Kimberly Peterson, COO, Lillestol Research

Written by: Brady Drake
  • United Way Volunteer and Investor
  • United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program Alumna and Volunteer
  • United Way Women UNITED Leadership Team Volunteer
  • United Way Employee Campaign Coordinator

What is one lesson you have learned? How did you learn it?

Take a deep breath, wait a little while and think before you speak or respond to a stressful situation. I’ve learned it the hard way by not doing just that. It’s easy to quickly respond in heated conversation whether in person or via email with something you’ll regret saying later. I know it took several situations for me to learn this lesson, as well as just plain aging, maturity and professionalism. I’m not perfect and I slip up sometimes, but I am definitely better than I was 10 years ago. If I was given the same situation now versus then… I know I’d handle it better and with much more maturity and that is growth!

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

You know that meme that describes a little girl as not being bossy, but “having leadership skills”? That’s me 100%. Luckily my parents handled my “leadership skills” in a way that developed versus squashed them since I was a child and let me be a family “leader” – or the “family manager” as my brother has lovingly deemed me. I’m very organized, love planning things, love my calendar and hate the unknown. Being mentally and physically prepared for anything we have on the agenda is the only way for me to be confident and secure. United Way has given me great experiences to develop leadership and management skills as well through my participation in the 35 Under 35 program and the Women’s United Leadership Team. They have definitely made me step outside my comfort zone on many occasions, which although hard, I encourage everyone to do every once in a while. It’s uncomfortable and not at all my forte, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned from each of those experiences and brought something positive out of it.

How do you maintain a successful family-owned business and a successful family knowing they are so intertwined?

A lot of people ask this question, actually. The Lillestol family is big and very connected both professionally and personally. We do spend a lot of time together! Thankfully, we get along very well and enjoy each other’s company. Over the years of working in a family business, you learn to respect each other’s different roles and positions within the business. The positions and involvement of family members have evolved and changed over time, but the transitions have been successful. The key is to keep the communication open and transparent on all levels. We want nothing more than happiness and satisfaction in both work and family life for each family member. Outside of work, we’ve also committed to not talk about work all that often. We do still talk work sometimes, of course, but generally we want the focus on family time to be just that.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.