Did you ever imagine what the perfect job would be for your personality? Or how your personality determines what kind of employee you will be? Jennifer Mackin of The Oliver Group has built a business around this premise.
What do you do for a living?
I own and lead The Oliver Group. I have the best job in the world with the ability to work with leaders from all industries and help them with personal and business success. In general, I run a company that helps leadership teams get the right people doing the right things. It’s simple, but complex. I work with my team to create the right mix of services, tools and processes to accelerate our client’s growth. This mix ranges from executive search to leader development to strategic planning. I make a living by helping businesses thrive.
Your family started your company. Were you always interested in this business or did you think about doing something else?
I was always interested AND I thought of doing other things.
When my parents started the business in the 80’s, I was in high school. I began by doing whatever I could to contribute even without necessary skills to make a big impact. Doing small tasks in the beginning was a great learning opportunity for down the road. I was always asking questions, curious about the business and about The Oliver Group clients. I also worked one summer in college, as the company was growing quickly and was handed great responsibility for a 20 year old. For example, I worked on our first executive search, calling executives and sharing the position opportunity. Looking back, entrusting me with that project was a great risk for my parents to take.
I joined the company full-time, after being out of college for 2 1/2 years. I realized that a consulting business was the fastest way to personally and professionally grow – by learning from other leaders at various levels in many industries. However, I had thoughts of doing something else when I went away to graduate school. Two years away gave me time to explore other opportunities and reflect on what I wanted out of my career. I needed to confirm, both for my family and for me, that The Oliver Group was my choice for the future. I interviewed with other companies, took an internship in NYC and received a few job offers with other large organizations. Coming back to the Oliver Group was not the best financial decision at the time, as I actually joined the company for half of what I could have earned at other organizations. My decision came down to a few things, chiefly flexibility and the opportunity to create and learn.
How do you balance your job and your personal life?
The only way for sanity, which is how I describe balance, is to have help available and to ask for help both at The Oliver Group and at home. I have an amazing husband, Carroll, who is also a business owner and understands the demands of my role. We support each other when our businesses need us most by handling the other areas of our lives for each other. My children are also fortunate to have their Nana nearby to support them, which ultimately also supports me. Lastly, I have reliable support in a nanny, who is much more than someone that takes care of the kids. She is a rock and takes care of many parts of the family’s needs. Paying for extra help to clean the house or prepare some meals is also a wonderful luxury so that I can spend less time on the household needs and more with the important things in life.
I have learned that balance just means that I focus on what needs me most at the point in time. Sometimes I spend more energy and time with family, sometimes at the office, sometimes with clients, sometimes with friends. I weekly, if not daily, review what is going on in each area of my life and I adjust my time based on priorities.
What is the biggest life lesson you have ever learned?
There are so many:
1. Not to judge people when I see them making different decisions than I would. I don’t always have the right answers. What is right for me isn’t right for everyone.
2. That I’m not in control, God is in control. I love to think that I can affect all situations. It is simply not true.
3. To plan for what I want in life. With a goal and a plan for achieving the goal, I can achieve double the amount I would otherwise.
Who is your mentor?
I was lucky enough to work with my father for many years up until his death in 2006. He and I grew the company together. He was my biggest supporter and taught me to believe I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. If that were only true! My dad helped me think through many situations, exposed me to projects outside of my experiences and supported my career dreams. I often think about what my dad would do.
What is best advice you have received in business?
I was part of a CEO forum group when I first became President of The Oliver Group. I learned that I will let people down each day when my days are too packed to return every call or finish every project. I have taken the advice from another forum member, to make sure that I don’t let down the most important people–my family, friends and coworkers. Important, too, is that we can’t feel bad for letting someone down if we are doing the best we can and responding to the largest priorities each day.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly love to do?
I always thought owning a retail clothing store would be exciting. I would enjoy designing a new concept, purchasing inventory and managing the team.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I love to play the piano and sing. I used to sing at weddings, in a choir and even had a paid gig once. Now my singing is mostly in the car, which is how I pass the time on long drives (only when I’m alone).
What is your favorite place to go for dinner?
Mayan Cafe or anywhere new.
Where do you like to shop?
What is a treat or a luxury you do for yourself?
Monthly massages are the ultimate luxury service. I can justify the time and expense when I consider it an important health maintenance treat. The travel I do wreaks havoc on my body and mind at times. Regular exercise and massage is the key for me staying healthy.
What is your weakness?
I’m a bit gullible. I believe what people tell me as truth. In business, for example, I often get told what people think I want to hear instead of reality. I’m sometimes the last one to know the “real deal.” I rely on people I trust to “see” things I can’t see.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
I love walking on Bardstown Road and stopping at various places for a cocktail or appetizer and shopping at the unique stores I pass. It’s an eclectic area with a lot to see and do.
Three things you cannot live without (besides God, family and friends):
Exercise, magazines or books to read and laughter.
What are you reading right now?
I have the Harvard Business Review AND O, the Oprah magazine in my bag. What a combination!
What are three of your “favorite” things right now (can be anything).
- Fall weather and being outside with my three boys
- One on one time with my husband, Carroll
- Weekends kicked off with a glass of wine!
Many thanks to Jennifer Mackin. We enjoyed her informal personality assessments on us.
Thank you to Adele Reding photography for being the “best of the best” time and time again with our FACES. Be sure to book early for your Christmas Card photo shoots; space is limited! For more information about Adele, visit her website at adeleredingphotography.com.