Talking Shop with Joyce Cooley of Miracle-Ear

Monday, November 16, 2009
Joyce Hill Cooley, owner of Miracle-Ear in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Ear

tone

wave

hear hear

Sound philosophy or sound practice / sound advice / sound effect / sounding off

Joy is in the ear that hears

Joyce Cooley may be a native of South St. Louis County, but one trip to Cape Girardeau caused this big city girl to fall in love with the its rolling hills and small-town atmosphere. Though she moved to Los Angeles shortly after her 1970 graduation from Southeast Missouri State University with a nursing degree, Cooley's love for the area brought her back here. She now serves as managing partner for several Miracle-Ear locations in the area. Southeast Missourian business reporter Brian Blackwell recently visited with Cooley to learn more about her life and involvement with Miracle-Ear.

Q: What other jobs prepared you for your role today?

A: I trained and worked as a registered nurse in the local hospitals for over 20 years. I feel I use those nursing skills every day. Probably being a Mom taught me the most. Running a small business is very much like having a second family. The Miracle-Ear franchise system has also offered me many educational and travel opportunities.

Q: Please give folks an idea of what you do at Miracle-Ear.

A: I often wonder that myself. I try to help people improve their hearing. To that means I manage a small hearing-aid dispensing franchise. I wear all the hats of the operation throughout the week. I interview, conduct audiometric tests, refer to physician, dispense hearing aids and follow up on persons with hearing loss. Other times I design marketing plans, negotiate advertising agreements, repair equipment, train staff, meet payroll, do public education on hearing loss, answer questions, work with the Miracle-Ear Children's Foundation and whatever is necessary to keep our doors open helping people.

Q: What are some little-known facts about Miracle-Ear?

A: Miracle-Ear was started by a World War II flying ace Ken Dahlberg, who was shot down three times over Europe during the War. The local Miracle-Ear center has been in the same location almost 25 years. Ninety-five percent of the people suffering hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids. Last year our post-fitting survey cards revealed 95 percent of our customers would recommend Miracle-Ear to their friends. Eighty-five percent reported wearing their hearing instruments full time after three months of use. Hearing aids do work.

Q: How has the economy affected your operations?

A: The majority of our patients are retired and on fixed incomes. The loss of wealth in investments and the rocky financial situation in the banking system has certainly affected our target population. We find people expecting exceptional value in their purchase. We are fortunate to have a longstanding customer base that we take pride in servicing every day. That base has sustained us through some difficult months.

Q: What are the ups and downs of the job?

A: Again our work is mainly with those who are retired, so weather can be a big factor. Extreme hot or cold can really affect traffic flow to our offices. It interesting that our office in the Farmington Walmart is the exception to that rule. That office seems to always have traffic no matter the weather.

Q: What is the secret to your success?

A: It's no secret, if we have success it is only due to hard work. I'm always looking for opportunities and trying new ideas. I am fortunate to have very talented employees. When we have an idea or a problem I can turn it over to one of my staff and they usually come up with not only a solution but a positive attitude to make it succeed.

Q: I understand your family is important. You said you and your husband have four children. What you do in your spare time with your family?

A: My husband and I enjoy the outdoors. We are avid campers and like to ride almost anything, bicycles, motorcycles and a new inflatable kayak. We also enjoy volunteering. This year we were volunteer marshals for the Tour of Missouri, and I regularly volunteer with my congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses here in Cape.

Q: If you had a chance to trade places with someone for just one day, who would he or she be and why?

A: Just to let you know, I'm not big on reality TV. I can think of so many people with wisdom, knowledge and life experience from which I might benefit, but when I think about trading places with them I'm really not interested. I am very happy and grateful to be here in Cape Girardeau, with family, friends, workmates and my patients.

Q: Please name two or three people who have had the most influence on you.

A: One would have to be my partner in business, Ken Swinford, and his wife Lisa. We have been partners in B&S United Agencies Inc, the parent of our local Miracle-Ear franchisee, for over 16 years. Others I have benefited from are wise women I have worked with and learned from such as Marcia Ritter, Karen Hendrickson, professionally, and many others personally. And I can't forget my mom, who is 93. Without her I would have accomplished little.

Q: What is one thing most people don't know about you?

A: I played a lot of folk guitar in college. I need to exercise regularly to keep my head together and work through stress.

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