Couple finds business keeps life in balance

Posted: Saturday, April 22, 2000

With two businesses, loads of community involvement and a large family, Dave and Sharon Keating of Soldotna strive to give back to the community that contributed to their success.

Dave Keating started in the real estate business in 1970. He managed Freedom Realty starting in 1988 and became the owner and broker in 1992. With 18 licensees and two offices, one in Kenai and one in Soldotna, his plate is full.

Sharon, his wife, found her way into the mortgage business in 1976, she said, and she loved it. So taking the reins at Freedom Mortgage Company suited her.

The two had worked together in prior years and eventually married in 1994. As well as working eight hours in the office on a normal day, Dave participates in many community events. He always tries to support nonprofit organizations, he said, and listed the Women's Resource and Crisis Center, Hospice of the Central Peninsula and the Red Cross as favorites.

He has been a member of both Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce since the early 1970s and has served on the board of directors -- including a stint as president -- in the past. He also is a member of both Kenai and Soldotna Elks clubs and is a charter member of the Soldotna chapter.

Freedom Mortgage was originally started in March 1995 to be -- along with Freedom Realty -- a one-stop shop for home buyers. Before long, the mortgage company expanded further to include clients other than home buyers. Now the companies have offices in Kenai and Soldotna.

Sharon, too, has been involved in her community. She was one of two women first inducted into the Soldotna Rotary. Today, most of her involvement lies within her work and work-related activities. All limited extra time is devoted to family and friends, she said.

Dave said his philosophy in business is to continually strive to do a better job for the people he works for. He always encourages himself and others to continue their education.

Sharon said she believes success in her business comes from putting the customer first; it is the only way to ensure continual success.

"It is all about customer service," she said.

Dave has been selected four times as the Realtor of the Year by the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors, has served as president once for the State Board of Realtors, which also once named him Realtor of the Year. He has served eight years as a director of the National Association of Realtors.

In Soldotna, Freedom Realty and Freedom Mortgage share a building but the offices are separate in Kenai. The Keatings both work more than 40 hours weekly, taking weekends off and vacations away when they can.

"Owning a business is like being married," Dave said.

They both try to take trips, occasionally, to play golf.

Sharon said she probably has never worked a 9-to-5 schedule.

"Whatever it takes, you do what you gotta do," she said.

During the summer, when business is most active, the hours can be horrendous, Dave said.

"We will work the extra hours when (the job) requires it," Dave said.

Kelly Griebel, Dave's daughter and a Freedom Realty secretary, notices the hard work of the two daily.

"They work really, really hard," she said, "They work together wonderfully."

Although the hours -- and work weeks -- can be long, the couple doesn't let it get them down.

"Our close relationship complements one another's businesses," Dave said.

Both are able to discuss things that need attention and are able to understand each other's stressful days.

"We have mutual respect for what we each do in the business," Sharon said.

In January, the couple was honored as business people of the year by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President Dan Mortenson said the Keatings were chosen for their good reputation in business. Mortenson, owner of 4-D Carpet One, has known Dave since 1975.

Sharon said the award was a surprise and they felt honored and overwhelmed. Neither had any idea the award was coming.

Pat Cowan, a member of the Soldotna chamber and longtime friend of Dave, said he is pleased to see the couple in two successful businesses.

"It takes a unique pair to be able to work together and live together," Cowan said.

Dave said he believes not only in taking but in giving back to the community.

"This community has shown me and my family a very good living and is a super place to raise a family," Dave said.

Sharon said having a successful marriage and family are the accomplishments that give her the most pride.

Dave said his pride lies in his business and family.

"He is a great boss," Griebel said, "and Sharon is a wonderful stepmother."

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