December 20, 2021
Kueker's Keynote

Better Together

This time of year, I tend to reflect on the year that is about to pass and look ahead to the year to come. As 2021 winds down, I can’t help but also think back on 2020, because COVID has made these past two years seem as if they were one big blur.

I became CEO of Kenway on January 31, 2020, and I certainly did not expect that my first years in the position would be engulfed in the shadow of a global pandemic. One of Kenway’s most foundational Guiding Principles is to focus on means and not outcomes. Factors outside of our control prohibited us from reaching many of our 2020 enterprise goals, or outcomes, so we instead focused on means within our control. We improved ourselves individually and as an organization, and fortunately, positioned ourselves to capitalize on resurgent demand in 2021, making it Kenway’s best year ever as measured by revenue.

That said, looking back, I feel like 2020 was as equally successful as 2021, and oddly enough, I felt the same overwhelming sense of gratitude at the culmination of both, very different years.

One may ask how I could feel equally thankful for years that were so different. Because of our culture, we can focus on the journey with an understanding that there is no final destination. Each day, week, month and year is a series of journeys. Our only measuring sticks are defined by our Why, or mission, which is “To help and be helped,” and our Guiding Principles, which can be summarized into six themes: Means over Outcomes; Integrity; Communication; Entrepreneurial Spirit; Value and Quality; and Treat Each Individual Uniquely. Living our Why and Guiding Principles creates a purpose that overshadows any outcome.

The reason I’m thankful to work at Kenway every day, regardless of outcomes, is because a greater purpose has allowed us to attract and retain the greatest group of colleagues with which one could ever hope to work. My outstanding colleagues practiced means that guided us through a COVID downturn in 2020, and subsequently, to a record-breaking year in 2021. I’m proud of this outcome, not because of the number, but because it was only possible due to the help we gave to each other, and the great lengths we’ve gone to help our clients. We only could have accomplished this tremendous feat together.

Amazingly, Kenway doubled its headcount in 2021 in a largely virtual environment, and our culture did not skip a beat. In fact, I believe our culture and shared purpose is stronger than ever, as proven by the resilience we’ve shown over the last two years. Kenway has amazingly talented individuals, but I think we proved during the roller coaster ride that was 2020 and 2021 that we are better together, even when factors outside of our control kept us physically apart.

My appreciation for Kenway and my colleagues could not have come into more focus as I thought about what I was going to say during a toast at our holiday party earlier this month, which was in person after cancelling this very special event in 2020. In the toast, I echoed many of the sentiments about my gratitude for Kenway, our culture, purpose and, most importantly, my colleagues. Then as the night unfolded, I was able to experience and witness the strength of our culture and bond between colleagues, some of whom had never met in person.

It was amazing to celebrate together in person. The energy and vitality in the room was overwhelming as I watched so many people chatting away, laughing with a drink in hand. While we will always put safety first and will continue to fully adopt the benefits of hybrid workplaces and work-from-anywhere flexibility, our holiday party reminded me of how truly great it is to actually be together. After making the most of virtual work for the better part of two years, our holiday party also reminded me that being “better together” can be taken both literally and figuratively.

So as 2021 ends, I look to 2022 with renewed optimism that we will see a continued increase of in-person events. Whether it’s opportunities to collaborate, mentor, or yes, to celebrate, the camaraderie I witnessed at our holiday party was authentic and infectious. I look forward to more of it next year.

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