VOL. 130 | NO. 29 | Thursday, February 12, 2015
UAM's Keri Wright to Keynote Women & Business Seminar
By Don Wade
At age 18, she had her flight instructor’s certification. By 23, she was a corporate vice president and by 25 a chief operating officer.
Now 32, Keri Wright is chairman and CEO of Universal Asset Management, which buys, sells, leases, manages, disassembles and recycles a variety of commercial aviation assets from all over the world.
So, if her accomplishments at such a young age are a little intimidating it’s understandable.
But when Wright delivers the keynote address at The Memphis Daily News’ Women & Business seminar on Thursday, Feb. 26, she would prefer the audience not look at things that way. The seminar, which runs from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Brooks Museum of Art, also will include three other panelists: Kim Grant Brown, owner of Kim Grant Homes LLC and co-owner of Grant & Co. Realtors; Lauren McHugh, president and CEO of Huey’s; and Judy McLellan, top producer with Crye-Leike Realtors. To register, visit http://bit.ly/MEMwomen.
“When I talk to people at an event like this, it’s important I’m not just seen as another person up on a stage for people to say, `Hey, wow, her story’s great. I could never achieve that,’” Wright said. “What’s more important to me is all the little things that happened along the way. I am no different from anybody else in that room.”
Everyone, she says, learns valuable lessons along the way. It just so happens she got a jump on a lot of people and learned a lot of those lessons thousands of feet above the ground.
“My time as a pilot and the lessons that it taught me, and being a flight instructor, the lessons that affords on managing people,” Wright said, “is no different than being a manager. You have to adapt your teaching style to the way people learn, not the other way around. When you manage people, you have to adapt your management style to the way people work and are motivated and not have a fixed style.”
For example, she had to adjust to the reactions she got from men that were her students and were stunned to see she was their flight instructor.
“I had men two and three times my age walking in the door as my students, giving me the look of, `Are you crazy? You want me to get into an airplane with you?’” she said. “That’s how I learned just because I had a flight instructor’s certificate didn’t make me credible. I had to prove to them I was worthy for them to trust me.
“Just because I have a title doesn’t mean people should trust me or follow me (in business). I have to prove I’m worthy to be their leader.”