How Next Gens Can Find Their Authentic Voice with Katie Rucker of MacKenzie

[00:00:00] Meghan: Welcome to Building Unbreakable Brands, the podcast where we talk to leaders growing businesses with a generational mindset. I'm Megan Lynch. I'm an advisor to family businesses and founder of Six Point, a brand strategy agency that helps generational brands honor their past while evolving for the future.
Today we'll be talking to Katie Rucker, co owner and president of of McKenzie, a second generation consumer insights research firm. Katie is also the co founder of the Next Generation Collaborative, which is on a mission to help next generation leaders find their voice and write their sequel. Katie, welcome to Building Unbreakable Brands.
Hi, thank you so much. I'm super excited for our chat today. Me too. I would love it if we could just start with talking a little bit about McKenzie because I had, as I. mentioned in your intro. It's a second generation consumer insights research firm, and it was founded by your father, correct? Yes. Yeah.
[00:00:59] Katie: So our [00:01:00] dad started, so I co own, uh, the company and run it with my twin sister.
Uh, so there's lots to unpack on that probably on a different topic at another time around, uh, sibling partnerships in business. Then our dad started the company in 1985, which is crazy to think next year is going to be our 40th anniversary. Uh, in the bonus room of our house and people always say, how did your dad start a data analytics and market research firm in the 80s?
We say fundamentally different than he would have today. But which I think is going to get into some of the chat. We're going to talk about is how to stay. How did a company. Um, really stay relevant over as the market and the industries have changed so much in the last 39 years.
[00:01:38] Meghan: Yeah. Yeah. I would be really curious to hear is kind of looking back on what your dad started and built.
Is there anything that you would point to as being something that he put into the company or a way that he ran the company that set it up to be generational or to have relevance beyond just kind of, The startup [00:02:00] stage or, you know, as a the beginning of a family business.
[00:02:03] Katie: Yeah, you know, I think it's so interesting.
I mean, we really delved into the family business space about 15 years ago. And Jenny and I first got more involved within the company. And I do think it is interesting from that. Like you just said, the entrepreneur, the founder stage and when they're first doing it, I mean, his his sole purpose was to one, be able to wear shorts to work every single day.
And then two, to be able to create a company that could support his family. Like that was his big reason. And so. For him, he started to say, what problems do some of the clients that he has, um, what can he help solve some of them? And so really, he started doing taking disparate data sets, putting them together and helping them realize that they were actually sitting on a treasure trove of information that they didn't have to go out and find more information that they really could leverage the ones that they had there.
And I think that fundamental concept around that is something that's still in the ethos of our company. What's changed over time, and I think the nimbleness [00:03:00] and the, um, staying creative, that's one of our like core values as well as just being continuously creative and curious of then really saying what is the market need today and how do we kind of stay fluid and how we're answering those problems that are presenting themselves.
Think again, is that kind of a part of the ethos that we got from him that we've been able to stay relevant. Um, his original, I think, plan, I would say about 10 years ago was to actually more shut down the business. And so Jenny and I presented a proposal to him to actually step in and take over because we just really felt that there was a huge market need for what we were doing and a really great.
Opportunity for us to kind of evolve into a 2nd phase of what the company is and how we serve clients. Um, that we just didn't think that it made sense to close it down. We thought this could be something really cool to be able to think again, more generationally. So, I would say some of it was his openness to those conversations as leaders as founders, being open to different [00:04:00] scenarios in terms of what kind of, um, the founders exit plan would be, um, I think is also another area that.
Um, you know, his openness there is what's helped us be able to stay open longer.
[00:04:11] Meghan: Yeah, right. Because you do really have to be willing to also let go of how things were done or how you would run it if you're going to let somebody else come in and do it. Was that a struggle for him at all?
[00:04:29] Katie: You know, I say yes and no.
I think it kind of depends on the day and even still now, like 10 years later, um, he definitely was very open and really has been extremely supportive of us being able to take the reins and say what makes the most sense for the market today. I'll say for us and some of the things of looking back in the beginning, and we talk a lot in, um, multigenerational, um, Family businesses.
How do you honor the past and innovate for the future? And for the first, I'd [00:05:00] say a couple years. And, um, this does relate a little bit into our next gen stuff that we can talk later about. Um, we felt like honoring him was continuing to do business the way that he did. Uh, but then we really found that that was not.
