Kate Banasiak started out as a senior administrative assistant at Diversified Management Services Inc. (DMS), a company that provides management services to nonprofit professional and trade associations. After four years, she was promoted to chief operating officer and bought the ownership shares of one of the company’s three partners. In 2011, she and another partner began buying the shares of the third owner and Banasiak became president and CEO. Kate volunteers for several civic organizations and is a 2012 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. She spoke to the Des Moines Leadership Network in November about her secrets to success, so we followed up with her on that topic.


Your first secret to success is to love what you do. How did you know you would love what you’re doing?

When I was looking for my job, the part of the job description that included “making the coffee and answering the phones” didn’t necessarily make me jump to the conclusion of “I’ll love this,” but I did know the following:

• I loved meeting and event planning, and that is a big component of what the company does.

• I had a passion for community involvement, which is key to what DMS does.

• I loved the company’s vision statement: “Service Beyond Expectation.” When I worked out East (during a college internship), my co-workers were constantly joking about my hard-core “Midwest” work ethic.

• They conveyed to me their strong commitment to their people and their families.


Your second secret is to have a partner or a mentor and that your husband, Mike, is your partner. How do you help each other professionally?

Professionally we help each other in so many ways: whether it’s talking through something that one of us is trying to implement at work, helping to prep appetizers for one of his events, or having him pick up trash at one of my client events. We also try to get involved in similar volunteer activities. If he’s taking a leadership role for something, I might sign up for a committee or to volunteer.

When I learned I would have to start traveling, my husband worked on researching how to overcome my fear of flying. To this day, he almost always drops me off at the airport. He’s that constant push that lets me know I can conquer anything I put my mind to.


Your third secret is “Never, ever feel entitled.” What does that mean for you?

To me, that means always knowing that you need to earn your spot at the table and that you are never above learning or doing something to help the team. As a small business owner, it’s important that I’m willing to jump in and help with anything and everything, just as I expect out of my employees. This means that you might see me doing a mailing, helping to pick up trash at an event or hauling boxes.


Your fourth secret:“Learn from everyone.”How do you do that?

I try to tap into the traditional and nontraditional leaders that I might learn from. The traditional leaders are people at our company or within the industry who have a tremendous amount of experience and are often able to chime in and give insight when we’re making decisions. Just as important are the nontraditional leaders … that administrative assistant who doesn’t say much, but has some fantastic advice on how to be more efficient and serve clients better.

And you can probably catch me on the phone talking to my grandpa or one of my family members. There is nothing quite like the hard-working, small-business farm ethic when you’re trying to decide which way to turn. My grandpa keeps things real and reminds me constantly that integrity is everything.


And your last secret is: “Do your best and fake the rest.” Where and how did you learn that?

In the hospitality industry, I ended up dealing with a lot of situations, such as having someone set off the sprinklers right before a wedding reception, having a broken water main to your hotel or even having someone fall and get seriously hurt. I learned that how you react is critical. If you take a moment to breathe, think and then deal with whatever comes up, it will be much easier to wear your game face throughout the situation and have people feel comfortable with how you are handling things.