100 Features

BE Modern Man: Meet “Mr. Executive” Kenneth L. Johnson

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Name: Kenneth L. Johnson

Age: 47

Profession: President of East Coast Executives | Diversity Recruiter | Staffing Specialist | Luxury Retail Recruiter | Career Coach

One Word That Describes You: Exceptional

What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you? 

I’m honored to be included with all of the others that have been fortunate enough to receive this distinction. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for what Black Enterprise means to the global business community and remain humbled by my inclusion as a BEMM 100 Men of Distinction.

What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?

When I decided to pursue a career in staffing, it was based on the idea that I would work for a leader in the industry, learn the business and eventually branch off to start my own firm but with a focus on diversity.

To my surprise, it was extremely difficult for me to convince the larger staffing firms to give me an opportunity. After extensive door-to-door canvassing in three different cities, I was provided the opportunity to work for an industry leader in Philadelphia. To this day, the experience serves as “my story” when I speak to groups about career, job search, and determination. That was nearly 20 years ago and I still have relationships with some of the individuals that I met on those days of door-to-door career search. The entire journey has allowed me to holistically appreciate the work that I’ve put in and the support I’ve received that has encouraged me to get to this point.

What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?

Longevity, I believe that relationships, both professional and personal, can be extremely fragile. If a relationship is fortunate enough to stand the test of time, that typically means that the individuals deem the interaction to not only be extremely valuable but worthy of their time and commitment.

I’ve positioned East Coast Executives, as the leader in diversity recruitment. That wouldn’t be possible without the support of some incredible business partners and mentors. It’s all relationship-based every step of the way and that requires unwavering faith in your mission and a long-term commitment to see it through.

What are some immediate projects you are working on?

My firm, East Coast Executives, recently reached an agreement with Tiffany & Co. supporting their diversity recruitment efforts in NYC, Miami, Chicago, L.A., and San Francisco. We’ve also partnered with Florida International University in Miami as an exclusive recruitment partner for their Luxury Retail Management Program and I continue to serve as the diversity staffing consultant for The Urban League of Philadelphia.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

To never steer away from making that personal connection. If you have an opportunity to interact directly with a client and/or colleague, do it! Forgo the e-mail or even the phone call and go out and get in front of the people that can move you and/or your business forward. You may just make a lifelong friend in the process.

What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?

Respect your time and the time of others. We live in a world of unlimited possibilities but very limited time. If there is something that you want to do, something that you believe will potentially change your life and the lives of others, wait no longer…start the journey NOW. It’s your calling, do it and do to with unrivaled passion.

How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?

I’m committed to being prepared and for me that means having as much pertinent information as possible. I like to show a sincere interest in those that I meet with in any and all business interactions. It’s important for me to have an understanding of who they are and what their company mission entails, prior to our face-to-face meeting. This allows me to directly align our service offerings with their mission in a way that will convey a clear picture of the unique value we bring to the partnership at East Coast Executives.

As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?

My best vacations are extremely simple and usually impromptu. All I really require is a beach, cabana, cocktail and an audiobook. I took a quick four-day vacation to the Dominican Republic last month and it was exactly as I stated above. I live and work in Manhattan and although the energy of NYC is exhilarating, it can be extremely taxing. Sometimes I find it necessary to get away and exhale.

If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

My college roommate at The University of Maryland, College Park, Justin Okemwa, is from Nairobi, Kenya, and he often shared stories of the beauty of Africa and the people of Nairobi. I look forward to visiting Africa one day and exploring its many countries.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I encourage all of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction to use this platform to connect with other like-minded individuals. There is a great deal of power to be generated in collaboration and partnership. I’m excited about the opportunity to learn about all of you and to support your personal missions in any way possible. Let’s make a difference…let’s connect.

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