Authentic to who we are to who Jenny and I are our leadership styles and as well as what lights us up and the type of work that we can be doing. So we were continuing to do types of work. That really was not something that inspired us. And I think you really have to be passionate about the services that your business is doing.
If you're owning it. Um, so what we actually started to really shift our mindset more of being able to say to honor him is to be able to make sure that the company is relevant for the future and that we're inspired to be running it and that it can transform into something different as long as we're Taking something and really like running with it instead of in a way doing something that is doing it for him, but not making us happy.
Um, and so I think that he over time again, we started changing [00:06:00] a lot of different things. And then I think we made it fun again. Um, and a certain made it kind of exciting. So he was trying to jump back in a little bit and we had to kind of say, I think maybe there's not as much of a spot. We'd love to have you as kind of an outside counsel and not as an active spot on the team.
So I think there was a little bit of stepping away, kind of jumping back in, stepping away. But now I would definitely say he's kind of like. You girls do what you want since we've owned the company for over 10 years now.
[00:06:26] Meghan: Yeah. Yeah. I, I can imagine that there would be like a little bit of FOMO of like, Oh no, this, this looks cool.
I could see, especially for an entrepreneur where it's like, Ooh, yeah, that I want to dip my toe. Yeah. He'll
[00:06:39] Katie: still try to like dig his hands into some like helps, you know, and I get that. And I do think that there is something really amazing because he built something for almost 30 years that, you know, that he.
He has so many amazing ideas. I mean, entrepreneurs are so smart in the way that they look at things. And I think that there is that desire for continual learning and all of those [00:07:00] kinds of things, which again, we, um, you know, got those same, uh, qualities from him as well, just that eagerness to want to learn eagerness to jump in being comfortable with the uncomfortable and the messy middle of things.
I mean, I think that's a part of entrepreneurship. And then, you know, You know, as you come in as a second generation leader, you're kind of back into a messy middle, even though your company could, you know, we kind of said for a long time, we were like a 30 year old startup. And we felt like we were starting over in a certain way, which was exciting.
You know, we still had kind of that opportunity to transform it. But there's, you know, there's all sorts of stuff that comes with family business, as you know, very well.
[00:07:37] Meghan: Yeah. You mentioned creativity as being a constant from Your dad's founding of the company through now what McKenzie's doing. I was wondering if you could give an example of how that kind of common thread has served you to evolve the company while still keeping some kind of connection with [00:08:00] the past.
[00:08:01] Katie: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I would say at the very core level of who we are are, you know, our core services have always been centered around some sort of data and analytics and insights really always has. So, again, either on more heavily on the data analytics side that we transition more heavily onto the research and insight side, but at the courts, the numbers we do always say we're the non sexy side of marketing.
So we don't do marketing campaigns, but we. Primarily, um, work with sales and marketing teams to be able to get them to effectively use these analytics and insights to be able to make their campaigns more effective with that creativity. For us, we see it as being able to hear what the problem is that our client has.
And there can be a simple way of then saying this is. This solution will give you exactly what you asked for, but we see it is actually combining the creativity and the curiosity of being able to dig a little bit deeper. So we, I mean, sometimes it gets a little much where I have to tell my team, stop asking questions.
Let's just run with it now, but we'll [00:09:00] just keep digging, keep digging and then come up with solutions that don't only answer the question that the client had or the problem that the client had at the time. We try to come up with some creative solutions that can maybe also give them answers to like questions that they would have three steps down the road, if at all possible.
So we're trying just again, to be more in that sense, it's being able to say, how do we think farther? And again, that comes with the curiosity and then the creative solutions of being able to say, you know, we can give you a report back. That's a static report, or we can build you an application where you can get that information you wanted, but you'd be able to also.
Be interactive or visualize your sales data on a mapping functionality and do different kinds of things, which again, sometimes our clients have come back and said, we never would have imagined that as like a solution, but now you actually helped us solve five problems instead of just one. So it's just, again, being able to.
And I think for us and what we got from our dad is being able to hold space for our team that we're not getting [00:10:00] them like backed up against just consistent deadlines in a way that, like, when you don't have room to be able to ideate in that problem solving time, um, that if we try to create space with our clients and set expectations, we need a little bit of time to, like, tinker with a different couple ideas.
