Three women are creating sweet business succession for two Lindsborg businesses.
The women — Molly Johnson (right), Liz Lahodny (center) and Carol Gusenius — together have fabricated paths for two Lindsborg businesses to smoothly continue: one a lively Main Street retailer called The Good Merchant and the other Lindsborg Realty with its accumulated 28 years of experience and contacts.
Business development experts say that the handing forward of business experience and energy through succession is a healthy sign for any community, large or small.
Chad Jackson, Ph.D, of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Kansas State University, said, “Any time there is a successful business exit in a community it brings tremendous excitement and helps to build the momentum that is needed for a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“Pairing that business succession with added mentoring and support helps to ensure the continued success of the business."
Lindsborg has benefitted from several solid business successions in recent years, including interesting stories involving Blacksmith Coffee Shop and Roastery, The Old Grind, The White Peacock Coffee and Tea Company, and The Hemslojd, among others.
For the three women in this story, the dominoes of succession began to coalesce a couple of years ago when Lahodny, who has worked as a part-time agent for Lindsborg Realty for several years, started talking with Gusenius about a full-time future in real estate.
“I wasn’t ready to make a change and neither was she,” said Lahodny. “But just talking about the future with Carol helped me see a possible path.”
Gusenius and Lahodny agreed that with Lindsborg’s position in the residential housing marketplace remaining strong, Lindsborg Realty could be a platform they could both use — and build new reach.
Gusenius said, “Liz and I have a similar background and work ethic. It was easy to be confident in her abilities and envision a future time to sell the agency and still keep my hand in.
“It’s exciting that people continue seek out Lindsborg,” Gusenius added. “They notice a thriving small business district and good news at Bethany College, among other things.” Meanwhile, the energetic Molly Johnson, alumni relations director for Bethany College, had been a loyal customer of Lahodny’s The Good Merchant.
“From the beginning of the store five years ago, I always loved the vibe that Liz created in her place,” said Johnson, spouse and mother of two young children who also is active in the arts. “It was an eclectic selection ranging from vintage and upcycled decor to gifts, clothing and everyday comforts. Something new and different all the time.”
Within the last year, Johnson went on a vintage market buying trip for Lahodny’s store. The planning and selling was fun for both Johnson and Lahodny.
“In a spur of the moment thing, I asked Molly one day if she’d like to buy The Good Merchant at some point,” said Lahodny. Johnson expressed interest yet it made her think hard about how it would feel for her to alter connections to her beloved alma mater Bethany College. “I concluded that I also could be helpful to Bethany from Lindsborg’s Main Street,” she added.
Within the last few weeks, the dominoes of succession aligned. Now they are starting to fall. Johnson logged her first day as owner of The Good Merchant on March 20, working side by side with Lahodny on the day-to-day transitions. Lahodny will continue to work at The Good Merchant for several weeks and be on call for Johnson over the longer term.
By later this spring, Lahodny will have licensure as a real estate broker, and by summer the completion of Lindsborg Realty’s sale to Lahodny will be complete. Gusenius will continue in a mentorship and sales role.
Gusenius said the successions didn’t happen with a snap of the fingers, but with “a little old-fashioned networking, a lot of good things can happen.”