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Entrepreneur Profile: Shannon Sexton, CEO, StateLine Steel
This entrepreneurial profile is about Shannon Sexton, CEO, StateLine Steel and soon-to-be partner in Adair County Kwik Lube. She took time to share experiences and philosophy developed in her journey, including these thoughts, "Life is too short to focus on could have, should have and would have. The rear-view does nothing but take up time and time is a precious commodity that we never have enough of. If someone says you can't - show them you can, and don't be afraid to stand up for yourself."
Interview with Ed Waggener
Q: When did you first realize that you wanted your own business?
A: I didn't wake up one day and decide I wanted to own a business. On the flip side, I never woke up and said that I didn't want to own one either. StateLine was a product of a great opportunity and really good timing. I lack the "fear gene" when it comes to doing something new or outside the box. I've always treated the companies I worked for like they were my own. That responsibility and work ethic opened doors that lead me directly to where I am today.
Q: Who were the teachers, mentors who inspired you?
A: There are so many people that have inspired and mentored me along the way. It would be hard to narrow that list down to just a few. My biggest inspiration are my parents. They are the most humble, honest, hardworking and down to earth people I know. I try to live each day in a way that would never disappoint them or make them question my character.
Q: What do you consider your most significant achievements in business?
A: My most significant achievement in business is the crew that works with me. We are one big family that does what it takes to help each other. Awards and honors aside, they are the cogs that keep wheels turning and I'm forever grateful to them. When StateLine does well, I try to make sure they are rewarded for their hard work.
Q: Any times you thought, "Shannon, what have you done this time?"
A: I ask "Shannon, what have you done this time?" quite often. In order to grow and progress in anything, it requires change. I'm not afraid of change. Just like with any business, it's an uphill climb at times. When the market slows or when a critical customer slows or goes out of business, it's a challenge. We just have to keep pushing and reinventing ourselves every day.
Q: Advice to other entrepreneurs on financing to get started.
A: My advice for a start-up would be create a good business plan. Take that plan to traditional lenders or find an investor that's passionate about the business. Make sure the numbers work and be conservative when making that determination. Save as much as you can for the down payment or for start-up costs. Folks tend to do whatever it takes to make something work if they have some skin in the game. If money is hard to come by, start small and bridge up when it's financially feasible.
Q: Advice on hiring and when to hire.
A: I am blessed. Our team is exceptional. I really can't say enough good things about them to ever justify the amazing job they do. Most companies with our sales volume have double the employees. Our people are highly efficient and cross trained on everything we do. I am not a fan of part-time employment. I try to hold off on hiring until the need for a full time position arises. Not everyone would agree with that, but it seems to work for us. Businesses have swings where one day or week you may be busier than you have ever been. Don't jump the gun and hire more people due to a temporary uptick. Ride the wave and make sure it's somewhat permanent before committing to a new hire. Job security is paramount in retaining good people.
Q: What is your guiding philosophy?
A: My guiding philosophy in a nutshell is based on life experiences. Work hard, be honest, stay humble, admit when you're wrong, take advice from others into account as not everyone knows everything about all things and remember that work is just work and family and friends are always the most important.
Q: What do young entrepreneurs need from local government, economic development groups?
A: I think our local government and economic folks should be more engaged with existing businesses and new businesses. When I moved StateLine from Russell County to Adair, Mayor Hardwick and Judge Stephens both stopped by to welcome me. I appreciated their visit and so did my employees. What if I were from out of town and didn't know anything about Columbia or Adair County and just chose to locate here on a whim? That small gesture of kindness and interest from the Mayor and CJE may have prompted me to tell my friends or fellow business owners elsewhere about how welcoming the community is and how I recommend them giving Adair County a look when they open up a new location or business. I could talk for hours about my thoughts on economic development but in a nutshell - be welcoming, be engaging, appreciate those that are already here or those that choose to locate here, reach out to see if they need anything, be present if your responsibility is one of acquiring and retaining businesses here in Adair County.
Q: Advice on getting good staff?
A: Good staff is trial and error. Just because someone doesn't fit well here does not mean they wouldn't excel elsewhere and be a great employee for someone else or vice versa. Our people are passionate about what they do. I think passion is important no matter what job you take on. I would never ask my team to do something that I would not personally do. I come to work every day. I may be the CEO on Monday, the IT person on Tuesday and the Plumber on Wednesday. I'd like to think that our ability to retain staff is a direct result of leading by example, sharing in the good times and getting down in the trenches with them when times get rough. Give respect to get respect and when the company succeeds they also get rewarded.
Q: Information you'd like to share about your family. Dreams for your partnership on Kwik-Lube, for your son's already well launched career.
A: My husband and I are blessed with three children and five grandchildren. All three of our children are either newly attending or finishing up their college degrees. Our two girls are focused on business management and human resources while our son's dream is to be a police officer. My husband and I, along with my brother and sister-in-law are partners in Adair County Kwik Lube coming this fall to the new Pinewood Shopping Center. My husband has 18 years experience in the instant oil change business in Russell County and we are very excited for this new opportunity to serve the people of Adair Co.
Q: Being outspoken on issues -- a positive or negative for business?
A: I'm very passionate about anything I decide to do in life or business. I simply don't have the ability to be passive when something is important to me. I think it's great when the community gets involved in matters that are important to them. We won't all agree, all the time. Even though I've been outspoken on some controversial issues in the past couple years, I made some great friends and many of those were on the opposite side of what I was standing for at that time. A difference of opinion on one issue should never mean we cannot work side by side on other issues. Working together for the greater good is what matters and you never know what the community wants as a whole unless you ask and let the people decide.
Q: Any regrets?
A: I never have regrets. Every decision I have ever made in life has brought me to where I am today. I take the good with the bad, learn from it and move on. Life is too short to focus on could have, should have and would have. The rear-view does nothing but take up time and time is a precious commodity that we never have enough of.
Q: Long term goals you'd like to share?
A: My long term goal for StateLine is to experience a slow controlled growth - how long and how much and how big is still to be determined. A centrally located steel service center based right here in Adair County, Kentucky is never far from my thoughts. We'll see how things play out.
Q: Gender gap -- is there any cap on what a determined, smart woman can do?
A: Growing up, I never thought about a gender gap. My sister and I were total tomboys. We could "clean up" on the weekends or help dad pull a motor. My parents always said I could do whatever I set my mind to but I would be lying if I told you that I've never experienced a gap in wages or how I was treated by a particular employer or person due to being female. I don't think there is any cap on what smart, driven women can do. If someone says you can't - show them you can and don't be afraid to stand up for yourself. Never allow someone to take advantage of you. Respect earns respect, even when we are talking about ones self.
Shannon Sexton, Chief Executive Officer
912 Greensburg St., Columbia, KY 42728
(270) 946-0700 Office
(270) 634-4365 Mobile
This story was posted on 2017-10-12 22:35:26
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