Business and employment law litigator for twenty years
Tom Tessereau, the Headmaster and CEO of The Healing Arts Center, and David Kenyon have been friends for twenty years. David, an attorney by training, helped Tom acquire the Healing Art Center back in the day. Both men are members of Kagyu Droden Kunchab, a Tibetan Buddhist group under the direction of Lama Lodu Rinpoche. In addition to their training in trantric Buddhism, both men have studied the martial arts. Both men have written books. But that is pretty much where the similarities end.
In 2004, Kenyon retired from the practice of law where he had been a trial attorney for twenty years. His practice had centered on business litigation and employment law, primarily, and he says that he simply got tired of "fighting with people all the time". "I worked with a lot of workers over the years handling workers compensation cases and I despised the way many companies treated workers", he adds.
Serial social entrepreneur specializing in job creation for under-served segments of the population
Tibetan Buddhist with monastic training
Author of The Lotus Blossom, a feminist novel about one young woman's struggle find her power through training classical Budo
Expert in ontological leadership models and business organizations based on virtue culture
In 2008, Kenyon formed a company with partner called Habitata Building Products. The company sold building supplies, but wanted to create a model to help small contractors survive the Great Recession. Kenyon negotiated credit terms with his suppliers and then, in turn, gave the same terms to his customers. "Any contractor could walk in a get $4,000 worth of building supplies provided that they paid us back in thirty days. 97% of them did and it turned out that we were the only company in town that a small contractor could turn to fund small construction jobs. We made over a million dollars in revenue in the first ten months. It was incredible", says Kenyon. "And we kept a lot of guys in business, too."
In 2009, Kenyon negotiated a deal with Solutia, Inc. to buy a heat-rejecting window shades company. "We wanted to get into energy efficiency and sustainable building materials and this company was perfect." In 2007, Kenyon had been an operations consultant for Solutia and had built a factory for the fledgling little business in Mexico. He built out an old sugar warehouse and trained the entire factory staff and managers - not speaking a word of Spanish. "We used a lot of sign language and pictures", says Kenyon smiling. When he learned that Solutia intended to sell close down the business, Kenyon put a group of investors together and bought the assets and immediate moved them 4,000 miles north to St. Louis. He and his partners, one of whom was his wife, Jane Quartel, had the company relocated and operational in thirty days. They hired felons and the chronically unemployed and turned them into a highly motivated, ethical and harmonious team.
Over the past decade, Kenyon has been concerned about job opportunities. He believes that the Global Economy is the natural enemy of the little guy and that communities need to build "sustainable village economies" that can support their neighbors. In 2013, he was appointed as a commissioner for the Industrial Development Authority for University City. He volunteers as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Create Space, a small business incubator in the Delmar Loop helping small business owners get off the ground.
So why The Healing Arts Center?
"That's easy", says Kenyon, "The Healing Arts Center trains people into a valuable profession where they can earn a decent living without four years of college." Kenyon believes that for many people, massage therapy training can lead to a rewarding career of compassion and healing. "What people want more than anything is to be proud of what they do because it reflects the best of who they are. They want to know that their work leads to fulfillment and fulfillment always arises when you know yourself as a contribution to others - there is no way to live a selfish greedy life and be fulfilled. You might be entertained, but you will not be satisfied with your own being." On this point Kenyon is adamant.
Immediately, upon arriving at The Healing Arts Center things began to change and change radically. His first target was the internal culture. Gossip and politicking among the staff was outlawed. Operations were defined and then assigned to managers who are now being held accountable for their "zones of control". Integrity is required and anyone in the company can call any other employee out at staff meetings if they have dropped the ball or have have not been acknowledged for a contribution. Transparency in operations is the order of the day. Every manager is required to know how to read the company's profit and loss statement and understand the fiscal integrity of the company.
The most important change is that treating people as things was been replaced by the general operating principle that all living things as beings. This ontological approach to business management requires managers and employees to engage each other in acknowledgement of being. Because being is dynamic and constantly changing the company now strives to listen carefully for the being of others in the moment in which the are operating rather than labeling people and then reacting to them as a stereotype.
Other things have changed as well. For example, HAC has tightened up its attendance policy and is now orchestrating a discipline system throughout the school. "We produce the best hand-healers in the region. This does not happen by accident. In the past, we have let our students down by letting them rack up tens of hours of absences and then trying to herd them along to make them up. This is not how you treat a responsible person. This is not how you treat a professional person. This is how you treat delinquents. We don't train delinquents, we train healers and we will treat them as such, but we will also demand that they live up to our expectations if they expect tell the world some day that they are of us." This is a common sermon that Kenyon gives to staff, faculty and students alike: if you intend to nurture being, you must rise to the occasion with integrity and intention. Anything less will simply not serve your life or the life of others.