Jeannette Terry Has Built One of Most Respected Consulting Firms in the Nation

The Women in Business series is presented by UMB Women and Wealth

When Jeannette Terry talks, people listen—specifically Fortune 50 CEOs, corporate moguls, and high-powered industry leaders. Why? Because Terry is a corporate fixer. In 1995, she co-founded her company TerconPartners, Inc., a small business consulting firm in Overland Park, Kansas. Locally, she was revered for helping companies gain much-needed footing and/or avoid going off the rails. In the early 2000s, Terry and her business partner got “an invitation to speak at a very large, international conference of oil and gas executives on leadership,” she says. “And that was really the beginning of our international business—and a large growth spurt.”  

Before long, Terry found herself coaching executives at Shell Global. “We did coaching for leaders and training for teams for Shell in Houston,” she says. “They sent us to Europe, and we consulted with Shell projects being built in the U.K., Europe, and Singapore. That was our foot in the water and from there, we were approached by Exxonmobil and Chevron.”

Suddenly, Terry’s “conservative, small consulting firm in the Midwest had an opportunity for international business,” she says. Terry decided to buy out her partner and move back to her hometown of Washington. D.C. where she held court for nearly ten years. Terry says, besides having family in D.C., the move also made sense given the ridiculous amount of international travel she was doing. When Covid hit (and international travel dried up), Terry decided to move back to Lawrence where she also has roots. (Terry, her mom, sister, and daughter are all KU grads. Her father, meanwhile, was a respected bigwig in the FFA.)

Now known as one of the nation’s most respected organizational development consultants, Terry says she’s more passionate than ever about helping companies perform at their highest optimum level. TerconPartners, Inc. stakes claim to being experts in three areas: 1) leading organizations and teams, 2) honing high-performance teams built on trust, inclusion, and commitment to collaboration, and 3) creating resilient organizational cultures. “We ask what things leaders can build into the organizational culture that creates resilience, like bouncing back from a disappointment or a business loss,” she says. “It’s about treating mistakes like learning opportunities.”

Terry says Covid has changed the dynamics of many companies—especially with the new hybrid workforce model. “Leaders need to be communicating with their organizations regularly to say here are our five—or ten—cultural values and then also demonstrate them,” she says. “That’s where you get a strong, resilient culture when the leader drives the importance of behaviors, values, and practices. Culture can be a competitive advantage for organizations that pay attention to it, reinforce it, and reward people for being culture champions.”

As a self-proclaimed people person, Terry has found her niche. “I’m a behaviorist,” she says. “My training is about understanding human behavior. And I can apply those principles and they work.” Terry quickly learned that in many instances, she would be the only woman at any high-level corporate meeting. “I decided I was going to have a strategy for speaking up and I learned to speak early,” she says. “That was my test by fire.”

While Terry sometimes encountered gender and cultural bias, she constantly reinforced that collaboration was good for any company’s bottom line. Her other strategy? “Ignore putdowns,” she says. “Early on, I did enough research that I learned to expect it, and forewarned is forearmed. I’ve never wavered from it.”

Terry adds that she’s happy she’s back in the Midwest. “I miss some of the hustle and bustle of the East Coast, but not enough to go back and do that all the time,” she says. “I like the opportunity to build relationships with people on a personal and professional level.” Terry also says she’s taking her arsenal of skills and now “making it digestible for smaller and medium-sized businesses. We’re adding those into the mix,” she says. “We proved we know how to work with Fortune 50 companies—for years and years and years. From those experiences, we can use those training and coaching programs to help businesses of any size. That’s a good objective for us.” 

Recently, Terry accepted a position as adjunct faculty member at KU’s Edwards Campus. The course she’s teaching is right up her alley—and then some. “Intercultural communication,” she says. It’s the perfect move for Terry to nurture the next generation of movers and shakers. “Millennials are going to bring a new energy for succeeding in careers and business, and it’s going to help propel them into leadership positions.” 

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