Part two in a two-part series- Two years into his role as President of the Malcolm Bryant Corporation, Madison Silvert reflects on the processes put in place that enabled him to succeed.
Founded by husband and wife Malcolm and Sally Bryant, The Malcolm Bryant Corporation is a successful real estate development and management company in Owensboro, Kentucky. The Bryants and their company have grown to become one of the most respected and impactful businesses in Owensboro. Given their visibility and relationships in the area, they knew that, when it came to succession, they had to get it right – for their family, the company, and the people in the community. In the second half of this interview, we sit down with Madison Silvert, the president hired to take over the business operations, to discuss how he was onboarded and enabled to succeed.
You grew up in Owensboro, worked within your family’s law firm, and served as president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. How did these experiences prepare you for the role at TMBC?
Since I was young, I’ve known that no matter what I did moving forward in my life, it was going to have to have Owensboro at the heart of it. I’ve always found great value serving this community and helping its people. If I was ever going to leave the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation (GOEDC), I would need to be in an organization that loved and respected our community.
The Malcolm Bryant Corporation has had a long history in Owensboro, and their commitment to our city has always been clear. GOEDC worked with The Malcolm Bryant Corporation on a project or two and Malcolm himself was on our board of directors. By the time conversations about working with TMBC had begun, I had worked side by side with one of its founders for years.
My career in law and economic development certainly helped me on a few projects with TMBC early on, but the true ‘leg up’ I’ve had over the past few years comes from my history with this town and my connections with the community here.
What were the dynamics that informed the decision to join a firm you knew so much about? What were some of the concerns?
I saw huge opportunity in the ability to have a meaningful impact, but my biggest concern was mismanaging the weight of responsibility of the role. The Malcolm Bryant Corporation has such an impactful corporate identity here. Malcolm and Sally built something special from scratch and there was an overwhelming feeling of “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to let them down.”
But, Malcolm and Sally were just so incredibly patient and forgiving and kind. They had done their homework, had a deep understanding of the challenges and knew that the transition was a team sport. There was a clearly defined onboarding process, a lot of preparation, a lot of planning and a lot of communication. So, when the time came, we were very well prepared.
When Malcolm and Sally explored their motivations for continuing their business, they centered their reasoning on the value of their people. What was your approach to meeting and developing relationships with the people of The Malcolm Bryant Corporation? And, how did you earn their trust?
There were a couple of people that I already knew from work at GOEDC; so, when I came on board at TMBC, I had familiarity with some of the key people.
I also knew that Malcolm and Sally had actively cultivated a team of extremely nice people that are professional and easy to work with. So, the stage for a successful introduction was set long before I was hired. When I was brought on board, I was coming in with a position of authority, and Malcolm and Sally set it up so that in the beginning I was meeting people and learning the business from a high level.
By design, I spent the first couple of months meeting the employees of TMBC, learning about their work and how they view the company. This process engendered trust, because, not only was I establishing relationships with everyone in the company, but more importantly, I was learning their views of (and hopes for) the future.
This process of learning and alignment culminated in Malcolm and Sally asking me to rewrite the company vision to reflect what I had learned about the company from spending time with the employees and customers. It’s a common concern that a new leader with authority will seek to change the DNA of the company to reflect their own. Malcolm and Sally’s onboarding flipped that around…they ensured that my DNA reflected the company and its community.
What have you done to learn the business? How did Malcolm, Sally and the TMBC team enable you to succeed in the role?
A lot of learning came with time and specific opportunities to sit down and learn. Early on, Sally, Malcolm and I sat down for regular meetings to plan, discuss, and learn. The meetings eventually became board meetings. One of the major elements that was critical for me to understand is that onboarding me was also outboarding Malcolm and Sally. Everything was evolving along a planned progression, but it was new for everyone.
As time went on, I was brought deeper and deeper into the operation. The last thing Malcolm and Sally wanted to do was throw me in the deep end. Their worry was that if I were to get bogged down in a particular issue, like damage to a property for example, I would get wrapped up the granular details and never see the forest through the trees.
Too many leaders hop from fire to fire without understanding the needs of the business from a higher level. To avoid this, the demands of the role were incrementally intro