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THE NEXT CHAPTER: Dianne Elizabeth Osis is retiring as chairwoman but will retain her board spot.
THE NEXT CHAPTER: Dianne Elizabeth Osis is retiring as chairwoman but will retain her board spot.

SBJ founder to retire

Posted online

Dianne Elizabeth Osis has been a fixture at the Springfield Business Journal for more than 36 years, but as of Jan. 1, the newspaper’s founder will officially retire as chairwoman and president of SBJ Publishing Inc.

It’s a move originally set in motion in 2011, when daughter Jennifer Jackson succeeded Osis as publisher to take over day-to-day responsibilities.

“I’m very proud of my mom and the commitment she has made to not only this organization, but the Springfield community,” Jackson said. “She’s worked just about every job there was to work here; now it’s time for her to enjoy the fruits of her labor.”

Osis will remain a member of SBJ Publishing’s board of directors, a recently reinvigorated governing group. As a corporation, Jackson said SBJ Publishing always has had a board, but until recently it only included executive officers. The SBJ management team will join the board effective Jan. 1.

Current SBJ Publishing Chief Revenue Officer Marty Goodnight also will be promoted to associate publisher at the start of the new year and round out the board.

“The SBJ management team will now have a more active role in guiding the overall direction of the company,” Jackson said. “In reviewing the records, I found my mom has served as president, vice president, treasurer and secretary over the years. She didn’t always do it alone, but she was always steering the ship.

“She has let me steer for the last five years and we want to continue to have her voice on the board.”

Osis, who plans to travel more in retirement, said SBJ has reached a milestone in its evolution.

“I knew if we could keep going long enough, people would start to come to us,” she said of the early days of the paper. “When that happened, it was a turning point. Now, Jennifer is a very determined person. She cares every bit as much as I do about this paper and the people who work here.”

Making a name
With no background in journalism, Osis produced her first newspaper from her kitchen table. Working at a Tulsa law firm, Osis became familiar with Guffey’s Executive Journal, a real estate-centered publication. Though Springfield was considerably smaller, she had a hunch the model could work in another market. According to SBJ archives, through her former husband, Osis met Ken and Jeanne Willoughby, and the four worked together to launch the executive journal.

“Coming from Tulsa, I was an outsider,” Osis said. “I didn’t know who was important and maybe that helped me. We talked to anybody and everybody.”

Dated July 22, 1980, the Top’s Executive Journal – which stood for The Ozarks’ Pulse – was the product of a dream and determination. The cover story featured the dedication of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s new building and all advertising inside was free. Osis calls it a prototype issue.

Soon headquartered at 1428 E. Sunshine St., on the second floor of BJ’s Trophy Shop – now Kaleidoscope, Osis produced an issue every other week, but the hours were long and the rewards were small. Borrowing money from family and mortgaging her house, Osis says the paper limped along because people didn’t understand the concept.

“When you dig a hole, it takes a long time to fill it back in and mound the dirt on top,” Osis said. “But I never considered quitting. It just wasn’t an option. We changed our name and that changed the game.”

Springfield Business Journal was born in 1983 and the company began making money.

SBJ’s second turning point came in 1985 when BJ’s Trophy Shop was burglarized and caught fire. Osis and crew were forced to move and found a new home in downtown Springfield at 209 E. Walnut St., the current site of Black Sheep.

“Downtown wasn’t much in those days and there were just a few of us brave souls,” she said. “We used to joke about plastic bags blowing down Walnut like tumbleweeds.”

Osis embraced the fledgling downtown community, and it embraced SBJ. In 1996, SBJ moved to its current home at 313 Park Central West, following Osis’ purchase and renovation of a former hotel.

“We used to laugh about all the dead pigeons found in the building,” said Brian Fogle, Community Foundation of the Ozarks president.

Both members of the downtown Springfield Association, Fogle, then a banker with Boatman’s Bank, issued a loan to Osis for renovations. “Of course we wanted to keep SBJ downtown, but she was starting to get cold feet,” he said.

A chamber trip to Memphis, Tennessee, with a meeting at the Memphis Business Journal cemented the deal. Osis wanted that for the Springfield community.

“The investment helped so much early on. She really was a pioneer of redevelopment downtown,” he said. “It took a lot of courage on her part to put that early stake in the ground.”

Legacy in print
A new concept in Missouri, the business journal format was slow to gain respect among the newspaper community. For many years, the Missouri Press Association wouldn’t allow SBJ to join its ranks.

“They considered us a trade publication, not news,” Osis said.

SBJ was the first business journal in Missouri, but St. Louis and Kansas City soon followed suit with their own.

“We had the Penny Power and the Wooden Nickle, nothing of the caliber of SBJ,” said Conrad Griggs, business development officer for The Bank of Missouri and a longtime friend of Osis. “It became so much more, a symbol of our community.

“I still have the plaque on my wall of an interview she did more than 15 years ago. It’s yellowed now, but precious to me.”

When other publications were scared of losing subscribers, SBJ continued to break ground under Osis, launching a paid website Sept. 1, 2010. “If everything on our website were free, how ever would we continue to sell subscriptions?” she said.

Osis’ legacy extends beyond the brick-and-mortar walls of SBJ. Throughout the years, she focused on three areas: financial stability, planning for the future, and hiring and retaining the best. The latter is her favorite.

“There are hundreds of people around town who have a connection to SBJ,” she said. “I was just talking to (Springfield Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement) Cora Scott; she used to work here. We had an intern turned editor who went on to work for the State Department. We’ve got the next generation of leaders.”

SBJ will host an invitation-only reception and retirement party in Osis’ honor in January for community leaders.

“I’d like to tell her thank you for not giving up on your dreams and promoting Springfield business the way you have,” Griggs said. “Enjoy your retirement knowing the lasting impact you’ve made on this community.”

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