Jackie Gibney always wanted to be part of her dad’s business.
When Duane Jacobs started Jacobs Marketing in 1982, Gibney and her brother, Dan Jacobs, worked for their dad, while in school, stocking shelves and counting product.
After graduating in 1992 with a business degree from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, Gibney went to work for the Kellogg Company.
“About ’94, I came back and started working for [Dad],” she said.
She loved it so much that she and her business partner, Gene Ringuette, bought out the other partners, although Duane still serves as the CEO.
“We went from seven to 23 people” in the past five years, she said.
She believes the company, which is a retail broker that represents manufactures across the country, has done well because it has strong contacts with Target Corporation and is customer-service oriented.
Companies hire Jacobs Marketing to sell their product into Target, she said. “We have a couple of other retailers, but 97 percent of our income is generated by Target,” she said.
Honesty promotes sleep
Gibney also believes that the company is successful because it values honesty and transparency, which are important to leading with faith.
Those values are vital in a company that has two customers: the store where the product is being placed and the vendor who pays for the placement, she said.
“From a team-building standpoint, it’s about caring about people and their talents, not just from a business aspect but a life aspect,” Gibney said.
Those values don’t always lead to greater company growth, however.
“We had the opportunity about two years ago to interview with a very large company,” Gibney said. But Jacobs Marketing was already representing another company with a similar product line.
“In the end,” she said, “we turned down the new business. . . . When you think about the impact to the company and how good it could have been for our reputation and our volume and our income, that’s where it was difficult. We could have justified it in our heads. But we stayed true to our word. We can all sleep well at night. That’s my gauge.”
However, sleeping well at night is sometimes dependent on the health of her husband, Chris Gibney, executive vice president of category management at Jacobs Marketing, and their three living children: Tommy, 9; Grace, 7; and Matthew, 4. Another son who died at birth, Peter, would have been 11, Gibney said.
Asked about her greatest accomplishment or project, Gibney quickly said, “I am most proud of my three children. They are just neat kids. I learn from the kids a lot, especially from a faith standpoint.”
The project she is most proud of is the Gibney Fund that she and Chris created at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, which creates a student board to be in charge of part of the Gibneys’ annual giving.
Gibney wanted college students to learn about the beauty of giving and philanthropy work.
Although she is never surprised by the charities they choose, she has been surprised by the impact it has had on the students.
“A couple of students have chosen to go into nonprofit work. One was going to be a lawyer. He’s still a lawyer, but chose to do law in nonprofit versus for profit,” she said.
Faith grew in grief
When Gibney found out that account executive Deb Tallarico had nominated her for the Leading With Faith Award, she thought about what Jesus would do and what he taught. “He’s my focus on [leadership].”
A lifelong Catholic, Gibney said that her faith really grew through her sister, Annette Lamers, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and died at 40.
The Gibneys were attending St. Olaf in Minneapolis where they were married and became close friends with Father Peter Laird. The priest told her that he has seen very few people immerse themselves in faith the way her sister did during the last seven years of her life.
“Father Laird has been monumental in my faith journey,” Gibney said, adding that he inspires her to listen and want to make changes in her life. She said that she also is inspired by Ringuette, husband Chris, and parents, Gene and Nancy Jacobs.
One additional inspiration was the book “Servant Leadership,” which showed her the kind of leader she wanted to be.
The comments made by Tallarico on the nomination form suggest that Gibney already is that kind of leader.
Tallarico wrote: “Another example of a great Christian leader is the belief that people are made in the image and likeness of God. We all know how difficult that can be sometimes, as everyone does not act from the same value base. To treat difficult business associates with ultimate respect and acceptance takes a very special individual. To then become their mentor and nurture them is a rare talent. I have seen Jackie do this over and over.”
Title: President/partner of Jacobs Marketing
Parish: St. Therese, Deephaven
Children: Tommy, Grace, Matthew and the late Peter
Activities: Founder of The Gibney Award, Vistage International participant, religion instructor at her parish
Category: Leading With Faith