JOE FREEMAN | PIONEER SERVICES
“Business,” says Joe Freeman, quoting a mentor, “is a team sport.” And therein lies the secret of his success as chief operating officer for Pioneer Services, which specializes in lending to military families. In Freeman’s case, success involves managing two teams: One that generates millions in annual revenues by day, and the five-member team that keeps him grounded by night: his wife and four children.
By almost any metric, Freeman’s impact on Pioneer has been impressive since taking on his current role in 2007, and Pioneer’s past three years have been the best in its 77-year history. Freeman won’t accept the credit for that; the staff, he says, has done the work by aligning individual efforts with corporate goals.
That very alignment, though, is where Freeman comes in: “Communication,” he says, makes a team high-functioning. “You treat your team as professionals,” he says, “and give them as much information as you can. You make sure everybody understands what you want to be aligned for.” It’s also important to be genuinely concerned, he said, about employees’ lives, such as knowing when their children in youth sports are playing in The Big Game or when anniversaries are coming up.
Among his most powerful career influences, he says, are John Sherman, chief executive at Inergy LP (the “business/team sport” mentor), and especially his wife, Kristin, and their children. An Independence native, Freeman says his career outlook also was shaped by a college internship at Marion Labs, where the late, legendary Ewing Kauffman recognized and rewarded people making a difference.
“It was a very early influence that spun me into entrepreneurship, and applying those principles to larger organizations,” Freeman says. “At Pioneer, we call them intrapreneurs, people who are innovative and solving problems. Even though they work at a larger company, it doesn’t make them any less willing to take risks.”
SUSAN McGREEVY | STINSON MORRISON HECKER
Two things will tell what you need to know about Susan McGreevy’s competitive fire: First, “I like to do my Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, in ink, in one sitting, without looking anything up.” Second: “My ex-husband says I’m the most naturally caffeinated person he’s ever met.” Any lawyer across the table from her in a case of construction law is duly advised: Be prepared. “I enjoy winning—not in the cut-throat sense, but in the competitive sense,” McGreevy says. “Doing what you need to do in order to be successful is exhilarating.”
For more than three decades, whether in legal research, at the Justice Department or in private practice, McGreevy has been making her mark in construction law. At the firm of Stinson Morrison Hecker, she advises construction companies, sureties, design professionals and others, drafts and negotiates agreements, resolves disputes, tries lawsuits and arbitrations, and much more. Along the way, she’s argued cases over inflated-dome arenas, performing arts centers, waterfront and tribal land casinos, golf course communities and more.
In her view, you can’t succeed in construction law without spending extensive time working the business side of the equation. “It means being very active in the construction community, not just the legal construction area,” she says. “My hope is that by writing extensively in construction periodicals and taking part in construction-industry events, I walk the walk and don’t just talk the talk. The guy who said 90 percent of life is just showing up was exactly right.”
The good-old-boy network she had to compete with when she started out is giving ground, but gender differences in a male-dominated business sector still present challenges she must overcome every day. How? “I had the option of rolling on the floor, crying, stamping my feet and saying how unfair it was, or doing something about it, and providing a level of service that exceeded expectations,” she says.