We want to bring you a couple solutions and say, do you think this idea or this idea? And so. For us, it's, it's again, kind of long term partnership with a lot of our clients where then they allow us to have that space to be able to creatively solve some problems for them, because they know that the end result is going to help, you know, them a lot bigger than they actually originally anticipated.
So they give us that extra time to be able to get creative for them.
[00:10:42] Meghan: Do you have any relationships that needed to kind of transfer from your dad to you?
[00:10:51] Katie: Yeah, so our very first client that, uh, when our dad started the company in 1985 is still actually one of our large clients today. It is a Japanese, [00:11:00] uh, OEM in the power sports industry.
Um, and so we've been extremely blessed to be able to work with them. And so that was 1 of our largest, um, hurdles. So my dad anchored his kind of retirement to the end of we've gone into these five year contracts with them. So he anchored his departure time at a contract renewal, uh, period. And so it was very interesting.
I was very adamant about wanting to make sure that when we sat down at the table for contract renegotiation, that they were very aware that they were signing a contract with a women owned business. Um, and the second generation of that organization. Um, and so that was one of. Like our biggest ones that we did have to do a transfer of make, ensuring that our clients were aware of that difference there too.
He stayed on his, uh, for special projects with that client for a long time. Um, but it really was actually a great opportunity for us to be able to form relationships also with like the next generation of leaders and managers within that same company again. 'cause [00:12:00] we've been with them, you know, we've been kind of partnered together for now 39 years.
And so some of the old guard at their organization also was transitioning out and it's just continued to be an amazing relationship. And I think even looking back and I feel like our dad would be. Very open and honest in this as well. I think his personality and style, uh, may not have been the right style for the kind of the next generation of leadership at that organization.
So I do think that it ended up being a win win across the board. Um, but I would say that was probably 1 of our largest, um, kind of client relationships that we had to do a transition there. We then also had the same. Things where we kind of were inheriting legacy team members who have been with us, and some team members stayed on during that succession transition, and some did not because, as you know, with family businesses, they or any businesses team members are hired on under 1 certain type of leadership style, and they may not.
want to work [00:13:00] for under a different, like a different leader with a very different style of leadership. So, um, on the family, on the team member and kind of internal looking side of things, we definitely had to, you know, go through some challenges as well in that sense, I would say.
[00:13:15] Meghan: Yeah. Yeah. But it sounds like you were able to look at that as a way of again, part of that evolution, uh, you know, an opportunity to really, again, put your own stamp on, on the business and stay true to who you are.
Did you, you said that there was one point where it felt like remaining true to your dad or honoring what he had built was doing things in his style. Was there like a moment when You realized his style is not our style or was that gradual or what what did that look like?
[00:13:55] Katie: Uh, that was probably when I walked into my sister's office 1 too many times and said, this place is [00:14:00] sucking the soul out of me.
I actually just posted something about that on LinkedIn and people say, I appreciate your vulnerability, but I think we need to be honest and I am like, 1 to be able to share the behind the scenes of that messy middle of things. And and really just, it was really realizing, you know, for. A while that it just didn't feel authentic.
And I just believe, I always say like we get one shot at life and we might as well try to make it as spectacular as we can. And if we're not happy, especially within a business that we own and we have the honor and the privilege of being able to carry on, you know, for our dad's. You know, to be able to honor his legacy for us to feel miserable and how we're running it.
That's not a win for anybody. So I would say it was a little bit over time, but it really just was I, you know, when you're not being able to feel that you can like show up as your authentic self and, and be a leader that just feels authentic. Again, I think that we can. You know, I feel confident in my [00:15:00] leadership ability, but I might not be the right leader.
Let's say for your organization, right? It has to be that it has to feel like it's the right fit. So I would say, I guess it was a little while of doing things kind of his way and then just realizing this is just not us.
[00:15:16] Meghan: You're listening to Building Unbreakable Brands, the podcast all about brand stewardship and crafting an enduring legacy.
I'm here with my guest Katie Rucker, president of McKenzie, a generational consumer research agency and co founder of the Next Generation Collaborative. Katie, you run McKenzie with your twin sister, Jenny, as you mentioned, the two of you have really taken your experience of 15 years as next gen leaders and turn that into a new entrepreneurial venture, the Next Generation Collaborative.
Um, I was wondering if you could speak a little bit to the work of Next Gen Collaborative and then also, What, what is the gap that you really [00:16:00] saw in next generation leadership that you felt the pool to really create a whole organization to kind of wrap around them?
