Nan McKay Knows What the Next Generation Thrives On

Nov 15, 2023 | Member Spotlight

Nan McKay has worked with every generation in her more than four decades in business and is now sharing these valuable insights through her newest business venture, Nan McKay Connects with its Lead and Succeed Community and Leadership Accelerator Program.

Nan is also president of Nan McKay and Associates, a pioneering company she founded in 1980 that specializes in housing and community development. Over the years, the company has built an impressive success story with a corporate office in San Diego, California, and eight offices nationwide that manage over 100,000 housing units. Nan even has two buildings named after her.

She first became an entrepreneur after spending 17 years working for Housing Authorities and deciding she wanted a change. These are now known as Section 8 programs where low income, senior and disabled individuals and families pay what they can afford for housing and the rest is subsidized. Nan had managed small and large programs, so used her knowledge to launch a seminar business on how to operate them.

“There wasn’t a lot of information on that at the time, so I put together some how-tos,” she remembers. “That was 1980 in the basement of my house when you couldn’t get credit in your own name. I had to get my husband to sign for me.” Nan continues to serve as president of this $50-million-plus business, Nan McKay and Associates, which now focuses primarily on managing large Housing Authorities that have privatized operations.

Nearly four years ago, Nan decided to start a second, smaller company, Nan McKay Connects, to provide leadership training in this digital age. “It really bothers me that our employee turnover rate is so high in our country today,” she shares. “We have 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age each day and who’s going to lead? Gen X isn’t big enough to fill the positions the Baby Boomers are vacating.”

With so many leadership positions and not enough leaders to fill them, Nan says businesses need to plan now by onboarding Millennials and maybe even Gen Zs. “Are we ready to do that?” Nan asks. “The answer, in most cases, is no. We have primarily promoted people on the basis of the kind of job they were doing in their previous position.”

The challenge with this approach is that we’re making important hiring and promotion decisions based on things like experience, aptitude and attitude. But just because a person was effective in a past role doesn’t mean he or she will be in a different role that requires new skills and training to manage others.

That’s why, Nan says, the U.S. employee turnover rate is currently 60 percent. Between 17-19 percent of new employees leave in the first month and one-third leave in the first 3 months. “We may even advertise, find someone to apply, interview and offer them the job and they don’t even show up for the first day,” she says. “Part of what that’s saying is we’re not really engaging employees.”

The number one way for businesses to engage Millennials, for example, is to make sure the workplace culture is one in which they can really thrive. Millennials want to be highly engaged—in fact 87 percent are less likely to leave if they’re engaged. So how do we do that? Make sure they have opportunities to learn and grow both skills- and experience-wise and financially, Nan suggests. “Many are still paying off student loans,” she explains. “If they don’t feel like they have opportunities in the culture, they may very well leave.”

Through her newer business, Nan has built a program for business owners who want to prepare next generation employees to successfully step into leadership positions. As she was developing this program, two things were most important: that it was highly personalized as well as affordable.

The Lead and Succeed Community is both. It’s a 6-month interactive program that pulls together small groups of 20 or less to meet virtually three times a month. They engage in lectures, video vignettes, breakout discussions, planning and mentoring and connect over social media.

“It’s a cohesive community and a safe place to learn,” Nan explains. “I want to onboard and upscale these people as quickly as possible.” If Nan gets enough participants from one company or industry, she’ll group them together so they can support one another—and support the learning process.

Nan McKay Connects has also recently become Women Business Enterprise (WBE)-certified through the NAWBO Institute Certification program. This validates to all of Nan’s current and potential customers that her business is woman-owned, and she’s excited to leverage it to scale and grow.

“I’m now so focused on women’s empowerment and giving women more opportunities that I thought with NAWBO supporting women entrepreneurs through certification that I would go through the program,” she shares.

Nan discovered NAWBO years ago as president and CEO of Nan McKay and Associates. She traveled as much as 40 weeks a year at the time so could never get too involved, but always checked in when she was back in the corporate office. In 2019, she was named Woman Business Owner of the Year for NAWBO California. That followed the same honor in 2018 from NAWBO San Diego.

“I’ve had a good history with NAWBO and they have been very supportive of me in the past,” she says. When it came time to get certified, she adds, that “I knew the quality of NAWBO and wanted to go with them.”

So what’s next for Nan? She plans to get her Woman-Owned Small Business, or WOSB, certification through the Small Business Administration, which will open the door to pursue federal contacts.

“It’s important to label yourself in this way,” says Nan. “If you believe in women-owned businesses and women’s empowerment, certifications like these can really personify your beliefs.”


Want to Hear More From Nan?

Listen to her Trailblazers Impact podcast where women and men share their struggles and secrets to success through stories about their journeys.

Nan is also the author of two books available on Amazon: Gold in the Golden Years on how to launch and grow a business, and Leading the Way: Empowering Future Leaders for Organizational Success.


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