JA Topeka Business Hall of Fame: Terry Bettis
For Terry Bettis, that secret has always been sports—or more specifically, the focus that comes with being an athlete.
To say that Bettis grew up in a family of baseball enthusiasts would be a gross understatement; it was more like baseball fanatics. His parents played a key role in establishing Shawnee County Amateur Baseball Association, and he practically grew up on the baseball diamonds there at the lake.
Needless to say, baseball was in his blood, but it wasn’t the only sport he loved. Bettis was the starting quarterback for two years at Topeka West as well as a varsity basketball player. He went on to play baseball for Washburn University and then signed with the Montreal Expos in 1969, where he played both “A” and “AA” ball for a few years before hurting his arm.
Finding a New Playbook
That injury brought out the practical side of Bettis. He had a degree in business and decided it was time to put that education to good use. Bettis and his wife, Karen (his high school sweetheart) moved back to Topeka where he went to work for John Hankamer, who taught him the asphalt business. Then in 1979, under the guidance of Bob Douglas, owner of Douglas Construction Co., he opened the doors of Bettis Asphalt.
Bettis used the same drive and focus that made him a great athlete to build a successful business. Karen Bettis says it was always obvious that he enjoyed the asphalt business because he had his hands in every aspect of the business.
“He enjoyed working,” Karen said. “But what he enjoyed most was being what he considered a “real” man. Working hard, supporting his family and doing his best work every time.”
That dedication to quality work earned him a reputation in the community. Soon he was winning bids on larger projects such as Westridge Mall and Topeka Boulevard. Topeka was in a growth stage at the time, so business was booming for Bettis Asphalt.
Facing the Curve Ball
Everything was running smoothly for Bettis. He was in his 50s—in the prime of his life. His business was booming, his children were grown and beginning lives of their own. And then life threw him a curve ball. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, his family had to face the grim reality of his deteriorating health. He continued operating the business with the help of family and long-time employees until 2006, when Bettis’ condition made it impossible for him to remain.
Hitting it out of the park
As most close-knit families do, the Bettis family pulled together in their time of tragedy. All three of Bettis’ children have taken over the family business and have expanded it to add more plants and broaden the customer base. That expansion, Karen Bettis says, is all possible because their father left them a financially strong company with a solid customer base.
“Terry should be so proud of what his children have done with the business,” Karen Bettis said. “After all, they got their strong work ethic and business sense from their dad.”
“Use your competitive nature to improve your skills and continually make yourself better at everything you do.”