Geography, diversity and ensuring your company’s people are motivated and energized were just some of the insights given by leaders of two prominent Canadian construction companies on how to grow a more valuable company.

The speakers at the CEO Roundtable: Growing a More Valuable Company, hosted by the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) during its annual conference, were Pierre Pomerleau, president and CEO of Pomerleau Inc., and Andy Trewick, president and CEO of Graham.

CCA president Mary Van Buren, who moderated the livestreamed chat, pointed out despite the many challenges faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, both companies have continued to flourish.

“We’ve been very deliberate about what we wanted to do and how we go about doing it,” Trewick explained.

“We recognize, perhaps going further back actually, we needed to be diverse in the sector and geography and we had a clear and deliberate plan to do that.

“We wanted to make sure that we had a sustainable business.”

The other key strategic objective, he said, has been positioning the business around contracting models.

“There has been lots of talk about risk allocation of contracts,” Trewick said.

“We certainly felt some of that pain in the past and we don’t want to go through it again. We’ve been very deliberate about moving the organization into certain ways of doing business. If you took those two core principles that’s how we shifted and then as a consequence of that we’ve seen the growth.”

Pomerleau said the leader of an organization has a responsibility to make sure that people are challenged and that too can lead to growth.

“They are hungry for challenge. They are hungry for a career. They are hungry for growth. When we push the organization positively toward growth, while we give them the occasion to have the more complex projects and a more challenging task or a bigger project, as a consequence I think we see growth,” Pomerleau noted.

“Above that, there are many other things that we need to push to keep those talented people in the organization, but growth is certainly one of them, innovation is one of them, environment is one of them. All of the things that are really important to our employees.”

While some measures are easier for larger companies to implement, the CEOs were asked about what small and medium sized businesses can do to be successful.

“If there’s one thing that we need in this industry with all the new complexity, with all the new delivery models, it’s more trust,” said Pomerleau. “You need to establish trust with your client, with your partners, your trade partners. Then you create that environment of communication, of collaboration, of solutions.”

Trewick advised attendees to take a step back and make a plan of where you want your business to go.

“To do some of the things you want to do you need time to think about it. Just taking a step away from the daily grind we all get sucked into and actually having some time out to think, plan and we call it strategy,” said Trewick. “Think about what your business wants to do, where you want to take it.

“Spend some quality time thinking about that and then be deliberate, making sure that you don’t get knocked off course from what you want to do.”

Trewick said the climate is changing very quickly in the world these days and companies have to be flexible and adaptable.

“We as organizations have to be very nimble to reflect that and to react to those situations,” he said. “If you went back two months, you would be thinking green energy, transformation from dirty energy to the clean energy and two months later we might be talking about pipelines and how do we pump more oil out of Alberta.”

Pomerleau said one of the lessons learned from the pandemic is that Canada is missing some key infrastructure including hospitals and long-term care facilities, pharmaceutical companies and vaccine research facilities.

“I think there is going to be way more built,” Pomerleau noted. “The independence from other countries is going to create opportunities like the whole battery, electrification of transport.

“There is a lot to do. I am quite bullish that the industry will thrive for the next five years.”

Pomerleau said another positive aspect was industry collaboration and that needs to continue in the future.

“When the pandemic started, we all pulled up together, we created teams, we started to work with our trade partners, with our competition,” he said. “We started to exchange information, data and everything. It’s amazing what we’ve done. We have tons of joint ventures. We need to collaborate more.”

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