University of Wisconsin-River Falls
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Winter 2009

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Greetings FROM KANSAS CITY

Keating portrait

A Hallmark VP, Margaret Keating is comfortable outside the comfort zone.

by Joe Tougas

It might be a bit too punchy to make it onto a Hallmark card, but Margaret Keating‘s wording to describe her ascent within the greeting card giant is worth passing along. “You have to be able to reinvent yourself and take a personal risk,” she says. “It’s a balance between being confident and cocky.”

Working outside her comfort zone is a skill that may well have started for the Hallmark vice president back in the 1970s, when she was taking business classes at UW-River Falls.

Having grown up in nearby New Richmond, Wis., Keating was double-majoring in business and economics at the university.

“On the business side, I was going to school with a lot of returning Vietnam vets,” Keating says. “And that was more of a male-oriented class environment. So I was going to school with some people who had some real different experiences than I did”.

Fast-forward a few years. Graduated, married and moved to Kansas City, Keating answered a newspaper ad for a job at Hallmark. She hadn’t even known Hallmark was headquartered in Kansas City. Her experience with the company, she recalls, consisted of owning maybe one Hallmark ornament. But by answering the ad, she set in motion what has been a varied and rewarding 30-year career with the company.

She started as a staff member in scheduling, working with people her same age and background. After a few years and a corporate reorganization, her division was eliminated but a new opportunity came about in management: overseeing a group on the company is manufacturing side.

“It was totally outside my experience,” she says. “I was thrust into something technically I knew nothing about, working with people generally older than I was and not of the same background. A lot of them had come to Hallmark at age 18, the day after they graduated, so we had very different backgrounds and issues.”

“It was an incredible learning experience for me, figuring out how to bring value to this group because they were probably saying, ‘How does she bring value to this group?’ That’s where I really got an appreciation for the heart and soul of Hallmark.”

Since that time, she’s moved upward in the $4.4 billion international firm, serving in both staff and management (and combinations of both) to the point where today she oversees manufacturing, distribution and engineering as vice president of operations. Through it all, she credits that heart and soul as the key factors in keeping her enamored with the job since first responding to the newspaper ad.

“I came down to corporate headquarters and was amazed,” she recalls. “I came into this complex which was built in a devastated downtown area, so right away you see their commitment to the community and rebuilding the inner city and this incredible artwork was everywhere, so you know it’s a very creative company and they have a fine sense of appreciation for the arts.”

And while she brought more business acumen than artistic skills to the job, she remains most proud of the primary product of Hallmark: its expression.

“We’re helping people communicate and say they care about each other,”
she says. “That’s a really good business to be in.”

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A Hallmark VP, Margaret Keating is comfortable outside the comfort zone.


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