Top minority business based on a passion for theater
The parable of the tortoise and the hare has served as a lesson for many. Kennedy Management Resources Inc., a human resources and management consulting firm, is experiencing the benefits of that lesson.
By focusing on controlled growth since its founding in 1997, Kennedy Management Resources has established its presence throughout West Michigan, Detroit and Chicago, and has been named 2009 Minority Business of the Year by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m very humbled. It has been a very trying year because of the economy in general. I have seen so many of my colleagues go out of business,” said Alice Kennedy, president and founder.
“I wanted to build a solid foundation in and around West Michigan. I’ve been around many fast-growing companies, but they don’t have the backyard covered. For me to be able to continue to do this work — the work that I love — and to be recognized is very humbling.”
Kennedy acknowledged that business has been down since last year, which brings a more somber tone to the award.
“We’re not as busy as last year or the year before, and that makes it even harder. If I was booming and saying ‘I’m doing three times the business I did last year,’ I think I would feel more deserving,” she said.
“I’ve been doing this for 12 years and there are always peaks and valleys, but this year has been the most trying year. To get this honor — I’m just wowed. I really can’t believe it.”
One of the differentiator’s of Kennedy Management Resources is its “Diversity Theatre” training product, which came about in 1999 through working with Cascade Engineering. Diversity Theatre consists of short scenes re-enacted in front of employees to bring sensitivity about accepting diversity to the workplace.
“One of my long-time clients, Cascade Engineering, wanted to do something with diversity as part of their five-year strategic plan, and they wanted a diversity training program that was not just a talking head or a video presentation. They wanted something that was interactive, fun — that would make an impact and people would remember. As we talked about it, theater became the venue,” said Kennedy.
“That’s how the theater part of the business was born; now 99.9 percent of my business is doing diversity work.”
Kennedy conducts workshops and has expanded the theater presentations to cover topics such as sexual harassment and violence prevention. Diversity Theatre is not Kennedy’s first dip into the performance arts. She also is heavily involved with local theater.
“I do community theater. I’ve taken writing classes and write my own scripts,” she said. Writing scripts for the Diversity Theatre program allows Kennedy to customize performances to meet the specific needs of each company.
“Everything kind of evolves, and the reason Cascade came to me is, of course, they knew that I did this, but also because I did community theater and I was on the board of Actors’ Theatre for awhile.”
The way that Cascade Engineering came to know Kennedy Management Resources is the same way Kennedy has grown her business.
“One hundred percent of my business is by word of mouth; I do no marketing. I give back to the community by doing free service donations, and I’m sure that has helped 100 percent to build my reputation and business contacts,” she said. “That’s pretty much how I’ve grown. It’s this person that has seen me do this or has heard about it. (Companies) that have seen Diversity Theatre first hand have been very good about promoting it.”
Before Diversity Theatre made up “99.9” percent of Kennedy’s business, she offered a multitude of services.
“It started out with me going out there saying, ‘What are your needs in human resources?’ It could be recruiting, it could be training issues, it could be looking at their insurance,” she said. “It was just a matter of ‘What is it that’s going to help you concentrate on your business and leave the human resources area to me?’”
As a survivor of such a tough economic climate, Kennedy attributes her success to tenacity and passion.
“I always say, it’s not my work; it’s who I am. Regardless of whether I am still in business or not, it still will be what I do. I think that has been what pulls it through,” said Kennedy. “Everybody will say, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you’re still doing Diversity Theatre,’ and I say, ‘Yes. I will be doing this the rest of my life!’”