This is part of an ongoing series about our coaching clients. Today’s post features California Cut Flower Commission CEO and Ambassador Kasey Cronquist.
Kasey Cronquist was just 26 years old when he landed his first CEO position with the Shelton-Mason County Chamber of Commerce in 2003.
In 2006 he and his new wife, Tarah, moved back to Santa Barbara, where they had both attended college, and in 2007 he became the CEO of the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce. It was at the Chamber where he was introduced the cut flower industry and eventually transitioned to become the CEO and Ambassador of the California Cut Flower Commission — a position he still holds today.
But even after reaching high-level success at a young age, Cronquist didn’t stop looking for opportunities to grow. After considering a variety of options, including the idea of obtaining his MBA, he decided to seek out an Executive Coaching relationship with someone who he felt could provide an outside perspective on his business and career and tailor the conversations and goals to help advance his professional development.
Since Cronquist began working with Building Champions Executive Coach Raymond Gleason, he’s reordered his weekly priorities and gained confidence managing everything from the organization’s financials, board management and prioritizing strategic initiatives.
He’s also navigated personal challenges, such as his three-year-old daughter’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“I certainly leaned into Raymond’s experience then, as far as balancing those priorities while you’re still responsible for running an organization,” Cronquist says. “He brought huge perspective, whether it was moments of personal anguish or professional challenges.”
Here’s more from our chat with Cronquist.
Building Champions: As CEO of the California Cut Flower Commission, what do you enjoy about your job? What are the challenges?
Kasey Cronquist: I enjoy the impact it has on an industry across the country and internationally. The work we do and the effort we put forth are helping our farms and certainly making an impact on the domestic and international floral industry. Whether it’s our Field to Vase Dinner Tour or our Certified American Grown Flowers campaign, we collaborate with farmers around projects and opportunities to drive consumer awareness and highlight certain issues they’re facing with elected officials.
We’re in a very competitive industry, and there’s a lot of pressure on our farms from imports — approximately 80 percent of flowers sold in the U.S. are imported, primarily from Colombia.
For me, it’s all about maintaining a presence at the table amongst my peers, helping to raise the profile of our farms’ issues in Washington, D.C., and in Sacramento and really putting a voice to some of the challenges that our farmers find in the fields as far as production and regulation.
My challenge is to continue to balance those priorities and be sure we raise the profile on these issues to our elected officials and our colleagues, and certainly to our consumers.
BC: What does an average day look like for you?
Kasey Cronquist: I’ve got an Ideal Week Time Block and I try to stick to themes throughout each morning. Every day is different, but they’re all themed around a different kind of work.
I do more focused work in the morning and leave the afternoons for meetings, conversations and phone calls.
Before I started coaching, I really hadn’t thought through an ideal week schedule. I didn’t worry too much about focusing dedicated time and I could lose my sense of priority — everything could start to feel important.
But I learned that we needed a time block for those things that I was saying were our priorities. And once we did that, we started to see progress in those areas.
BC: Why did you decide to start coaching?
KC: I was trying to decide what to do on professional development — get an MBA or do something like coaching.
I thought that in large part, a lot of folks go back to get their MBA because they’re trying to work their way into a position. For me, coaching was an opportunity to develop my skills as a CEO.
I was 30 when I took this job, so I was a young CEO looking for a bit of a mentor relationship. I run into challenges in my job that are unique to being the CEO — having to make some important decisions — that I didn’t have experience in.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about working with Raymond was touching base face-to-face twice a year. It gave me concentrated opportunity to focus on the things that are difficult in my day-to-day, and to have conversations about them. It helped me explore concepts and ideas that I probably wouldn’t have shared with anybody else, and it helped me realign priorities at the midyear point.
BC: How has coaching impacted you?
KC: It’s still a work in progress, but I do a better job of focusing on priorities and not letting myself get distracted by rabbit holes or day-to-day tasks. And I really make sure my team and my organization are looking at the “big bucket” issues.
Raymond was a voice, an objective third party, to speak into the experiences and the opportunities that I was facing — and his experiences as a successful CEO have served me well. He met me where I was at and we worked through things based on what I was going through. He was an advocate for my success.
Over the years, the working relationship certainly turned to be a much more personal relationship. I consider Raymond a friend more than a colleague or someone I hired as a coach. He was there through a period of my life that I wouldn’t wish on anybody — he stood by me and we worked through things together.
At the end of the day, it’s a relationship I’ll always be grateful for.
Do you have a story about how coaching has impacted you? We’d love to hear it. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.