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07/13/2010

Groenwald Enjoying Business Success Once Again

By Bob Meyer

From time to time I write about people who have left the commercial barter industry, but were very instrumental in its development. One person who gave untiringly, year after year for over two decades, to our industry was Susan Groenwald. Here’s an update:

On a recent Sunday evening, Marcia and I met with Keith and Sue Groenwald for a 3-hour sunset dinner overlooking the beautiful Dana Point Marina in Southern California. Inasmuch as we hadn’t seen one another for eight years we had a lot of catching up to do.

The Groenwald’s came into the barter industry in 1980 and they jumped in with both feet by hosting national conventions, pioneering new ways of doing business, and becoming very active and supportive of the industry’s only trade association — the International Reciprocal Trade Association.

The Groenwald’s had the Chicago franchise for Barter Systems International, and later went independent creating Chicago Barter Corp. Keith left the industry several years later and Sue carried on as Chicago Barter Corp’s leader. (Her leadership capabilities were recognized when named as the National Businesswoman of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners in 1999.) The company grew to 80 employees in four locations, prior to selling out to a venture capital firm in the 2000 dot.com era.

After being out of the barter business for several years Sue joined DeVry Inc. in January 2006, focusing on the transition and development of the company’s subsidiary, the Chamberlain College of Nursing. (Many in the barter industry didn’t know of Sue’s occupation prior to barter, which was nursing. In addition to having an RN and Master’s degree she edited five textbooks on cancer nursing, one of which won the American Journal of Nursing Book Award.)

It was Sue’s job to expand the nursing college ... and what a job she’s done. When she took over, just three years ago, they were limping along with a couple of campuses. Under her management today they have locations in St. Louis (MO), Columbus (OH), Jacksonville (FL), Phoenix (AZ), Arlington (VA), and four in suburban Chicago.

They presently have over 4000 students distributed throughout their seven campuses, plus some students enrolled online in either the RN to BSN completion program or the masters degree in nursing program.

According to Groenwald, “I can tell you that opening a campus is much harder than opening a barter company! The education industry is highly regulated, especially healthcare, so we have to write applications, submit to site inspections, and gain approval from boards of nursing, boards of higher education, as well as three different accreditors. It’s quite a lengthy and cumbersome process, but well worth the effort.

“I like that the college is part of a larger company (DeVry is a NYSE traded company) that has a great reputation for quality and integrity, as well as rich resources, but that my job is very entrepreneurial — growing a business from almost the ground up. And we are solving a national healthcare problem by helping reduce the nursing shortage.”

Keith imports specialized high-end plywood from Russia and Canada, among other places, that is distributed to companies making dies for the packaging industry (for boxes). He is general manager of the company and has been there about two years. He, as well as Sue, loves his work.

It was terrific seeing them both again, happy, healthy and so successful in their transition from the barter industry.



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