Jay Hennick

Jay Hennick

As the founder and CEO of FirstService Corporation, alumnus Jay Hennick has demonstrated exemplary commitment to excellence.

His success in building this corporation from the ground up and leading it through challenging times have earned him the trust and admiration of his peers, along with numerous awards, including Canada's Entrepreneur of the Year (1993) and CEO of the Year (2001).

Civic-minded, he also gives back to the broader community, most notably through the Jay and Barbara Hennick Foundation, which funds the J.D.-MBA program that bears his name at the University of Ottawa.

Convocation Address - Fall 2014

November 2, 2014

Bonjour Madame Chancellor, President and Vice Chancellor Rock, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am deeply grateful and humbled to receive this honour because it comes from the University of Ottawa. Many years ago, I was sitting “right where you are” in this fabulous (and dare I say ageless) building when I graduated from law school. 

I enjoyed my time at U of O. I learned a great deal and made many life-long friends.
I could not have achieved this honour without the love and support of my beautiful wife Barbara. She has always been a true partner. Everything we’ve accomplished, we have accomplished together.

Our greatest success is our children. They have given us so much joy and so many reasons to be proud. They are all here with us today, so let me just say, I love you guys.

I know your parents feel exactly the same way. They are bursting with pride as you enter the next phase of your life.

So Grads, let me say “congratulations” to all of you. Please give yourselves a BIG round of applause because you’ve earned it!

But get ready! Now, the really tough part begins! You start to lay the foundation for the rest of your life.

What kind of life do you want to lead?

The late, great Steve Jobs said you should want to put a “ding in the universe.” To make a difference, to make a mark!

Let me give you three thoughts that might help you do that.

First: Don’t try harder, try smarter!

Trying harder, giving it your all, is very important. But trying harder is not always the best way to achieve success. Sometimes, it’s a big part of the problem. As I was building my company into a global leader in real estate services, I was fortunate to have as a mentor one of the greatest management thinkers of the 20th century: Peter Drucker. Peter was a sage in many ways. One of the things he used to say was “there is no value in doing well that which should not be done at all”. Trying smarter sometimes means stepping back and giving the problem a fresh look. It means doing things differently or trying a new approach! Trying smarter also means being “open-minded” to the possibilities!

Second: Think, but don’t overthink!

When you have an important decision to make, don’t make yourself a victim of information overload. Gathering the facts is essential, but not at the expense of making a decision in the first place. Former US President Truman had it right when he said “gather up to 75% of the information before making a decision and then go with your gut”. The world “will open up to you” once you make a decision!

Third: DON’T WAIT for opportunities to come your way!

It simply doesn’t work that way. You must “make things happen”! As I see it, there are three types of people in the world: Those who make things happen; those who wait for things to happen; and those who ask “What happened?” What kind of person do you want to be? Remember when Apple created the iPhone. They were “making things happen”. Steve Jobs was putting his “ding in the universe”.

Meanwhile, Blackberry was “waiting for things to happen”. They had a big lead and were sitting on it. And as they lost market share, they were asking themselves “what happened?” Now Blackberry is trying to “make things happen” again. Hopefully, it isn’t too late.

So, those are my three pieces of advice: Try smarter, not harder. Think, but don’t overthink. And set yourself a goal of “making things happen”. That’s how you can make a difference.  That’s how you can put “a ding in the universe”. And maybe you can change the world!

Graduates, I wish you great success in your life’s quest and I look-forward to watching as you make a difference in the years to come.

Merci beaucoup! And congratulations once again!

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