BizTimes Bubbler Executive of the Week: Priscilla Kemp

Priscilla Kemp, CEO/President, TEC Wisconsin/Michigan
Address: 13105 W. Bluemound Road, Suite 250, Brookfield
Industry: Peer advisory groups for CEOs, presidents and business owners
Number of employees: 9 staff members; 42 group facilitators

What was the smartest thing your organization did in the past year?
“We engaged in a formal strategic planning process. We’ve been successful for 57 years, but now to break through to the next level, we feel it is necessary that we do strategic planning on a more formal basis. We’re in the process right now, but even just working on the plan has given us a focus and impetus that’s resulted in a new excitement and renewed energy.”

What’s new at your organization?
“Well, a few months ago we essentially gutted our offices and gave ourselves a facelift. The makeover is nothing shy of amazing! And all of it was led by our head of operations with tons of input from the other staff. They did it all – 100 percent of the design and much of the actual work. We’re now proud to have our TEC members stop in for a visit!

“Another new initiative I’m really excited about: I recently started working with one of our TEC members to design and implement a ‘TEC Member Advisory Group.’ I see it as a great way to reach out to our members, let them know how important they are to us and elicit feedback. It’s also a great way for us to better see TEC through their eyes. Candid feedback from our members will be invaluable as we move forward with the new initiatives we’re developing in our planning process.”

What will be your main challenges in 2014?
“Brand awareness: It’s amazing that even though we have a membership of 600+ CEOs in Wisconsin and Michigan we so often hear, ‘TEC?  What’s that?’ For our first 57 years, being the ‘quiet company under the radar’ worked just fine. But now to get to that next level of growth, we need to place our attention and focus on increasing our brand recognition in our marketplace, which is all of Wisconsin and the western side of Michigan. This will be no small task, but we’re poised and ready to take on the challenge in 2014.”

What role does philanthropy play in your organization?
“We have committed to supporting the Lombardi Foundation in 2014. We are also going to reinstitute the Robert Nourse Scholarship.”

What sets Milwaukee apart from other markets you’ve worked in throughout your career?
“I’ve been with TEC for 38 years now. We’re based right here in Milwaukee. In fact, TEC was founded in Milwaukee 57 years ago by a fellow named Bob Nourse. It’s kind of a hometown success story.

“Because I’ve been with TEC for so long, I have no other markets to compare to Milwaukee. What I can say, though, is I love working in Milwaukee and having contact with members here in Milwaukee as well as throughout the state. When I get out to visit our TEC groups, I’m always so impressed with our member CEOs and presidents. It’s funny, 38 years ago when I first began at TEC, I was quite intimidated by the fact that our members were CEOs of companies! Oh my! But as time went by and I began to get out and meet our members, I was so moved by how ‘human’ they were. And it seemed the ‘bigger’ they were, the more gracious. I think part of it is that Midwest, down-to-earth culture. It’s my impression that Midwesterners tend to not be terribly impressed with themselves, a quality I find infinitely refreshing.”

Do you have a business mantra?
“‘Lead from the heart.’ You can’t go wrong.”

What was the best advice you ever received?
“‘Trust Your Gut.’ Believe in yourself. And believe in others. People generally want to do the right thing. Give them the chance, give them the tools, give them encouragement and get out of their way.”

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