Forget the ribbon-cutting ceremony: supply chain management software company Kinaxis came up with a much better way to celebrate the opening of its new global headquarters in Kanata by bringing big names in Canadian music to town and, ultimately, reminding us how exhilarating live music can be.
Blue Rodeo and Serena Ryder headlined the private party hosted for more than 1,000 Kinaxis employees and their guests. The event, which was planned over the course of several months, was held entirely outdoors in the spacious parking lot next to the brand new building. There were food trucks, an ample supply of VIP portable toilets and not one, but two concert stages.
It didn’t matter in the end that organizers couldn’t get their hands on massive party tents because the skies remained clear, making it easy for the crowd to kick back and soak it all in.
The evening was “one giant hug” in the words of Kinaxis CEO John Sicard.
“I think we needed this,” he told OBJ.social during a Blue Rodeo encore performance. “You can’t wipe a smile off of anyone’s face. Everyone is just so happy.”
The roughly four-hour party brought emerging acts such as Clerel and TALK together with established headliners Blue Rodeo and Ryder. The combination is part of a new initiative, called Catapult Collaboration, that has business leaders and creative changemakers locking arms together to give newer artists more opportunities within the music industry.
“Because that’s something that’s been such a huge part of my passion,” Ryder, wearing her signature wide-brimmed black hat, told everyone on stage alongside Sicard in his bright red sneakers. “I believe in being able to support emerging artists, especially right now in the pandemic.”
Catapult Collaboration is a partnership between Kinaxis, Ryder and full-service record label ArtHaus.
Not only does Sicard lead a growing Canadian software firm but he’s also been a musician for about 45 years. He plays drums. “For me, it’s a source of joy,” he said on stage. “It’s a source of escape. It’s medicine.”
During the pandemic, he was introduced to Erin Benjamin, president and CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association, and, through that friendship, came to know Ryder, with whom he also clicked. Sicard has used those new connections to help the music industry.
The 2020 CEO of the year took to the stage that night, first drumming along to Ryder as she performed her huge hit Stompa and again with TALK for its cover of Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box. “It was fun,” Sicard later said when he got off stage. “It’s intimidating as hell. It’s just really intimidating to be up there with everybody, with the crowd.”
Said Debbie Weinstein, founding law partner of LaBarge Weinstein: “I think John’s passion for his community shines through with his music.”
Sicard was part of a group of business leaders who helped to save the Rainbow Bistro last year (the live music venue in the ByWard Market is hosting a special event tonight for top donors, featuring Ryder). Kevin Ford, CEO of Calian, John Jastremski, CEO of MDS Aero, and OBJ publisher Michael Curran, all of whom were part of those leadership efforts, were spotted at the Kinaxis party.
Invited guests also included Rainbow Bistro president Danny Sivyer, Melissa Brulée, new executive director of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, and her board president, Steve Foley from Audio Valley Recording Studio.
Other faces in the crowd included Deloitte partner Mark Noonan, March Networks CEO Peter Strom, Assent Compliance CEO Andrew Waitman, Searidge Technologies CEO Moodie Cheikh, Zibi Canada president Jeff Westeinde, Nordik Group CEO Martin Paquette, McMillan LLP law partner Michael Rankin, Rudi Asseer, CEO of IMI People, Colonnade Investments president Jan Kaminski and Ross Video CEO David Ross, who had this to say about the celebration: “I find it a really masterful way of encouraging people to come back to work, having a performance like this in the shadow of a brand new building.”
Ian Sherman, board chair of the Ottawa Board of Trade, retired tax partner at EY and current CEO of Relationship Capital, was seen enjoying the music, as was Nautical Lands Group partner and CFO Michael Runia, board chair of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. Derek Howe was there from Taggart Realty Management, which won with Kinaxis the Deal of the Year Award at the The BOBs in 2019 based on their deal to build the new Kinaxis headquarters in the Kanata West Business Park on land owned by Taggart.
Plans for Kinaxis’ new headquarters on Palladium Drive were already in place before the pandemic began. The building, which is 161,050 square feet, had its soft opening two months ago.
Kinaxis is staying flexible by offering options for its employees in the Ottawa region to come to the office every day, a few days a week, or to work from home. It believes it has designed the kind of office space that workers will want to return to.
“We’re really proud of it,” said Kinaxis chief human resources officer Megan Paterson of their focus on employee health and wellness. The new building includes a staffed fitness centre, rooftop patio, professional sound stage, touchless technology and full-service cafeteria that supports healthy eating habits. The building is also designed to be an inclusive workplace with multi-faith rooms and gender-neutral washrooms.
“What we wanted to do was make this a building, a magnet to encourage people back. We know people are missing their workmates and in-person collaboration.”
The new headquarters marks a “big investment” for Kinaxis in its people and culture, said Paterson, who hopes it pays off as a differentiator when it comes to recruiting talent in a very competitive market.
The celebrations included the delivery of a land acknowledgement from Emma Mohns, senior legal counsel at Kinaxis. She's originally from Manitoulin Island and has Ojibwe roots.
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