Darrell Maynard is a man with one foot in the high-tech and highly competitive telecommunications business, but with the other firmly planted in the history of Appalachia. In downtown Pikeville, Darrell’s company, SouthEast Telephone, boasts a sleek, contemporary entryway with a display chronicling the history of the telephone. To the left, there is an old-fashioned switchboard; to the right, a display case with such telephone landmarks as rotary dial phones and an Ericaphone, the futuristic molded plastic model banned by Bell Telephone in the 1950s.
The other part of Darrell's passion for community history is also shown in his office lobby. On a wall facing the last homeplace of Randolph McCoy of Hatfield-McCoy fame, Darrell has a wall full of black and white photos of the principals of the feud. His ancestor was the Pike County sheriff who presided over the hanging of the only person executed in connection with the fighting – Hatfield sympathizer Ellison Mounts.
Fighting and feuding are in the distant past, and Darrell’s workplace is the model of modern cooperation. Darrell’s leadership centers on continuous improvement, consumer-driven services and community involvement. SouthEast Telephone offers local telephone and high-speed Internet throughout rural central and eastern Kentucky in competition with national telecommunications companies such as Windstream and BellSouth.
SouthEast Telephone has been in business since 1996 and now employs 225 people serving 48,000 customers in 63 counties. His sales engineering experience with telephone equipment drives his customer-oriented philosophy.
“In eastern Kentucky, most people do not want to pay their bills using the Internet,” he said. “And for those who don’t want to mail in their phone payment, they would rather go to a local neighborhood office and give their money to someone they know.” Hometown agents provide that local connection. SouthEast's leadership relies on consumer comments through agents to develop new products and services. “At one point I said we were never getting into the Internet business. That was until the customers said 'I want Internet'.”
MACED provided financial assistance to Eastern Telephone, another Darrell Maynard enterprise, which was formed to provide telephone and computer equipment to businesses in southeastern Kentucky. Eastern Telephone became an agent for BellSouth in 1988 and was top in sales in Kentucky four out of five years. The company suffered a downturn, however, when it lost a primary manager. With financial assistance from MACED, Eastern Telephone got back on its feet.
Darrell defies many myths associated with the workforce in the Appalachian mountains. The local people are quick to learn the highly-technical and highly competitive telecommunications business. Using techniques of servant-leadership, Darrell said he has not had problems with employee absenteeism, lack of work ethic or substance abuse – all factors portrayed in the popular media as reasons why high-tech businesses won’t work in eastern Kentucky.
“Darrell is the epitome of the Appalachian entrepreneur who provides the leadership and optimism to make the mountains a player in telecommunications,” said Justin Maxson, president of MACED.
Darrell Maynard started his entrepreneurial efforts in Pikeville in 1976, the same time MACED began its work. For thirty years, these two organizations have proven that entrepreneurism is the economic high road for eastern Kentucky.
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