Leveraging an entrepreneurial culture to drive corporate success
by Leah Kellar
After more than 60 years in business, Lakeside Process Controls Ltd. upholds an outstanding corporate culture that has placed it in a listing of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures last year. The recognition is a category in a high profile annual awards program (now in its seventh year) founded by Waterstone Human Capital—an executive recruitment and human capital consulting firm based in Mississauga, with offices in Toronto and Vancouver.
Lakeside Process Controls Ltd. is an employee-owned and operated company that has been providing process automation solutions in Ontario, Manitoba and other locations around the world since 1952. Lakeside, as a Local Business Partner of Emerson Process Management, is in the business of automating continuous and batch processes of manufacturing plants such as power plants, refineries, steel producers, and chemical producing facilities. Lakeside also provides automation and reliability solutions to gas distribution utilities. Most recently, Lakeside has been focused on making such plants more reliable, using innovative products and expertise focused on extending the operating life of the customers’ production assets Employee ownership at Lakeside promotes a spirit of true entrepreneurship in the company and personal pride in the quality of service provided to its customers. This has been a significant contributor to Lakeside’s distinct culture of excellence. The Mississauga-based Lakeside has also been recognized as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies by Deloitte since 2002 and attained platinum membership in 2008.
“The ‘Best Managed’ competition recognizes business success and strategy, while our new corporate culture award recognizes the impact of culture on business success. Our success in the past 20 years has come from both of these factors – a strong strategy and culture,” said Greg Houston, President of Lakeside. Being employee owned and operated means that almost all of the more than 200 employees at Lakeside have a stake in the business and act as owners, taking more pride and influence in the company’s work and future direction.
The company has enjoyed consistent growth since it started more than 60 years ago. It began with only a handful of employees. Houston attributes the company’s continuous growth to its practices in the area of strategy development and execution. For the past 15 years, the company remarkably has never had a down year in incoming business, regardless of the economic conditions. Its strategy development is mostly based on innovative ideas that come from Lakeside’s employees, says Houston.
“At Lakeside we employ very intelligent and creative people who thrive on solving problems for our customers. We find ways to improve our customers’ business, even when times may not lend themselves well to their capital spending,” said Houston.
Employees receive a share of the profits at the end of the year based on how well the company has done financially. Lakeside’s entrepreneurial culture of employee ownership and operation requires transparency from the President and the Management Team. Employees are updated on a quarterly basis with the company’s financials and progress made towards its strategic plan for growth. An annual two-day company conference is held where employees celebrate the previous year’s success and the next year’s company strategy for growth is discussed.
“It is the employees here that we answer to at the end of the day,” said Houston who has himself been with the company for 23 years and started working for Lakeside directly after university in an entry level position and working his way up to President.
“We always promote from within. So we’ll always bet on a younger, less experienced person that grew up with us, rather than hiring from outside,” said Houston.
This type of employee-loyal culture also promotes a strong sense of community and social responsibility to both the local and international communities. Lakeside leverages a Social Responsibility Committee to select and support charities that have meaning to Lakers and their families.
“It’s easy to write out a cheque for a charity, but if it’s going to gain some momentum with the staff as well, then we’ll fund it,” said Houston. “I’m proud to say that most of the charities we work with are because employees have taken the initiative to work with the charity based on a personal conviction. If it means something to our employees then it means something to Lakeside as a whole. We support each other and this type of involvement is another way that this support is demonstrated”
The company recently opened a new facility in Mississauga that is 50 per cent bigger than its previous headquarters.
Lakeside’s new facility is also one of its most monumental projects in its history. The company decided to start from scratch when it outgrew its previous location. The design of the new facility is one that is attractive to both customers and employees alike. The concept incorporates natural light with lower furniture and workstations that allow for better communication among employees and distribution of natural light, collaboration areas for employees to work, a wellness center, and even a treadmill workstation where people can walk to stay fit and active whilst working. Flat screens were also installed throughout the building to facilitate messaging to customers and employees, rather than using bulletin boards and posters.
Lakeside has enjoyed over six decades of growth, but that is certainly not without its challenges in the area of hiring skilled labour, especially with a high standard of excellence and an extensive hiring process of at least two rounds of interviews with up to six to eight people at each stage of the process including management, potential colleagues and the President. The company is certainly doing something right however to counteract the difficulties involved in attracting and selecting skilled labour with an impressively low turnover rate sitting at 5 per cent.
As for Houston’s vision for the next 60 years of the company—“I’d like to outgrow this new facility. I’ve got lots of people who are excited about the prospect of doubling the business in the next seven years.”