We sat down with Kim to talk about her journey to leadership at Bassett Mechanical and about the responsibilities of running a family and a family business.
Q: Good morning, Kim! Can you share with us a little bit about yourself?
A: Sure! I currently serve as Chief Cheerleader at Bassett Mechanical (aka President and CEO). I started working at Bassett during summers and holidays through high school and college. In 1996, I came to Bassett to establish a career holding a variety of different positions including Maintenance Sales Representative, Estimator, Project Manager in HVAC and Refrigeration, and Piping and Sheet Metal helper in the field and manufacturing facility. In 2004, I transitioned to a Service Sales Manager role. In 2007, I became the President and COO of Bassett, and in 2009 President and CEO. In my life outside of Bassett’s walls, I’m also a mom of two great teenagers and enjoy boating, traveling, gardening, scrapbooking, and reading.
Q: Growing up in the family business, did you always know you wanted to follow in your father’s footsteps and run the company someday?
A: My parents always told me to pursue my dreams. They said they would support me in whatever I wanted to do. It was refreshing to know that whatever direction I chose they would be there for me. After high school, I decided to become a speech pathologist. I practiced for 3 ½ years then decided I couldn’t see doing it for another 40 years so I approached Bill for his thoughts on me joining the family business.
Q: Switching from speech pathology to an entirely new industry, family business, and leadership role must have been a whirlwind. What were some of the challenges you faced?
A: It was a big commitment! It was 2 more years of schooling to get another masters degree. Part of the learning process was taking on various roles in the company to learn all the different aspects of the business from sales to operations, and financials to leadership.
Q: How did taking on those roles help you in your current role today?
A: Through those years I learned so much about our customers, the business, and the competition. I learned about individual roles and what it takes to serve the customer. I learned about how crucial safety is. I learned our processes from start to finish including the financial aspects and reasons behind each decision. There was a tremendous benefit to learning from each of these roles. It also helped me to build respect and credibility with our teams. Even though my name was on the front door, I never used that to my advantage or as a crutch. I try to instill that same mindset in my own children. I always tell them that no matter what the job is… someone has to get it done, so who better than you?
Q: You mention bringing some of your life lessons home and sharing them with your family. How did you manage both running the company and having a life outside of Bassett as well?
A: Balance is a challenge. The challenge of being a mom with young kids is that when you are at home you feel like you should be at work, and when you are at work you feel like you should be at home. I have learned a few techniques over the years. I have learned to dedicate good quality time (quality over quantity) with my family. Whether it’s a family dinner, snuggles, or taking advantage of a car ride to have some valuable conversations, it’s about being present in the moment during those important times.
Q: What kind of traits do you try to instill in your children to help them have a successful future career?
A: I encourage them with the same qualities that we look for in our associates: the ability to take initiative, dependability and leadership, and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. It’s important to be collaborative and work well with others. Be coachable and have a good attitude. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and be humble enough to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Do what’s right and treat others with respect. If you do that, you will find success in whichever path of life you choose.
Q: Do you think your kids will be interested in working with the family business someday?
A: I would love to say we have a fourth generation of family ownership. My kids are still in their teens, but we are having those conversations. They know what opportunities are available, but as a mom, it’s my job to support their dreams. You have to have the passion and the drive for the business in order for it to be a positive venture for their future and the future of our customers and associates as well.
Q: Raising a family is a great responsibility. As the leader of Bassett Mechanical, what would you say is your greatest responsibility on-the-job?
A: I feel most responsible for our associates and our customers. I believe that if you take good care of your people, your people will take good care of your customers; and you can’t have a business without either of them! We have over 400 associates that work here, so that means 400 families that we are responsible for. We need to keep the engine rolling full steam ahead, keep our doors wide open for customers, and make sure that our people have a livelihood and can take care of their families. I feel a tremendous responsibility to keep our Bassett Mechanical Family focused on safety. It’s not only one of our six core values, but it is also something we want to be sure everyone feels responsible for. If an individual gets hurt, their families and friends suffer, the company suffers, our customers suffer, all in addition to the struggles that individual would encounter as well. We want to make sure that everyone can go home at night the way they arrived in the morning.
Q: What would you tell other young people who have goals to be an Executive or own their own company someday?
A: Have a goal to work toward, but be patient. Work hard and learn everything you can along the way. Be willing to do what is required, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. Be intentional about your journey up the ladder and don’t step on others to get yourself to the top. Don’t let anything hold you back. My advice to anyone following a road less traveled or unconventional career path? You can do anything anyone else can do, as long as you work hard. Today we see more and more Fortune 500 leaders paving the way for diversity. I hope that leaders will continue to blaze a trail for the younger generations and board rooms will be filled with an array of skills and backgrounds using our differences to advance us and propel us even further. Continue to improve yourself. Doing what is right and being kind and respectful is the best foundation to a successful future.