"When I get out of bed, I appreciate the opportunity to live life as my best self. I am really excited about living my best life!"
Stacie Behler grew up in the Detroit area, with her older brother and parents. Dad was an appliance service man; Mom was a dental assistant; both did everything in their power to give Stacie every opportunity—a reflection of their own perseverance and childhood challenges.
"They are the two hardest working people I know. Their work ethic is unparalleled—that's where I learned."
Stacie followed in those footsteps.
She attended Michigan State University as a freshman. When money became too tight, she came home, lived with her parents, worked 50 hours a week and attended Oakland University, an exceptional learning environment for her intense work and study schedule. She made the Dean's List. She completed her degree in three years. Then, after studying law at University of Illinois and graduating, Stacie moved to Grand Rapids to work as an attorney.
And she stayed.
"I fell in love with Grand Rapids. And while I love Detroit, I was hooked on West Michigan!" Today, Stacie is Group Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for Meijer Inc. and the Executive Director of the Meijer Foundation. She's been with Meijer 17 years, this May.
She works with members of the Meijer team and Meijer family. Each day is a discovery of how to engage with team, customers and community. The company and the foundation make work different, every day.
Which is good, as she tends to get bored easily. "The lawyer in me craves predictability, yet I thrive with surprise and emerging environments." Stacie gets plenty of both, as Meijer has more than 70,000 employees and 240 stores over a six-state region. "It's not easy to get things aligned and moving forward in such a large company, but you learn how to develop relationships."
You also learn how to develop yourself.
"About 10 years ago, a person with whom I work —who I don't really enjoy—had been asked to provide feedback about me. He said I 'suffered fools easily.' I was so focused on ambition and on getting to the next level, I wasn't very self-aware. But that really stuck with me. It was hard to accept at first." Though it was tough for the overachieving Stacie to hear, she now uses that feedback.
"I don't suffer fools anymore."
When Stacie became a Meijer vice president at 36, she was among the youngest ever—and frequently among the youngest in the room. "I was less insecure about being one of a handful of women than of being young. I was insecure about having a voice, about being taken seriously. Some terrific leaders inspired me and empowered me to have a voice."
Stacie tries to do the same for her team and others. She wants people to wake up and be intentional about living their best life—to challenge themselves to bring their "A" game every day. It's what she strives for. It's what she advises the next generation of female professionals.
"Millennials are inherent risk-takers. Allow yourself to take risks, to do something you're uncomfortable with. I wish someone had told me that! Get comfortable with being uncomfortable." You need to truly engage: "With a capital E."
She talks of one mentor's engagement and his influence on her. "Fred Meijer was really engaged in the nonprofit world. He was the most curious man I ever met. Every day, he was an inspiring learner. Being in Fred's orbit, watching how he engaged with people ... He made you feel so invested. He wanted to get to know about people. He was remarkable."
When Stacie took over the Meijer United Way campaign, she had the opportunity to serve on the board. She talked with Fred, who encouraged her: "Don't just do it—do it well. Do a good job, then step aside to allow others the opportunity." Stacie did. She chaired the board and has learned from serving and watching. "It's disappointing when someone decides to serve in a passive way."
She carries that through to leadership. "A pet peeve is women who find themselves in leadership roles and hoard it—who stand in the way of others. We need more women in leadership—not just women in leadership. Bring opportunity to that next generation, then step aside."
Stacie is a low-profile person in a high-profile position, as she likes it.
"I like being the No. 2—standing behind the Meijer family and leadership, creating strategy for the broader Meijer community. I'm not comfortable being a spokesperson." It's not unlike Stacie to step in, engage, lead, step aside—to stand shoulder to shoulder or step back and encourage. "Working for a family whose name is on the building, it's pretty easy to be a conduit for nice, caring, committed people."
Commitment is par for Stacie's course. She's dedicated to the people and ideas in her world.
She mentions a "failed" performing arts background. "I was a dancer in grade school, high school and college. I was in band and orchestra. In sixth grade I really wanted to play an instrument, but renting one was expensive. In the band room were the unpopular instruments. So, I brought home this huge bassoon."
She has two cats, Mouser (a boy) and Kevin (a girl), and a terrific life partner. "Dr. Tony Baker. He keeps me very busy, teaching me new things. We were basically set up on a blind date, a year and a half ago. He's a sociologist, director of community engagement for Ferris State University and an overall amazing man. We've gone to Paris and New York. We have a condo in Chicago. We love exploring life. He has two great kids who share his curiosity about the world. We are both really grateful to the mutual friend who set us up. We're rediscovering our broader community—and it's wonderful."
Stacie also loves running, which she started four years ago. She'll run the Boston Marathon this year, with a nonprofit exemption. "Tony and I run together, although he is way faster. I have never run a marathon and will never run another, but I love the camaraderie and the energy of running."
Above all, she's a partner, a daughter, a friend, a part of the community, a mentor and a student.
"I want to spend the rest of my life learning. I'm really lucky I get the chance to do just that."
Written by Amy L Charles, Editorial Director for West Michigan Woman.
Photos Courtesy of Kelly Braman Photography.