[00:16:08] Katie: Yeah. No, I appreciate that. I mean, first and foremost, we were extremely lucky and blessed that somebody, and I wish that I remembered who it was cause I would give them huge kudos for it, but somebody had recommended, recommended to us again, it was about 15 years ago.
They said, reach out and see if there's like a center for family business and your local community to be able to connect with other family businesses. Cause as we were starting this process, you, you really do feel like you're the only person who can understand, but then you start to realize there's so many family businesses out there and you can start sharing stories and collaborating and commiserating and getting advice from each other.
So we were lucky at Cal State Fullerton here in Orange County. That there was a center for family business and we jumped right in and just became very connected with some of our local businesses. And that really helped us as we were transitioning through that process. [00:17:00] More and more, we started realizing that when we looked at different advisors that were out there, at least from our perspective, and I definitely believe that there's some amazing advisors out there for next gens, but for us, it's.
It seemed like a lot of advisors are being brought in, um, I'm going to say by the current Jen and that current Jen says, this is what my son or daughter needs to learn. And it gets kind of pushed down onto them. And so for us, it was when we sat at the table, our dad was like, Hey, I was talking to Jim and he says that this is how we should structure this transition.
And so here's our ideas on how the transition is going to go. And then we just kind of sat there and like didn't realize that we actually were able, I guess, that we had the agency to be able to have our own voice and our own opinions on how the whole thing could go down and being able to more clearly articulate kind of what is each one of our individual ideas for own personal legacies that we wanted to lead and how does that fit Fit into the larger family business legacy.
And so again, as we were chatting just a [00:18:00] bit is what felt inauthentic for us of running the business his way is because it wasn't also in alignment with like my longterm vision of how I want to personally be remembered down the road. Um, And so we just started getting inspired. The more we talked to people, they were like, gosh, I had no idea that I could actually, like, say to my parents, this is these are like my criteria for me getting involved.
You know, a lot of times people get into their family business because they feel obligated because they want to be able to help support their parents and those types of things. So, for us, it was just finding, like, That there seemed to be a need in terms of kind of personal growth coaching that's being initiated by that next gen.
So what we do under, uh, the next gen collaborative umbrella is one on one coaching. Um, and then like we can do VIP days or like an all day intensive where we can just dig into a whole bunch of different kinds of issues that you're facing, depending on timing, or we can do ongoing coaching. Um, And being able to really kind of more of like our jumpstart [00:19:00] intensive, I would say, would be like a six week program, really being able to get next gen leaders to dig into what is their vision for themselves for the future.
Where do they think they're at? Where are they at right now? And identifying what those gaps are and being able to start really. mapping out how to move from point A to point B and being able to look at themselves, not just as a team member within the family business, but as their unique individual. Um, and then being able to then feel confident to be able to more clearly articulate to their family.
These are some of my needs that I'm going to need outside of the family business. And I'm going to really want your support in them. Um, if that's what that next gen is looking for. So a lot of it's around that. And then we do a lot of, uh, public speaking, uh, at different centers for family businesses on next gen development and then sibling partnerships just because we've been twins now running two businesses together, uh, for a long time.
[00:19:58] Meghan: Yeah. Oh, that's, that's really fun. [00:20:00] Yeah. I can, I can totally see where, where that would be a gap, because oftentimes either I've, I've. Totally seen the situation you've described of, you know, the leading generation kind of bringing in consultants or advisors to develop the next generation and it kind of being that top down approach.
And I've also seen next generation. Leaders almost like sit around and wait for somebody to start the conversation with them and not feeling like they could initiate it and that it wouldn't even occur to them. And I think that's more common than not actually,
[00:20:41] Katie: which is how do we, and that's where we like are all about.
You, um, you had said kind of inspire and empower the next generation of family business leaders. For, and we were the same way in the beginning. I don't think that I like fully understood the agency that I had over my own line direction of where we were going to go within the family business. Cause [00:21:00] again, you do think, well, they're going to tell me what I'm supposed to do because we've always had this, I'm going to say parent child relationship.
And that's how it is. But. At a certain point, we all have to take ownership and agency over our own direction, which we would do if we were in non family businesses, we would take agency over our own personal growth and and professional development plan, and we should be doing that as well. And I think that also shows.
the current or leading generation, Oh, my child's really taking this seriously. And they want to do the hard work to be able to grow, to be the best leader that they can. So I think that there's win wins on all sides. Um, and so really it's being able to be there as that team member and cheerleader type of thing for that next gen, the ones who want to take ownership over their process and journey for sure.
