You might be surprised to see a 150-year-old company on this list, but for Source Atlantic, evolution is the only path to growth.
President Steven Drummond joined the Saint John, N.B., company in 2001. Source Atlantic was about to make the shift from being strictly a maintenance, repair and operations parts supplier (selling things like HVAC systems and industrial rope) to a solutions and supplies company.
“The reality is that the pure buy-sell model is basically broken,” says Drummond. “Broken from the ability to create innovative business within it. If you’re in pure buy-sell, you’re really just a commodity player with limited ability to provide proper returns.”
To execute the shift, Drummond and his team asked existing customers what they needed that they weren’t getting from Source Atlantic. What the company heard was a need for technical, supply chain and inventory management services, along with business and learning management solutions.
By meeting those needs, Source Atlantic has become a one-stop shop for those in the industrial, government, commercial and residential contractor markets, whether customers need e-learning solutions, winter workboots for employees, an HVAC system, supply chain mapping or all of the above.
Today the company operates 21 branches throughout Atlantic Canada and, after acquiring Moore Industrial Ltd. last October, in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. “That’s the first time we’ve taken our business footprint outside Atlantic Canada. That’s a pretty significant step,” Drummond says of the acquisition.
Drummond’s belief in constant evolution doesn’t stop at the products and services Source Atlantic sells. His workers engage in continuous learning as a regular part of their jobs. A cloud-based system uses employee- and supervisor-rated competencies to identify knowledge gaps and opportunities for advancement. Staff can upgrade their skills through online and video workshops, and occasional classroom training. Source Atlantic uses the same e-learning tools it sells to train its own people, which adds credibility to the sales process.
Drummond credits this initiative as the smartest change Source Atlantic has done to create profitable growth. In addition to being a cost-effective way to keep his people sharp, Drummond says the constant focus on training reminds employees that the company is committed to their success.
“At first there was concern with the e-learning, from the generation of employees that has been around a while, but that has really evaporated over the last few years,” he says. “It’s really fascinating to see younger people come in who are absolutely hungry for it.”