Name: Jennifer Stambook
Occupation/Business: CEO of Empire Management Group, Inc.
Tell us how you got into your field.
As many people do, I had a hard time deciding what to major in for college, but I found that I had a natural gift for numbers. This led me to finance and accounting as a focus for my education. After being in the public accounting arena for a while, I found that I was much more passionate about cost and managerial accounting than taxes. While working in the private sector, I found that I also have a natural gift for management and my tendency toward leadership positions helped propel me further into developing my management skills. I have continued to be driven by my enthusiasm for educating and training people in the areas that they are passionate about.
What is your "why?" (Why do you get out of bed every morning and do what you do?)
The outdoors and hiking have been a passion and hobby of mine since I was a little girl. Finding a mountain to climb and conquering the challenge is something that has motivated me throughout my life. I have found that the business environment is very similar; there will always be a new challenge to conquer or a mountain to climb whether it is starting up a brand-new business, bringing a company to financial stability, or finding a way to grow in a sustainable way. I also think that business in general is so fascinating since there are rarely ever two businesses that do things exactly alike.
Management becomes very customizable and figuring out how to make things work efficiently and effectively in many different situations becomes the ultimate puzzle to solve. When it comes down to it, though, I do what I do to help people. Many people have an idea or a skill that they want to be able to offer to people, but don't know about the mechanics that can turn that idea or skill into a viable business. I enjoy being able to help make people's dreams come true through the pursuit of their own passions by giving them the knowledge, resources and understanding in how to make a business work for them.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I don't even remember who told me this, but this piece of advice has always stuck with me: "Life is not a race." I find this particularly poignant because it didn't follow the traditional track of: graduate high school, graduate college, get a job, get married, have kids. To be honest, I don't really think there is really a "traditional" or "normal" way to go about any of those milestones. In reality, life is more like a meandering path through the woods and everyone's path is different. My own path has seen me start and then stop college, work, get married, have my daughter, start college again and graduate with my undergraduate degree, take a break, have my son, go back for my MBA and then work on building my career. Sometimes some of those things were all happening at the same time. I think if one focuses simply on achieving each of those milestones, the journey and a lot of the enjoyment of life is lost. By taking each thing as it comes, you can appreciate it more and get the maximum amount of fulfillment from it.
What is the biggest challenge in the marketplace/business that you’ve overcome?
I was promoted to my current CEO position in January 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. I spent my first year as CEO dealing with the constantly changing landscape of dealing with running my own business as well as providing assistance to our many clients through a pandemic that nobody really knew how to deal with. There was a veritable tsunami of information and changes on a daily basis to address, process and implement. Not only were we able to weather the storm, we had one of the best years in recent history during the recovery. Also by being flexible with our staff and working situations we were able to discover some new and more effective ways to communicate and work with people regardless of their physical or geographical location. This opened a world of new opportunities to explore now and into the future.
What is your proudest achievement of your career thus far?
My proudest (and most unexpected) achievement so far has been my transition from controller to CEO with EMG. While I have continued to find myself in leadership roles throughout my work experiences, I had never thought of myself as a leader. I felt I could communicate well enough within my roles, but wasn't overly confident about my ability to communicate and inspire as a leader. Once I made the decision to undertake this new challenge, I found that I actually enjoyed it immensely and even more importantly, I flourished more than I had ever expected.
What’s next for you in your career?
I do think that I still have plenty to give in my role as CEO. In my next several years I plan on further developing and expanding our business divisions at EMG and working to promote the professional growth of EMG's future leaders internally. Eventually, though, I would like to take my knowledge and experience and focus it more to help other leaders through consulting.
What advice would you give to other young professionals and entrepreneurs in Bakersfield?
There is no "I" in "team." Teamwork is something that is stressed daily through EMG. No matter how successful a single person is, there is always more potential and success to be had when you have a great team that you can trust. Many motivated and driven people feel that they can accomplish everything all of the time. While that may be true to an extent there is always a point at which you realize you are only one person and there are only so many hours in a day. This point is where it is critical to be able to rely on a team to help accomplish tasks and achieve goals. I can honestly say that despite all of the hard work and dedication I've put in over the years, I still wouldn't be where I am without the help of my teams along the way. My advice is to find those other hard-working, motivated people and build them into a cohesive team around you; both you and your team will be happier and ultimately more successful.
How do you hope to help improve Bakersfield, or bring to the community overall?
I believe there is a lot of growth opportunity for Bakersfield and the community that I would like to help foster through expansion of diversity of industry. I think health care and technology are definitely areas that could be grown to the advantage of both Bakersfield and Kern County. I also think that we have a lot of really wonderful programs already in place throughout our community; however, I would like to help with the coordination of those services to more effectively benefit our community members. I have also recently become a partner in a local coffee roasting company, Rig City Roasting. Through Rig City, my dream would be to create Bakersfield's first certified B-corp and bring awareness of social and environmental sustainability to our community.
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What is one thing you wish you would have known before starting your career?
I honestly don't know any one thing that I would have liked to know before starting my career since I may have made different choices and I wouldn't be where I am today. My path has led me through some interesting and diverse industries and work environments. Even if I didn't know it at the time, I gained a lot of experience and information through each stop along the way that maybe was relevant at the time, but helped me in future situations. I think the variety of experience I gained during my meandering has given me a broader world view and a unique ability to look at issues from different perspectives which is incredibly helpful in my position.