There is a Buddhist phrase, “There is no path to happiness, happiness is the path.” That is pretty much how John Sherwood, CEO of Classic LifeCare and CONNECT Communities, has led by example for more than 26 years.
“Every year has been different but we’ve always moved forward and strived for a better us,” reflects John. “Like sailing together, you may have a destination in mind but it really becomes about the journey itself, and knowing there are always new adventures just around the bend. It’s been fun and together we’ve accomplished so much.”
The marking of the 26-year milestone makes John feel, “Well…old.” But he says he can’t help but get sentimental. “I’ve been involved in the business in one way or another since my mom started it in our family home in 1974. I was 7 years old – it feels like my whole life – it’s ingrained in who I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
John says he’s most proud of the many people who have chosen to share in the Classic and CONNECT journey. “The story ceased to become mine a long time ago as so many great people have now weaved their lives into our company heritage”.
A few of those people share some thoughts about John as they celebrate his work milestone:
John’s wife and business partner, Susanne, describes John as loyal, strong, reliable, sensitive, compassionate, supportive, dedicated and extremely caring. “He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, but he would do anything to help someone he cares about – which includes a lot of people, they just don’t know it.”
Susanne says John feels extreme loyalty to the clients and employees of Classic LifeCare and to the residents and employees of CONNECT. He considers them all first before making any business decisions. “John takes a lot of pride in what he has accomplished with Classic, CONNECT and his own family. He is a very proud, involved father, participating in sports and family time,” says Susanne. “As a spouse, our relationship is very important – even above our children. John has said, ‘If we are happy, then our family is happy.’ Their children, Madeline, Sydney and Dylan, have been involved with both companies at many company events and celebrations, and many staff have watched them grow up.
Scott Cooke, CFO for both Classic LifeCare and CONNECT, has known John for 14 years, having worked as his commercial banker for a few years before joining the team. “Through his work, John has had a positive impact on thousands of people’s lives – clients/residents, families and employees,” says Scott. “He has lots of patience and takes a long-term view on things. Maybe that’s the inner fisherman in him that knows there will be another fish on the line if you put in your time”. Scott describes John as loyal to those who earn his trust and respect and, in return, staff are loyal to him. “John is someone you don’t mind working hard for.”
Classic LifeCare Executive Leader, Andrea Warren, has known John for 25 years, more than half of her life, and describes herself as the bratty sister he never had. She says they share a passion for home care and can butt heads as often as they get along, but they can always be honest and open with each other.
“John was involved in hiring me when I was still in my early twenties. I guess you can say we grew up together. He gave me opportunities and responsibility at a young age and I have had a wonderful career at Classic thanks to the trust John has in me,” says Andrea. “He has been there through some pretty tough moments in my life, including sitting in an uncomfortable waiting room for hours to support my family when I had my liver transplants. We have seen each other through family births and deaths.” She says when you weather the highs and lows of work and life with someone, they hold a special place in your heart.
Janette Jackman, Business Administrator at CONNECT, says she is overwhelmed by John’s trust, loyalty and the opportunities he has given to her. John’s ability and desire to connect with every employee, resident and their families, which makes everyone feel valued, is a quality Janette admires. “He trusted me to take care of Classic Care Homes in the early years and has given me so many opportunities to be part of such a great organization. We have seen many changes over the years, and not just the company name. I wish everyone had a leader like John.”
Patti Flaherty, President and COO of CONNECT, reflects that John has given her the best working years of her life so far.
“In many ways, John leads from behind, very rarely takes the spotlight, and would prefer to let others shine, even though he deserves so much of the credit,” says Patti. “But when he needs to be more visible for the people that rely on him to show up and who need his support, he’ll be there in a heartbeat. His support for me in good times and bad is unwavering and I am so thankful for him.”
Balance and love of life come to mind when Patti thinks of John. She describes him as a smart, practical visionary and someone who always stands beside his people to support them to be the best they can be.
“He loves his family, he loves his hobbies of which he has many, he has more friends than almost anyone I know and he doesn’t let work and his business get in the way of these priorities. It’s impressive on many levels because he has two companies that rock and he cares deeply about every resident and client and every staff member he employs.”
20-year employee and Classic Alberta leader, Britney Didier-Shaw, exercises her creative juices in describing her feelings about John. She writes:
“There once was a young business bloke
Whose Aussie mum cared for senior folk
She put in him her trust
Taught good ethics, a must
Empathy, trust, benevolence he’d evoke!
Developing himself over twenty years
Didn’t come without trial and tears
A kind-hearted gent
Wisdom and kindness he’s lent
John, it’s to you we cheers.”
Both Classic and CONNECT celebrated John on Thursday with a 26-year certificate, a gift and some emotional speeches – all of which left John speechless.
Here’s to many more years on the happiness path, John.