In August 1950, Jim Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Smartt, with some financial help from their father and their father-in-law respectively, started a warehousing company, Cherokee Warehouses, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Since that time, the business has grown from two employees to over 4500, changed our name to Kenco, expanded to operations in 30 states, and now delivers over half a billion dollars in yearly revenue. Today, we are the largest woman-owned third-party logistics company in the United States.
Building Our Corporate Governance Model
Almost five years ago, my father, Jim Kennedy, Jr., asked me to become involved in the executive leadership and governance of the company. Flattered, but understanding my need to learn quickly, I turned to a very wise man who had helped Kenco in the past in an advisory role. He suggested I attend the executive course, Governing Family Enterprises, at the Kellogg Business School at Northwestern University. There, in talking to other attendees, professors and experts in family governance, I began to realize the importance of a Board of Directors, and in particular, independent directors. Kenco had a board, but under my father, it served primarily in a fiduciary capacity. Now with my leadership, I needed a more active, involved group to help guide me and our executive leadership.
Evaluate Your Needs before Choosing your Board of Directors
As chairwoman of the Kenco Board, I needed to make sure the company had a solid strategic plan in place, a plan for the family for succession and development of future leadership, and finally, an estate plan to ensure the company is able to stay financially healthy and survive in the long term.
Reflect on Your Corporate Culture
Characterizing the goals and our company culture was mission critical. This meant bringing on board members who best match and reflect those ideals. A committed board can help ensure the continuity of the company’s culture through succeeding family generations and changes of leadership. For Kenco, our board members must be respectful of each other and differing opinions, feel a passion for the company, work to ensure the company grows and delivers value to the shareholders, be available for quarterly meetings, provide mentorship – as needed to our executive team, be responsible for specific fiduciary requirements, and assist the chairwoman of the Board in her governance goals.
Establish a Culture All Its Own
Our board currently includes three independent directors, the president of Kenco, and representatives from the two families (Kennedy and Smartt) who are shareholders.
The first independent director I asked to come on the board is a family member from a 100-year-old family business, which has enjoyed great success and has a strong governance framework he put into place. He brings an incredible wealth of knowledge about governing a family business and has a passion for our success and long-term health.
Our second director was chosen because of his strategic knowledge of the industry and is a recognized expert in lecturing and writing about the supply chain world. He brings both a national and international understanding of the business and as close to a crystal ball as I could find. He also worked for an important customer for many years, so he is able to bring that viewpoint as well.
Our most recent independent director was the former CFO of a competitor, which was also a family-owned business in the Southeast. He currently chairs a management department at a large private university and brings a tremendous wealth of financial and real estate experience to the table.
Remember to Look Ahead
I am very proud of our current Kenco Board. We work well together and bring different strengths to the table. They have proved to be a tremendous resource to me, our executive leadership, and to our shareholders. Next step, as a woman-owned business, I believe it is important to have more female representation on our Board and hopefully by the end of 2016, we will have achieved that goal.
Jane Kennedy Greene
Kenco provides third party logistics solutions that include distribution and fulfillment, transportation management, material handling equipment, real estate management, and information technology—all engineered for Operational Excellence. Woman-owned and financially strong, Kenco has built lasting customer relationships for more than 60 years. Kenco’s focus is on common sense solutions that drive uncommon value.