Case Study: Kim Tanner

Kim Tanner is the Executive Director of the Jenesis Group, a private family foundation established in 1987 that brings innovation and an entrepreneurial philosophy to philanthropy.

Focusing their efforts on the education and professional development of youth and young adults in underserved communities, Jenesis provides leadership training, teaches entrepreneurial skills, and helps children develop self-esteem and self-reliance. It also provides funds for the development of preventive social service programs, their expansion, and the materials needed to empower disadvantaged and at-risk youth to become productive citizens in our democratic society.

The Challenge

Having been with the company for 25 years and the foundation for nearly 22, Kim had  “… gone through a myriad of assistants.”

And, much like Goldilocks, none were just right.

“Not having someone work with me was actually really getting in my way of both me being able to do my job well and enjoy [it],” Kim says. “I love my job, but it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t joyful. And that’s really important to me and really important to Mr. Jensen, the patriarch of the family foundation. He always wanted to bring joy and have fun because you can do both and work.”

But after so many failed attempts of finding The One, Kim resigned herself to the idea that she may never have one – until her son-in-law gave her newfound hope.

“He’d heard me talk about being overwhelmed because it bled over into my personal life, too,” she shares. “That was not OK because I have two beautiful granddaughters and it kind of got in the way of me seeing them. So he said, ‘Hey, I’m going to try this virtual assistant.’ And then he told me some of the stuff that his BELAY assistant was actually doing for him to not just help him, but actually make him more effective and more efficient. 

So she decided to give BELAY a try.

“I was like, ‘You know what? Maybe I’ll try it. The worst it can do is fail, and I’ll be right back where I started.’”

The Solution

Kim was paired with Kaitlin and the rest, as they say, is history.

First order of business? Establishing – and committing to – a regular meeting cadence to ensure their success and help them connect, both personally and professionally. 

“We check in first thing every morning at 8:15 on a Zoom call to set the tone for the day,” Kim says. “But my favorite part of our whole week is our Friday wrap-up email – a place for her to say where everything is on all my major tasks, what I’m waiting on, and who I’m waiting on.”

But for Kim, the other important piece of their relationship is having a good personal relationship.

“So in her Friday wrap-up, I ask her to tell me something about what’s going on in her world – not just the workweek,” Kim shares. “I want to know about her, and the things that are going on in her world. And we have a shared faith that was really important.” 

And now, their working relationship has far exceeded email and calendar management.

“Relationships are probably one of the biggest parts of our work because we are a funder,” she says. “So now, I want Kaitlin to begin to build relationships with our grantees, so she just talked to each one of them to learn about them, not just the work they did. 

“Then, she wrote a newsletter for us because she did these interviews and was able to learn about them. And she’s writing funding recommendations – I have never given someone a funding recommendation to write because they’re difficult,” Kim adds.“But it’s like she’s reading my mind. She asked to do that.”

The Results

“I told BELAY that I wanted a thought partner so when they brought me Kaitlin, I just loved, loved, loved her personality,” Kim says. “She was someone who brought joy, fun and just enthusiasm, which is really important to me, to our patriarch, and to my boss.”

And the cherry on top? Kaitlin was motivated, proactive and ready to make suggestions and encourage Kim.

“What I really always wanted was someone to push me,” she says. “And from the beginning, Kaitlin was persistent. I think part of it is her boldness to saying, ‘Just let me give it a shot.’

“Mr. Jensen always created a space for failure, a space for people to try things and experiment, a space for people to grow. So the most important thing I did as a leader was hold true to my word to give that space.

“And now, I’m able to actually check out,” Kim shares. “I just took a vacation for 10 days for the first time in a year. When you get the right people around you, you feel better. Kaitlin is really growing into exactly what I wanted: a real partner in this work, not just someone who can manage my calendar and manage my travel and manage my email. And she does that. She does it very well – and she also does it all with a servant’s heart.”

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