Entries by Ron Kitchens


Define leadership.
The ability to get a group to come together around a goal.

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My wife has always had the ability to keep me focused and to be able to separate the things that are really important and non-negotiable from the things that might seem like an attractive option in the spur of the moment—an option that maybe in the short term looked great, but in the long term might not be where you really want to end up. One example I can think of is when we first moved to Michigan. We relocated from Arizona in 2002 to Kalamazoo. As I was looking for different positions, there were a few that seemed like in the short run they would be good positions to have, but in the long term it wouldn’t have led to the kind of success that I think we’ve had since we moved here. (She) pointed those kinds of things out to me.

AROUND (269): We’ve got spirit, yes we do

For Andrew and Kathleen Widner, opening a small business in Kalamazoo seemed like the next step in their lives.

“We were seeing Downtown Kalamazoo growing and were really inspired by that,” says Kathleen Widner. “We started thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to be a part of positive things happening there?’”

With backgrounds in finance and marketing and public relations, respectively, the long-time residents of Kalamazoo possessed the groundwork to be successful business owners. For additional guidance, they connected with the Small Business Development Center at Western Michigan University and Downtown Kalamazoo Inc.’s retail incubator program.

Go Off-Road: Turn Off Sprinkle Road and Ride on into Zeigler Motorsports

Zeigler Motorsports
Celebrating its grand opening on June 14, 2017, this facility boasts 85,000 square feet at 5001 Park Circle in Kalamazoo, Michigan and sits on 50 acres offering outdoor test track experiences.
Zeigler Motorsports is part of the Zeigler Automotive Group with 79 franchises in 23 locations in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and New York.

Surprise! Fun Activities in the Work Place Build Strategy, Comradery, and Trust

Why do special delivery flowers bring more joy than those bought at the corner market? Why are cheers following a walk-off game winning homerun so much louder than those acknowledging an early lead held until the last out is made in the ninth inning of a baseball game? Why is that first date kiss more highly anticipated than an embrace from a long-term partner? Or, audience belly laughs heard when water shoots from a flower on a circus clown’s lapel into an unsuspecting recipient’s eye?

It turns out that humans crave those unexpected pleasures and events more than the status quo in their daily lives. In an April 2001 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine summarized their findings of an exercise where they used a computer-controlled device to squirt water or fruit juice into awaiting participants’ mouths. The squirts came in patterns, both consistent and broken. What they found was that the brain’s pleasure centers subconsciously reacted more favorably to unexpected patterns.

AROUND (269): How does the Giving Garden grow?

Summer evenings are a time when many of us enjoy sitting down to fresh, locally-grown vegetables for dinner, whether it’s a ripe red tomato on a juicy cheeseburger or slices of zucchini served with barbeque chicken. But, for many Southwest Michigan residents, a regular supply of fresh vegetables isn’t so easy to come by.

Brenda Kolkman and Linda Clarey, two of eight coordinators of the Giving Garden in Kalamazoo, see these needs as inspiration for the hard work they put in from March through October on property generously provided by Humphrey Products and Kendall Electric in Kalamazoo, located at the corner of East N Avenue and Sprinkle Road.

LEADER2LEADER: Troy Cuvelier

Define leadership.
Inspiring, always learning, educating, optimistic, listening, caring, compassionate, appreciative, team-focused.

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My grandmother. She instilled in me, from early on, to always be a good person, treat other people the way you want to be treated, and to work hard; anything worth doing is worth doing right, by giving it 150 percent.


Define leadership.
The ability to bring a group of people together to attain a common goal.

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My director when I worked at Blue Care Network-Great Lakes, which is our HMO subsidiary; her name was Sandy O’Connor. She promoted me from a regional leadership position into a corporate one, where I oversaw all Blue Care Network-Great Lakes customer service operations. She took me under her wing to guide me and to develop me in a way that I didn’t feel she was micromanaging me. She had one phrase that really stuck out in my mind, and I share it with my team today: “Mean what you say, and say what you mean in your communications.” It has resonated so, that when I say something, people who know me know that my words are very deliberate. She was a great role model. I attribute probably the greatest leadership growth to her.

A Conversation with PAUL MARTUS

I truly believe we provide a service—a problem-solving service. We’re part detective, part artist, part futurist. We solve problems through visualization. These problems shape the future and hopefully make lives better.

When I look back, I think I always was a designer, I just didn’t know what to call myself. As a kid, we made our own props for our stories and games. We made our own toys. We took apart our toys to “improve them.” As I got older, it was the same thinking of innovation, just applied to sports, school, and work.