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Leadership Founded in Love

Jaimie Blackman • The Sound of Money • October 16, 2020

In my last four columns I’ve been spotlighting multi-generational retailers like Chip and CJ Averwater, third and fourth generation Amro retailers, and Joseph Fox, Fox Music’s fourth generation retailer.

Each new generational leader brings their own unique vision to the previous leadership, keeping the whole enterprise fresh. The one recurring theme is a profound appreciation for the values, wisdom, and accomplishments of those who preceded them.

The typical business cycle for first-generation organizations begins with start-up, advances into the growth phase, and unfortunately for most organizations, death by the time maturity is reached.

Multi-generationals have developed a way to avoid the grim ending by pivoting right back to start-up with every new generation. Filled with new energy, and fueled by the reverence for the those that came before them, the baton is passed to the new conductor, and the symphony continues. First-generation business owners may look to younger employees to re-ignite.

Saied Music, established in 1946, is a full-service music instrument organization, which delivers its services across six locations in Northeast Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas. In 2018, Saied Music was awarded the NAMM “Top 100 Dealer Award” for outstanding achievement in the music products industry.

Saied’s newest conductor is Kim Koch. She began working in her family business at the age of 12. “I was stuffing envelopes, and taking inventory,” she recalls. “As I got older, I was deeply connected with dad, and had great pride in what my family accomplished.”

Today, Kim is responsible for leading 90 employees across six stores. Under the watchful eye of Bob Saied, Kim’s father and the current president, the organization is looking to Kim to provide the next generation of leadership.

In multigenerational businesses, most parents want their children to first work outside the business before making the family business their career. As Kim explained to me, it’s better to make mistakes outside of the business, and then return to the family business as a stronger manager. Although there were no formal conversations about Kim one day running the family business, it seemed to be more of an unspoken truth that was inevitable.

After she graduated Tulsa University, where she honed her operatic singing skills, she was accepted into the Masters program at Manhattan School of Music. While continuing her music studies, she landed a job in the marketing department at the Metropolitan Opera queuing up in the cafeteria behind such artists as Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. Eventually Kim realized the bohemian lifestyle of an opera singer was not for her. Missing her family, she moved back to Tulsa where she taught Elementary Music in Tulsa Public schools and maintained a private voice studio. Kim was now armed with a broad range of new skills and was ready to re-join the family business.

Central to Kim’s leadership style was mastering the powerful art of collaboration. When you think of the great music collaborators like Lennon and McCartney, Ellington and

Strayhorn, Rogers and Hammerstein, one thing comes to mind: 1+1 = 5.

While Kim realizes that honoring her father and grandfather for their values and accomplishments, today she recognizes that more coaching and mentoring and less fear and compliance would be a more authentic leadership style.

“My generation is more collaborative. The previous generation is more authoritative.

That’s not as effective. Gen X is not looking at this as a job, clocking in and clocking out. It’s much more personal. The millennials, now in their 30s, don’t want authoritative relationships. They expect a much more collaborative relationship, being more transparent from upper management. They want to know where they are going. They just don’t want a job, they want to know where they fit in. ‘Why this is important? What came before me?’ They don’t just to ‘show up.’”

With great affection, she explains how her dad let her make mistakes. “It took a lot of patience on his part to let me screw up” she says. Eventually she learned the required lessons to make her father proud.

Today she is the trainer, and she is the one practicing patience by allowing her people to stumble while she helps to pick them back up. Still, her reputation precedes her. Kim tells me of a new hire in her mid-20s who came to her saying she wanted to be a road rep. It turned out that the young lady’s marketing savvy was ahead of Kim’s on a new piece of merchandise. In a burst of enthusiasm Kim said, “If everyone in the company could do that – Oh, my god! The energy, the creativity, would just explode.”

There is a study, cited by Craig Groeschel, Kim’s pastor at Life Church, which says, “Employees who describe themselves as ‘inspired’ are more than twice as productive as employees who call themselves ‘satisfied.’” Kim has certainly taken that lead.

What seems to be extraordinary for the most successful multi-generational leaders is their ability to synthesize the experiences of previous generations, while bringing in their own unique qualities and creating something far greater than the first generation could have imagined. And that’s the true magic of love.

 

Jaimie Blackman – a former music educator & retailer – is co-founder of BH Wealth Management. The organization offers financial advice, insurance, and succession planning services. Jaimie hosts “The Sound of Money Live” presented by MMR. Discover how much risk is in your portfolio. Visit bhwealth.com/riskvideo. Registered Representative, First Allied Securities, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC

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