[00:21:48] Meghan: Yeah. Yeah. I can totally picture have seen that scenario of almost like both sides waiting for the other to kind of step up and, and have that conversation. [00:22:00] And so I can, I can see where the leading generation to all of a sudden have the next generation come to you and say, this is my plan. This is the path.
This is what's going on. It creates some confidence in you that, okay, I can let this go because I see that they have a vision. I see that they have agency. I see that they're going to really. Hold hold this, maybe not how I did it, but with a similar type of again, vision and and direction. So yeah, we're talking before the podcast started, but I was just at a cross country flight back from the West Coast to the East Coast on that flight.
I was watching a podcast. planet Earth, you know, with David Attenborough. Um, and one of the stories he was telling and was showing were these macaques, monkeys who go to this temple where there's a lot of tourist traffic and they've gotten very [00:23:00] good at stealing things from tourists and then trading them back for food.
And one of the things that, that, that they were showing was that the younger macaques who haven't been doing it very for, for very long, uh, they steal sunglasses and they're easy to like rip off somebody's head, but they're also not super valuable unless maybe they're Ray Bans or something. But like, you know, people are willing to like, eh, maybe I'm not going to fight this monkey for my sunglasses.
The older monkeys, there's some macaques have been doing this for like 10 years and they steal iPhones and flip flops because they've realized that humans like you're not going to go without shoes and you're not going to go without a phone and they will even negotiate for better snacks. Like if you try to give them a banana, they're like, Nope, I want the candy bar.
I want the Pringles or whatever. So it's really fun. So anyway, long story short, I was [00:24:00] curious about like in, in your experience, is there anything that you have seen like the leading generation really knowing and embracing? that the, that next generation would benefit from, like, where should they be taking, where are they taking sunglasses, where they should be taking a flip flop or a phone?
[00:24:22] Katie: Oh, gosh, that's a great question. I mean, I really think that, well, there's a couple of different, like, things that come to mind. I, I really do feel like for a next gen, and I do believe that the leading gen really sees this is around the passion for the business itself and what the product group is. And so how somebody's, you know, showing those types of things.
But I think that a big thing, if I'm thinking about it from the sunglass thing, I think that the leading generation is also realizing, especially with younger generations coming in now, they do want flexibility, like a younger generation wants flexibility, ability to. Get involved in [00:25:00] nonprofits are a lot more philanthropically get, um, focused.
I'm going to say in terms of time versus maybe financials. And so I do think that for leading gens, if they can create opportunities where, um, next gens can be like, even I was a, which you don't have to jump straight into this, but I was a. Um, co chair for a capital campaign and very involved at a nonprofit level on a board.
And I have learned so much. I always say it's like the best sales training I possibly could have ever gotten because I'm out there raising, I raised 15, helped raise 15 million for a cause that is near and dear to my heart. And originally my sister and my parents, um, strongly discouraged me from saying yes to this opportunity.
But now, in hindsight, which actually I thought I was gonna reshare a, a video podcast that I did with, uh, family on this topic, that in the end it ended up being I have fully transformed in terms of my leadership skills, my sales [00:26:00] abilities, my presentation abilities, all of those things where I was able to test and learn.
In the safe environment of a nonprofit space. And so I think from, um, current or leading gens, if they can find things or find opportunities that light up the next gen for them to be able to grow and learn in a way that speaks authentically to that next gen. So instead of saying, I learned leader or current, you know, I learned by being in the office and being in this You know, on the floor of the warehouse and the this and that, maybe there's different ways that those same skill sets can be learned in a way that speaks more authentically to that next gen.
So I think it's more saying, what is the broader types of things that we want next gens to be able to understand and learn? And then go to the next gens and say, okay, these are all the skill sets that we think would be beneficial as you come into leadership in the organization. Let's work collaboratively to come up with solutions on how you could learn those [00:27:00] skills instead of saying, you have to learn it this exact way, because it may not be the best way.
And I think, like, even for in my example, Going out and learning all of this within the nonprofit space and the people I met there, I actually brought totally different perspectives that actually we've been able to integrate into the company that we wouldn't have if I learned sales in the traditional way throughout the organization only.
