2012 Best Companies: More Than 100 Employees

Get to know the province's top employers with more than 100 employees. Raised the bar, upped your game, hit it out of the park. Yes, they’re clichés, but it’s no coincidence that sports are a rich source of business metaphors. Whether it’s a solo skater turning triple Salchows and double Lutzes, or hard-hitting third-liners dealing backchecks and blocking slapshots, athletes offer unique lessons in performing at your peak.

Louisa Thue from HootSuite goes the distance.

Get to know the province’s top employers with more than 100 employees.

Raised the bar, upped your game, hit it out of the park. Yes, they’re clichés, but it’s no coincidence that sports are a rich source of business metaphors. Whether it’s a solo skater turning triple Salchows and double Lutzes, or hard-hitting third-liners dealing backchecks and blocking slapshots, athletes offer unique lessons in performing at your peak.

Meet the winners and finalists for the best companies from the province’s big companies.

1. HootSuite Media Inc.

Digital Tech and Tech Services

When the number of employees in your company grows 900 per cent in less than a year, then “I don’t care what it is you do; you’ve got a new company culture,” says Ambrosia Humphrey, director of human resources at HootSuite Media Inc.

Handling the hyper-growth is all in a day’s work for Vancouver’s tech company on steroids, which recently hit four million users and launched a London office and U.S., Australian and European subsidiaries. The company is also pulling up its Gastown roots for a much bigger office space at Ontario Street and Eighth Avenue in Vancouver – complementary neighbourhoods, says Humphrey, because “we didn’t want to alienate anybody by moving to Burnaby and having our employees commute an hour each way.”

According to Humphrey, CEO Ryan Holmes emphasizes a user-centric product and an employee-centric company, which includes quarterly employment-engagement surveys. “Even our name was crowd-sourced,” she says. The result is that HootSuite feels “like a functional family,” according to one staffer. Another employee recalls a situation where a colleague wasn’t performing or happy in his role, but “letting him go wasn’t even discussed; the company simply transitioned him to a role that was a better fit.” Perks include last summer’s all-inclusive company retreat (including interns), the $300 a month made available for a social event and surprise Christmas gifts. Plus, all full-time employees have options in the company.

At the end of the day, Humphrey says HootSuite’s culture is “the glue that holds us together. We want our employees engaged in that culture so it feels real.”

2. Daniel Hospitality Group


Daniel Frankel certainly understands that hospitality lies at the heart of the restaurant business and treats his staff accordingly. “It’s always been an inherent part of our culture to cultivate a family-style environment,” explains the president and CEO of Daniel Hospitality Group. That extends to inviting all staff to lavish family dinners his company throws every Thanksgiving and Christmas, where managers cater to front-line staff, many of whom have no local family.

The Daniel group of restaurants began in 2001 with a hot- dog cafe in Coal Harbour. The following year Frankel took over The Prospect Cafe at Prospect Point in Stanley Park and he has since amassed a collection of iconic locations, including The Mill Marine Bistro on the Coal Harbour seawall, Stanley Park Pavilion facing Malkin Bowl and the Burrard Bridge Bar & Grill. His latest addition is the Tap & Barrel at Olympic Village and a Tap & Barrel at the convention centre is under construction.

Cultivating a family vibe starts with hiring: “We are truly careful who we bring on board, and we invest a lot of time in training,” remarks Frankel. “If there’s any hesitation, or indication that they’re going to be a weak link, we make sure that they move on because there’s probably something better for them.”

3. Para Space Landscaping Inc.

Consumer Services

Not everyone enjoys working outside with soil and plants year-round, but Para Space Landscaping goes out of its way to find people who do.

“We put a lot of stock in the culture of the company,” says Jeff Foley, executive vice president, whose role includes overseeing operations and personnel. “We hire for quality of person first. From there we often have to train them to be horticulturists or landscapers.”

That devotion to career development and continuous improvement is recognized by employees, many of whom cite company-sponsored Red Seal accreditation and training and certification in such specializations as pesticide application and horticultural technician. Working on cutting-edge landscape designs is another big draw for employees.

From when the company was founded in 1979 – by president and CEO (and father of Jeff), Peter Foley – to its current staff of more than 100, it has maintained a close culture. “We do a really good job of hiring people that fit with the rest of the group,” explains Foley. “When we’re screening people, we think, if Para Space were a person, would they be friends with this candidate?”

