Childress credits her faith with Luken Holdings, EWI success - Hamilton County Herald by Samara Litvack

Friday, October 16, 2009 9:43 AM | Anonymous
What does it take to become president and CEO of a company? Some would say hard work and determination. Others would say countless hours in the office for years on end. Still others would say the right amount of luck mixed with opportunity.

Lynda Childress
But Lynda Childress, president and CEO of Luken Holdings, has a different answer – faith. One of six children born to a minister and his wife, Childress's religious convictions run deep.

 “My maiden name is Angel. My mother's maiden name was Christian,” she says. “When you have a basis like that…”

 Growing up in a large, religious family, Childress was taught the value of hard work at an early age. Her family worked together in the garden, around the house and anywhere else the opportunity arose. With eight people under one roof, each family member did what needed to be done.

 After graduating high school at age 16, Childress had no plans to go to college. Instead, she went straight into the workforce. At a young age, she fell in love, got married and began having children. Then, 10 years later, the 28-year-old mother of two found herself going through a divorce. And while she didn't and still doesn't harbor ill feelings toward her ex-husband, Childress suddenly found herself in a scary situation.

 “I felt like a child,” she says. “I had children that I was responsible for, so what do you do? You do what you have to do as a mom. So I started working two jobs.”

While working full-time, Childress began accounting classes at McKenzie College and, before she knew it, her broken heart began to heal.

“I know that may sound funny but it helped me get through my divorce,” she says. “It helped me build confidence when my life was shattered.”

After graduation, Childress interviewed for her first accounting job at The Leader. And although she had no experience, she made a convincing first impression. When asked why she thought she was the right person for the job, she answered, “Because I can do anything you show me how to do.”

“Herb Goldstein saw great potential in me and I appreciate him for that,” Childress says.

She started at The Leader soon after, and worked there until one month before the company closed its doors. In 1990, she went to work for the Osborne Building Corporation and, while she loved her job, she eventually realized she never had enough work to keep her busy.

“I multitasked,” she says, “and I really kind of worked myself out of it. There really was nowhere for me to grow or go there, so I was approached and asked to go work for another company.”

She'd only been gone a few years when Bob Corker bought the Osborne Building Corporation. In April of 1999, she returned to the company as a bookkeeper.

“My children, bless their hearts, they've been wonderful,” Childress says. “I've always had to work two jobs to provide for them and they love me to this day. I am blessed.”

After a few years back at Osborne, Childress began doing Corker's personal accounting. Soon after, she was asked to sit in on the company's monthly financial meetings, which she says was “quite intimidating.”

When Corker sold his properties to Henry Luken in 2006, Childress was promoted from controller to officer. In 2007, she was again promoted – this time to CFO. As she settled in to her new position, she was presented with an opportunity to join an organization that she says changed her life.

“Carolyn Stringer, who is now my executive assistant, had approached (then-Luken president) Kim White about Executive Women International,” Childress says. “Kim walked into my office and said, ‘I think you need to join this organization.'

“Kim said, ‘You have a lot to offer those women and those women have a lot to offer you. And you need to get out from behind this desk and let people know you.'”

Within minutes of her first EWI meeting, Childress felt right at home. She became secretary/treasurer of the Chattanooga chapter three years ago, and today she serves as president.

“We have a great time,” she says. “I'm very excited to be their president this year. I enjoy being with the ladies. We do have a sisterhood. They're smart. They're intelligent. They make me look good, just as my group here at Luken Holdings does.”

And this, she says, brings her story full circle. In June of this year, she learned White was leaving the company. Childress was then offered the vacant position.

“I thank Henry Luken for seeing something in me that I didn't see,” she says. “He said that he saw me as a president and CEO. He asked me if I would take the position and I said, ‘I don't know. I don't see myself as a president and CEO.'

“And he said to me, ‘It's not really how you see you, is it? Isn't it how I see you?' And that meant something to me, and I work diligently and give it a hundred percent every day because he's put his trust in me.”

And quite frankly, that's what has motivated Childress all her life – trust and responsibility. If anyone puts trust in her, she works painstakingly to keep it. She attributes this trait to her faith, which has been an important part of her entire life.

“I'm passionate for Jesus Christ,” she says. “I'm very passionate for Him. I'm going to say that the confidence that I have today comes from Him. I'm never alone and I think that He led me to Executive Women International. He led me back to Osborne Building Corporation.”

Add to Childress's faith her desire to make a difference in the world, and you've got an amazing example of strength, integrity and dedication, who (luckily for those around her) never settles for less than her best.

“I never saw the potential in me,” she says.

“I really do thank Bob Corker for what he saw in me and, on top of that, I thank Mr. Luken for what he sees in me.”

But as much as she appreciates the people who have opened doors for her, Childress is very clear that she lives her life based on only one opinion.

“I live my life trying to please one person,” she says. “If He's pleased with me when I finish this life, then it's been good.”

EWI of Chattanooga | P.O. Box 11522 | Chattanooga, TN  37401 | Contact
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