Photo by Duane Tinkey
Photo by Duane Tinkey

Carolyn Helmlinger's rise to Mid-America Group's top executive position was built on three principles: Hard work, confidence and attitude.

The 58-year-old former teacher began her real estate career in Florida in 1980. Following a move to the Chicago area in 1994, she relocated to Des Moines in 1999 to become president of Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group Realtors, at the invitation of the late Marvin Pomerantz.

Though the transition to a new market from the Chicago area was challenging, her optimism and determination helped her overcome.

"I always look at each and every opportunity as nothing is impossible," she said. "I was up to the challenge then and certainly look forward to the next 10 years."

Today, Helmlinger oversees more than 300 sales associates and employees in her new role, Mid-America Group's president and CEO. Accepting the promotion in October 2008, she said selecting the right people to fill supporting staff positions in the company has been one of her greatest achievements.

"I look at our relationship on the job as a true partnership," she said. "They don't necessarily work for me, they work with me," she said, adding that she views herself as a "choreographer" of the business units that she has been charged to run. "I have nurtured and inspired people to be their best," she said.

"She is our rock, a warm caring individual who leads with fairness and a winning attitude," said Julie Reeves, Mid-America Group's vice president of marketing. "Just when you think you have put in one of the longest days of your life, Carolyn will be ready with a smile to take another call or head off to another appointment."

Above all, the family-oriented businesswoman points to raising her family and children as her greatest accomplishment. Spending time with family, including six children and 10 grandchildren, is how she spends the majority of her spare time.

A supportive spouse, Conrad, she said, has helped her balance a demanding leadership role at work, family life and community involvement.

A past president of the Des Moines Area Association of Realtors, Helmlinger continues to serve on the organization's board of directors, as well as the board of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. She is also heavily involved with the United Way of Central Iowa and Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to heading up an annual fall fundraiser campaign for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, last year she led an internal effort to raise thousands of dollars to support Mid-America Group employees and their family members in need of medical assistance.

"That's a great expression of one's self, of giving back," she said. "When you give back, there is a feeling that you can never replace."