So I think that I hope that I answered the question of kind of where you were wanting to go there. But I think that there, there's just, I think a lot of it is just being able to actually have open, honest dialogues in terms of what are the skill sets we want somebody to learn, and then asking that next gen.
What are your ideas on how you could best learn that? How do you, how do you get involved in the community or learn in different ways? Um, and I think if they can help next chance to know that they have a voice at the table is really also a huge part of it.
[00:27:57] Meghan: Yeah. And I can see also [00:28:00] where having. other folks who have gone through similar transitions could be really helpful because I could, I could easily see how somebody could dismiss nonprofit as not being relevant to, you know, the business that we're running, but to hear somebody's story about, actually, this was my experience with it and this is the skill.
It just kind of opens your mind to a more creative approach of how do we solve this problem? Because I think so often we get tunnel vision. within our own experience in our own world. And it's not that we're not open to different solutions. It's just, we're not going to think of them as easily as having somebody kind of bring some different ways to just kind of like expand the way you're thinking about it.
[00:28:44] Katie: yeah, and I think a lot of that truly comes back to, and again, that's more of, you know, as we were coming up with kind of what is the name for this new venture that we did with the next gen collaborative and really that truly, you know, Really our passion is around creating collaborative communities and how we can support and lift each [00:29:00] other up.
So we do mainly one on one coaching, not these like larger community groups at this point. But they're so much like in hearing, I could say, Megan, you're talking about something. I know somebody who's going through something very similar, but in a different part of the country, and they would be a really great resource to know that you're not alone and share ideas.
Like, I really think that for family businesses or multi generational companies, if we can get around people, not just. specifically within our own industry or those types of things, but being a part of family business communities where you can actually pull the curtain back a little bit and say, how did you.
Train or help, you know, get your next gen to take these skills. And like you said, here are all these different kinds of ideas that worked or different didn't work and that kind of stuff. It's the best way to be able to like move through that journey because there's 100 percent people who have been through the path before you.
So we might as well leverage some of the ideas that other people have had and be able to parlay that because we're going to run into another challenge that we've got to figure out ourselves. So let's I always say if we can like, like skip a couple of [00:30:00] challenges by taking people's best practices, then we're doing a really great job.
[00:30:03] Meghan: Absolutely. And I think that the other piece about that is that, at least for me, when I'm in any kind of peer group, it also helps make me feel better about the struggles that I've been through, because all of a sudden it makes them feel valuable to somebody. You know, it's like, I went through a lot of pain to learn this, and so if I can save somebody else a little bit of pain, all of a sudden it gives you a sense of, okay, this was like, this was worth it, even if it was for the reason I walked through
[00:30:32] Katie: that path.
[00:30:33] Meghan: Exactly. Exactly. So I, and I think sometimes we. We think about it as like, Oh, like why would they ever share that? Or why, you know, but I think people are so generous for that reason of like, it's. It costs you a lot to learn those lessons. And so getting a little bit of bonus value by sharing them and being a smart one in the room for a check.
[00:30:53] Katie: Yeah. And I think it's too, like when we do go, we've been, um, you know, around at a couple of different centers that they, um, around the U S and, [00:31:00] and again, specifically more talking about sibling partnerships and how that's worked. And, and it was a part of our transition journey in that. Jenny and I both have different relationships with our dad.
And so, you know, of being able to talk openly, like I said, in vulnerability, I mean, you know, we all share the certain versions of the stories and things like that, but the amount of people who come up afterwards and was just like, Oh my gosh, thank you so much. Because everything you just described is stuff I'm going through every single day right now.
And just to know that I'm not the only person who's going through it and like, that you're. Laughing on the other side and that you're whatever, it's going to be okay. And that's like, our big thing is, is especially within family business, because there's the complexity of adding family and business together is, you know, for us, we just want to inspire people to like, Stick it out if it makes sense, obviously.
Right. But like, be able to have those hard conversations and work through some of the muck because it's worth it on the other side. Um, and so, yes, the, the coming [00:32:00] together with other people, it helps validate like, oh, I have come also so far, because then you meet other people who are like, a few steps behind you still on their journey.
And you're like, oh, I have actually gone through a lot that I don't give myself credit for as well.
[00:32:16] Meghan: You're listening to Building Unbreakable Brands, the podcast for leaders with a generational mindset. I'm here with Katie Rucker, co founder of The Next Generation Collaborative, an organization that works with generational family businesses to prepare next generation leaders to leave their mark on their family legacy.
