Meet the President: Jo Kenney
A Strategic Leader at the Helm of Women's Council in 2014
For Georgia REALTOR® Jo Kenney, ABR, CRS, GRI, PMN, SRES, she believes it's vital for a real estate professional to be the best resource possible for clients when counseling them through their real estate transactions. And those skills are built through industry involvement and market knowledge.
Likewise, as Women's Council's 2014 National President, Kenney believes it is critical for the organization moving forward to also be a top business resource for its members through the local chapter, so they feel their time and money is well invested.
Kenney is always strategic in her business, and she brings the same perspective at the helm of Women's Council in 2014. After toasting to the organization’s 75th anniversary recently at the National Conference in San Francisco, Kenney is optimistic that the goals set forth in a new strategic framework (which was also unveiled in San Francisco) will fuel Women's Council growth for many years to come.
"We are a big ship, but we need to be a more nimble and flexible ship," she says. "The plan that we rolled out in San Francisco is attractive and relevant to our current members but also, I believe, to new members. We want to continue to be the place to be for a professional aligned with other professionals in this industry."
A Career Reboot
Kenney was born in Chicago and grew up in Boulder and Denver, CO. She also lived in New York City for a decade before settling in Georgia. "I was traveling to Atlanta for work and fell in love with it, and we moved there in 1988," she says.
It seemed Kenney was destined for real estate, with a mom, brother and sister all in the business. Additionally, her family moved often during her early life, providing a lot of hands-on experience with home buying and selling. Yet, real estate was not her first – or second – calling. Kenney enjoyed a lengthy career as a consultant, specializing in designing retail spaces and shopping centers, before embarking on real estate.
Today, Kenney is an associate broker and active member of her Keller Williams office in Decatur, GA. Her market includes metro Atlanta, and she specializes in independent women and the 55+ consumer. Kenney believes strongly that REALTORS® should specialize and not try to be generalists. For Kenney, being a senior real estate specialist is a strategic business decision. "It was a decision based on a lot of research," she says. "Where the numbers will be the greatest for the 20 next years – that is certainly what I want to be a core part of my business."
"She efficiently studies any issue or situation to quickly make the best decision as a leader or in business," according to Georgia REALTOR® Deborah T. Gilmore, who served as Women's Council's 2010 National President. While her strategic mindset may be the first thing noticed, Kenney's quiet creativity, developed through years in the design field, is another asset she brings to the table. "Jo, first of all, is a consummate professional business person," Gilmore continues. "She has the unique ability to draw people to her through a quiet but decisively confident demeanor."
For Kenney, even networking can be strategic. When she took the floor at a recent Women's Council orientation in Texas, instead of introducing herself solely as a REALTOR® from the Atlanta area, she carefully crafted her brief self-introduction with specific details about her area and its cultural and corporate assets. She mentioned CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and Emory University specifically, which are both headquartered there.
"Two people came up to me afterward and introduced themselves and mentioned their personal connections to CDC and Emory," Kenney says. "Who knows if I would've made those connections if I hadn't mentioned them specifically and just said I'm a REALTOR® from Decatur, GA."
Women's Council's Plan for Success
For several months leading up to the November unveiling, Kenney worked closely with the Executive Committee and leadership to craft the new strategic framework designed to guide the organization's goals and values over the next several years.
"But we are a top-up organization," Kenney says. "When we make changes it is largely based on responses from members and local leaders."
For Women's Council, the most important value, aside from networking, is the content and education delivered through local business resource meetings, Kenney says. "At the local level, they have to deliver valuable content to keep members and attract members... We want to attract people who are successful in the business and who can become more successful in the business through our exchange of value concept."
Some of Kenney's goals for 2014 include membership recruiting and leadership identification (to recognize talent and mentor individuals as future leaders). "I see leadership as a gift, and I'm passionate about it because it changed my life."
Long Term Goals
While Kenney feels she is a long time from retiring, she says her long term goal is to be successful enough for her husband of 39 years, Steven, to settle down and "do whatever he wants" – especially travel. She envisions traveling together around the country in a refurbished Airstream and enjoying the outdoors. For the time being, Kenney, the travel enthusiast, will spend 2014 meeting with REALTORS® and industry leaders from all corners of the U.S. to promote Women's Council and educate local chapters on implementing the new strategic framework.
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