News Story

Mormon Businessman Named Entrepreneur of the Year

Near the end of last year, Tom Leavitt, president and CEO of Leavitt Machinery and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was named EY (formerly Ernst & Young) Entrepreneur Of The YearTM for the Pacific Region. In addition to running a successful business, Leavitt also makes humanitarian service a priority.

Leavitt Machinery was conceived almost 15 years ago when Leavitt, then general manager of Finning Canada’s materials handling, presented the company president with a list of changes he felt were necessary to take the company to the next level. He said that if they were not prepared to make the changes, they should sell the company. So they sold — to Leavitt.

One of the keys to Leavitt’s success has been the culture of openness he created in the company. “Too often, people only see a paycheque, but nothing of the company finances. Without seeing the full picture, there’s no accountability,” states Leavitt. “Understanding the financial consequences of actions at all levels of an organization makes for good decisions. Performance goes up, and so do profits and equity.”

Leavitt isn’t just a leader at the office. He has been using his leadership skills in his Church service for years. He served a mission in France as a young man. He has been on the stake high council and has served in seven bishoprics and as a bishop.

Profit is one of the criteria EY has been using to determine their award recipients in the 20 years since their program started. Nominees are evaluated by an independent panel of judges — educators, business and community leaders, and past winners — who, in addition to financial performance, look at vision, innovation, personal integrity, community engagement and leadership.

Lui Petrollini, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Pacific Program Director, explains, “It’s important for us at EY to recognize and celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship. Gravity-defying entrepreneurs do more than just grow their businesses — they grow their communities. Through our Entrepreneur Of The Year program, we strive to help encourage entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognize the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement.”

Leavitt’s leadership style has been one of empowerment through transparency, but he realizes there is a fine line between an empowered staff member and a rogue staff member. Leavitt solves this problem with weekly Friday morning meetings. He admits the solution may sound too simplistic but insists that these meetings are key.

“We bring together all managers and go over every aspect of the business: HR, financial, operations. Assignments are made, and everyone knows they will have to report back in a week. Nothing or no one has a chance to get too far off track in a week.”

Leavitt’s business ventures are primarily in western Canada and the Pacific Northwest; however, his philanthropic ventures go further afield. When one of his five children finished a mission for the Church in Haiti, Leavitt decided to visit the island nation. What he saw there prompted him to create Harvest for Humanity, a youth charity focused on education, agricultural initiatives (in Haiti and the Philippines) and a children’s home. Leavitt does not refer to the building as an orphanage because he says they strive to create a home. With a mission to “empower children to achieve their potential,” Harvest for Humanity brings Leavitt’s business and philanthropic ideals together.

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