Profile: Tim Lukenda President, CEO, Extendicare

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Tim Lukenda, President, CEO, Extendicare
Tim Lukenda, President, CEO, Extendicare
Hockey has played a pivotal role in Tim Lukenda's life. So it's no surprise that the former college goaltender invokes sports to explain his role at Extendicare.

“You need leaders on a team but you also need people who know what their individual roles are and how they can contribute to the team's success,” says the long-term care chain's CEO and president. “In order to do that, the whole team has to know what your objectives are and what you're trying to do and what a win looks like.”

The 44-year-old, who celebrated his one-year anniversary at the Markham, Ontario-based company in April, has an idea. It involves improving consistency of care and customer service across the 266-facility chain, recruiting and fostering talent, and staying on top of the latest technology.

Lukenda's approach already has scored points with his colleagues. A former investment banker and law school graduate, he has brought a “holistic” view to the long-term care company, according to Loren Claypool, CIO of Extendicare Health Services Inc., the Milwaukee-based U.S. division of Extendicare.

“I think [he's] what we needed and what we need. Tim's doing a great job,” Claypool says.

Lukenda joined Extendicare at a critical juncture. Three years ago, the company reorganized. Today, Extendicare Real Estate Investment Trust owns the Canadian and U.S. operations.

Despite his youthful age, Lukenda is no newbie when it comes to long-term care. He served for more than 10 years as the former president and chief operating officer at Tendercare, a Michigan chain acquired by Extendicare in 2007.

His father, Dr. Louis Lukenda, purchased Tendercare, a string of Michigan facilities owned by Beverly Enterprises Inc., in 1989. Louis, a dentist, also helped open the first nursing home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, more than 30 years ago.

Lukenda credits his ambitious career to his father, an immigrant from Croatia, and his mother, who instilled the merits of hard work and drive. The youngest of seven children–and only boy–Lukenda grew up playing contact sports (including hockey, of course) in Sault Ste. Marie, a small town on the U.S./Canada border.

He looked up to those student-athlete types, such as Ken Dryden, who attained a law degree and also was a brilliant goalie in the National Hockey League. As a freshman, Lukenda walked on the Notre Dame varsity hockey team. He played four years, earning a Rookie of the Year honor and a student-athlete award along the way.

Today, he has temporarily hung up his own skates to coach hockey for his two sons, Carter, 15, and Cooper, 10. His daughter, Macauley, 11, is a competitive figure skater. His wife and high-school sweetheart, Mary Lynne, teaches elementary school.

An avid reader of business books such as “Good to Great” and “Hardwiring Excellence,” Lukenda says he likes to learn about success from other CEOs. But he is careful to stay on the sidelines when talking about his own professional achievements.

“At the end of the day, it's not me doing it by myself,” he says.