Best Companies 2011: Health Sciences & Services

The best companies in B.C.'s health sciences and services sector don't need to scrounge for talent – because when you build a strong reputation, the talent comes looking for you.

Kardium Inc. | BCBusiness
Kardium has little trouble attracting talent with its state-of-the-art laboratory.

The best companies in B.C.’s health sciences and services sector don’t need to scrounge for talent – because when you build a strong reputation, the talent comes looking for you.

Not surprisingly, finding the talent is one of the biggest hurdles faced by local life sciences companies. “The medical space in Vancouver is quite small compared to the gaming and new media industries, for example,” acknowledges Kevin Chaplin, VP of business development at Kardium Inc., the four-year-old Vancouver company that is developing a revolutionary catheter for cardiac arrhythmia and an implant to treat mitral valve regurgitation, a condition that allows blood to flow backwards into the heart. “It limits our growth when we can’t fill a position right away.” 

And developing highly specialized life-saving devices requires a particular not just run-of-the-mill talent. “We have a team of high-performing, smart people,” confirms Chaplin. “We’re building a very complicated product, and we’ve hired the smartest people to help us face the technical challenges in what we do.”

Health Sciences & Services

1. Kardium Inc.

2. Nurse Next Door 
Home Healthcare 
Services Inc.

3. Helping Hands 
Clinic Inc.

4. Starfish Products 
Engineering Inc.

5. Maximus BC 
Health Inc.

Kardium has met its staffing needs by hiring almost entirely through word of mouth; a positive reputation makes the recruiting process much easier. Kardium’s employee retention rate is 100 per cent, Chaplin reports, but more importantly, “everyone always comments on what a strong team we have.” Chaplin adds with a laugh, “Every time my brother-in-law comes to visit, he says it sounds like the people down in the workshop are having the greatest time. And it’s true – we have a bunch of engineers who have this dream workshop!” 

It’s a similar story at medical device manufacturer Starfish, although CEO Scott Phillips faces an additional challenge faced by a company headquartered on Vancouver Island. “Recruiting to Victoria can be challenging,” he admits, “but we’ve been fortunate to attract some amazing people from around North America and the world.” In the past three years, only three employees out of 50 have left the company, and the team has grown significantly, enlarging its product development team by 80 per cent and doubling its production group since 2010. 

Ultimately, much of their success likely lies in the fact that both Kardium and Starfish offer challenging work environments that keep employees excited, motivated and happy to work together. “Our people seem to love hanging out. We try hard to maintain open lines of communication and opportunities to interact socially,” Phillips says, citing a well-used foosball table and an office hockey pool as examples of opportunities for employee bonding. 

A policy of transparency extends to the companies’ products, too. “Everyone here has a strong technical background,” says Chaplin, “so we’re all able and welcome to comment.” Every week, teams gather to recap successes; every month, the entire company assembles for a ‘show and tell’ to showcase the latest developments in Kardium’s products. “We all pride ourselves on knowing what’s going on.”
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