Authors: Peter Brown and John Hughes
Publisher: Portfolio Penguin
“Canada’s ‘Best Managed Companies’ program began in early 1990’s, when plants closing and job losses were the order of the day” writes John Hughes and Peter Brown, authors of this book. Peter Brown National Co-Leader, Best Managed at Deloitte and John Hughes was leader in Greater Toronto Growth Enterprise practice for Deloitte.
Tough times crushes the majority but paves the path for the ‘real toughs’ to show their character and stand still and move forward. Best Managed Companies program is sponsored by Deloitte, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the National Post and Queen’s school of Business. The program aims to build the network of exceptional Canadian businesses so they could help one another succeed. Candidates are evaluated each year on how they address key challenges which comes under: Strategy, Capability & Commitment.
Peter Brown & John Hughes’s first book ‘Building the Best’ was focused on growth, strategy, capability and commitment. Power Of The Best deals with twelve themes, explained in twelve chapters, the authors have seen over the past twenty years.
Strategies are not aliens to the organization but some successful companies designs them not just the better way but creates the ‘Blue Ocean’ (Blue Ocean states above the competition) out of it, as shown by Great Western Breweries in chapter one titled ‘Strategy: Brewing Up A Winning Formula For Marketplace Success. The strategic plans do not always work out as planned. Companies that embark on them need to be alert and nimble enough to recognize when market conditions have changed. It’s the responsibility of the leadership to convey the need for the commitment and to provide the tools and structures necessary to achieve it.
The second chapter deals with the innovative concept of leadership. Leadership in business is seen as a purview of individuals, charismatic personalities leading thousands of people. Leadership in Canada’s Best Managed companies is dedicated to minimizing hierarchy even to the inverting pyramid (often called Collective Leadership) so that employees understood they have the power to lead without waiting senior management to show the way. The author explains, economic uncertainties, new technology, greater regulatory scrutiny and global competition are demanding more responsive operations. It’s more gratifying and more profitable to lead a group of collaborators rather than the group of followers. The companies in this chapter vary enormously in size, but trier essential leadership philosophy is the same. Leaders do more than issue orders. They need to be supported by talent in decision and that’s where ‘Collective Leadership’ lies.
You can’t step into reading the third chapter without getting impressed with the title of the chapter, Branding and Marketing: Making the product an experience, not a thing. A brand is more than a logo, a trademark, or a bottle of pop on a supermarket shelf, speaks author. A brand is not something that can be papered over by an organization with clever slogans or advertising. It reflects the authentic value of the enterprise to the clients. The clients perception of brand must align with the company’s self-perception if the brand is to have true value. This chapter explores the brand strategy of three B2C (business to customer) companies and one B2B (Business to Business) company. Fountain Tire, Goodlife Fitness and Harley Davidson are associated directly with their customers so they can check the quality of experience of their customer at different levels. “We draw a direct line between customer experience & profitability”, Harley Davidson says. While operating B2C or B2B many of its strategies for marketing are different but essential theories of building, maintaining & marketing a strong brand is no different.
The chapters like funding growth gives an insight into the innovative solution to feed fund requirements of the company’s unique business model of OMERS private equity bridged the gap between pension fund safe investment requirements and fund-deficit organizations.
Mergers & Acquisitions (M&As) are required to increase capabilities, capacities and to expand in the new areas of businesses. Niagara Group, providing mechanical contracting services focused on plumbing and piping, acquires Golan Mechanical to provide total mechanical package. Acquisitions are not the matters of spreadsheets but a lot about integrating the cultures. Good culture match is important. Edmonton-based Supreme Group shared ‘2011 Engineering Award’ from Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) of ‘The Bow’, 58-storey tower. Supreme Group has not only relied on acquisitions to increase its competitiveness, it undertook many projects through Joint-Ventures.
When somebody speaks of innovation in business we invariable think about technology, hardware, patents and new product breakthrough. Seventh chapter not only talks about the companies that have excelled through the introduction of innovative products but also bring new ideas to market that require as much innovation as innovation themselves.
Burnbrae Farms Ltd. is a remarkable story of innovation which once was family business but today it presides over largest integrated supplies in Canada, selling over 35% of the shell eggs and over 80% of retail liquid egg products. More than 300 egg producers reach the market through Burnbrae’s grading station. Cactus Club has changed the casual dining experience and it has nothing to do with engineering breakthrough. Technology can be an important aspect of innovation but it remains a subject on its own, believes author.
To be the best is to do the best and that’s where sustainability comes. Sustainability too often is seen as a corporate luxury, a feel-good option located well beyond the business plan. But the president of DIRTT (Do It Right This Time) says ‘If being green or sustainable costs more money, then that solution is not sustainable itself’. DIRTT founder, Mogens Smed, earned 2010 Product Prize from American Society of Interior Design for his contribution to the advancement of desing. Such out-of-the-box approach towards sustainability made DIRTT to be listed in Best Managed list. Steam Whistle with Bullfrog Power powered its Roundhouse brewery in Toronto with zero carbon emission, drawing electricity only from wind farms and low impact hydro generation. For many companies that are embracing sustainability, a “green” ethos is good business because customers respond positively to it.
All local and global brands are switching gears to attract and retain talent, suggests chapter ten, which depicts the story of four of Best Managed companies that faced unique challenges in attracting and retaining workforce talent and have applied their own solution to great effect. Great Little Box company’s talent retaining strategy comes down to not how to attract but who to attract. And then throwing plenty of social events as employees spent their maximum awaking time with their colleagues. A broad basket of compensation, fresh fruit every day, BMI (Body-Mass-Index) contest, getting paid to quit smoking, 24X7 fitness centre where you can bring a friend on weekends, own vegetable garden, take part in golf tournament and so on won’t make anybody to think about changing the company. Another interesting example is form Brock Solution from Ontario. The company embraces ‘Lattice Model’ in which hierarchy into different assignments and challenges, developing new skill sets along the way. Instead of strict vertical model of increasing seniority, a lattice environment seeks to deliver growth for an employee with multi-directional movement. One project, an employee might be a technical lead and on another that person might be a project manager.
The companies profiling inspire all entrepreneurs who resolve to turn challenges into opportunities. The book talks about the success stories of the scores of companies and many Canadian Business Leaders that make it an indispensable book-must-read for all entrepreneurs, business leaders and those you aspires to become business leaders.