Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristin Lee.
Working in entertainment was never a question for Kristin Lee. From a young age, she fondly remembers digging through her grandmother’s closet, reemerging in sequins and feather boas, and selling tickets to little shows for her family. Her grandmother taught her to use a turntable, and from then on, she insisted on flipping the Sinatra and Dean Martin LPs every single time.
As she grew older, she started playing music, painting, and shooting photographs of her favorite Bay Area bands. She did this while maintaining top academic performance and co-developing an extracurricular arts program for her school, which earned her a college scholarship.
Her early years of college were spent booking shows and tours for friends, selling merchandise at gigs, dabbling in tour management, and performing as a musician herself. She later decided to attend Cal State Fullerton to focus on becoming a licensed accountant. That path eventually led her to her first business management position at Gelfand Rennert & Feldman in Los Angeles. From day one, Kristin knew she had finally found a career where she could thrive by applying her intellect and passion in one place — a space where she could value the art, the struggle, and the business behind it all.
From there she stepped over to NKSFB, working with A-list performers and athletes for a short time. She then ended up with Mark Kaplan, who she calls the smartest man she’s ever met. With Kaplan, Kristin could truly diversify within the business management frame, take on new tasks, and build the confidence to strike out on her own.
With her own firm, Kristin made it a priority to improve the inefficiencies of antiquated business models and found innovative ways to serve her clients. This approach—coupled with her sheer drive and passion for the industry—has paid off. In just four years, KLBM has grown from a small operation in Echo Park into a penthouse suite in downtown Los Angeles and has now just opened a second location in Seattle, Washington.
“My goal with KLBM is to empower artists and athletes to reach their full potential by being able to focus on their craft. They can do that by knowing the team behind them is here to help structure their dreams into reality through thoughtful business and tax planning. As the band Cursive once said, ‘Art Is Hard’.”
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
In some ways, it really has been smooth. Through my hard work, authenticity, and perseverance, doors really continued to open for me. That being said, the hard work comes somewhat easy for me because I absolutely love what I do, and I couldn’t imagine having taken any other path. I consider myself to be one of the truly lucky ones who wake up every day and is excited about going to work. I’m excited about my clients, my team, and all of the growth and achievements we have gotten to share together. It’s like each day I have never been more proud of them or myself.
My main hurdle has been pushing through a masculine industry to get the recognition and position that I deserve. I rarely meet. other female business managers, and it’s pretty obvious that the sheer number of men that work in entertainment outnumber women.
There came a point during each part of my career that I would cap out at a firm. The fact that I am quite different than what most would think a typical business manager would be, coupled with being a young woman, made it very clear that many of these men just did not know what to do with me in the long run, even though they would all admit my intelligence, capability, and tenacity.
In a lot of ways, I think I terrified them, and they were unable to embrace unique opportunity they were faced with by having a fresh presence at the table. They just wanted to carry on as-is, never changing the outer perspective or remodeling some of their antiquated ideas and processes. If you didn’t fit the mold, you were not going to succeed.
The realization that I could not reach my full potential as long as I was in this type of environment is what eventually drove me to go out on my own.
KLBM – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
KLBM provides a full range of business management and accounting services to musicians, athletes, writers, actors, producers, labels, and other high net worth individuals and companies all over the world. We specialize in helping highly creative and athletic individuals structure their craft into a business model that allows them to have long and fruitful careers. I like to think that we make dreams a reality by turning an idea into a tangible, sellable product — which is really just them being themselves and doing what they love most. I want to foster my clients’ continued growth and success as their industries and the world changes around them, so it’s important to stay ahead of trends on both the business and creative sides while also staying up to date on the ever-changing tax laws around the world.
We’re known for our unique approach to clients and their needs. The business management industry is so antiquated in my eyes, and it has taken a lethargic pace in adapting to new technologies and strides of today’s upcoming class of stars. We have spent a fair amount of time identifying these inefficiencies as a team and doing internal problem-solving in order to better serve our clients. With all that we have at our fingertips today, I know there are ways we can improve and accelerate our workflow without sacrificing quality. I strive to always keep this conversation open-ended with my staff and with clients to ensure that we stay ahead in the race.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
By the time I achieve a goal, I have five new ones on the list. I think that I’ve become satisfied with never being satisfied. I can’t sit still, and I always want to do and learn more. I am constantly trying to better myself — in my work, my mind, my relationships, my body. It’s tough to find balance in there, and I have not been able to do any of this alone. I have had many counselors, mentors, and role models that I have taken from.
Eventually, these actions will get me to a point where I can be the one to pay it forward, and at that point, I will feel truly successful. I have such a need to give back to my industry, to artists struggling to make it work, and especially to other women in business.