Tegeder carves a successful path
CEO of Brookfield company, James Imaging Systems, receives governor's award
Lola Tegeder can't believe where she is today.
"In my wildest dreams, I never dreamed I would be the CEO of James Imaging Systems," said Tegeder of her Brookfield-area company. "I was scared to death. I didn't know much about the business.
"I was a stay-at-home mother for my two sons."
But more than 25 years after taking over the company, it appears she had nothing to fear and that the business was put in good hands.
James Imaging Systems serves an eight-county area and specializes in sales, leasing and servicing of multifunctional copiers, fax machines and wide format and laser printers.
They also consult on print fleet management to optimize workflow and reduce costs.
Under her watch, the company has grown substantially, and she has led the family-owned business through a couple of successful transitions.
Others have noticed this as well, because Tegeder was one of 14 recipients of the 2012 Governor's Trailblazer Award for Women in Business.
The award recognizes women pioneers in the business community around the state of Wisconsin.
The award, to say the least, was unexpected.
"I was absolutely surprised," Tegeder said. "I had no idea that I would be chosen. I'm very excited. It's a great honor to be recognized for all these years."
She was nominated for the award by Kate Hill, the president of Heartland Information Research in Wauwatosa, and was the only recipient from Waukesha County.
Tegeder, along with all the other winners, will be recognized at the Governor's Mansion in Madison on March 28 during an awards ceremony and luncheon.
When she accepts that award next month, it will be in honor of her late husband, James.
"That's exactly what it will be," she said. "This is for James."
That's because it was James' passion for the business that started James Imaging Systems in 1977. But seven years into his tenure as the company's leader, he died.
After that, Tegeder not only took over as CEO, but she was motivated to keep the company's strong tradition alive.
"I was very determined because my husband worked very hard," she said. "We started in the garage ... and the equipment came into the family room, and I said to him, 'I think it's time to rent a place.' "
Growth came steadily
They rented a place in Waukesha in the early 1980s. But as the company expanded and outgrew that location, it moved into its current Brookfield location. That was about 10 years ago.
"I think part of the big key is Lola's commitment to quality service and quality people," said Lola's son, Thomas, who serves as the company's president. "She was really good at doing business with quality companies.
"As those companies grew, that helped us grow."
The company has 55 employees, and Tegeder credits them with the success of the company.
"Without them, we would not be as successful as we are today," she said.
Having Thomas by her side has been a joy.
"I'm just so proud of her," he said. "I'm very proud that she's gotten the recognition she deserves."
Tegeder relishes her role and feels women these days can make an impact in the world of business and in leadership positions - something that wasn't always the case.
"I think women today have fabulous opportunities," she said. "I think a woman can do whatever she wants as far as leadership roles."
She uses her business mind not only with clients but also as a certified member of the Women's Business Enterprise for the state of Wisconsin as well as the Women's Business Enterprise National Council.
So at 73, isn't this a good time to walk away while on top?
Not so fast, Tegeder says.
"As long as I can do it, I'll be here," she said with a laugh. "I love it. We have a wonderful environment where everyone cares about each other and where we work as a team."
This team-first mentality was first formed by James.
"He would be so proud," Lola said.
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