Define leadership.
Connecting people, and then being able to inspire them to make your vision come to life.

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
There isn’t one person to whom I can attribute impact, honestly. I think it’s been my own internal drive and the people who I’ve surrounded myself with in school, after school, and at my job. I think I have picked up things here and there, but I always wanted to be a leader. It was really something, an internal drive that I had.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
The most important thing that I can do as a leader here is making sure that I’m developing opportunities for people to advance in their careers. When people feel engaged and like there’s a place for them to develop within a company, your company is going to be successful. It’s making those little decisions every day to ensure that we understand people, what they’re doing, and whether they are doing stuff that’s making them feel like they’re making a difference.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Empathy. You have to be able to look at your staff, business partners, and vendors, and feel like you can wear their shoes by understanding from where they’re coming. Better communication happens when you are more tuned into a situation. You make better decisions that way.

What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Not listening.

Is there one behavior or trait that you are seeing derail more leaders’ careers?
Letting ego take over. The ones who lead with their ego are the ones who are going to make mistakes, when it turns out that they weren’t the smartest person in the room. Leaders, who are great, are the ones who understand that and are able to build a great team around them that takes advantage of everyone’s strengths and minimizes weaknesses, including their own. If you let your ego get in the way, you won’t be successful.

What do you do for fun?
Anything outdoors. I love being outdoors. I have two young boys, 13 and 11, and they’re very active. We’re a close family. We play a lot together and I watch them play sports. That occupies a lot of my time.

What’s your “go-to” spot to eat lunch in Southwest Michigan?
Food Dance.

If happiness were the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
Honestly, I love my job. I have so much fun at what I’m doing right now. I love coming to work. I love being with people that I enjoy being around, and making connections. Being at a place that’s so family-oriented makes it so easy to do my job. I love it. I’m in the best spot for me.

If you could go to dinner with three people who would they be?
Mark Zuckerberg. Leonardo DiCaprio. Gwen Stefani.

What are three things that you cannot travel on business without?
My workout shoes, my tennis shoes, and my iPad.

Briefcase or backpack?
I carry a purse. A big purse.

Who would you most like to meet?
Katy Perry is extremely talented and so creative. Every time I’ve seen her, like at the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show, I look at her and I think, “How is she always keeping things fresh and new?” She’s amazing to me.

How do you get your most creative ideas?
When I’m running!

What inspires you?
Nature. It ties in with running. Whenever I go somewhere, I like to find a place to run. It inspires me when I see light in the morning, during a sunset, or in the trees and woods.

What are your daily routines that keep you developing as a leader?
Every day I try to connect with someone here—someone different. Whether it’s a work connection or a personal connection, I always try to make sure I talk to someone on an individual level and ask how things are going with them. I feel really strongly that you need to care about your employees.

What’s your favorite leadership book?
Start with Why by Simon Sinek. It is a book that did a nice job of explaining why companies need to know who they are, and why they’re doing what they’re doing.

What was the last book you read that had an impact on you?
I don’t get a chance to read all that often, but the last book I read and enjoyed was Wild by Cheryl Strayed. A movie was made out of it, but I didn’t watch the movie. It was a really interesting story of her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail.

What’s the App on your phone that you can’t live without?

How do you maintain your and your team’s daily motivation?
Communication. Communicate to everybody all the time. You can’t over communicate. I think that makes your team feel like they know what’s going on all the time. Then, there are no surprises.

We have a company meeting twice a year, more if we need to. We have a morning meeting every day to communicate with our folks what’s going on with the business. Those choices make a difference.

What are you doing to ensure your continued growth as a leader?
You have to constantly take care to stay on top of things, create change, and go with the change

What excites you most about the future of Southwest Michigan?
I really love seeing all the activity that’s happening in downtown Kalamazoo, especially over the last five or so years. When you see all of the plans for downtown Kalamazoo’s future and the brownfield redevelopment that has already occurred, there are so many exciting things happening in Kalamazoo that lead to it serving as the heart of Southwest Michigan.

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
The generational gap is a big challenge because there are a lot of businesses today that have three to four generations that work inside their doors. I know our company has three, and a lot of them are Baby Boomers.

I realize, that as a leader, you have to lead differently to the different generations. As the workforce shifts towards being made increasingly up of Millennials, leaders need to understand that they have to be cognizant of what generation represents a person, because they look at leadership differently.

What is your “Life Quote?”
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” It’s really important to not be afraid to take chances and calculated risks. If you don’t try, you’re not going to get anything from it!

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