Ches Penney is a visionary who masterminded the Penney Group which is now one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest private commercial enterprises. Ches began his career in banking before entering the world of private business. His business interests have expanded to include a number of companies, covering everything from automobiles, heavy construction, concrete, energy services, and real estate.
In recognition of his personal generosity and commitment to his community, Ches has been named to the Order of Canada, the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, and awarded an honorary doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Based in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Penney Group work consists of heavy civil, energy and real estate, in building a better Canada. The foundation of the Pennecon business rests on 1,100 people. Ches says, “We continuously strive to be among the most respected multi-discipline construction organizations in the country and we will achieve this goal by fostering meaningful relationships with our clients, our employees and the stakeholders in the communities in which we operate.”
Ches’s career was wide and varied. He began as a branch manager at a bank in Grand Falls, and Bowater Mill was quite active at the time. He recalls, “I was approving personal loans and I could see the mill workers were making more money than I was — so I knew I needed to leave and start out on my own. Grand Falls was a small market, so I had a number of small businesses. Most of them grew or changed hands. Lincoln Construction was my paving and road building company and it was here that I cut my teeth in construction. It grew because I had good people around me, but I lost my focus and that business failed. That was a tough lesson. I had seven children and no money. Fear was a great motivator. Pennecon was the outgrowth of that. The good people stayed with me and many others joined our group. The loyalty, commitment and raw talent of all those hard working men and women are what mattered.”
Great companies take great leadership. Ches sums it up by stating that, “You have to trust and empower the people you share your business life with. That means your partners, colleagues and employees. It all comes down to talent and trust. You need both. On top of that, you need drive and work ethic. Hard work is how we survive. Trust your gut. Gather the facts, but trust your instincts and act on them. Hire the right people and empower them. A good deal is a deal that works for both sides. Always take care of your partners. They help you grow.”
Looking into the future Ches sees a bright tomorrow in Newfoundlands offshore, “I applaud Nalcor for its vision and investment in seismic mapping. It’s already paying dividends and will for the long term. Our local industry is positioned to be a larger player, and that’s because the government today and governments of the past made good decisions and investments. We are headed for a great future.”
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