Success can be defined by many factors: accolades and awards, promotions, prestige or power.
But for two Trevecca graduates, siblings Brady Plummer and Kelly King, success isn’t about any of those things. Instead, their definition of what it means to be successful is deeply tied to Trevecca’s mission statement and their Christian faith.
Pared down to its simplest form, their definition is just two words long: servant leadership.
By business standards, Kelly and Brady have already achieved an incredible amount of success for mid-career professionals.
A 1999 graduate of Trevecca, Kelly is an assurance partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a network of accounting firms in 157 countries whose 223,000 employees deliver assurance, advisory and tax services to clients. In 2012, she became the first female partner in PwC’s Nashville office.
Last December, the Nashville Business Journal named Kelly to their annual “40 Under 40” list, an honor the outlet reserves for those “making big names for themselves in Nashville’s business scene.” Nominated by the public, winners are chosen by a panel of business professionals based on criteria such as business accomplishments, community involvement and more.
Brady, who graduated from Trevecca in 2000, started his career with Deloitte & Touche and spent time with his sister at PwC before spending several years as an assistant vice president of internal audit for HCA, headquartered in Nashville.
Two months ago, he was named the new chief information officer for the Parallon division of HCA. In that role, Brady is responsible for the technology that supports the revenue cycle of HCA and several third party healthcare companies—including over $40 billion in revenue each year.
Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with the siblings about their passion for their work, why servant leadership is so important and what it really means to be successful. Read on to find out what they had to say.
What They're Passionate About
Kelly: I’m passionate about developing our people, specifically future female leaders. For some time, I have given oversight to our recruitment process, ensuring that we attract, develop and retain top talent. Once they’ve joined PwC, [I work] with individuals to identify a career path that they’re passionate about and get fulfillment from, and either develop them to be future leaders within our firm or exceptional alumni and leaders in the business community.
As the first female partner at PwC out of our Nashville practice, I would like my professional legacy to be that I invested with purpose and intention in the lives of young women and served as a mentor, encouraging them to lead authentic lives with the confidence that they are qualified to be our future leaders.
Brady: I’m passionate about innovation and learning how to do things faster, smarter, better, cheaper—mainly through technology but also through process improvement.
How Trevecca's Mission Has Influenced Their View of Success
Kelly: I feel very fortunate—and I think it’s a large part of why I’m at PwC 18 years later—that we believe in the model of servant leaders. An integral part of building leaders in our practice is an acknowledgment of our civic responsibility, involvement in our community and philanthropy. We give our people time and support to go invest in what they are passionate about in the community.
At PwC, our purpose is to “Build trust in society and solve important problems.” For me, a huge part of building that trust is acting with integrity. It is fundamental to everything we do.
Brady: When I was in my senior year at Trevecca, I did an internship at HCA. And one day when I was sitting in my little cube, Dr. Tommy Frist Jr. walked up to me. He’s one of the founders of the company, and at the time, he was the CEO. He’s renowned worldwide for his service and giving back to the community, including all the work he does with United Way. He’s a huge philanthropist. He just stopped by my cube and introduced himself. I told him I was an intern, and he asked me where I went to school. He told me that he regularly had lunch with [former Trevecca President] Millard Reed and talked about how well Trevecca’s mission aligns with HCA’s, basically producing students in the community who are armed with a mission to serve.
What it Means to Be Successful
Brady: I feel like everyone should want to be a contributor. If you’re going to get up and go to work every day, you want to make a difference. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time. Over the course of a career, you want to look back and see that you’ve accomplished things and developed people. ... Maybe when you measure [the success of] your career, it’s the impact you’ve had on others, that you’ve had on your areas of responsibility that matters.
After having kids—I have three kids now—I want to set an example for them, demonstrate hard work, having a positive impact on those around me and being a role model for them.
Kelly: As I look back on my 18-year career, different things have been important to me at different points in my career. For the first 12 years of my career, when I was single and didn’t have a family of my own, my focus was on building relationships—in the community, with my colleagues throughout PwC globally and with my clients. Similar to what Brady said, I think when you look back at the end of the day, those relationships are the best measure of both your personal and professional success.
Twelve years into my career, I got married and now have a three-year-old son. Becoming a mother brought me incredible perspective with respect to prioritizing all of my relationships: first and foremost my relationship with God, secondly my relationship with my family and third those professional relationships.
How Their Trevecca Experience Helped Prepare Them
Kelly: So much of my success today is the result of working together as a team, collaborating, sharing ideas and recognizing the benefits of seeking and integrating diverse points of view. I learned many of those values at Trevecca, [such as] learning to care about those that I worked with and recognizing what each person contributes.
One of my biggest fears coming out of a smaller liberal arts school like Trevecca and going to work with PwC, the largest professional services firm in the world was that I wouldn’t measure up. I quickly found out that was absolutely not the case. The smaller classroom size and investments of certain professors ensured my engagement and accountability for my education. I was more than just a number. Now 18 years later, I know that I received a strong education, something I can be proud of and that measures up against other schools 10 times the size of Trevecca.
Brady: I would say Trevecca helped me survive college. I remember one time I stayed up all night preparing for a business law final exam that I was woefully unprepared for. I literally tried to pull an all-nighter and probably went to sleep around 6 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. test, and I just didn’t wake up. I remember the phone ringing, and I woke up, looked at the clock and realized I was 30 minutes late for my final. It was Dr. Hiatt calling. He just said, “Brady, are you going to come take this test?” So I ran across campus and took the final. If I’d gone to a big state school, that wouldn’t have happened. I would have just failed the class. ... I really feel like I got the help and attention [I needed], and there were professors who really invested in me personally. When they knew I could do better work, they called me out for it rather than just letting me skate by.
A Trevecca Legacy
Kelly and Brady don’t deny that they’ve achieved a certain level of success in their careers. But they’re also quick to stress that it wasn’t something they achieved on their own. Both credit their parents—Howard and Anna, also Trevecca alumni—who Brady says refused to accept mediocrity.
“The focus on education, support and their refusal to accept mediocrity has been huge for me,” he says. “I think Kelly is a little more self-motivated than me.”
With a laugh, Kelly agreed, stressing the impact their parents have had on their lives.
“Brady and I have been blessed to be provided with opportunities that have allowed us to achieve success at an early age,” she says. “But I attribute much of our success to our parents. We have very bright parents who have been our greatest encouragers, shaping our values from an early age. They’ve always instilled in us the importance of education, acting with integrity and a strong work ethic. I attribute much of our success to being blessed to be raised in a home where those values were instilled very early on.”