Biz 417: What makes each of you a good leader at BKD?
Gary Schafer: In teaching about BKD’s approach, BKD’s philosophy and BKD’s culture, that was something as a managing partner John really excelled at. And not just for Springfield BKD but really for the firm. That didn't happen by accident. It was a tremendous amount of effort on John's part, and commitment and discipline. He taught it, he enforced it and he lived it by example. That was impactful for me; that was impactful for every employee at BKD, then and now.
John Wanamaker: One thing that’s so important in growing a practice is making sure that we’re developing great people underneath. You’ve got to have partners willing to embrace and understand that. And Gary was always very people-focused. People enjoyed working for Gary, being on his team. He was a motivator, a great mentor, and from an early stage he demonstrated the willingness and ability to work with individuals and help relay all the knowledge that he’s gained over the years, so that they themselves can be successful.
Biz: Why does your mentoring relationship work?
GS: John was hands-on with coaching and mentoring and training. As a senior manager aspiring to be partner, I found that John was very open, very honest and provided not just candid feedback but also encouragement. That was not just helpful to me but to my peers who are now also successful partners.
JW: You can tell when somebody has that entrepreneurial fire and spirit in them, and Gary absolutely had that. He always stepped up and became the leader of our commercial practice and manufacturing, distribution. And really not just locally, but he stepped up from a firm-wide perspective and served on the manufacturing, distribution, firm-wide team. So he was looked upon across the firm as a leader in his practice already.