Recognizing the country’s Best Managed companies
By Cheryl Long
Each day, privately-owned companies across Canada perform work that warrants national attention but they rarely, if ever, make headlines. All it takes is a glance through Deloitte’s Best Managed Companies list to discover some of the best and often untold business stories in the country.
Peter Brown is Senior Practice Partner at Deloitte LLP and co-leader of the company’s well-known Canada’s Best Managed Companies (Best Managed) program. In 2012 he was appointed to Deloitte Canada’s Client Cabinet, a group of senior partners whose responsibilities include management of the Deloitte brand and the company’s most senior relationships in the marketplace. Business Elite Canada spoke with Brown about the wealth of outstanding businesses in Canada and how some of the strongest make it to the Platinum Club, a group that achieves Best Managed status for seven consecutive years.
“They really are a remarkable group of companies. To build a lasting foundation in business is the ultimate goal for most teams and entrepreneurs; to build something that’s kind of institutional in an entrepreneurial way,” Brown explained.
The Best Managed program places companies in one of several elite categories, including new winners, requalified members, gold standard winners and finally, Platinum Club members, who represent the pinnacle of achievement. These are companies that have “earned their stripes” by undergoing extensive evaluations in the first, fourth and seventh year of the Best Managed program and have reached a level of achievement that represents true success.
“You have to have a strong culture, consistent performance, great people; you have to do it all,” Brown said. “It’s really fun to hang out with these types of companies … they’re quite inspiring on many fronts.”
Companies are assessed on several levels, including strategy, capability, alignment and financial performance. The judging framework is based on qualities that Deloitte discovered years ago while researching companies that achieved sustainable global growth; standards that are now applied to list hopefuls. The first category, strategy, has to make sense in the context of the company’s industry, Brown explained, and then has to be communicated throughout the organization from the leadership team through to line workers. “Best Managed companies have a robust strategy and communicate it extremely well throughout the organization. They have a roadmap on ‘how we’re going to get this done and how we’ll know where we are’ throughout the year,” he added.
Capability looks at an organization’s ability to execute. Platinum companies are “world-class executors”, Brown said, and focus on strengthening the areas of capacity, productivity and execution. “They really put their shoulder to the wheel to be able to execute on what it is they intend to do,” he explained. If there are changes in the marketplace, these companies evolve and adapt more quickly than other organizations, making innovation a part of their everyday culture.
Alignment is a popular label in today’s business world, and it can be a differentiator to whether a company struggles or soars. It means bringing the team together for a common purpose and working together in a way that can seem as effortless as a well-choreographed dance.
“I’ve led teams and I’ve been on teams where we’ve been completely aligned and passionate about it, and there’s just no way that the human spirit gets beaten down in that,” Brown said. “It’s synergistic and it’s joyful. I’ve also been on teams where we just couldn’t get aligned for a variety of reasons. When you reflect back on it, you think ‘we didn’t get anything done.’” The hallmark of a platinum company is an ability to build and maintain a productive team culture, supported by communication, collaboration and an investment in leadership development throughout the organization.
That’s one of the goals of the Best Managed program – recognizing and celebrating great teamwork. Collaboration creates sustainability and encourages productivity; it’s a way for companies to move mountains. “What I love about this program is that we look for and reward those companies that have really built great teams,” Brown said.
Finally, the Best Managed scorecard looks at financial performance. “At Deloitte, it would be hollow for us to have a Best Managed company program that recognized companies that performed poorly financially but looked good on paper,” Brown explained.
In 2012, Brown co-authored Power of the Best. As he spoke to universities, businesses and government agencies about the book and its messages, Brown realized that the Best Managed framework of strategy, capability and alignment applied to all facets of life – from individuals to mega-corporations. It highlighted the need for a roadmap, no matter what the goal.
“If you really want to accomplish anything in life, you have to know where you want to go … you’ve got to have to a strategy,” Brown said. “You can let serendipity run your life but it’s usually better to have a plan.” That’s the spirit he sees today in young companies that refuse to let a lack of resources set up roadblocks. Instead, they’re leveraging their networks, partnering with other companies and getting involved in joint ventures. They’re setting themselves up as the next wave of Best Managed companies.
Deloitte’s team devotes a great deal of time and effort to the promotion and development of Canadian businesses, and explores new ways in which companies can have an increasingly meaningful impact on Canada. That means taking a hard look at prevalent issues, such as the productivity gap between Canada and the United States, and how to stop that progression before it impacts the next generation’s standard of living.
“…we’ve been trying to move the dialogue along in terms of the kind of thing we need to do as a country to attract great people to Canada and to make Canada a better place,” Brown said. Taking lessons learned from experiences with hundreds of Best Managed companies and sharing them with others is part of the plan. It’s a form of outreach that allows business leaders to learn from their peers and be inspired by their stories.
In November 2014, Deloitte was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2015 in the prestigious annual competition that recognizes the country’s best workplaces. It’s not the first time the company has been honoured for its supportive culture, but it’s always exciting, Brown said.
“For Deloitte, our intellectual property is almost exclusively our people and the quality of our people and the passion of our people,” which is why attracting and retaining talent is a priority. Being an award recipient helps the company validate the work they do and raise their own bar even higher.
“There’s so many of these great companies that hire hundreds and thousands of Canadians who are terrific companies, great responsible employers, the kinds of companies that people would aspire to work for and yet you don’t read about them as much because we tend to cover public companies,” Brown said. “We’re passionate about telling the story because it’s a story that deserves to be told.”
To learn more about Deloitte Canada, visit www.deloitte.ca.
A list of Canada’s Best Managed Companies winners for 2013 can be found at https://www.bestmanagedcompanies.ca/en/meetourwinners/Pages/Home.aspx.