Kenco CEO Woman Owned

On August 1, 1950, Kenco began with just two employees–my father, Jim Kennedy, Jr. and my uncle, Sam Smartt, Sr.

They started with just one 100,000 square-foot warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Today, Kenco is one of the largest family-owned and privately held third-party logistics providers (3PL) in the United States with more than 100 facilities and 4,500 employees across North America.

To honor our founders, employees and this remarkable company, we established an internal company holiday called Kenco Founders’ Day. We celebrated with an inaugural event on August 2nd where we held a special ceremony at our company’s Chattanooga headquarters. That same day, Kenco employees hosted similar celebrations at every site across our network.

As we celebrated our first Founders’ Day, I couldn’t help but reflect on what has made our company so successful. I believe it is because we have extraordinary people who make our company the best it can be. I believe that is what sets our company apart from others is its history, family culture and unique values. I know these values are unique because I hear about them from our customers and from you who respect our commitment to integrity and partnership.

On Kenco’s 60th Anniversary, my father put to paper the “Ten Principles of Success” which defined the culture established in 1950 and the one that we enjoy today. These principles were condensed into an easy-to-remember list that we call our “Guiding Principles.” They state our values, define our culture and guide our actions. In recent months we have made an effort to make these principles highly visible to all our employees through onsite posting and personalized wallet-size cards. In addition, our executive team has visited or has plans to visit every site to reinforce the importance of our culture and values.

One of the best ways to communicate our values is through the sharing of stories from our company’s rich history. My dad is a great story teller. He uses these stories to share some of the lessons he has learned in the business and to guide us in our work relationships.


One of my favorite stories that illustrates commitment, camaraderie and putting customers first, dates back to our company’s early beginnings when my father and uncle were the only two employees. Since it was commonplace for them to trade the duties of making sales and working in the warehouse, each would wear the appropriate clothing for his role that day. However, on a day when my dad happened to be wearing jeans to work in the warehouse, one of his customers called on short notice and wanted to meet that same day. As soon as he got off the phone, my dad went to my uncle Sam (his brother-in-law) and asked if he would trade clothes so he could be properly dressed for the meeting. Without hesitation, Uncle Sam removed his suit and traded for the “work jeans.” My dad was then able to attend his meeting in professional attire.

This story is a good example of commitment and camaraderie (and resourcefulness) – values our founders practiced daily to build a successful company. I am pleased to say these same guiding principles are very much alive today because I hear our employees’ stories and see these principles practiced daily.