In each “On Leadership” column, Allen Lima Leadership Executive Director Matt Childers talks with a regional business leader. This week, he profiles Jed Metzger, president and CEO of Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce.
Matt: How would you describe your early years?
Jed: I grew up in Lima and went to Bath High School. I graduated from The Ohio State University, before it was THE (laughter). I worked for the Easter Seals, and I was recruited to become the leader of the Allen County Chapter American Red Cross here in Lima. I was at the Red Cross for 11 1/2 years before my current position at the Chamber for the past 22 years.
Matt: What was the American Red Cross leadership position like for you?
Jed: It was great! The things I really like about the Red Cross of course were the blood donations and the service to military families, but also the disaster relief and being the conduit to helping people with sheltering. That is still in my heart, and you remember each and every one of those experiences.
Matt: What’s the best advice you have received as a leader?
Jed: My mentor was Elizabeth Dole (former head of the American Red Cross from 1991-1999, Cabinet secretary and U.S. senator). What I have learned from Elizabeth Dole when she was the head of the American Red Cross, her first-ever speech at the helm, was in Lima, Ohio! She faced some very difficult decisions, and it was how she handled those decisions that I admired. One example of that is her recommendation to get the blood banking system on a universal system, one system across all of the United States. At the time everyone had their own system, so it was a major challenge to bring this all together. And Elizabeth Dole did just that. It wasn’t necessarily the most popular decision, but she stayed true to her convictions. Now that is leadership!
Matt: How do you like to hire your teams?
Jed: The team has to be diverse. You cannot hire everyone like yourself. You have to look at the talents and skillsets of your organization. You try to build your team with a variety of skills talents and diversity and then have a working mission to your goals. Communication is essential! That is the No. 1 thing I look for; to have “clear communication” and making sure everyone is on the same page.
Matt: How about some recent leadership lessons?
Jed: Our Chamber has a diversity initiative that includes diversity, equity and an inclusion goal. I feel it is very important to understand people’s differences. A good example of that is Husky Lima Refinery. Husky intentionally has recruited engineers from all over the world. That has made them more competitive in the global marketplace because they learned to communicate with a variety of nations. It can be hard when people are not like you, but, if you figure out that methodology and respect people’s differences, you can grow your organization big time!
Matt: Let’s go a bit more on that thought.
Jed: As our demographic are changing, we had a program called Common Threads that had study circles with predominantly black churches and predominantly white churches coming together. They got to know each other and were able to understand each other better. I loved that experience. I would like to bring this concept back, but with young people involved.
Matt: You are a proud Allen Lima Leadership Alum, Class of 1995. What was your experience like in ALL?
Jed: 1995… the best class ever! (laughter) We had a great class and established as our class project to start what is now the Allen Lima Leadership youth class for high school students. I had a great experience, getting to know and work with classmates; you really learn to be a leader. There are so many great components in Allen Lima Leadership and all the people and touches you make with the community.
Matt: Let’s talk about the Chamber’s role in good times and now in a challenging time in assisting businesses in our community.
Jed: I believe the Chamber did an outstanding job this year with our outreach to local businesses. We had to step up for sure! It was what we do. We have a unique opportunity to communicate through all of our platforms and vehicles. We did a ton of legwork for businesses with the U.S. Chamber, NIFB and Small Business Coalition, to name a few. We wanted to assist our local businesses with the stimulus and PPP during COVID-19, and if anyone wanted to call me at midnight, that was OK! We took a leadership role in this to aid our members.
Matt: What advice would you give to emerging leaders?
Jed: I believe you have to get involved. You have to do your homework and network. Networking is key. The most important thing young leaders can do is listen. The good leaders are those that take the time to listen to the conversation and then give input. One thing Zoom and new technology has taught us is to listen better and be patient.