Editor’s note: The August issue of The Lane Report features our semi-annual list of the Top Women in Business. At lanereport.com, we’re shining the spotlight on one of the honorees each day. Day 7: Karen Venis, chief executive officer of Sayre Christian Village.
Our occasional feature, Top Women in Business, highlights some of the women in and around Kentucky who are making an impact in business, the professions, politics and economic development. The feature recognizes women in key roles whose work ethic and body of work are making important contributions to commerce—and life—in Kentucky.
Top Women in Business has grown to become one of The Lane Report’s most popular features. Over the years, we’ve profiled more than 100 women who shatter stereotypes, encourage other businesswomen and help their Kentucky companies reach new heights. The women featured in this issue are no exception. From airport CEO to hospital executive, and successful online retailer to construction company VP, these women are forging their own paths, proving that hard work, perseverance and creativity pays off.
Karen Venis is chief executive officer of Sayre Christian Village, a nonprofit senior living community in Lexington, where she has been employed since 2010.
Title/company: CEO of Sayre Christian Village, a nonprofit, faithbased senior living community in Lexington, Ky.
How long at company/position: I have worked at SCV for approximately 11 years, 2 ½ in my current role as CEO.
Previous jobs/positions: Prior to serving as CEO at Sayre Christian Village, I served in various capacities, including chief administrative officer and director of human resources. Prior to Sayre, my primary work experience was in human resources in various industries.
Education/training: Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Kentucky and an associate degree in nursing from Midway University.
Top accomplishment: I successfully led the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic with utmost transparency and communication to residents, staff and family members. During the midst of the pandemic, I successfully managed an $11 million construction and renovation project for Friendship Towers, our assisted living facility. This expansion allowed us to introduce new levels of care/services, including assisted living memory care at Friendship Towers.
The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My greatest influence has been my parents, as both of them served in health care administration and in industries that provided health and human services to older adults. Bill English, our former CEO at Sayre Christian Village, has been a wonderful mentor to me and gave me every opportunity to learn and grow professionally. I’m always thankful for his confidence in me to succeed.
My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: The COVID-19 pandemic has been my biggest challenge yet, simply because the population we serve is the most vulnerable to the virus. We didn’t have a rulebook to navigate the pandemic, but were able to overcome it with a commitment to transparency and communication to our community. In our environment, I had to make decisions that were aggressive and inconvenient but necessary to keep our staff and residents safe. The community rallied behind us and supported our actions because we communicated those decisions to our staff, residents, families and the community at large, every step of the way.
My advice to younger women in business: Find something that you are passionate about and work hard at it. I’ve been successful with my professional growth at Sayre Christian Village because for me it’s not a job, it’s a mission. It’s easy to learn, grow and serve when you believe in the mission.
Something I learned during the pandemic: I learned that I had a lot more adrenaline and strength than I ever gave myself credit for. Looking back, I don’t know how I was able to work the long hours/days for so long but I did what was necessary to lead us through the pandemic. I also learned that grace was something we had to hand out much more freely, because everyone was trying their absolute best to keep going! Luckily, I have the best team of staff who did just the same thing. I’m proud of their dedication to our residents and in many ways, their dedication was the fuel for my tank!
An important skill everyone should have: Public speaking is one of the most difficult skills to master, but in order to succeed, it is a necessity. Having the courage and confidence to speak in front of a crowd can be challenging but is a wonderful tool to have in your belt.
The most important personal attribute I bring to my job: Treating everyone with respect and compassion makes life (and your job) so much easier. I’m not going to ask my staff to do anything that I won’t do with them.
A song from my teenage years that I still rock out to when nobody else is around: Any classic rock. I love that my 15-year-old son shares his playlist with me and that he has a great taste in “old” music.
Lorie Hailey is special publications editor for The Lane Report. Reach her at [email protected].