Kristin Lee’s Tips for Building a Business, Battling Glass Ceilings and Balancing It All

Mo’ money, mo’ problems. Right? 

Depending on your point of view—does anyone actually believe this?—maybe not. 

What is undeniable is this: Some wealthy folks, like entertainers or celebrities, can benefit from—and often prefer—the guiding hand of an experienced professional to help them reach their financial goals.  

As founder and managing director of a successful entertainment business management company, Kristin Lee has made a career out of it. Her firm, Kristin Lee Business Management, provides a “full range of business management services to musicians, athletes, writers, actors, producers, labels, and other high net worth individuals and companies all around the world.” 

With clients around the world and offices in Seattle, Nashville and Los Angeles, the firm is growing fast.

As Lee explains in her Achiever’s Exclusive interview with Josh Ellis, artistic enterprises are like any other business. The money-making opportunity for upstart entrepreneurs like herself involves managing things like celebrities’ financial statements, taxes, payrolls—or anything else that keeps their business going. 

“My clients come first, because they’re the lifeblood of the company,” Lee says. 

In a fiercely competitive industry that’s traditionally been dominated by men, it’s not always been easy breaking out on her own and building a company from the ground up. But, as Lee says, she has no regrets.

“It was a tough decision, but I’m glad I made it,” she says about building her business. “It ended up working out really well for me.” 

Read on for some of the key takeaways from Kristin Lee’s interview with SUCCESS. 

1. Getting clients is all about trust. 

Thinking about starting a business management firm of your own? As Lee says, reputation is vital when it comes to securing the best clients. 

This is because high-net-worth individuals, in addition to wanting to grow their assets, also want to shield them from people who would take them. Celebrities dating from Elvis Presley to Rihanna have been financially exploited by accountants and managers. As Lee explains, the best way to win clients is to be worthy of their trust. 

“There’s a trust aspect that has to exist, like in any relationship,” she says. “I think everything that we do is built around a reputation of doing the right thing and doing it well.”

2. Delegation is a skill successful leaders share. 

When starting her company, Lee did a little bit of everything. To a certain extent, she still does, even as her team has grown around her. 

“I’m particular, so I want things done my way,” Lee says. 

Doing it all by yourself isn’t really optimal, though—or even sustainable. Instead, Lee argues, there’s something to be said for the ability to find the right tasks to delegate, and cleaning up the rest later.  

“I do everything I possibly can for myself and for [my clients], but sometimes you just have to delegate because you cannot possibly do it all,” Lee says.

3. Taking time to decompress and catch your breath is vital. 

Lee reveals that having a morning routine, which focuses on carving out some time to be alone with her thoughts, helps her find balance during a busy work week. Same thing for the weekends, which she always tries to take off in order to unwind. 

“I think it’s good to sit still, every once in a while, and unplug,” Lee says. “You can’t be super plugged into technology constantly, or you just get completely fried. … And if I’m not at my best and I’m exhausted and fried, then I’m not gonna do my best work for my clients. And I think [the clients] understand that.”

Part of striking that balance, however, also involves knowing when to buckle down and get things done. KLBM, for example, has a moratorium on vacations in March and early April—when tax season means the company is “all hands on deck.” 

4. Use your hiring practices to demonstrate your values. 

KLBM is almost an entirely female company—something the founder claims is entirely intentional. 

“Entertainment is very masculine, always has been. Business management, very masculine,” Lee says. “That landscape needs to change. That view needs to change.”

It’s a rationale that Lee says informs the cultural makeup of her company. 

“So that means creating a landscape that looks like how I want things to look like, and giving intelligent, hard-working women great career paths and good work to do.” 

Lee applies the same principles of authenticity and representation when she vets potential clients—but the thing she likes to see more than anything else is a mission. 

“When I talk to my clients, I want to know what they’re planning to do with their career. I like big dreamers,” Lee says. “If somebody’s got all these wild ideas and all these things they want to do and they want to build an empire, I’m like, ‘That’s great, let’s go.’ I’m all about that.”

Photo by @shanti/Twenty20

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