Nearly five years ago, the leaders of Weston Wood Solutions set a goal: to prepare the company for sale. Then, as now, the team had no intent to put the business on the block. If a bidder emerged with a “silly sum” of money, president Alan Lechem says, “we’d look at it—we’re not stupid.” But barring such a wild scenario, the idea was to ensure all aspects of the firm, from financial reporting to talent development to risk management, were not just robust but strong enough to impress a would-be buyer. “If you focus on doing the things that might make a company saleable to someone else,” Lechem explains, “you’re going to do whatever is needed to steer it toward excellence.”
Like all of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, Weston Wood Solutions is a private firm. Based in Brampton, Ont., the business—which supplyies millwork like trim and mouldings to both the industrial and commercial markets—has no obligation to to chase short-term sales increases for shareholders. Nor is it being forced to drive its growth through continuous improvement. And yet, revenue has more than doubled over the past five years. The reason? The lumber industry veterans who founded the company created a venture that embraced change. In a highly commoditized low-margin business, success hinges on the quality of a firm’s employees. And people don’t strive for flawless execution when they’re told to embrace the status quo. “Our products are [of] excellent quality, but we don’t sell anything particularly proprietary,” Lechem explains. “So what we do is provide really excellent service to our customers. That is what pumps us up, and that is what has fuelled our growth.”
This “always be improving” ethos changed the company’s approach to global sourcing; it once operated primarily in Canada and the U.S. but now deals on three continents. There have also been changes to quality-control practices, thanks to staff input in the design and manufacturing processes.
Such improvements grow from what Lechem considers a crucial element of the company’s success: the development and support of his 25-person staff. Last year, senior staff were trained in the Predictive Index, a hiring methodology meant to identify candidates who will thrive in the organization. Lechem believes in hiring for culture fit but not seeking out clones. “That would be horrible,” he says. “How do you innovate when everyone is thinking the same way?” Instead, he and his team seek individuals who appreciate the core values that define the business—such as actively searching for new ideas. “We are constantly striving to do things differently,” says Lechem.