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7 Questions with Ryan Kelly
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7 Questions with Ryan Kelly
Name: Ryan Kelly
Current title: CEO
Current organisation: Horizon Professional Services
Ryan Kelly, MS, is a Mississippi native and CEO of Horizon Professional Services. He also is the owner of Kelly Properties and Kelly Science and Innovations. Kelly previously served as Chief Advancement Office for William Carey University and Director of External Relations for The University of Southern Mississippi College of Health.
Kelly earned a bachelor’s of science with honors from The University of Southern Mississippi in 2005 and a master’s of science with honors from Mississippi College in 2007. He is a graduate of the Area Development Partnership’s Leadership Pinebelt, received the Mississippi Top 50 under 40 award in 2016, and received the Mississippi’s Top Entrepreneur award in 2019. In addition to professional activities, Kelly also serves as a deacon at Temple Baptist Church,, member of The Gideon’s International, board member for Pi Kappa Phi Alumni Association and the United Way of Southeast Mississippi, and many others. His areas of professional interest and expertise include healthcare, education, business, technology, economic development, and politics.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
I have found that compliance to government regulations and balancing the tax burden to be the greatest challenge. As an entrepreneur, developing creative strategies for doing business comes as second nature. It is fun and exciting to serve clients and come up with new and innovative business solutions. However, meeting a seemingly unending number of local, state and federal governmental regulations is a major challenge. In addition, it is quite disheartening to face tax burdens at all governmental levels. Sometimes it makes me feel like all we are doing is working in order to pay taxes.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have always had an entrepreneurial backbone of sorts. I developed several very small businesses while in college...none of which amounted to much except an investment of substantial time in areas of sales, website design, marketing, and inventory management.
After working in our state's university system for about eight years, I eventually had colleagues ask me to provide consulting to their professional associations and non-profits due to my growing expertise. This, along with public speaking and legislative advocacy, became a strong-suit of mine. I took these skills and started what is now known as Horizon Professional Services. We run professional associations across the nation, providing a complete leadership team to handle all facets of association management and support.
I also have had a fascination with real estate and investing, so I started Kelly Properties about four years ago to begin commercial and residential real estate investments.
And, I have always had a love of inventing and developing creative solutions to common problems. To assist me in developing products that could be taken to market for sale, I started Kelly Science and Innovations over the last couple of years. We are working on several new product innovations that will soon come to market.
Although Horizon takes the majority of my time each day, all three companies allow me to foster a creative outlet to explore ways to improve the world around us.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
We have office hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, I rarely stop thinking about work...especially when it comes to new ideas and creative solutions. I generally end up working between 50-60 hours in a given week, sometimes more depending on what we have on the agenda. Each day is a bit different, but my average weekday involves waking up at 6 a.m., taking the dog for a walk, reading Scripture and prayer time on the couch until 6:35, taking both of my children up and getting them ready, grabbing a quick workout before I take my daughter to school, then shower, check email, and get to the office by 8:45. I will work in the office until about 6 p.m., where I'll head home and have dedicated family time, and then check e-mail and catch-up on a few things before bed.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I have to say 'no' to some things.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I have read many leadership books, but honestly I haven't found any of them to be as impactful as the Bible. The Word of God speaks to each of us about what is most important in this world. There were many great leaders of the faith that were described in detail in Scripture. Although all flawed (except for Jesus), they all demonstrated amazing leadership in different ways. I have read other strong leadership books out there, only the Bible gives me the tools that I need to be successful in this world and to know that I am not working for myself, but rather to bring God the glory that He deserves.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
I work to create pathways for mutual learning among staff. By giving everyone different experiences and responsibilities beyond that of their job title, it allows everyone to 'play every position on the field' at least once. This helps everyone to better understand how one another are important and why we must work as a team.
In addition, I love to use interns as a way to gain extra staffing support as well as to see who may be a good fit within our staffing ranks for future positions.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
We had one very large client about four years ago that was extremely difficult to work with. We dedicated far more working hours toward servicing this client than we did any other and attempted to get everything perfect, only to have multiple things pointed out that were not meeting their desired output. Finally after months of trying, we decided to end the relationship with that client. We found that by ridding ourselves of this client, our stress level went down considerably and we had a much better balance as a result.
The loss of revenue stung a bit at first, but it was a decision that I have never regretted. And of course, we have since made up for the lost revenue several times over and are much happier and more efficient as a result