Each year, the Ottawa Business Journal and the Ottawa Board of Trade recognize the accomplishments, professional experience and community involvement of 40 of the region's rising young business stars.
Ahead of this year's Forty Under 40 celebrations, OBJ is sharing stories from this year's recipients of achievements, obstacles and inspiration – as well as the lessons they've learned along the way.
In this group of Forty Under 40 profiles, we meet this year’s recipients from the real estate and construction sectors:
Jonathan Atwill-Morin, president, Atwill-Morin Ontario
Business: Historical building restoration
Biggest business achievement: Winning the contract for the north walls on the Centre Block rehabilitation project.
Biggest obstacle overcome: As a startup in 2003, cash management was a great obstacle. We were not capable of expanding at the pace that we wanted because of funding.
Biggest influences: As a third-generation heritage specialist, my father was by far the greatest influence in my life. Our Sunday morning talks still mean the world to me.
Biggest lesson learned during COVID-19: Take the time to stay close to all the people around you. Give a nice friendly call to a client or a partner, and make sure your employees are well.
Charitable involvement: United Way
First job: Heritage mason
Advice I’d give the younger me: Keep working! Work hard, but also smart.
Favourite pastime: Flying
Kevin Brennan, general manager, Cavanagh Concrete Ltd.
Business: Concrete forming and material supply
Biggest business achievement: Exceeded all financial targets on the MHLH Helicopter Facilities, Lansdowne Live and OLRT tunnel projects while being named the Top Value Added Salesman of the Year across Lafarge Eastern Canada in 2014.
Biggest influences: My family has continuously inspired me to challenge myself on both a business and personal level. I have also been very fortunate to be guided by strong mentors throughout my business career that have provided me opportunities to succeed.
Biggest lesson learned during COVID-19: Empathy and consistency. Understand how people react differently to fear and ensure everyone is provided sufficient resources and support to cope with it.
Charitable involvement: Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health
First job: Ottawa Citizen paperboy
Advice I’d give the younger me: The results of stepping out of your comfort zone are worth it.
Favourite pastime: Golf
Sean Cochrane, president, TCC Canada
Business: Serviced offices, coworking and business support
Biggest business achievement: Grew an embattled coworking firm to a $10 million a year enterprise that’s been growing at more than 100 per cent a year for the past five years.
Biggest obstacle overcome: Bootstrapped the company while we recovered from the fallout of the 2008 real estate crash. Then pushing to grow the company tenfold over the past six years.
Biggest influences: My father. He’s one of the most genuine, hard-working people on the planet. Everything he does is to help others and I hope to be half the man he is.
Biggest lesson learned during COVID-19: Look after one another! We’re all in this together and are all so much stronger together!
Charitable involvement: Ottawa Network for Education
First job: Paper delivery boy, then worked at an auto parts factory
Advice I’d give the younger me: Never give up.
Favourite pastime: All things music!
Ken Jennings, owner, Jennings Real Estate Corp.
Business: Commercial real estate company
Biggest business achievement: Founded a commercial real estate business that now manages a diverse portfolio of properties and employs nine people.
Biggest influences: My father for instilling the values of hard work, integrity and consistency, and my mother for encouraging me to do what I enjoy and to live a balanced life.
Biggest lesson learned during COVID-19: Relationships and trust matter more than any contract.
Charitable involvement: Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation
First job: Labourer on a landscaping crew
Favourite pastime: Hockey and skiing
Sarah Lynne Howard, manager, WSP Canada Inc.
Business: Innovative, high-quality buildings
Biggest business achievement: Mobilizing and leading a team of structural engineers and technologists from offices across Canada to deliver building structures associated with a nearly $2 billion project to construct and revitalize heating and cooling plants and distribution systems in the National Capital Region.
Biggest obstacle overcome: Equal opportunity in the construction industry does not necessarily equate to an equitable experience. I challenge this social stereotype by ensuring the validation of efforts by others, lifting up the women I work with by highlighting their achievements and creating a culture of respect.
Biggest influences: My father never questioned my abilities to succeed at anything I put my mind to. Learning and creating motivates him; he’s passed that on to me.
Biggest lesson learned during COVID-19: Slow down and create space for yourself to live, apart from your identity of who you are in your business.
Charitable involvement: Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance
First job: Junior ski instructor
Advice I’d give the younger me: Life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Favourite pastime: Being outside
Jordan Latimer, operations manager, PCL Construction
Business: General contractor
Biggest business achievement: Successfully taking on progressively larger roles within the organization. Currently overseeing the management of six individual construction projects, representing total contract values of more than $550 million and generating more than $425 million in billings over the last year and a half.
Biggest obstacle overcome: Navigating a new position while concurrently leading PCL Ottawa’s COVID-19 response.
Biggest influences: My co-workers at PCL have taught me everything I know about the industry and how to navigate the various aspects of it while still having fun shaping the city’s landscape.
Biggest lesson learned during COVID-19: It’s important to be flexible when looking at ways to maintain operational excellence, personal interactions and communication.
Charitable involvement: The Royal Ottawa Foundation
First job: Paperboy for the Ottawa Citizen and lawnmower extraordinaire.
Advice I’d give the younger me: Work hard, learn as much as you can from those around you, and know that consistency and patience will pay off in the end.
Sandro Ricci, president, ASL Construction
Business: Civil construction
Biggest business achievement: Grew revenue organically by several multiples in a short period by expanding services offered and clients served, all while maintaining culture and profitability.
Biggest obstacle overcome: Guiding the transition from a small business founded in 1975 to a SME during our period of rapid growth while navigating succession planning and employee retention.
Biggest influences: Our staff inspire me to create the best possible work environment providing opportunities for them to succeed. Also, my wife and the recent birth of our first child are a constant motivation for me to strive for more.
Biggest lesson learned during COVID-19: Our philosophy of being direct and truthful with each other works. Have the hard conversations
Charitable involvement: YPO, Rideau Club, NCHCA and ASL community initiatives
First job: I started delivering newspapers before school at the age of 12 and haven’t stopped working since.
Advice I’d give the younger me: When starting your career, chase work experience, not paycheques. Focus on learning as much as you can about as much as you can.
Favourite pastime: Soccer, reading and self-supported bike trips
Connor Shea, vice-president of asset and property management, Colonnade BridgePort
Business: Real estate investment and development
Biggest business achievement: Hiring a great team and watching them flourish.
Biggest obstacle overcome: Learning my blindspots and finding ways to overcome them (thank you mentors!).
Biggest influences: My wife and my kids inspire me every day to work to make the world a better place for them.
Biggest lesson learned during COVID-19: To be flexible and to prioritize what matters most in life.
Charitable involvement: PLEO
First job: Paper route
Advice I’d give the younger me: Find ways to give back and ask as many questions as you can.
Favourite pastime: Any time with my wife, three kids and extended family together.