Stormy Madden is the Vice President of National Accounts at First Choice Facilities, a Leo FM partner company. Stormy participated in Orion's six-month Leadership Development Program (LDP) to gain valuable management training experience and to hone her skills as a leader.

How did you get to your current position at First Choice?

I actually started off in retail, but I knew it wasn't going to be a forever job. I saw that there was an opportunity as an Account Manager at First Choice, and at the time, I knew them as a local landscaping company. I had not realized that in the previous months, it had turned into a national company with a commercial client base as opposed to residential. So when I went to interview, I thought, “Holy cow, this was not what I expected.” But I kind of fell in love with it.

My interview happened in the middle of a snowstorm, so everyone was on their phones talking to me. That was wild because I had only ever had suit-and-tie interviews, but the First Choice team just wanted to talk about me and things we had in common. As soon as I finished the interview, I just knew this was the place for me.

As First Choice grew, I naturally gravitated towards training our new employees and coming up with different processes. So once our account management team hit a growth spurt, it was very organic for me to take the reins. Prior to that, there wasn't really leadership in place; everyone was doing their own thing alongside each other. I took on all the accounts and streamlined the way we were doing everything. I also moved up to our director position, which was a level they created for me. Now, I manage the teams that provide facility maintenance to our commercial clients nationwide, ensuring communication is up to pace and training employees.

What prompted you to participate in the LDP?

When we first partnered with Orion, we met with the investing team, and they asked us, “What are your fears? What are your expectations?” My big thing was developmental training. I knew I had skills that were untapped, that I hadn’t gotten a chance to be coached on. At the time, I had a team of about seven people with no real management experience. I could do the job myself well, but managing other people was not something I’d done in the past as a career. I wanted training on how to handle certain situations. So when Jacquie O’Connor, the Leo FM CEO, recommended I apply for the LDP, I was counting down the days until Orion announced the participants.

What made the LDP effective to you?

From the beginning, it has not been a disappointment. I was worried the program was going to be people sitting on Zoom with their cameras off, but it was very interactive. Every Zoom meeting we had, every triad session, I learned something new every time.

At certain times in the first half of the program, I thought, “What’s the end goal here? Where are we going with this?” Later, I would realize something we were learning in the moment resonated exactly with something we talked about two weeks ago. When we finally came full-circle, I would think, “This makes so much sense!” In the end, I realized I just needed to trust the process.

How did the LDP challenge you?

I’m not the kind of person who just opens up to complete strangers. And that’s what we started off as – we were complete strangers.

But after our first in-person session and seeing everyone be vulnerable – whether it was about their personal problems or issues they were facing at work – it definitely felt like a safe place. You weren’t there to be judged, you were there to get professional feedback on how to handle your situation.

How has the LDP changed your approach to leadership?

My struggle has been self-awareness. I was afraid of seeming scary to my employees. The LDP really helped me reflect on myself, be more present and read people better. Going into it, I felt like I was hard on my team in terms of driving results from them, and I thought that kind of made me less compassionate as a leader. That’s something that flipped for me because of the LDP. I’ve really focused less on results and more on the team. The LDP has changed my mindset from numbers to people.

How did the LDP showcase Orion’s values?

I was so happy with Orion for giving us this opportunity. I wanted resources, I wanted training, and Orion was delivering. I think that speaks volumes about how Orion cares about the growth of their companies.

About the LDP

The LDP is a recurring six-month program for high performers to develop the leadership skills needed to take on more responsibility in our partner companies. The program pairs skill development workshops with peer triads.

About Orion

Orion is building national platforms in the mechanical service, commercial landscaping and facilities maintenance sectors by creating unmatched growth opportunities for businesses with strong teams and cultures.

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