In observance of our 35th anniversary year, this feature is one of a series of tributes acknowledging four seminal figures in IVES’ history whose contributions to the company were critical in its creation and continuing success. Colin Ives, Ron Elliott, Brenda Sheen and Grant Mackenzie all provided vital elements to IVES’ recipe for success and it is upon the shoulders of these four giants that the company was built and still stands today.
In 1992 after long term career as a city/municipal administrative employee, Brenda Sheen answered an ad for a “Girl Friday” in a local newspaper. The ad was placed there by Colin Ives whose company, IVES & Associates was growing by leaps and bounds to the point where he needed somebody to mind the store, so to speak, while he was engaged in the business of the company. A Girl Friday was a term commonly used to describe a part time executive assistant but Brenda, the first official employee that Colin hired, became so much more than that.
In the beginning, Brenda efficiently performed the duties commensurate with the job description, taking messages, receiving mail, organizing various items related to the day to day comings and goings within the office, all the while remaining within the limited confines of Colin’s instructions which forbade her from doing anything proactive. This of course grated Brenda as it went against her very nature to simply sit and watch, as it were.
All this changed one day when a panicked client called the office in need of an emergency shipment of training materials. Brenda’s instructions in such cases were to take the client’s contact information and relay it to Colin, who would contact the client and take the order. Knowing that Colin was busy and sensing the urgency of the situation, Brenda decided to ignore her instructions and go with her instincts. She not only took the order but processed and shipped it. A simple act of customer service in Brenda’s mind but it caused a huge shift in Colin’s perception of her and what she was capable of. With that, Brenda’s job description changed and she started down a path that would eventually lead her to places within the company she never imagined she would go.
Brenda became all things to the company, and to Colin. The fierce loyalty, passionate pride and cool efficiency she brought to her work and the company did not go unnoticed by Colin who rewarded Brenda’s ability to run a ship, his ship, as tightly as if it were her own. Brenda became the voice and face of the company to clients calling the office or visiting the IVES booth at trade shows. She managed all the training, organized the calendar, managed the trainers in the field and did whatever needed doing to keep the company moving forward. Perhaps most impressive of all was the style and charm she displayed with clients. She remembered your name and your children’s names and that they played baseball and that you were worried about your sister’s operation and would ask how she was doing and how you were doing. All this she did not because she was told to but because it’s who she was. She did not need to write down these things or have prompts come up on her computer screen to remind her of them, being genuinely personable came to Brenda as naturally as breathing.
In 2001 Colin rewarded Brenda’s contribution with part ownership of the company but it did not suit her and she sold off her interests in 2004. She stayed on as a consultant and company representative for a number of years before calling it a career for good in 2012. Aside from Colin himself, no other employee ever gave as much of themselves to the company than Brenda did. To this day her legacy is the benchmark to which all other are measured. Brenda remains super active today spending her time between family, golf and happily doting over her grandchildren.
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