Building a career in the family’s construction company wasn’t something Matt Kenyon gave much thought to as a youngster.
Kenyon admitted he had no inclinations about taking over Greyback Construction but after getting his first summer job there in his early teens and carrying on that way for several years, it seemed likely that he would be taking on a larger role someday.
“It’s the only job I’ve ever done but I never really thought about working in the family business,” he said. “I enjoyed it, I liked what I was doing but there were never any discussions at the dinner table about me taking over the company.”
Kenyon certainly has no regrets over his chosen career path although being in charge of a large company had its share of challenges.
“At first, when I pictured being in charge, I just wanted to make sure I could keep it running smoothly, let alone grow and improve the company,” he said, noting the transition to overseeing his dad Larry’s company took about five years.
“Two years with heavy training wheels and then the third year I was getting used to being in the driver’s seat and being comfortable and the go-to person for any major issues,” said Kenyon, adding that since adjusting to his role during the past couple of years.
When he started out at the company, he worked in the warehouse and answered to the nickname, Mutt.
“That’s kind of how I was brought up,” he said. “You kind of had to earn it, and weren’t given it, despite what everybody thinks of you as the owner’s son.”
After graduating high school, he went to college and received his business diploma and then returned to the office, before eventually taking on the role of general manager.
The company was formed by his great grandfather after World War I and started out building post-war homes in the city. It evolved into a full-service general contractor, and now works on projects throughout Penticton and B.C.
“There’s only so much work we can do in Penticton,” said Kenyon. “Most of it is not in Penticton but Penticton gets the benefit of us growing.”
He said that regardless of where they’re working they try to use suppliers from Penticton and make sure they transport their work equipment to a jobsite.
“It is a benefit when you have local companies growing and the head offices are here. The profit stays here, the equipment, all that stuff, most of it gets serviced here. Most of it gets bought here so you’re really kind of supporting the local economy, that way.”
It’s this type of structure which Kenyon feels helps to keep the community vibrant and well-rounded.
“The better place it is to live and work in town here, the better it is for everybody in it,” he added. “It attracts more people here, you get better opportunities, you get better amenities.”
Kenyon spoke about what he likes best about his job.
“I like when things are rolling, when it’s busy,” he said. “I enjoy getting the work and chasing the work and getting the bids out and done and starting the projects and knowing that we’ve got kind of a full pipeline and things are rocking and rolling and moving quickly.”
“I like the crews and the field staff. I like dealing with the guys because they’re fun to deal with,” said Kenyon who went on to say “and there isn’t a day that I don’t think about the responsibility I have to ensure we keep them employed.”
He also enjoys the relationships the company has established with a variety of clients in the Okanagan Valley including First Nations. New projects from wineries, hotels and infrastructure to small and large commercial developments.
The company has a work force of about 200 employees and has a tradition of giving back to the community, providing monetary support to local sports teams and various social causes.
Kenyon sits on the board for the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen and previous to that, he was involved with the Skaha Rotary Club for about six years, and was part of a committee involved with helping to organize Penticton’s Oktoberfest. For the past decade, he’s been organizing the Rotary sandcastle building contest held as part of the Penticton Peach Festival.
In terms of advice, Kenyon turns to a variety of individuals.
“I’ve got lots of family that’s been in business around here . . . my dad’s probably the biggest one I’ve been going to in recent years because of the transition that we’ve had and his experience in this particular type of business.”
Kenyon seeks advice from other family members, friends, and his CEO peer group pointing out that he’s willing to ask anyone a question if he thinks it will help him learn. He feels this has helped him develop as a person.
Although Kenyon’s life is busy, becoming a parent was the best way for him to unwind and following a stress-filled day, he looks forward to spending time with his one year old twin daughters.
“I’ll walk in the door and everything just drops now and they’re smiling at you and you start playing with them and everything kind of goes out the window,” he said.