“Next-Stepper.” I had never heard these two words used as a compound phrase to describe someone but that is what my colleague Kim Atkinson called Kristen Katzman back in 2002. This took place at the rapidly-growing corporate marketing department of the even more rapidly-growing Cold Stone Creamery chain of restaurants.
The unique description came a few months after we had interviewed and hired a fresh-out-of-college Kristen Katzman as the Marketing Coordinator. The “Next-Stepper” moniker was a nod to the fact that Kristen was one of those people who just “got it.” She didn’t wait around for someone to give her orders; she jumped in with both feet, anticipated, prioritized and cranked to get stuff done, with aplomb I might add.
I eventually left Cold Stone and went back to an agency role (I’m convinced it is in your blood) so fast forward 18 years. In December of 2020, someone had the idea to do a holiday Zoom reunion for former Cold Stoners. Cold Stone in its heyday was one of those companies where the culture was remarkable. It was a fun place to work with smart leadership, a clear vision and sound values. People genuinely liked each other and high-fives were common—and no one was doing it for a LinkedIn video. So if you are reading this and think a Zoom reunion sounds weird—trust me when I say it really wasn’t.
Kristen was on the reunion call. It had been years since I had spoken to her. Everyone in attendance went around and gave a recap of what they’d been doing post-Cold Stone. Lo and behold, Kristen reported that she was back in Arizona after a long stint in Wisconsin where she worked in food marketing, including—wait for it—cheese marketing.
We talked after the holidays in early 2021 and it came up that she was open to freelancing. About three minutes later, we asked her to help out with some Nucleus projects. Later that year, we asked her to officially join the team and she has already contributed to several important projects. Not surprisingly, she fits right in and is now part of our semi-official “upstate” office.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be the kind of leader we had back in the ice cream days but I do know outstanding people are truly at the nucleus of Nucleus so we’re excited to have the “next-stepper” on the squad.
P.S. For anyone reading this just starting out in your career, this is also a good lesson about leaving a good impression on people. It might pay dividends down the road, even if takes a decade or two.