Katie, as we all know, Part of Next Gen Collaborative, you talk a lot about helping this next generation find their voice and kind of write their sequel to their family legacy, and I'm just curious, like, how that relates to you. Like, what would you see as your sequel being? Your story, your voice, uh, as you look back on the 15 years that you've been kind of writing that [00:33:00] story at McKenzie?
[00:33:02] Katie: Thank you for that question. I think it's, you know, it's been an interesting journey. And I think too, like if you had Jenny on here, she'd have a totally different story for her own self and journey. And, and for me, it really is actually, we've been 15 years in the family business. And then really in the last 10 years, I've been really focused on intentional personal growth and really saying, and that's like a part of now, like, Part of our framework and the work that we are doing with next gens of being able to be truly honest with yourself on where you're at and what you think your own, um, like, limiting beliefs are that's maybe holding you back from where you're at.
And so, for me, being able to face a lot of those and overcome them. Um, has been a huge thing for us for me, um, in terms of kind of like that legacy of being able to, you know, leave for people. And like, what I'm really most inspired to be able to do is to truly like, awaken the potential and others so that they can really.
I would say grow wings and soar so [00:34:00] that they can really live their best life and doing that through, um, our work that we do at next gen and at McKenzie, but also for me, and, you know, part of what I was saying earlier, um, being integrated within the philanthropic community and nonprofit space is just, I think, in, like, my ethos of who I am and the, and being able to create space within, you know, My work week or something like that to be able to give back at a strategic level for nonprofits is good is something that I, you know, appreciate being able to do.
Um, and then really. Being able to connect with other family business people and like and and helping them know that they're not alone on the journey like that really is like I could go out and talk to like people on Main Street everywhere. It is of just being like, do you know that this is a family business?
You should talk to them and all these different things. We just light up having. Interesting. Uh, I love hearing people's stories. I love, uh, learning more about them and then [00:35:00] finding, you know, what some of their challenges are and helping them find again, creative solutions to those. Um, and a lot of that is like roadblocks that really fundamentally come down to in family businesses around communication and open, honest conversations and, um, being able to truly embrace like who they authentically are and feeling brave enough to speak up for that, uh, within their family business.
[00:35:23] Meghan: Love it. Love it. So, um, my son is eight years old and he's already, um, he recently presented me with a contract. He was doing some, some work on this podcast and some, some graphic design for me. And he recently presented me with a contract, uh, You know, kind of like making his engagement more, more official in the business.
And, um, I'm curious if you have any, if you went back to your eight year old self or you and Jenny, is there any advice that you would give him about, um, [00:36:00] You know, if he sees himself in business or if there's anything that he can do to, to think about it or anything that I can do to help him find his voice in the business.
Any advice for us?
[00:36:13] Katie: Oh, my gosh. I love that. Uh, I just remember data entering surveys like in junior high, you know, in high school. Um, so I totally respect that. I think the biggest thing is on both sides, but I, I mean, I'll speak first from the parent side. And so I have 2 girls, a 17 year old and a 14 year old, um, and then speak kind of more from his perspective.
But when I think more from a parent perspective, at least for me, I, you know, really just want to keep encouraging our kids to be, um, curious to be able to learn different things. And so I love the fact that he even like knows to like, knows that his own work, that bringing a contract creates something more formalized.
You know, I always say like, people don't put as much value on something that they can get for free. Um, so it goes even back to your monkeys [00:37:00] thing that they realize, like, This is more valuable than this over here and helping our kids learn that and learn also that they can start speaking up for themselves at that early age.
Like I just chatted with my daughter. She just had her first performance review at her job at the YMCA. And so we were talking about how to negotiate a salary increase. And at the same time, she just got one because the federal law for minimum wage change. So I said, now you address and say, I understand that the federal law just did this, but I believe that I should also have a, you know, performance, um, Raise as well.
And these are the reasons this is what I've added value. I don't know if, you know, kids are being taught to be able to actually advocate and stand up for themselves and negotiating. Obviously, we can have master negotiator kids who don't want to go to bed time and that kind of stuff. But I think that those are some of the things skills that like we have to as parents appreciate the fact that they're like learning and trying those kinds of things.
Um, sometimes I also will say that's a great idea. Why don't you put together a plan and come back and present to me like how we [00:38:00] actually would be able to accomplish that and we could talk more about it. So I think it's really realizing as business owners and leaders, we do, they're learning through osmosis.
