Last Word: Lonnie Williams

Photo by RACHEL LOCK PHOTOGRAPHY

lonnieLonnie Williams, owner of L&J Building Maintenance Services LLC, is co-founder of Living the Dream of Kansas Foundation and treasurer for the African-American Male Leadership Council.

He serves on the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce’s board and executive board, ASA marketing board, and was recently appointed as chairman of the chamber’s newly formed small business council.

The small business council is made up of a group of dedicated individuals who address issues and opportunities that are important to small businesses in the community.

Lonnie knows first hand what it means to be a startup small business owner. He seized the opportunity to become an entrepreneur in 1986 when a lawyer friend mentioned a need for janitorial service at his office building.

Lonnie’s leap of faith in starting a family-owned business now provides services in five states and employs 47 workers.

What advice do you have for local business owners?
No matter what your business is, you are always in the people business. Take care of your people and they’ll take of you. Plan your business and work your plan.

What were your greatest challenges as an entrepreneur?
Finding new contacts and finding people that could pass the security clearance. Also, to understand that when I heard the word “NO” it meant that I was that much closer to that “YES” I was looking for.

In serving as chair of the Small Business Council, what are your hopes for small businesses?
Grow the small business community. Get small businesses to buy from each other. Keep our buying in Topeka. Make large businesses aware that Topeka has qualified small business subcontractors. Build a mentorship program for new and emerging small businesses.

What can Topeka’s business leaders do help create growth?
Small business is the growth of the nation. It’s time to incentivize Topeka’s small businesses.

As people look back at your professional life, what do you hope they think?

That I’m a family person. That I always gave a day’s work for a day’s pay. That I’m a God loving man and I gave back.