Sales and marketing are driven by hard work, relationship building, and effective product framing. Organizations that invest in diversity in their sales and marketing functions will produce inclusive product framing that creates a larger market size for a product or service.
As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Turpin II.
Kevin Turpin II is the president of National Journal Group where he has transitioned the company from a traditional media company to an information services organization. Turpin has a deep passion for the mentorship of young people and serves on the board of City Year DC; a non-profit dedicated to mentoring young people during their primary and secondary years of education. He is a board member of the Carlton Club, serves as an anchor partner of the Diversity in Government Relations Coalition, and is a member of the Economic Club of Washington and the Council on Foreign Relations. Turpin is a graduate of Georgetown University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?
I am a Pastor’s kid that was born in Buffalo, New York, but raised in Virginia Beach, VA. I graduated from Georgetown University with a BA in psychology and a minor in sociology. The best thing that happened to me in my four years at Georgetown was meeting my wonderful wife, Dr. Tiph Turpin, at the start of our freshman year. We got married two years after graduation, and now have two children that we are raising in Kensington, Maryland.
Career-wise, I have been with National Journal Group since I graduated from college in 2005. I have a throwback career where I have stayed at one employer across 16 years. I started in an entry-level sales role and was promoted 10 times across the next decade. During those 10 years I did sales, sales management, operations, product development, strategy, product launches, and product management. I was promoted to president of the company five years ago at age 32. I was the first African American and youngest president in company history.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
In my second year at National Journal I received an email from the president of our company at the time. I was so excited and nervous to respond to her. I sent my first email and read it back and saw a typo in the email. So I corrected the typo and resent the email. I read the second email back again and saw another typo in the email. I am now three emails into what was no more than a 3 sentence reply. I was so disappointed in myself, but she was very kind to me. I walked away from those blunders by committing to be a professional that always paid close attention to the details on everything that I did. I remain committed to the details.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5–6
When I first started my career at National Journal my first job was selling a 2,000 dollars magazine and 4,0000 dollars daily newsletter to Washington DC executives via phone sales. I remember going through the training and being intimidated by that prospect. After completing training I was very nervous before starting my first day on the phone. My Dad had given me the quoted bible verse to memorize and I began to pray and recite it before I started my work everyday. I ended up exceeding my sales goal my first full month of selling. I then got promoted in my second month, and exceeded my sales goal for the year. The rest is history. I still rely on that verse in my life to this day to keep in perspective the blessings I have received by simply trusting God and working as hard as I can.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Our Chairman, David Bradley, has been the single biggest influence in my career. He began personally mentoring me when I was 26. The things that David taught me about leadership, management, strategy, recruiting, and so much more, is the reason I have been able to advance and thrive in my career. I am forever in debt to him for his kindness and generosity towards me.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what is special about our company is our endless commitment to innovation. At the end of last year we had a client come to us with an idea about a product that would help his group manage their political action committee more effectively. He thought that the work we did for him would be something that other government affairs offices would be interested in subscribing to. We did the work and then came up with a marketing and sales plan to promote the product to government affairs offices in our market. Nine months later we are now serving over 30 government affairs offices with this product.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Yes, we are working on an interesting research project that helps corporations gain a deeper understanding of how they can authentically and productively engage in the growing number of societal issues that the world is facing. Our hope is that this service can help organizations engage in these tough issues with productive actions and solutions.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am a big believer in the equalizing power of education. I have seen this in my life by having the opportunity to attend Georgetown University. My wife and I have a dream to start a scholarship fund that gives young people the opportunity to attend college who otherwise would not be able to afford the expense. Two years ago through my Dad’s non-profit we started to put a seed down towards that dream. This year we were able to quadruple our commitment. We plan on increasing our commitment again this year. The plan is to eventually grow the fund to a point where we can put multiple young people through college with all expenses paid.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- An organization that prioritizes diversity as a strategic opportunity and not a compliance issue will produce better products. I am reminded of the story of a Black ERG (Employee Resource Group) at a major manufacturer of hair care products, who began discussing how their company had no products that served black women. This was odd to them because Black women represented a demographic that spends billions of dollars on hair care. They eventually proposed that the company launch a new hair care line for Black women. This new line became a billion dollar plus product line for the company.
- When I was growing up my Dad, a Black man from New York, partnered with another Pastor, a White man from South Dakota, to start a church that put diversity at the center of its mission. This is one of the best cultures I have participated in. It is centered on love, kindness, and learning. Companies that prioritize diversity create a more dynamic and engaging culture. Diverse cultures challenge people to learn and grow. People who participate in these cultures have a commitment to each other and to the company that cannot be replicated in monolithic environments.
Better Decision Making
- Companies and institutions that have diversity in their boards and executive teams make better decisions. I live this every day as I have an executive leadership team that is diverse in ethnicity and gender. I regularly make better decisions because our female CFO gives me a perspective that I was not considering, or our female head of talent and culture brings an idea to the table that I would not have thought of.
- Companies that have diversity throughout their organization create an environment that keeps the organization true to its core values. People stay longer and take ownership of maintaining an inclusive culture that powers the company’s success. When leaders or individuals try to skip steps on decision making on strategy or policies the culture will hold them accountable.
Better Sales and Marketing
- Sales and marketing are driven by hard work, relationship building, and effective product framing. Organizations that invest in diversity in their sales and marketing functions will produce inclusive product framing that creates a larger market size for a product or service.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?
Be committed to helping your employees identify their 90th percentile skills and then put them in a position where they are using those skills over 90 percent of the time.
What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?
Hire managers that you can trust and give them the freedom to lead and manage their own team.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
TD Jakes: His sermons and speeches have motivated me to become a better person and leader.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.