Building Community | Sharing a lifetime of soaring
- Published: February 17, 2023
This is the first in a series examining the meaning of community through the eyes of residents working to build and shape it in Yellow Springs.
During a recent interview with the News, village residents and co-founders of The Jael Group, or TJG, Steven and Jalyn Roe, often mentioned a spiritual concept related to “the way”: an opening, path, direction, even a process that at times means finding “a way out of no way.”
This concept plays a central role in the work they have been doing in a business partnership spanning 35 years and are passionate about — which is taking businesses and nonprofits on a journey of sorts, through a facilitated strategic aspiration process the Roes call a SOAR analysis. They’ve also invested time working with companies and organizations to strengthen their diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, policies, and have walked as facilitators to guide organizations through difficult conversations to resolve conflicts.
The couple’s foundational business philosophy is, “Success always comes on the other side of service.”
“At heart, Jalyn and I are teachers. We love pouring into people and organizations, and we recognize that,” Chief Strategic Officer Steven Roe said.
According to company information provided to the News by TJG, the analysis also involves identifying organizational strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results — information that can then be used by companies and nonprofits to, “help them map out how to achieve the results they are seeking,” with usable strategic plans that will ensure sustainability and longevity.
TJG has worked with a number of Yellow Springs organizations, including WYSO, The 365 Project, Antioch College, The Village of Yellow Springs, the James A. McKee Association sponsored candidates’ forums and Yellow Springs Schools.
TJG is quick to point out what it is not — “an eight-hour, all-day-long, one-and-done, check-off-the-box process.” Their description emphasizes a model that is more egalitarian in approach. “It works for everyone within an organization, irrespective of position or hierarchical level, as long as each individual is committed to working through the process.”
The Roes, who have been married for 51 years, got their start in the 1980s, while living in Los Angeles. According to Strategy Advisor Jalyn Roe, the couple moved west for warmer weather, and found “their way” as a business after a period of hustling for contracts, working with an “eclectic group” of companies, including Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, Apple Technology Company and former NFL star Rosie Grier’s nonprofit organization, Are you Committed? — one of the first nonprofit organizations on their client rolls.
Working with Grier’s nonprofit organization in LA inspired them to work with more nonprofit organizations. When they moved back to Yellow Springs to be closer to Jalyn Roe’s mother, the late Maxine Jones, who passed away in 2015, the couple began volunteering their time as business mentors and strategic planning specialists for the Dayton organization SCORE, Inc. “The missing key is that nonprofits have mission statements, they have vision statements, but they don’t have the strategy,” Jalyn Roe said. “We believe they are or can be a foundation of any community.”
The Roes named their company after their grandson. “The reason why we chose him is because when that kid was two years old, three years old, he had a strategy for everything he did,” Jalyn Roe said.
The SOAR approach is framed differently than other commonly used strategic planning methodologies, including a popular one known as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, or SWOT.
It’s not that you ignore the things you’re doing bad. What we teach is we’re not here to fix problems. We’re here [to help] create what you want to create. It’s a quantum physics type of approach,” Steven Roe said.
“Maya Angelou said, ‘when you know better, you do better.’ So, we changed our whole way of looking at [strategic planning], because we really believe that there’s power in positivity, there truly is. I don’t care if you’re doing a diversity program, or we call it an ‘inclusion program,’ or, a functional area going into and doing business, if you look at the things you’ve done well, that gives you a higher ladder to start building on,” Jalyn Roe said.
The Roes said they drew inspiration from another local couple, Leonard Kramer and Toni Dosick, crediting the pair with teaching them about a methodology called appreciative inquiry, or AI, which they also utilize with their clients.
“The inquiry part is what’s called generative questions. So, you ask a question that generates thought, and that’s what moves not only a conversation forward, but that’s also what will move a business,” Jalyn Roe said. “If you ask the right questions, the generative questions in your business, that’s what gets you out of group think.”
The Roes said a challenge for many businesses and organizations is implementing the strategic plan they spent hours creating, and that when asked about the details of the plan or even its location, businesses they don’t know what it entails.
“We call it SPOTS — strategic plans on top shelves. That’s the old way of doing strategic planning, and so there are no tools for the organization,” Jalyn Roe said.
The Roes believe that the SOAR approach, with assistance from the appreciative inquiry process, counters this potential obstacle. “But this [SOAR strategic plan] becomes a living document, a living practice within the organization,” Jalyn Roe said.
Steven Roe added that their approach lends itself to a more quantum process in which creation is more of the focus than problem solving.
“We’ve since learned that life is not Newtonian [cause and effect], it’s actually quantum. … This is about creation. It’s not about problem solving. And so, we as human beings, we create through our thoughts and emotions,” Steven Roe said.
How they met
The Roes met at a party on Antioch’s campus in the early 1970s.
“I’ll tell you this particular party, I literally walked into the party, [Jalyn] was standing there talking to someone. I spoke to her, and then I kept walking. I walked around the party and went back outside. And I was standing there for whatever reason, for a minute on the front porch, and then she came out and we started talking. And for the next 51 years we’ve been together,” Steven Roe said.
