A Material Difference: Kerry Chaffin, Senior Training Consultant at SyN
Kerry Chaffin’s nearly 30-year professional career is similar to the textiles she studied at Kansas State University (BS, Apparel and Textile Marketing, ’87).
From her work with complex organizations ranging from the Disney Store to the City of Los Angeles to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Chaffin has created a one-of-a-kind fabric, an intertwining of experiences and knowledge she now brings to Speakers you Need (SyN) as a Senior Training Consultant. SyN offers comprehensive and customized training strategies for organizations and businesses of all sizes.
Woven throughout is her constant focus on solutions: “My philosophy in business and in life is, ‘don’t offer excuses, offer solutions.’”
Chaffin practices what she preaches. After a stint in high-end retail revealed to her that the clothing industry wasn’t for her, Chaffin solved her next-step dilemma by following her natural curiosity into the corporate world. She learned business from the ground floor up at the Disney Store, while helping open the Overland Park, KS, store and then working for them while she earned an MBA from the University of Kansas (MBA ’93).
“Disney provided a fabulous lab in which to study business. I learned the idea of synergy there. All the different parts of a conglomerate, of any organization, impact the other parts. If one piece of the machine is broken, all parts suffer.”
In 1993 Chaffin entered the corporate training world, where her desire to bring solutions to businesses and other organizations had room to fully develop.
“My true passion is working with clients to analyze and identify their needs and to find workable solutions to solve skill gaps. I get most excited when I can help design a unique solution to meet a very specific problem.”
For example, shortly after the 1994 earthquake in L.A., Chaffin was working with the City of Los Angeles as their training consultant. The city’s building inspectors faced a special set of challenges: mud slides, new building regulations, hazardous work conditions. Chaffin was asked to go onsite to experience first hand what the inspectors confronted on a daily basis in order to design a comprehensive training program to help prepare them for the demands of their unique job.
“I hopped on an airplane, traipsed through the mud with an inspector to arrive at a home that stood with one corner on land and the rest on stilts. It seemed like the whole thing would collapse if we stepped inside. I realized that stress was a major issue these folks face on a daily basis.”
Chaffin worked with the City of Los Angeles throughout the tenure of three mayors and held seniority amongst the city’s training effort, including that of their onsite staff.
Developing the right customized solution for an organization’s training needs sometimes includes site visits to identify specific needs. In other situations, Chaffin relies solely on consultations with management followed by collaboration with curriculum experts. In every situation, Chaffin is focused on delivering the smartest solution at the best price.
“Working with city governments, non-profits, any organization, budget must be a consideration. I was raised by depression-era parents and have a very practical mindset when it comes to spending money. The training dollar must be well spent.”
Mary Anselmo, Chief Deputy Clerk of Training & Development at Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, sums up Chaffin’s budget-conscience values: “Kerry always went the extra mile in helping our office by getting the best value using our training dollars and recommending the best trainers available.”
Chaffin’s training partner approach has led her to the top of sales charts, and to numerous industry accolades, including two “”Thinking outside the Box” Awards for innovative business ideas, and a Master of Business Experience Award in 2015. She has emceed national speaker showcases and is equally comfortable donning a hard hat to visit a manufacturing facility.
Chaffin’s training expertise and interest have no boundaries. She has designed training around technical and specialized needs, as well as soft skills such as business writing and customer service. One of her favorite custom projects was working with the University of Notre Dame to enhance customer service skills across the vast campus and employee population.
“The idea came from the fact that many families and individuals visit Notre Dame as a pilgrimage. It is a destination, and one interaction can make or break that person’s perception. The leadership viewed those interactions as key in maintaining the University’s reputation,” says Chaffin.
In order to establish a baseline, Chaffin conducted interviews with various employees ranging from faculty to maintenance staff. Working backwards from those videos, she helped design a program to improve the countless and often hidden opportunities to sustain or expand Notre Dame’s reputation and to educate all staff that they are part of the school’s public relations program.
As a training consultant Chaffin has managed a client base of over 1,000 including such stalwarts as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the United States Air Force and the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite the vast number, she is known for her individualized approach. “With every client, I make sure they are better off when the training day is over than when the day began.”
And that is the cloth from which successful training is cut. Contact Chaffin at 913.717.0167 to start designing your next training program.