(Photo: From left, UW-Whitewater Irvin L. Young Professor of Entrepreneurship William Dougan, Jim Konrath and JoAnne Konrath chat at the Innovation Center at Whitewater University Technology Park. ©Craig Schreiner)
Jim Konrath recently visited UW-Whitewater and was struck by how the campus has evolved since he was a student.
"It's changed so dramatically," Jim Konrath, Class of '68 said.
He wasn't just talking about the new buildings.
While Konrath was impressed by the business facilities in Timothy J. Hyland Hall, he was surprised by what is happening today inside those modern bright spaces. He cited the video recording facilities as an example.
"When I was a student I would have probably turned up my nose at that," Konrath admitted. "But as life evolves, and you find yourself CEO of a public company, you are on TV, you are in front of reporters, you are giving presentations to employees and you are on Jim Kramer's show. That (UW-Whitewater) experience would really be valuable."
Konrath said he once hired a public relations firm to provide similar training.
"And here you see it on campus," he said. "Those are amazing changes from when I was here."
A resident of the San Diego area with his wife, JoAnne, of 44 years, the UW-Whitewater alumnus has spent a career devoting working in the mortgage and housing industries.
Konrath started a mortgage business with a partner in his garage that grew into one of the largest companies in California, serving all U.S. markets for sub-prime residential mortgage loans.
Konrath was chairman and CEO of that company, Accredited Home Lenders, from 1990 until 2008. He is semi-retired but still active, serving as chairman of the board at LendSure Financial Services. He is also engaged in a business that purchases blighted properties, then rehabs and sells the homes.
Jim and JoAnne Konrath met while they were both students active in the Greek community at UW-Whitewater.
Jim graduated with a bachelor of business administration degree and went to work in the financial services industry, first with General Electric Credit and later Security Pacific, where he served six years as president and CEO. He founded Security Pacific Housing Services in 1983, providing financing for manufactured homes.
JoAnne graduated in 1969 with an education degree, which she later used in various educator roles, including an eight-year period where she served as an elementary physical education teacher.
Konrath said there are a number of secrets to finding success in the business world. He said good employees are the magic ingredient in any organization, and it's important to give employees enough space to be successful.
And, Konrath said a little luck is helpful too.
"You do need timing and you do need to be at the right place at the right time," he said.
There's a message that's been lost in this country, according Konrath.
"Find something that you can be passionate about and figure out how to make it profitable," Konrath said.
-- Written by Ben Jones