On McKenna and staying the course

Interesting article in the Globe & Mail today about Frank McKenna and his role as rainmaker for TD Bank. Here’s the first part of that article:

The thing about Frank McKenna stories is that they inevitably veer toward the same punchline. Like the time, in the mid-1990s, that a secretary entered her boss’s office with a stack of letters. The executive had decided to consolidate his company’s call centres in a single location, eliciting a predictable flood of entreaties from the provinces. Yet only nine expressions of interest had arrived in the mail.

“Who’s the tenth who didn’t send one?” he asked.

“Frank McKenna,” the secretary replied. “He’s waiting outside.”

Now, there are three points I have this morning about Frank McKenna and this specific article:

1. I worked on that file. That was the company who’s VP said he slept with the proposal/business case (that I had written making the case for New Brunswick) under his pillow.

2. I have heard a few extraordinary tales like this in the economic development realm. Premiers/Governors just showing up to meet a key prospect. When it comes to working potential leads for attracting industry to New Brunswick, I think sometimes these extra steps are necessary to get in the door. Showing up like Frank did doesn’t guarantee anything but it does indicate your commitment to the company.

3. Why didn’t Frank’s attitude prevail after he left? Why didn’t he take the time to inculcate these values into his Cabinet, into the department and indeed across the province? The best leaders are the ones that embed their vision throughout the organization (In this case the province). A year after Frank left office, that drive and spirit around economic development was gone. This was his greatest failure, in my humble opinion. When Jesus died he had his 12 disciples who kept on his work. And they created hundreds of teachers and so on (like the shampoo commercial). I would have thought that Bernard Lord would have taken up Frank’s mantle in the economic development area. The best politicians are those that cream skim the best ideas from their competition. The fact that Lord ignored rejected Frank’s approach and ignored economic development for seven years is again a testiment to how ephemeral Frank’s legacy was in this area.

So the lesson for Shawn Graham is very simple.

He has a ’20+ year plan’.

He will last, at most 10-12 years.

A key part of his strategy must be to build a legacy that lasts well beyond his 2 or so terms.

That, of course, assumes that his plan will actually put NB on the road to economic health and self-sufficiency.

The fact that Bernard Lord didn’t ‘borrow’ and build on the one thing that Frank was known throughout Canada – his passion for attracting industry – is something I will never understand.