Names and Numbers has come a long way from a living room on Langdon Lane.

Names and Numbers has come a long way from a living room on Langdon Lane.
The company, which currently produces telephone books for 67 markets in 11 states, will celebrate its 35th anniversary by hosting a Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce coffee at 8 a.m. today. Founder Ken Brock said that the event will be open to the community.
“This is just a little celebration,” he said. “We’ll have a big party in five years for our 40th anniversary.”
Brock began working in the directory industry as a salesman for a company owned by his father, the late George Brock.
“After he sold his company, I found a friend who had started a directory company in Springfield, Mo.,” Brock said. “I asked him how he was doing, and he said he wasn’t making much money or having fun. I bought his business, and came home with a company in the truck of my car. Names and Numbers started in the living room of my home on Langdon Lane. I bought a desk for $45 at Ettinger’s and did my own selling and billing for two years.”
That was in 1974. Later the new business moved to a 12-foot square office in the Bottenfield Building.
“I added one person to help with answering the telephone, the bookkeeping and proofreading,” Brock said. “I still did the selling. Eventually we filled most of one wing of the Bottenfield Building.”
In the early 1980s Brock purchased a building on Seventh Street.
“We completely renovated that building and turned it into the nice office building it is today. It was our home until 2000, when we build this building at 1225 E. Centennial.”
The company now has 300 employees.
“Contrary to what we hear in the media, we are actively recruiting,” Brock said.
Changes in the information industry are reflected by the Names and Numbers product. For example, many people use cell phones rather than land line telephones.
“We list a lot of cell phones — our directory is rapidly becoming a cell phone book,” Brock said.
Information is currently available in the traditional printed directories, as well as a CD version of the print directory and a web site. 
“Our job is to  provide information in whatever format people need it to be in,” Brock said. “We try to present ourselves as an information company, not a directory company.”
He added that the print product is still strong.
“More than 90 percent of the look-ups are in the print product,” Brock said. “The kids won’t want to hear this, but the book really is faster.”
Todd McKnight, Names and Numbers chief operating officer, is chairman of the Technology Committee of the Association of Directory Publishers, and emphasizes using technology to provide information on a multi-platform concept.
“We are on the cutting edge of our industry,” he said.
But McKnight added that Names and Numbers is guided by a tried-and-true philosophy — putting the customer first.
“We tell our customers that we’re here to help them grow their business,” he said. “The opportunity we have for growth is incredible, including new markets and new technology that we can bring to our customers.”
Having top staff has also been a key to success, Brock said.
“We’ve brought a lot of fine families to Pittsburg,” he said.
Coming to Names and Numbers was a leap of faith for McKnight, who was recruited by Brock from Abilene, Texas.
“We lived 20 years in Abilene, our sandbox was perfect and we had no intention of leaving,” McKnight said. “Then here comes Ken Brock, and we were asking, ‘Where is Pittsburg, Kansas?’ Then we learned it’s in Tornado Alley.”
He said that he and his wife were most concerned about finding good schools for their children and a new church home.
“Those two pieces fell into place in one day,” McKnight said. “We really felt a calling that this was the next step for us. When God’s in charge, everything works out.”
“Todd did tell me that his move had to include his girls, and we realize how important it is to help the families adjust to their new home,” Brock said. “Then I asked him how many girls he had, and he told me he had 22.”
He later learned that the “girls” were long-horn cattle. They made the trip to Kansas just fine and are also thriving.
“Names and Numbers puts families first,” McKnight said. “People here realize that employees need to spend time with their families. We also realize that issues come up, and we’re here to be a support for employees when that happens.”
Cindy Bedene, executive assistant,  joined the Names and Numbers family one year ago.
“I came here with 30 years of secretarial and administrative experience,” she said. “This is the best place I’ve ever worked.”
“We had one gentleman who worked here the last five years of his career, and this was the only place where his talents were really used,” said Debbie Brock,  wife of Ken Brock. “That’s part of our success — putting people in the right position.”
It has been a plus to keep the company based in Pittsburg, and Brock said this  has been possible partly because of  Atkinson Municipal Airport.
“We have two  corporate planes and three pilots,” Brock said. “Planes are a real efficient business tool for us.”
He’s been a pilot himself for many years.
“In the early years I flew by myself in a small single-engine plane, and covered much of the same territory that we do today,” Brock said. If I need to go to Clovis, N.M., I’ll have to drive to Kansas City, take a commercial flight to Lubbock, Texas, then rent a car and drive 1 1/2 hours to Clovis. But I can fly there from Pittsburg in an hour, conduct my business, then be back in the office by noon the same day. That’s why I call planes time machines.”
On another occasion, when roads and airport runways were icy and page proofs needed to be gotten to a  printer in Lawrence, Brock flew his plane to Lawrence, swooped low over a field near the printer’s house, and dropped the bundle of proofs.
“I wrapped it up good and wrote ‘air mail’ on it,” he said, laughing.
Brock called Names and Numbers “a good example of the American dream.”
“Free enterprise is not dead in the United States,” he said. “Ordinary people like me can still start a business and be very successful because of the freedoms we enjoy.”
Also helpful, he said, were the sessions he attended that taught him how to set goals and achieve them in a positive way.
“Early on, I was a positive thinker, and I still am,” Brock said. “I enjoyed dreaming big dreams, and I still do.”