Blackhawks president to business leaders: Hire the right people

After 25 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, John McDonough joined the Blackhawks as president in 2007 at a time when the team was suffering through the longest championship drought in the NHL.

Within two years, Forbes Magazine was crediting McDonough with leading "The Greatest Sports-Business Turnaround Ever."

Since then, the Hawks have won three Stanley Cup championships and made the playoffs nine times.

But McDonough makes it clear he didn't do it alone.

He shared some tips and secrets of success with about 750 DuPage County business leaders Wednesday in Oakbrook Terrace as the keynote presenter at the ninth annual DuPage County Regional Business Outlook. Themed "The Summit of Success," the session was sponsored by Choose DuPage, Mesirow Financial and Ice Miller, among others.

As a leader, McDonough told the audience, he prefers a culture that is "comfortably uncomfortable" and he goes out of his way to hire "young, dynamic" professionals who can handle it.

"The most important executive skill and the most underrated executive skill is hiring. If you don't hire well, I don't think you have a chance. You can have the greatest blueprint, a really good course, but if you don't hire the right people (success will be difficult)," McDonough said. "So we're looking for achievers. We're looking for people who want to complement and enhance what we have. I want to hire young dynamic people who want to be part of something."

Once those people are in place, they tend to stay. McDonough said the Blackhawks front office has an annual turnover rate of about 4 percent.

"We're in a wonderful dilemma right now as our 20-somethings are turning into 30-somethings and we're trying to make room for as many people as we can so that we have a lot of continuity throughout the organization," he said.

McDonough also touched on the on-ice product in an attempt to alleviate any concerns caused by the team not making the playoffs this year.

"We, right now, are in the middle of assessing the entire organization," he said. "The game has really evolved. It's now speed. It's skill. It's fast-paced. We've got to find that balance. We have a lot of good, young players who emerged last year."

As for who he thinks will be hoisting the Cup this year?

"If there was a sentimental pick for me, and keeping it in our conference at the same time," he said, "I'd like to see the Winnipeg Jets win it."

  Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough delivered a keynote presentation at the DuPage County Regional Business Outlook event at the Drury Lane Conference Center. Daniel White/
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