Best Companies to Work For: Finalists With More Than 100 employees

4. Cactus Restaurants Ltd.

Vancouver | Hospitality | 1,751 employees

British Columbians love Cactus Club restaurants for their celebrity chef, delicious fish tacos and nubile wait staff. Its loyal staff, however, are there for the great wages and tips, and growth opportunities within the company and industry. “A great training program” comments one employee, while another trumpets “strong leadership,” calling the company “a well-oiled machine.” Management get consistent kudos from employees for being both supportive and accommodating with flexible schedules. What one staffer calls the company’s “vibrant, youthful atmosphere” is a magnet for many, not to mention what a lot of employees call “great” and “consistent” food, which even non-staffers can attest is true.

5. Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House Ltd. 

Vancouver | Hospitality | 150 employees

Though it recently changed ownership, Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House continues to attract the best in the restaurant business. “My hard work doesn’t go unnoticed,” says one employee, while another cites its “great benefits package for hourly servers” as another reason why the company retains so many long-term employees. In an industry where the front-of-house staff (servers and bartenders) are often a world apart from the back-of-house, or kitchen staff, one staff member notes, “The teamwork mentality between FOH and BOH is very present, which isn’t common in this industry.” Most notably, a respect of work/life balance was highlighted by many staff.

6. TMG The Mortgage Group Canada Inc.

Vancouver | Financial Services | 146 employees

TMG’s mantra is to find mortgage options to suit the distinct financial realities of each of its clients. For its staff, however, TMG delivers what one employee calls a “big-company presence with the feel of a small, family-like organization.” Staff are encouraged to keep learning and TMG offers educational programs so brokers can continually upgrade skills, which translates into more income during slow times in the industry. Employees are also encouraged to uphold ethical values and “not to break the rules to get a sale,” explains one staff member. “I believe this to be the most ethical company in the mortgage business,” another says.

7. Nurse Next Door Home Healthcare Services Inc. 

Vancouver | Health Sciences & Services | 211 employees

Nurse Next Door got its start in 2001 after co-founders Ken Sim and John DeHart couldn’t find appropriate care for their elderly loved ones. Today the two have built Canada’s largest franchised in-home care service and the personal caring at the heart of the enterprise weaves its way through the entire organization. “We have a culture of caring,” says one employee, “everyone we work with has a big heart.” Another notes, “Nurse Next Door makes me feel part of something special. Every day I feel that I am making lives better by living the core values of the company.”

8. Odlum Brown Ltd.

Vancouver | Financial Services | 225 employees

Founded in Vancouver in 1923 by General Victor Wentworth Brown and Malcolm “Buster” Brown, Odlum Brown has grown to be one of Canada’s most respected independent investment firms. Wholly owned by its employees, the firm fosters a culture of pride and respect. “There is a culture of integrity throughout the firm,” notes one employee, while another says that “Odlum Brown’s community involvement and great track record make it a company where the employees are proud to say they work there.” Perhaps most important is the company’s respect for its employees, summed up simply by one staff member: “I feel appreciated.”

9. Global Relay Communications Inc.

Vancouver | Digital Tech and Technology Services | 196 employees

In the heavily regulated financial services industry, safe, accurate and thorough archiving of communications is essential and increasingly complex. Global Relay Communications develops cutting-edge technology to keep one step ahead of international competitors, which fosters an obvious pride among its staff. “In a very competitive industry, Global Relay has become dominant worldwide in providing critical services to the world’s fussiest and most secretive industry, requiring technical superiority, great marketing, absolute integrity, amazing vision and great determination,” boasts one employee. Another cites “extremely smart, knowledgeable, fun people to learn from and opportunities to mentor less experienced staff.”

10. Great Little Box Co. Ltd.

Vancouver | Manufacturing and Transportation | 161 employees

The little company that could is well known for its culture of inclusivity, which last year included a “family” vacation to Mexico for its entire staff as a reward for meeting annual goals. Even as the manufacturer of packaging products and shipping supplies has grown from its humble beginnings, it remains an open book to all employees. “We know where the company stands,” comments one employee, citing monthly meetings where staff are briefed on the latest financials. Another cites confidence in employees: “We are all encouraged to be strong leaders, make decisions, take action.”

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