Three Successful Generations of Logistics Management
Only one of every ten businesses successfully transitions to the third generation of family ownership. McKenna Logistics is one of those success stories. John McKenna is the grandson of A.J. McKenna, an Irish immigrant who established the logistics business (warehousing and transportation) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1950. “I count myself as being very fortunate that my grandfather, A.J., decided to make Toronto home when he arrived in 1917 as an 18-year-old husband and father. Toronto has become Canada’s largest logistics “cluster” with millions of square feet of warehouse space and is where our home office is located.” states John, the president and owner of McKenna since 1993.
McKenna has two warehouses in Mississauga and one in Brampton (these are suburbs of Toronto) as well as a warehouse in Delta, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia. Toronto and Vancouver are strategic locations for McKenna because they are Canada’s first and second largest logistics centres, respectively, thereby putting McKenna at the centre of action for commerce.
During John’s time leading the company the world has changed dramatically, geopolitically and technologically. “The tools we use today have evolved considerably, for example; most clients’ ordering and receiving data comes to us via the internet, and within the warehouses, transactions are executed with the help of handheld-wireless computers. What has remained constant is the same customer focus and entrepreneurial culture that my father and grandfather used in their time; we listen to what the customer will need and we will be there, ready, when they need it,” says John. “With this kind of foundation the world can change and McKenna can adapt but its core remains solid.”
A.J. established a cartage company after living in Canada for thirty-three years with then partner Ross McBurney. Seeing that trucks were not fully utilized outside of business hours, he looked to optimize the trucks by offering household moving. The company became so proficient at this service that they became an agent of North American Van Lines. A need to store people’s furniture necessitated a warehousing service that was also used by the business customers from the cartage business. The business and the McKenna brand grew.
Things were not always easy for the family outside of the business. Charlie McKenna, a young teen and the son of AJ, began working with his father in the early days of the business as a manual labourer at first, then a truck driver when he was of age to drive. Charlie purchased the business in 1971 and grew the business until 1993 when he sold it to his son John. For Charlie’s entire career, hard work, integrity and customer responsiveness was the culture that enabled the business to grow during his watch. When Charlie purchased the business from his father, he felt that the combination of resources and expertise would be more valuable to commercial warehousing business clients like Continental Can (now Crown, Cork and Seal) and Castrol Motor Oil. The decision to focus on consumer packaged goods clients was a good one for the company because, over the years, McKenna’s combination of technology and expertise has helped us to be recognized as a leading operator in Canada’s logistics industry. Although retired, Charlie still enjoys walking the warehouse floor and helping the staff out.