Lunch with West Coast Reduction’s Barry Glotman

Barry Glotman, CEO West Cost Reduction

Barry Glotman, CEO of West Coast Reduction, on marrying into the family business—and how to make the unpalatable profitable

As a conversation over chicken teriyaki and tuna tataki, it feels a tad unpalatable: how Barry Glotman rose from “shovelling blood and guts” to become president and CEO of animal rendering giant West Coast Reduction Ltd.
Even his wife, Lauri, wishes he could have a job that’s more dinner-party friendly. “She’s always saying, ‘Why can’t you be in a business where we could talk about Gucci or something?’” he says, laughing as we sit in Koko’s restaurant near his East Vancouver HQ. 
Not that the 57-year-old Southlands resident isn’t proud to explain the realities of his work. He quickly points out, for example, how his trucks collect waste such as offal and bone at the back of this sushi bar (one of 14,000 customers that also include slaughterhouses and butcher shops in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan) and that it’s part of a billion pounds’ worth of inedible byproduct that West Coast Reduction converts yearly into protein and fats (used as, among other things, feed ingredients for animals). 
“We’re the original recyclers,” he states, emphasizing the role the company’s six operating plants play in keeping waste out of the landfill. “If the government had millions of dollars and we weren’t around yet, they would give us money to start what we do.” 
The half-century-old independent renderer—Western Canada’s largest—has also expanded significantly into the canola oil distribution business in the past 20 years. Currently funnelling more than a billion dollars’ worth of canola oil to Asia through its tanks at Port Metro Vancouver, West Coast Reduction recently finished a $10-million system upgrade to unload the oil from railcars and pipe it onto cargo ships faster. 
Glotman’s route into the family business started in 1988 at the invitation of his father-in-law, Gordon Diamond, who along with his late entrepreneur father, Jack Diamond, established West Coast Reduction out of their butcher shop in Vancouver. Not wanting to be a “nepotism case,” however, Glotman knew he wanted his first job to be among the workers, which now total 450, “going in trucks and sucking the grease from restaurants” for biodiesel, for example. After all, he says, “It’s a blood-and-guts business so you have to really like it.” (Even as CEO today, it’s obvious Glotman is more comfortable with the truckers and moving around sites than sitting long at his desk: “I get things done but really don’t want to do the heavy detail,” he confesses.)
He also resisted joining the family firm for a few years while pursuing his own entrepreneurial endeavours. As a young UBC biochemistry grad, Glotman became hooked on the antiques trade (and a lifelong love of collecting ’50s and ’60s Canadian art) after being taken to an auction. It prompted him, in 1980, to found Second Time Around antiques store in Vancouver before selling in 1988 to join West Coast Reduction. He was soon leading the company’s expansion efforts in Saskatoon and then managing its Edmonton facility before returning to Vancouver in 1993 (he became president and COO in 2001 and president and CEO in 2008). 
Unable to keep away from the “thrill of buying and selling,” Glotman also started Antique Warehouse in 1990 (he sold 15 years later) and owns a 10-year-old porta-potty company, PitStop Portable Toilets. “I just love being entrepreneurial,” says the father of three young adults.
Besides, as the CEO insists, it’s always important to find your own identity in business. “Family business can be a great opportunity but can be a huge disaster if it’s not managed right,” he says. “I don’t want my kids to go into the business unless they find their passion.”
Barry Glotman’s Favourites
1. “It has to be lasagna at Nick’s Spaghetti House (631 Commercial Dr., Vancouver), around the corner from The Cultch (a corporate partner of his).”
2. “Lunches are normally tuna sandwich, soda bread and soup grabbed from Uprising Breads Bakery (1697 Venables St., Vancouver).”
3. “I’m definitely a fan of the T-bone steak at Gotham Steakhouse (615 Seymour St., Vancouver), and I love any wine.”