Their life together as a married couple with a business has offered them another opportunity to teach how to navigate a relationship involving marriage and business partnerships.
“That’s something that we are going to do — workshops around husband-and-wife teams that are working together, or partners,” Jalyn Roe said.
According to Jalyn Roe, growing up in Yellow Springs offered her an opportunity for an eclectic early life experience, competitive riding, and training Hunter show horses. She is also one of the founders of the therapeutic riding program that is still going strong at the Riding Centre.
Jalyn Roe credits her mother for instilling her with a sense of self-worth as a child. “The Maxine Jacob Jones legacy that they poured into me, was that being a Black woman was an asset. So, when I went out into the world, I never had the thought, ‘I better be careful,’ within any situation, because I’m Black, and they might not understand me,” she said.
Roe also attended the Antioch School at a time when the student body was composed mainly of the children of Antioch College professors.
“I went to the Antioch School because of mom and Coretta King’s friendship. And the Antioch School was the only school that would allow Coretta Scott, at the time, to do her work study. And because of that, mom put my sister and I in Antioch School, because of what they did for her friend,” she said.
Roe said she appreciates the private school for allowing space for her intellectual curiosity to thrive when she was a student.
“[Antioch School] gave me a foundation [so] that I took boldness, I took fearlessness into every aspect of my life. I really believe that I can change the world, and I say it in present tense,” Jalyn Roe said.
The couple now reside in what Jalyn Roe calls the family’s “legacy” home; property that has been in her family for several decades. She is also related to the famed poet Paul Laurence Dunbar through her great-grandfather Fielding Dunbar, who was the poet’s first cousin.
“We have eight generations that have grown up in Yellow Springs,” Jalyn Roe said. “My great, great-grandfather was a slave that was freed he got his freedom because of the war.”
Jalyn Roe said her family owned several acres of property on what is now called Grinnell Road.
“Pat Matthews [former writer for the YS News] used to say they owned more land than Grinnell. And it would’ve been called Dunbar Road [instead of Grinnell], if they were white. Fielding Dunbar gave the land to the boys, and the homes to his girls. The boys quickly sold the land,” she said.
According to Jalyn Roe, entrepreneurship is a mainstay of her family legacy. “I very strongly believed that you have to own something. You can’t get it by working on someone else’s dream,” she said.
Roe’s parents were entrepreneurs and owned several local businesses. Her parents owned a nightclub called the MaJaGa, which her father named after the women in his life.
“He [her father, Jacob Jones, Jr.,] called it his three queens, Maxine, Jalyn and Gayla [his wife and two daughters], and the Party Pantry,” she said.
Jalyn Roe’s parents were the first Black owners of a Cassano’s Pizza King franchise, and also helped other African American businesses get established in the community.
“My father believed in helping Blacks get into business, and of course, they couldn’t get loans. He financed Gabby’s restaurant,” she said.
The son of a teenage mother, Steven Roe’s upbringing in Springfield was a contrast to his wife’s experiences in the village.
“I lived with my teenage mother who lived with her parents through the second grade of my life, and they were poor. They had an outhouse in the back of the house, and the water — you had to pump it out in the front yard,” Roe said.
Roe grew up in a section of the city known as, “The Bottom.” “I knew the area we were living in was called The Bottom. It was called Front Street because it fronted on Buck Creek. Everyone in that area was poor,” he said.
Steven Roe experienced racism early on, describing an incident in which he was arrested when he was around 14 years old. The arrest was triggered by an incident involving the owner of an ice cream shop where he and his uncle had gone to purchase milkshakes.
“I was accused at one point of attacking a police officer with a milkshake — that’s what the actual police report said — a milkshake,” he said. “And I would’ve spent the entire weekend in jail had it not been for the fact that my grandfather was a well-known Baptist preacher in the area,” he said.
Roe also credits his mother with changing his life after she purchased him a set of encyclopedias when he was in the fourth grade.
“I spent my hours reading the encyclopedia, and just really loving it and enjoying it,” he said.
Roe added that his mother had to advocate for his educational choice to take certain classes in school when he was a junior high school student.
“I wanted to take Spanish, and they told me that I couldn’t take that course. And so, my mom came to the school and told them, ‘He can take whatever he wants.’ After she got them straight, I was able to take Spanish,” he said.
Roe believes that his educational engagement with the books led him to Central State University. “I was the first one in my family to graduate from college,” he said. “I have a master’s degree in business administration, and I’m a certified rocket scientist.”
What does it take to be certified as a rocket scientist? According to Steven Roe, it’s a boring topic.
“My strengths were in the area of physics and mathematics, and I took a certification of something called Advanced Technical Intelligence, designed to help you configure the sensors on a rocket, and then determine what the payload will be, and how much fuel you need to get that rocket into orbit,” he said.
Before co-founding The Jael Group with his wife, Steven Roe said he worked for defense contractors at UCLA.
“I ran a research lab at UCLA Medical Center, and the anesthesiology department for seven years. I’ve had a lot of different jobs. I’m a published author in several scientific journals,” he said.