And so why not? Have conversations with them, um, where they can like learn more so that they're going to be so much more ahead of the curve when they get out into the business world. And I think for the kids side of things, have you been talking with him and him saying, you know, asking him also, like, how did it make him feel when he created that, um, contract and like, was he proud of himself?
And did he feel proud about standing up for himself and helping him to like, realize that that really. was helping him in his self confidence and those types of things, I think also getting them to like Think about how it makes them feel internally and emotionally about being able to advocate for themselves and stand up for themselves.
Or, you know, taking ownership over something. I'm sure he's doing that because he's really proud of the work that he's doing as that. And then even being able to, you know, Share feedback with him. If he's helping with graphic [00:39:00] design, like if you could share feedback and say, gosh, I, I showed this to a couple people and they're like really impressed with your work here.
You know, I'm excited to be able to keep encouraging you to be doing things like this. So I think it's just on both sides. I mean, again, my oldest has started a Netsy shop that never got off the ground, but I was like, I'll watch all sorts of videos and learn with you about, but I said, you can't just start a shop.
You have to also learn about marketing. You have to learn about this and this and this. So I think these kids, they're. They're living in a world with such this entrepreneur spirit, not just with parents who own businesses, but I think it's just what's happening in society and so much more about it. It's really exciting to be able to see them blossom and do something with it.
So I think it's, I think it's fun that he's coming to you with that contract already.
[00:39:45] Meghan: I know. Yeah. Well, this, this podcast has been a fun exercise because it's a lot of the conversation we've been having is like, there's always a lot of energy around starting something, but, but how do you keep it going and how do you make sure [00:40:00] that you don't just, you know, you lose interest in it, and how do you keep it exciting and fun and stay curious about it?
Stay engaged? Um, because otherwise, you just end up with a big pile of stuff you tried once. Um, so it's been, it's been, Fun on, I think, fun for me. And I think he's been liking to kind of have his voice, you know, again, that find your voice, like, you know, really,
[00:40:27] Katie: and then your help, allowing him to have space at the table.
I think that's like one of the biggest things, right, is just also being able to say, Hey, I'm, I also am super open with my girls about, hey, I'm about to start learning how to do something like I never Hosted a podcast. I wouldn't know how to do any of the technology stuff. So in like that example, I would say I'm like learning how to do something new and I'm super uncomfortable about it, but I'm also jazzed up about being able to learn.
And so it's helping them to be able to show or show them that. No matter how old we get, we're also [00:41:00] going to be newbies at something, and it's okay to be uncomfortable being that newbie, and how do we teach them that, that just because we're uncomfortable doesn't mean that we have to shy away from something.
Um, and I think that that openness of like you going down this process and learning and letting him have a next to you as a part of that learning process. There's so much that he's getting out of that experience as well. Well,
[00:41:23] Meghan: hopefully, hopefully, but, uh, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your story and all the work that you're doing.
It's really both exciting and inspiring and I'm sure is super meaningful to a lot of next gens and also everyone else around them who's affected by their ability to be the leaders that they're, they're meant to be. Awesome.
[00:41:46] Katie: Thank you so much for the conversation. I really appreciate it.
[00:41:49] Meghan: Katie, what's the best way for people, if people want to learn more about your work at McKenzie or are interested in NextGen Collaborative, what's the best way for them to connect with you or to learn more?[00:42:00]
[00:42:00] Katie: Sure. I would say probably LinkedIn's like where I'm most active almost every day. And you can link to our websites from there. So Katie Rucker, R-U-C-K-E-R, um, on LinkedIn. Um, and then it's Mackenzie Corp, M-A-C-K-E-N-Z-I-E and NextGen collaborative, our two websites. But like I said, probably pop over to LinkedIn, find me over there.
I'd love to connect, um, share ideas and collaborate on something.
[00:42:26] Meghan: Awesome. We will link to all of those in the show notes so people can get in touch with you and maybe also that, uh, familybusiness. org video about your nonprofit experience. I think that would be super valuable to hear more about that. So thanks again for joining us, Katie.
So great to talk with you.

Creators and Guests

Meghan Lynch
Meghan Lynch
Co-founder and CEO of Six-Point
How Next Gens Can Find Their Authentic Voice with Katie Rucker of MacKenzie
Broadcast by