By Jim Offner Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa.
Lori McConville left the employ of Barmuda Cos. in 2011, but the 56-year-old marketing specialist and entrepreneur still feels a strong connection to Darin Beck's string of clubs and restaurants.
"What I love about Darin is he always has a story to tell but sometimes doesn't always like to pat himself on the back," McConville said of her former boss. "When you're inside, you get busy with all the details; on the outside, you can see it with a true PR eye."
McConville has developed her "PR eye" over nearly four decades, as a partner with her husband of 31 years, Marty, in McConville Communications, which eventually merged with Mudd Advertising; then, with Barmuda, then four years in Phoenix as a director with Tucson, Ariz.-based ad agency The Caliber Group; and finally, back in Waterloo, as owner again of her own home-based firm, McConville Consulting LLC.
The National Association of Professional Women recently conferred its recognition of McConville's accomplishments by inducting her into its VIP Woman of the Year Circle.
The association, which has more than 775,000 members and more than 200 local chapters, singled out McConville for "distinction for leadership in consulting services."
"I'm pleased to welcome Lori into this exceptional group of professional women," NAPW President Star Jones said in a news release. "Her knowledge and experience in her industry are valuable assets to her company and community."
Jones cited McConville's "self-motivated, results-oriented drive to succeed."
"Lori McConville is a seasoned professional who has constantly set her goals to keep pace with her highest aspirations for personal excellence," Jones said. "Throughout her career, she has exhibited exemplary teamwork, expertise, integrity and dedication."
Beck said he couldn't think of anyone more deserving of the honor than McConville.
"I was thrilled for her and proud of her," he said. "I'm always proud that she was part of my team, and I still look to her for advice."
Indeed, Barmuda is one of McConville's clients, and she said she already is working out an agenda for the company for 2016, which will be the company's 33rd anniversary.
"We have a lot of stories," she said.
McConville has generated more than a few over the years, for one company or another.
That's one of the things that keeps her going, she said.
"I'm a risk-taker; I'm most proud of the fact that I'm an entrepreneurial spirit," she said. "This is my fifth business. A few of them didn't make it, but most of them did. I feel really proud of the fact that I've been able to do that."
Moving is always fraught with chance, and the McConvilles took one when they set off for Arizona in 2011 to work for the ad agency.
But, she said, she missed the Cedar Valley.
"I had this goal to get back to the Cedar Valley over a year and a half ago," she said. "I set my goal to start my business and did that in fall of 2014 and found a client before I came back."
There's a lesson in that story for all would-be entrepreneurs, she said.
"Today's leaders must be influential pioneers blazing new paths, never afraid to take risks," she said. "I've been one who takes risks, always challenging myself to continuously learn and be better. I'm so grateful for my journey the past 36 years, and it's wonderful to be back here in Iowa where it all began."
Being an independent contractor has its own inherent risks -- and rewards, McConville said.
"The toughest thing is learning when to quit," she said. "I mean, in hours of the day, I tend to work all the time and it's hard to walk away because it's what I do. I've always been a hard worker."
In addition, as a business owner, McConville has a slightly different perspective than someone who draws a paycheck from an employer.
"When you look at a business, you really have to look at things from a different perspective," she said. "Sometimes, young businesses take on business just to feed the payroll, and I did that, too. I'm not doing that anymore. I find the business first and make sure I have the work to support what my expenses are."
That planning and deliberation is paying off in the new business, McConville said.
"It's going very well," she said. "I'm in a different role this time than previously. I'm very focused on strategy and sales and marketing."
The business has gone digital, which allows her to expand her coverage area, as well as work from her and Marty's Waterloo home.
"I have a client in Hiawatha and another in Tennessee. I have a couple of other projects that are smaller," she said. And, there's Barmuda.
"Darin was happy when I came back because I have such a knowledge of what they do," McConville said.