When Johnson Financial Group regional President Larry Squire moved to Janesville 28 years ago, he came here to do banking—and to run one of his family’s pick-your-own strawberry farms in Roscoe, Illinois.
Squire’s still banking, but he no longer moonlights in the strawberry business.
Most people in Janesville aren’t aware that someone they know as a local bank vice president and community leader has a farming background, Squire said.
“You just learn the joy of hard work. You see something that you do all this work and planning, and work with a lot of people and get it to a point of success. That’s just very rewarding,” he said.
Squire will receive Forward Janesville’s Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday at the Pontiac Convention Center. He is one of several business leaders and companies the local chamber of commerce is honoring at its annual awards luncheon.
A Burlington native who grew up farming, Squire is regional President of Johnson Financial Group in downtown Janesville. In a letter of support to Forward Janesville, Squire’s boss, Johnson Financial CEO and President James Popp, called him “open and approachable” yet possessing a “fierce passion to succeed.”
Popp also called Squire a man of “humility, grace and class” whom others consider a role model.
Squire said the idea of receiving a lifetime achievement award is humbling. In his years as a banker—first at the former M&I Bank and for the last 18 years at Johnson Bank—Squire said he has become a community leader, but that didn’t happen without growing pains.
Squire remembers attending bank board meetings and watching the room go silent. He then realized that people were turning to him, waiting for him to speak, to take the helm. He said that was difficult at first and not something he was readily comfortable with.
Squire believes leadership in a company or community is a natural result of a collection of interactions and relationships with other people. It comes from encouraging others and accepting encouragement from them.
“You never know when the relationship you create is going to have an impact somewhere else, and is going to spawn another opportunity or relationship, or whether you’re going to encourage someone or someone is going to encourage you,” he said. “It’s just that idea that it’s an add-them-up—and a journey.”
Both Popp and Janesville Foundation President Ron Ochs, Squire’s boss at the former M&I Bank in Janesville, wrote to Forward Janesville that Squire is dedicated family man.
Squire’s favorite items in his office are the ones he has collected during family trips throughout the U.S. and abroad.
A set of miniature cars also has a special significance.
“My son went to Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. He loves cars. He wanted to sell cars. I’m not a big car guy, but I keep a few little cars around to remind me of what his dreams were,” Squire said.
Squire’s memories of his early years in Janesville include family bike rides with his children to the city’s many parks. He said he still feels proud when he drives into town on Racine Street and passes CAMDEN Playground, Palmer Park, Rotary Gardens and then a “Welcome to Janesville” sign with a tree.
More recently, he’s proud of a renaissance going on downtown—what he calls “things going on, things coming down, things going up.”
Squire has taken on a leadership role in ARISEnow, a public-private group that’s shepherding a slew of improvements planned along the downtown riverfront.
“I don’t think there is any one thing I say that paints the picture here. It’s just an energy level and the optimism. People are looking for the positive and the opportunity to find success,” he said of the downtown revitalization efforts.
In a letter supporting Squire, Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said he admires a theory Squire has talked to him about. It’s called “positive persistence.”
Squire explained the concept:
“I probably stole that from someplace. But what it means is that you don’t know when the opportunity is going to come together, and when the timing is going to be right, and when the people are going to be right. But I’m such a believer that our attitude is everything. You approach something with positive energy and stay with it, and you don’t get easily discouraged. That’s what it’s all about.”
This story has been altered from an earlier version to reflect Larry Squire's current title with Johnson Financial Group. He is the regional President at Johnson Financial, and works at Johnson Bank in downtown Janesville.