Using Her MBA to be a Servant Leader at WVEC

Kari Jacobs took on the role of president and general manager at WVEC-TV ABC 13 in Norfolk after spending years in media sales and earning a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) at Regent University. The degree helped promote her from director of sales to GM in the fall of 2014. The education had an impact on her leadership perspective, and now she is leading the television station to success to make an impact on her employees and community.

“Going through the program I was looking for more of a degree and a piece of paper, but what I got out of the program was so much more than that,” said Jacobs. “Ultimately it helped me become a better decision-maker, because I learned how to seek more information and seek more perspectives from a variety of people before making a decision.”

The National Association of Broadcasters identifies a general manager as the chief operating officer of a TV station; all departments report to the GM, and he or she sets the work ethic, tone and pace of the station. Jacobs will have many decisions to make in this role, and she says Regent’s emphasis on servant leadership defines her vision of leadership for WVEC.

“When you look at the traditional organizational structure where you’ve got the president up top and the employees on the bottom, I believe that has to be flipped upside down and looked at differently,” said Jacobs. “The person at the top needs to be the servant leader, trying to find ways that support, coach, educate and develop their employees so they can continue to rise up. Even the front-line employees can learn new skills and continue to rise up. It brings up the whole organization.”

WVEC’s theme for 2015 is “people in productive environments.” It’s an initiative to bring up the organization by putting an emphasis on developing talent.

“We’re looking at the people side and offering training and development opportunities that employees might have not known were available before,” said Jacobs. “We have several people in a master’s program right now. Our company supports them through some tuition reimbursement. We look for educational opportunities to help our people grow and encourage them to bring some of those ideas to us, whether it be specific conferences they can attend, or classes or certification programs. We are always going to encourage people to seek out those opportunities.”

When it came to choosing where she would attend classes to pursue her MBA, Jacobs says she considered several schools. She chose Regent because she liked its group settings approach to learning and the involvement of its professors. This involvement started at a personal open house.

“There were multiple professors there willing to have conversations with us. I felt that if they were that hands-on in an open house, I could only imagine what the experience was going to be in the program, and I definitely had a wonderful experience with the professors,” said Jacobs.

This classroom experience was focused on entrepreneurship, a concept that Jacobs says is central to a television station. Businesses that are looking to grow purchase advertising at her station which, in turn, helps grow the station. She says the classes helped her understand what her clients are going through as business owners and gave her perspective about their challenges.

“I enjoy watching people succeed, whether it be some of the folks in our news room telling great stories that have an impact on our community, or whether it be seeing some of our sales people work in conjunction with clients to help their businesses grow,” said Jacobs. “We have tangible results that we are able to see from the efforts of our employees of how we can make a difference in the community. That’s an impressive position that the station is in.”

Jacobs earned her degree with a six-month-old infant at home, full time job and fully employed husband, and she still found time to enjoy skiing on weekends. She has a heart for teaching and desires to one day use her degree to educate others. She is a leader at work and a leader at Regent, serving on its MBA Advisory Board.

“At the station level, we are striving to serve the communities that we live in,” said Jacobs. “That goal aligns very well with what Regent tries to do as well; to make people better leaders within their organizations and help organizations rise up to benefit all of those in a given community.”