Do What You Love – Conversations on Leadership


John Ven HuizenTrinity’s business department continued its “Conversations on Leadership” series with an interview with John Venhuizen ’92, CEO of ACE Hardware. The Trinity graduate shared his secrets of post-graduation success in the workplace, and what it means to be a leader who motivates and inspires others.

Venhuizen recalled the value of small student-to-professor ratios during his time at Trinity. He was grateful for the intimacy of the small classroom setting and the opportunity to grow close with his professors.

After graduating, Venhuizen seized various opportunities which ultimately led him to a position at ACE Hardware. He credited his mentors, hard work, and a being in the right place at the right time with his success. Venhuizen served as Chief Operating Office, Vice President of Business Development, and Director of New Business Development before accepting a job as CEO in April of 2013.

Since then, the CEO has learned a lot about leadership. He stressed the importance of communication, feedback, and service as a leader, and defined the difference between a passionate person and someone who is fit to lead. “Passion isn’t enough. Don’t believe me? Watch the opening rounds of American Idol.”

“Lots of people aspire to leadership,” he said, adding that not everyone is fit for leadership and that many people who seek after it are driven by money. “Most people chase after money and find that they hate getting up for work. Do what you love, don’t worry about the money, and you’ll end up just fine.”

In seeking that first job, Venhuizen encouraged students to differentiate themselves from other applicants by focusing on values such as integrity, humility, determination, gratitude, and character. “Going to a school like this, you’re uniquely positioned to do so,” he said.

Students, professors, faculty, and members of the local Palos Heights community came to hear Venhuizen speak.

Business management major Andrew Reidsma ’14 of Wyoming, Michigan, was on the student team that had the privilege of working with Venhuizen as part of the business department’s mentorship program. “His knowledge and wisdom are impressive, but his passion, energy and candidness are what set him apart. I enjoyed working with him and learning as much as possible.”