Business Person of the Year - John McKenna
Share in Our Celebrations!
Congratulations to John McKenna on being recognized as Business Person of the Year for 2015 by the Mississauga Board of Trade. As we celebrate John's award, we wanted to share with you his words of appreciation for you, our valued customers.
For three generations, the people at McKenna have been carrying out extraordinary feats to ensure our customers get what they need. We recognize that every day, you give us the privilege of allowing us to serve you, and we wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that we don't take our relationship with you for granted.
Business Person of the Year recognizes an outstanding individual who has best demonstrated exceptional business leadership, vision, and community involvement contributing to business development and quality of life in Mississauga.
We hope you will take a few moments to read John's inspiring words about the commitment of our people to your business.
Speech by John McKenna at Award Presentation
My first memory of McKenna was as a child sitting on a forklift at a loading door watching my mother and father lifting boxes off the floor of a truck onto a wooden pallet. As I waited for them to finish, I began playing with the levers that raised and lowered the forks. When the door was open, it was like a garage door, and the door went up and over. I pulled on one lever and watched it go up, and up, and up, and through the door. My parents were not happy. This was my first “coaching” moment in the business.
It is surreal for me to stand here and receive this honour. Thank you Mississauga Board of Trade for choosing me for this award, it is very humbling. I said surreal because it is. I do not do anything unique. I do things that I have watched others do all my life.
I saw my mother, Phyllis, and father, Charlie, countless times doing extraordinary feats, so the customer got what they needed. I saw my father treat everyone with respect because we are all important in the different roles we play. I saw him use pens with green ink to sign significant documents. This was to always remind him of where we came from and that my grandfather was a penniless fugitive from Ireland, who had to make a life for his family in a new country. I saw my mother often work well into the night because the books did not balance by 2 cents.
I see my father-in-law, Bob Barrett, acknowledge that his customers are giving us the privilege of allowing us to serve them, and he never seems to take that for granted. I see him, at 75 years old, work passionately on his business, reinventing it over and over again. I see him, like my parents, giving his gifts back to his community, philanthropically.
I saw the mentor I have had since I was 15 years old, Ian Stuart, drive forward through obstacle after obstacle, getting knocked down but with stubbornness and strength getting up again. I saw him inspire thousands of people with his words of hope and reminding us of the values we need to be positive contributors to society.
I see Larry Enkin, my business mentor for over 15 years, passionately continue to feed his hunger for knowledge and sharing his wisdom with others. I see him constantly challenging the status quo. For example, when he says to me, Congratulations on an achievement, well done. So what is next?
I see people in my business groups and friends encourage each other to try harder and keep going.
I do not do anything unique; I can only say that I mimic the actions I see the important people in my life doing.
My team at McKenna Logistics Centres is represented tonight by my two top leaders, Steve Rathwell, my General Manager, and Christine Freeborough, my Office Manager. I do not deceive myself; it is my team that make me look successful. McKenna Logistics Centres has insightful and hardworking people that make me proud every day.
My Chief Executive Officer is my wife, Kim. I cannot think of a more generous and thoughtful mother for our children.
Years ago she faced a challenging decision. She was pregnant with our first child at the time and asked me whether she should stay on her career path or stay at home with the family. I said that it was entirely her decision. For context, she was in management training in her father’s business and could have been considered his successor. She chose to raise our children as her career.
Yes, we could have more money now but our family is much richer because of her decision, and her commitment, and her love. And we are proud of the three wonderful and progressive children we have in Ben, Jack and Carli that are testaments to the right decision she made.
I am the person I am today because of her encouragement, her caring, and her unconditional love. She is the secret to my success. I thank God you said “YES”.
At 21 years old, I was working in the business part-time while attending university. My father included me in everything. He included me in meetings with customers, suppliers, landlords, and even our banker. He made me responsible for the operations of the business and let me look after the shop when they went on vacation. That beat any university program for teaching me responsibility and what it takes to run a business.
Over time, I found it frustrating that running a business was so difficult. We would take one step forward and two steps back then the next month it was two steps forward and one step back. I looked at other companies with envy, including some represented in this room, and it seemed that their success was so easy. What was I missing?
I went back to school to find the answer. I learned constraints can appear anywhere at any time. It may be capacity, talent, right fitting customers, quality, cash, brand image, equipment, etc. I keep looking for a silver bullet to solve all my problems but still have not found it. What the program did teach me was that every business is challenged, and no business is on Easy Street, at least not for long. Success takes people who can execute, are willing to work hard, persevere, and have some lucky breaks along the way.
I asked my daughter what she wanted to do. She said that there probably won’t be any jobs when she finishes school. This is a 13 year old saying it, because, this is all her generation hears. This is depressing. I told her that there will be jobs that we have not even hear of yet, or she will create her own career as an entrepreneur. Thirty years ago, there were no jobs in the internet, Wi-Fi infrastructure, mobile apps, online games, driverless cars. Then how can we say there will be no jobs for this generation. Stop saying this.
When I was in grade four my class toured the Noxema plant and the Shredded Wheat factory. These tours were more memorable as any trip to the ROM or the Science Centre could be.
For the past few years, scouts have come to the McKenna Logistics Centres to meet a badge requirement and grade 7 students from my alma mater have come to be amazed by the flashy and sexy logistics business. Instead, I have been amazed by their knowledge, their curiosity and their ability to reason why we do what we do. Youth today are bright.
Let us all take on the responsibility of their learning along with their teachers, let us all feed them with our knowledge and experience.
A business may only last two years, 15 years, maybe a hundred years. Remember that I am speaking as a somewhat rare third-generation owner of a sixty-five year old business. Do not think your legacy is going to be your business.
Tonight, I am challenging you to leave a legacy to the next generation, the generation after that and the generation after that generation.
We are Canada!
Canada is one of the most pro-business countries in the world and is populated by strong, resourceful people. Mississauga is a city of commerce and innovation populated with talented and well-educated people from around the world. In this room, we have hundreds of business people, entrepreneurs, managers, specialists. In this room, we have founders, successors, professionals, first generation, fifth generation, and first nations Canadians. We have families and friends in this room and beyond that make our successes possible and what we do worthwhile.
I challenge you to share your enthusiasm, your passion, your fears, your vision, what gets you up in the morning, what keeps you up at night. Share these with your own children, your neighbours’ children, your nieces, your nephews, and the youth in your local schools. Show them through your own experience what exciting careers are available to them.
Invite the youth into your businesses, into your conversations, and into your minds. Give them hope and give them dreams. Then give Canada’s future to them and watch what our youth can do, you will be amazed.