Years In The Making: The McKenzie Family's Continued Investment In Watson's Future
As CK McKenzie takes on the role of President, we look at the ways the McKenzie family has shaped Watson's culture, and how they're committed to help guide its future while maintaining its deeply-held values.
The Orchard is a special place. Watson’s arbored headquarters has a natural rhythm – something like a heartbeat, or the imperceptible passage of time. It’s a pulse so familiar that it fades into the background, persisting regardless of our notice.
As you approach the main entrance, a factory side door is sometimes propped open; you glimpse seasoned teams in a complex logistical dance, always navigating some novel challenge to craft and ship Watson’s products. Once you pass through the entryway, the hum of machines gives way to the bustle of Watson’s industrious administrators. The manufacturing floor and the offices, contrasting yet complimentary, are the vital organs supporting the company and serving our clients.
Watson feels special because it feels alive. It’s an ecosystem: people, place, and shared purpose moving together in harmony. It feels special because Watson has a soul, one that quietly says ‘welcome.’ Like the trees growing on the grounds, the qualities that make Watson earnest and approachable are the result of years invested into care and cultivation.
Though everyone who has worked at Watson has contributed to its character, the McKenzie family has been integral in making the company what it is today. In 1991, Clif McKenzie and his business partners acquired Watson Furniture Group, where he went on to serve as President and CEO. Over the years he nurtured a culture steeped in community and responsibility, driving the company’s success, and establishing Watson as a premier player in the commercial furniture manufacturing world.
Some of Clif and Kath’s children went on to work in various roles at Watson. Having been raised in tandem with the business, they developed an understanding of the industry and an appreciation for the craft. They met the people who enrich Watson with fresh ideas which, in turn, become quality pieces designed and built with integrity. The McKenzie family has been an active presence from the onset and has made their commitment to continue leading Watson clear.
In the fall of 2022, Clif McKenzie announced to Watson employees that his son CK McKenzie will be assuming the role of President, establishing the second generation of leadership, and assuring the company’s deeply held values and goals carry forward. These core tenets will continue to be the foundation on which future success is built. Clif McKenzie will stay on as CEO to support product and strategy, and to offer guidance as Watson evolves under new leadership. On this change, Clif McKenzie offered, “Most importantly (CK) is as passionate about our purpose as I am… His compassion and commitment to people is considerable…This is more than a formal hand-off, it’s an informal journey that began many years ago.”
CK McKenzie brings a depth of experience to the role through his work within Watson’s product, scheduling, and manufacturing sectors. The extensive leadership training he received during his service in the Marine Corps uniquely positions him to navigate all future challenges the company may face while maintaining the core elements that make Watson special. His appointment marks a significant investment in Watson’s future and reaffirms the company’s standing as a community-minded employer.
“I believe in our purpose with a capital P,” CK McKenzie notes. “To create careers that are satisfying personally and professionally while building products that excite us and that are designed with integrity. The ability to build that is directly tied to (Watson) being a multigenerational company because we’re more committed to staying here – for both our employees and our customers.”
CK brings a refreshed level of energy to Watson’s day-to-day operations, citing the organization’s size as a key strength. “We have the skill and ability to do meaningful things, but we’re small enough that we can react and be agile where it counts.” It’s clear he cares, and that the job feels professionally and personally fulfilling. “It’s a job I love,” he says, “one focused around helping others succeed and leveraging our strengths as a company to support every single person here, whether they work on our factory floor or in the admin office, so we can honor each other and our customers.”
Leadership changes forecast a lot about the future of a company. With the McKenzie family at the helm, this change promises stability and direction, a recipe for longevity and good service. Watson’s products aren’t the only testament to the diligence and care with which the company operates, but its people are too. Watson has a soul, and it’s one that will be in good keeping for the foreseeable future.