuum of services including joint replacement, minimally invasive techniques, physical therapy and imaging.” OCI has been at its 1301 S. Koke Mill Rd. location in Springfield for 10 years.
“My experience here has been absolutely amazing,” said Brian Kiel, director of therapy for Midwest Rehabilitation at OCI since this past May. “For one thing, the building has a ton of natural light so everything really shines all day long. I think the natural light pulls people’s inner morale up.” Kiel also said he found working with the OCI physicians to be an inspiration. “I haven’t heard a bad story from a patient at this organization – everybody seems to be very happy, very well cared for.” As for his coworkers, “it’s a tight-knit group, everybody knows each other fairly well and everybody seems to get along fairly well. There is not the politics which sometimes can plague our health care community. I don’t look at coming to work every day like a job, I see it more as a lifestyle. These are relationships that are built and fostered all day, every day, and it’s a pleasure to be able to come here,” he said.
Michelle Schieferdecker has only been finance director for the Orthopedic Center since November 2017 but already feels very much at home. “What stands out is that the physicians are very easy to approach and very easy to work for,” she said. “From the financial side, I also can see that they also are very generous with their staffs, which I think probably helps the environment as well, because when you know you’re appreciated, you work better.”
Regarding her everyday work environment, Schieferdecker describes “a lot of friendly faces – everyone seems to enjoy being here and will say ‘good morning,’ not just walk by and trudge through their day.” In her position, she reports directly to OCI’s CEO Lori Roethemeyer. “Working with her has been amazing,” she said. “She is becoming a mentor for me, definitely. She trusts management to make decisions and I feel very supported by her. That hasn’t always been my experience elsewhere.”
Dr. Ronald Romanelli, M.D., is a specialist in joint reconstruction and has been practicing in Springfield over 25 years. “We have a contained environment here,” he said of the Orthopedic Center, “meaning that everything the patients need is all underneath our roof – we don’t have to send patients to the hospital or anywhere else, we have everything here.” Romanelli also touted OCI’s walk-in injury and fracture center. “That gives our patients one-stop shopping,” he said.
As an illustration of how things work at the Orthopedic Center, Romanelli described one memorable patient experience. “A woman came to see me recently and she had been kicked by her horse. She had been down the road before with previous injuries and she knew that she wanted to bypass the emergency rooms so she came right in and our triage nurse was able to see her.” Romanelli ended up ordering her an MRI scan immediately which was performed on-site. “We were able to get her the medications and a brace and we found out an hour after the MRI that she had a torn ACL along with a fractured tibia. The one thing I know is that we can help people, bring patients in to be seen and evaluated fast.”
Romanelli said that he takes pride that all OCI employees are treated as valuable members of a team. “We’ve grown,” he said. “When I started, we probably had 40 employees and now we’re up to near 140. The whole message is that our staff knows that they are extensions of the physicians so everyone’s important here, we make sure that the front desk people are just as good as the doctors in the back.”
Faculty and staff celebrate 50 years
BY SCOTT FAINGOLD
“This is my 12th year at Lincoln Land,” said professor of English Jason Dockter. “It feels like yesterday that I started here.”
Lincoln Land Community College has been an educational staple in Springfield beginning with its founding in 1967, serving a 15-county district, with campuses in Beardstown, Jacksonville, Litchfield and Taylorville, in addition to the main campus in Springfield. “I’ve taught at a few other colleges and the first thing that stands out to me about Lincoln Land is the people who work here — they’re all fantastic people to be around.” Dockter said that faculty and staff are united in their focus on helping students reach their goals. “For each student that can be very different, but everybody goes out of their way to help them get the most out of their experience at Lincoln Land.”
Dockter also said that the college is unusually supportive of its teachers. “Lincoln Land has paved the way for me to try out great, new things online and I wasn’t given that opportunity elsewhere. They don’t shy away from experimentation or from doing new things and trying to reach as many students as we can.”
According to information on its website, at Lincoln Land nearly 12,000 students received credit-gaining instruction, with an additional 3,000 attending non-credit courses, with a 1:18 ratio of faculty to students. “It’s all about supporting our students and helping them be successful,” said Marie Watson, student engagement coordinator. “Because we’re all of the same mind and working towards that common goal, it makes the environment fun and exciting.”
Watson went on to say that as a new staff member, she immediately felt like part of a family. “Then, once you’ve been here a while you start to notice some of the great support systems that exist at the college. There is really a lot of collaboration that happens.” She cited the 50th anniversary celebrations of 2017 as indicative of the overall camaraderie in the school. “No matter how long each of us, as staff members or faculty members, have worked at the college, we’re all really excited to see that the institution has come such a long way since it first started. During that celebration, it was amazing to see all of us come together. Some of us had been working here for over 20 years, others less than 10 but we all shared the same excitement and passion for all our institution does.”
In addition to 122 full-time and 194 part-time instructors, Lincoln Land employs 239 individuals as full- and part-time professional and classified staff. “I felt very early on, like in the first few months after I started working here, that I’d found my new home,” said Misty Hagstrom, a graphic design specialist who has worked for the college for 13 years. “I’m not originally from Springfield, but I lived here for about nine years before I started at Lincoln Land and I never felt a sense of community, it never felt like home. But once I started working here it was like everything clicked and fell into place. The people here were great, they welcomed me, it didn’t matter if I was from here or somewhere else, I was welcomed.”
Hagstrom said that regardless of their job description, everyone at the college is united in the goal of helping students. “Not all of us are teachers, but we’re all here to make a difference in somebody’s life, help them move forward. You don’t always find that at other businesses.” Hagstrom also said that the college offers a high level of support for its employees’ personal and professional development. “They are very encouraging to help you better yourself,” she said. “It doesn’t have to have anything to do with your current job. If you want to take a yoga class over lunch hour, go for it. And that’s awesome, because that makes you a happier, better employee.” She pauses. “I love it here.”