Family ties keep C.R. Kennedy strong in 85th year

By on 29 August, 2019

The C. R. Kennedy stand at a trade show in Melbourne in the late-1950s.

C.R. Kennedy has built a solid reputation as a leading distributor of surveying equipment. But the company has been earning trust across a number of industries since 1934.

Celebrating its 85th birthday this year, the company is marking the success its employees and the Kennedy family have enjoyed since family patriarch Clement Robertson Kennedy began importing photographic and optical products into Australia all those years ago.

Founder Clement Robertson Kennedy, middle, at the official opening of the Melbourne premises.

While the product line-up at C.R. Kennedy has certainly changed, one thing has not.  The company Clement created is still 100% family owned, and family values driven.

Clement stayed at the helm for more than 30 years until his death in 1975, when his son Malcolm stepped in to fill the void at just 23 years old. Now 44 years later, Malcolm is still on the scene and four of his children have executive and director roles in the company.

One of those kids in control is Robert Kennedy – he is director in charge of the company’s thriving survey business, an industry C.R. Kennedy has been serving since 1968. Robert said the company’s roots in photographic equipment have given it a competitive advantage in serving its surveying and geospatial partners.

“Every year, there are more and more synergies between our optical and surveying or geospatial businesses,” he said.

“No company has more experience importing high end photographic cameras and equipment to Australia,” Robert said. “And now these are not just used by studio professionals, but also by airborne surveying companies.

Also, it seems hard to believe now, but we first started importing drones for the consumer market, but this quickly grew to supplying the geospatial market for mapping and inspection.”

Malcolm Kennedy, who took over the reins in 1975.

Under the guidance of Robert and the rest of the Kennedy family, C.R. Kennedy has become the solutions provider for the surveying, construction, mining, mapping and wider geospatial industries.

“By partnering with world leading manufacturers including Leica, we can offer the industry the best instruments and workflows, together with the highest level of customer support and training,” Robert said.

The wide list of offerings now includes land surveying equipment, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), high definition 3D scanners, machine control, mobile mapping tools, underground service locators, ground penetrating radar, geospatial information systems (GIS) and an extensive array of software packages to suit the equipment and the application.

The firm has grown to more than 260 employees spread across spacious head offices in Port Melbourne with branches located in Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland as well as a sub-branch in Mackay.

Robert’s brother, Marketing Manager Douglas Kennedy, said the company has always felt the need to be where its customers are, in order to be able to deliver on the company’s longstanding promise of high-level service.

Brothers in arms. From left: Douglas Kennedy, with brothers Clem, Stuart and Robert.

Douglas attributes the company’s ability to attract and retain highly skilled and dedicated staff as the company’s key to its success.

“There is no real secret but we do rely on family values and have a very long-term bank of employees, many of whom have been here for 30-odd years or so,” he said.

“We are not bureaucratic and encourage free thinking. This means that someone who starts out in the warehouse can easily finish up in the managerial ranks.”

Douglas’ father Malcolm put it in even simpler terms: “Service, service and service!”

While there are no concrete plans to formally celebrate the 85th anniversary, that mantra will continue to drive the C.R. Kennedy through the rest of its ninth decade and beyond.

Information provided by C.R. Kennedy

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