Len Krichko spends his share of time with adults – in the boardroom, in Washington lobbying for youth, working with his staff. But it’s talking to school-aged kids that really motivates him.
“You could be having the worst day and you walk into a Club and hear ‘Mr. K, thank you so much,'” Krichko said. As president and chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, which serves 26,000 kids ages 6 to 18 – 7,000 to 8,000 of them in Oakland County – kids’ gratitude means a lot.
Under Krichko’s direction since 1997, B&GCSM has doubled in size and expanded its Clubs from 7 to 13. There are eight in Wayne County and one each in Macomb and Washtenaw Counties, plus three in Oakland County – Lake Orion, Auburn Hills and Pontiac. Company headquarters are in Farmington Hills.
The charge of protecting and developing youth is personal for Krichko. He belonged to a Pennsylvania Boys & Girls Club in his youth, and he’s spent 23 years in leadership roles with Boys & Girls Clubs.
He also knows many Club member success stories. Case in point: actor Courtney Vance, who was a Highland Park Club member. Krichko tears up when he tells the story of how Vance’s mentor from the Club, George Browne, encouraged him to seek a better education, which led to enrollment in Country Day School and eventually college, and how Browne was there in the audience many years later when Vance was inducted into the Boys and Girls Clubs of America alumni hall of fame.
The Clubs serve as a “safe haven for kids,” Krichko said, offering after-school and weekend activities as well as weekday summer activities. Each Club focuses on five core areas: the arts; character and leadership development; education and career development; sports, fitness and recreation; and health and life skills.
In the area of education, B&GCSM, which boasts a 90 percent high school graduation rate for its members, is at the forefront of an effort to increase graduation rates in Detroit, where they’re the lowest in the country. A $75,000 grant from The Skillman Foundation has enabled Krichko’s organization to provide a program that encourages African American boys aged 11 to 13 to stay in school. The program offers a sports incentive, provides training for staff on education trends, and partially funds Club memberships and a summer program that helps youth retain knowledge learned in school.
Krichko’s near-term goals include reaching out to more alumni for financial support, increasing marketing and awareness efforts, and looking for expansion opportunities. While serving 26,000 kids is something to be proud of, Krichko isn’t resting on his laurels. “We should be serving 52,000 (kids),” he said. “There should be a Boys & Girls Club in every city.”
• Education: Master’s degree from Southern Connecticut State University.
• Family: Wife, Heather Rindels; two daughters, Katie and Lucy, and dog, Misty Sue.
• Residence: Novi.
• Best way to keep competitive edge: Learn from the best and always be open to learning something new every day.
• Personal hero(s): My mom and dad.
• How do you motivate people: By encouraging them to be their best – meet with them in an open dialog, coach them and recognize their achievements. I believe in team building.
• How do you motivate yourself: Tour our Clubs and talk to our kids.
• Three greatest passions: Working with kids to provide a better life for them; spending time with my family and enjoying sporting events.
• Most unique office decor: African art piece “It takes a village to raise a child,” which is beautifully framed.
• Favorite hobby: Watching college football.
• Best business decision: Working with community partners along with Dick and Sandy Dauch to build a new facility in Detroit: NFL/YET- Boys & Girls Club.
• Worst business decision: Not being more proactive in fundraising.
• Biggest management myth: Not everyone wants to be a team player.
• What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago? Follow your passion, which I have been able to do in my career.
• Hot stock in your portfolio: Tough question for today’s market conditions.
• Word that best describes you: Energetic (human tornado).
• What keeps you up at night? Thinking about what more can I do to help kids at the Clubs.
• Pet peeve: People that are not happy campers.
• Guilty pleasure: Listening to books on tape.
• First job: Coach of cross country and track at the University of South Carolina.
• First choice for a new career: College professor in the school of non-profit management and/or a non-profit consultant.
• Favorite cause: Boys & Girls Clubs.
• Favorite book: “Bo’s Lasting Lessons.” Bo’s Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach
• Favorite movie: Brubaker (a classic).
• What’s on your iPod/car radio dial? ESPN (satellite radio).
• What do you do to recharge the batteries? R&R with family.
• Favorite restaurant: Alfoccino (Farmington Hills).
• Wheels: Jeep Grand Cherokee.