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Updated: March 4, 2024 From the Editor

From the Editor: Compassion, bravery, weed, and what makes for a Business Leader of the Year

Back in 2019, Kevin Holmes and I were walking around the large Shrewsbury campus of his Advantage Truck Group, conducting an interview for a story about the expansion of his truck dealership and service empire.

WBJ editor Brad Kane at his desk
WBJ Editor Brad Kane

At one point, Holmes asked a worker how his day was going, and the man completely broke down with emotion. To this day, I have no idea why that employee was so upset, but the man was clearly devastated. Recognizing his worker’s need, Holmes paused our interview, wrapped his arm around the employee, and walked off to a place where they could have a private conversation. They talked for an extended length of time, and Holmes was clearly responding with compassion.

Holmes and I never discussed what happened, but the poignant moment always stayed with me. What type of boss must he be where his employees are that comfortable with him? And Holmes has nearly 400 employees. By sheer volume, it must be extraordinarily difficult to know the names of everyone, let alone have a forthright relationship with them. At the time, I didn’t know the story of Advantage Truck Group’s success, but I understood what made Holmes a business leader.

Fast forward to 2022, and I was attending the first Worcester Homecoming, an event where professionals from the city who found success elsewhere were invited back as a showcase of the progress made in the last decade. Among the festivities was a panel discussion, which included cannabis entrepreneur Ulysses Youngblood. He had opened his Major Bloom dispensary less than a year before and his inclusion on the panel was in contrast to other professionals with longer lists of accomplishments.

Still, Youngblood was the star of the panel, largely because he disagreed with everyone in a very constructive way. At an event designed to be a celebration of everything good about the city, Youngblood reminded everyone about the significant portions of the population still missing out on the city’s success, the unique space the cannabis industry occupied, and how he planned to improve the community. Youngblood receiving an invite to speak in front of Worcester’s most powerful people past and present was already a coup for him, and then he used his platform to challenge conventional wisdom and advocate for people less fortunate than himself.

Holmes and Youngblood are just two of the Business Leaders of the Year and WBJ Hall of Famers featured in the March 4 edition. In their profiles, you’ll read about their success and how they’ve leveraged that to improve their communities. Beyond this storytelling, I like to consider the type of people they are, which is where the foundation for excellence lies.

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