Deloitte on Canada’s Best Managed Companies

Shaping Canadian Excellence in Leadership
~ By: Mudeeha Yousaf


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More so than the bottom dollar, the heart of any successful corporation is resilient leadership and the willingness to drive the practice forward through innovative thought and proficiency. The creative minds at Deloitte, a leading professional services firm, have personified these values with the creation of a business awards program that brings small-medium sized private corporations recognition on their achievements and influence on Canada’s economy. Now in its 22nd year, Canada’s Best Managed Companies program is still thriving with a vision to share insights and ideas with all Canadian establishments to improve their corporate longevity.

John Hughes, National Leader of Canada’s Best Managed Companies and Managing Partner at Deloitte, joined the company in 2002 as a Chartered Accountant and “fell in love with the program and meeting very interesting and successful companies. 21 years later we continue to see more opportunities,” he shares in a recent interview with Business Elite Canada. Hughes holds over two decades of experience in strategic planning, corporate and personal taxation, mergers and acquisitions, and transactions due diligence, and uses these skills to help industrialists and management teams grow their business. The program outlines a recipe of success for companies of all scopes, and Hughes works with firms, families and institutions on issues unique to entrepreneurs in privately held companies.

Hughes advocates that the program’s inception was sparked by the recession in 1992 where “there was nothing but bad news being printed those days. The concept was ‘why don’t we print some good news for Canadians’ and in particular we wanted to celebrate smaller businesses because they are the ones that don’t often get the recognition that the larger ones do.”

The program is a celebration of enterprises that contribute to the nation’s business acumen and is more of a methodology to evaluate companies based on fundamental distinguishers. The corporations are vetted based on their communal efforts and the uniqueness of the program stems from focusing on the collective group of individuals working towards a higher purpose. “It’s important that we celebrate the entire team, rather than a product, CEO, or individual employee,” says Hughes. The program does not distinguish by size, geography or industry, though those that choose to participate in the program must follow a minimum threshold of $10 million in revenue for the past 3 years, as well as being a privately held company that focuses on the process of management rather than the outcome. “How you do strategic planning and build the next generation of leaders is our focus.”

As well as christening business savants in the corporate world, the program also provides value to those who are not designated as one of the best managed companies, and, win or lose, participants gain an unparalleled experience. Those who wish to enter the program are provided with networking opportunities and a community of mentorship, and before applying they are assigned coaches from Deloitte and CIBC to help guide them through the process.

Hughes and the rest of the Deloitte team look for four key qualifiers that determine who is awarded the title. The first attribute each company must showcase is its business strategy and must articulate how they plan to ‘win’ and with what means. As well as delivering a crisp and succinct application, the corporation must identify how it leverages its technologies and retains its customers.

Also of importance is the company’s financial health. They must have a strong pecuniary performance, though the program does take into account the economies ups and downs. Commitment to a strong corporate culture is also key, which speaks to the process of how the company builds its capabilities. “In the 22 years we’ve done this, the single most important factor in our view is the talent that you hire, and in particular building the next generation of leaders in your company,” says Hughes. “One company went through the process four times before winning. It’s about getting better and not necessarily winning.”

According to Hughes, there are three ‘megatrends’ that are impacting the nature of Canadian business that all mid-market corporations must take into consideration. The first of the trends, which are outlined in Hughes book “The Power of the Best” (2012), is globalization. As subcontracting edges its way into business practices, Canadian companies are competing on a global scale as well as domestically, and are outsourcing their suppliers, employees and services to meet the demand that globalization brings to the modern world. As well, companies must not shy away from the latest technologies that are becoming the predominant basis of business transactions, and companies must travel along with the fast-paced movement that will see no lag in the coming years. With the use of these technologies brings alternative marketing initiatives through social media channels such as LinkedIn, which is growing its popularity and is a critical tool in a company’s permanence. Finally, Canada is facing the effects caused by the aging population and it is becoming vital for companies to stay ahead of the curve as time passes by. The programs 25th anniversary will bring with it Hughes latest book which will outline the “how to’s” in business and will dig deeper into these themes.

               Not only shining a light onto Canadian corporations, the program has expanded its reach and has gained an international presence in the Netherlands, Ireland and Mexico, and is currently looking at the United States, China and Brazil. As well, the program will shift its attention to private equity firms who, even though they are funded differently, have a lot to offer Canada’s business landscape. Hughes advocates that they are “stringent on partnerships. We want to partner with companies who will build our network.” The future of the program will aim to create a tighter and more expansive network across Canada and around the world.

               Earlier this year, Canada’s Best Managed Companies program celebrated its 21st  year. “Accelerating Leadership within your Organization,” was the annual symposium theme providing companies the opportunity to share ideas and give council to others in the program. “We have a cumulative type program where the companies who win stay on the list and after four years can become a gold company, and after seven years can become a platinum company. They’ve been coming back year after year because of the learning experience,” says Hughes. “The program has taken on a life of its own.”

“It’s all about connecting companies. Those on the list are not the high flyers but are strategic planners that know how they will grow business and build a sustainable organization,” closes Hughes. “A number of people have told me ‘what you’re doing is great for Canada’ and that is our goal.”

If you want to learn more about Canada’s Best Managed Companies program, you can reach John Hughes at or visit