When Chelsey Bode’s father left his job to start a business, she thought it was a terrible idea. Now she’s president of the company.
After graduating in 2006 from Missouri State University, Bode planned on taking her college work experience in office equipment into medical sales. Joining father Mike Kelly on his entrepreneurial journey was not part of her career road map.
But family ties proved stronger than Bode’s intention to go her own way.
“By 2007, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I was watching one of the most successful mentors I knew – my father – struggle,” Bode says. “I asked him to hire me for two years to help get this business recognizable.”
It wasn’t easy being employee No. 6. Pearson-Kelly Technology had no name recognition, no advertising budget and no money for more salespeople. Bode was undeterred. She dove into sales, producing a track record of success before tackling brand development. She used family connections for design, traded services for website development and got involved in the business community.
“Pearson-Kelly continued to grow, and I started hearing less and less of, ‘What is your company?’ ‘What do you do?’” Bode recalls.
The office equipment sales and service company was a finalist in both 2008 and 2009 for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s W. Curtis Strube Small Business of the Year Award, and in 2011, Kelly bought out his partner, a process Bode followed closely.
“I met with the CPA as we went through the valuation process. I met with the attorney as we went through the buy-sell contract,” she says. “I helped organize the way we’d communicate it to the employees in hopes of little-to-no disruption. It was a great experience for me.”
Bode was named vice president that same year while continuing in sales. She turned toward defining the company’s future moving forward, such as developing a succession plan and clearly defining long-term growth goals. She knew some employees might leave or that the right people might not be in the right places.
“In 2011, I had all the strikes against me. I was a 27-year-old female trying to lead in a man’s industry – technology – carrying the stigma of the owner’s daughter. In all honesty, I was excited but scared to death,” Bode says. “I had to decide whether to lead with fear or beat the odds. … I kind of liked this challenge. I had already been successful outselling competitors that were part of the good ol’ boys club. Why couldn’t I do this, too?”
She could, and she did. In 2017, Pearson-Kelly landed on Springfield Business Journal’s list of Dynamic Dozen companies for fast growth. At No. 12, the company reported 52 percent revenue growth from 2014-16. And in January, Bode became president of the company. Also this year, she was named a Difference Maker by ENX Magazine and a Young Influencer by The Cannata Report, both industry publications.
Bode also spends time with numerous organizations, including the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Good Samaritan Boys Ranch and Rotary Club of Springfield Southeast.
“My love for the community where I was born and raised is extremely important to me.”
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