Having three different companies operate successfully can be a challenge, but there is one part of doing business that Dale Wilde hasn't struggled with -- keeping employees happy.

Wilde has owned Consolidated Abstract Co. since 1985, and launched two real estate closing offices later on. Becker County Title Services was started in 1987 and Title Services of Perham started in 2000.

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It shows in the tenures of various employees, a feat that Wilde said is unusual in the industry.

Besides Wilde, six others have been with the firm for at least 10 years.

He said he didn't want to give the reasons why his employees stay; they could tell their individual stories.

Mary Jo Zweerink, Chief Executive Officer and Vice President of Consolidated Abstract said one of the reasons she's worked for the company for the past 23 years is that she enjoys the work.

"I have a great support staff here and they enjoy what they do," Zweerink said.

She said Wilde has been a great mentor.

"He's a great teacher," Zweerink said. "He let us make our mistakes and doesn't blame us for anything."

Zweerink was named CEO in 2002 as Wilde was scaling back his schedule. He said it's tough since his life has been devoted to the financial and real estate industry for the past 45 years.

"You just learn to live and breathe it," Wilde said. "And you make a lot of good friends."

"I find that if I'm not here, I miss my friends," he said.

Debbie Torgerson has been with the company for 18 years.

She said she likes keeping on her toes with the changes in the industry.

"It never gets old," Torgerson said.

Torgerson worked at a bank before coming to Consolidated Abstract and she said the assumption would be that there isn't anything left to learn about real estate.

"You would think that I would have seen it all and known it all," Torgerson said. "I don't. It just keeps changing."

The title industry has changed significantly from when Consolidated Abstract was first started in 1952.

Wilde said the primary business back then was creating abstract, which lists the history of a particular piece of land.

"We keep track of the owner's names, the mortgages and the legal descriptions," Wilde said.

That process is critical to real estate transactions because a buyer of land wants to ensure that there aren't any unforeseen problems with the purchase.

The business changed in scope when Wilde bought the company. He said that's when financial institutions started to sell off the mortgages they make to other companies on a grander scale.

He hearkened back the time when he worked for a savings and loan in Detroit Lakes and real estate deals were closed in-house. Wilde saw a need, since closing takes time and resources away from a financial institution's core business.

"I thought, gee, as a banker that's just more time I'm spending on a project and I'm not making any money," Wilde said. "Maybe someone else should close these transactions and take the responsibility to see that the title is good."

That thought led to the creation of Becker County Title Services.

That's the core part of Consolidated Abstract now, especially with the real estate boom before the market declined. In addition to closing, it writes title insurance policies, conducts property inspections and provides escrow services.

As part of Consolidated Abstract's 57th anniversary, the company is holding a Customer Appreciation Picnic on Tuesday, Sept. 1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its office at 828 Minnesota Ave. in Detroit Lakes.

They can be reached at 847-2144 or on the Web at www.cactitle.com