Dixie Williford is a Texas transplant with a warm, inviting smile and she means business. She’s the president and owner of APW Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling based in Kansas City, KS. The company vans are donned with her signature smile along with the promise of “Experience the Dixie Difference!” The Dixie Difference is more than a catchy slogan for her company, it’s embedded in everything she does.
For APW, the Dixie Difference means providing high quality service, starting with the very first phone call. It means giving customers the best products and warranties with the customer service to back it up. The company’s been around for over fourteen years, proof that the Dixie Difference really does make a difference.
While I never asked her directly if there was a Dixie Difference outside of APW, there were clearly common themes and values woven in every story she shared with me. Her life is centered in faith. She knows the value of hard work and teamwork. She believes in taking ownership of your choices, both your successes and mistakes.
As a child growing up in Houston, Texas, her dad built his dream house from the ground up with the help of his family. It was a lot of hard work, the process wasn’t always fun, but seeing the results of the blood, sweat, and tears have stuck with her. “You can do anything you want, if you want it bad enough,” she explained.
The family moved to Lincoln, KS just before she started high school. After graduation, she went to junior college for two years before transferring to the University of Kansas for her bachelor’s and eventually her MBA. She was a cheerleader at KU. Her love of KU runs deep, proven by the decoration in her office.
Even as a child, Dixie as a natural born leader and entrepreneur. She’s driven by success. She believes in order to be successful, you have to take advantage of every single opportunity given to you. And if there’s not one presented? Make one yourself. Regardless of the situation, Dixie asks herself, “how can I make my position better? How can I be the best?”
APW was born through a true sink or swim moment. The original company was going out of business and Dixie saw her opportunity. Jumping in head first, she completely overhauled the company. People believed in her drive. Seven people followed her as she created what is now APW. APW started as a water treatment company, focusing on water conditioning and softening system. In the early stages, there were lots of early mornings and late, late nights. She put in time and effort in spades.
Today, Dixie’s a certified master plumber, but she wasn’t the day she made the leap. She rode along with the technicians for every single call. “There’s a million ‘I can’t because…’ reasons,” she told me, and she ignored them all.
“Anything those guys could do, I was sure I could do too,” she explained.
And she did. Four years ago, APW transitioned from a water treatment company to a fully licensed, insured, and bonded plumbing, heating and cooling company. It was another moment of ignoring the fear and doubt and diving in head first. She leads her team of technicians to embody the Dixie Difference. She continually educates them because she knows no one ever truly stops learning. She refers to the technicians, as well as the service coordinators, managers, and dispatchers in the office, as her coworkers, not her employees. Starting with the first day of training, she sees her coworkers as teammates. She knows by doing so they’re more willing to contribute and take ownership of their position.
She said if you want a company to grow, you have to surround yourself with people better than you. Trust them, allow them to make mistakes and support them when they do. Look for the same level of commitment and expose their greatness.
When she’s not at the office, she’s a loving wife and mom. With five kids in the family, four currently living at home, I asked her how she balances family life with a growing business. She said it’s all about teamwork. Her husband, Keith, is a great parent, both in their marriage and the business. She said you also have to be organized and focused. It’s busy and it goes by so fast. “You have to remember to enjoy what you’re doing,” she said, “there’s so much to be grateful for.”
It’s that grateful attitude that’s carried her through life. She’s thankful to God in all stages of her life. Her faith is what grounds her. Of course, it’s easy to be grateful when things are easy, but she knows it can’t always be smooth sailing. Even through difficult times, times of transition and doubt, “have faith you can make it.”
I ended our time together the same way I do every interview by asking her what makes someone a badass. For Dixie, a badass is someone who’s not afraid of hard work and contributes to their family and loved ones. It’s someone with true faith in God, who knows how to be grateful through the good and bad. Being badass means leaving your mark, leaving your legacy. It means making a difference, even if it seems tiny.
You can catch Dixie and her husband, Keith, on their radio show, APW Help for Homes at noon on Sunday on 103.7 FM or 710 AM. APW Plumbing, Heating & Cooling is also on Facebook, be sure to check them out for a taste of the Dixie Difference!