Business News

Presented by CIBC

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When it comes to establishing a new business venture, there is a time-honoured checklist of boxes a budding entrepreneur generally needs to tick: You’ve done your research and come up with a killer idea that will set you apart from the competition, taken that business plan from back-of-the-napkin to solid blueprint for success, and done more paperwork than you thought was humanly possible. You’re ready to open your doors and take on the world! 

Or are you?

If you haven’t defined your company’s purpose, you’re missing out on one of the most crucial–if often overlooked–parts of the success puzzle. Not gaining clarity on the “why” of your business–which is, in a nutshell, all a “purpose” really is–could be the misstep that, three years down the road, sees your big idea run adrift or even aground. On the flip side, knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing could be the guiding force to success in perpetuity. 

“It’s your North Star,” explains Stephen Forbes, Executive Vice-President, Purpose, Brand and Corporate Affairs at CIBC. “While strategies may change, your purpose will usually remain constant.” In the era of intense competition, endless options and an uncertain global climate presenting daily opportunities to make knee-jerk, reactionary decisions, a rock-solid, well-articulated purpose can keep you on the path to success–and help you pivot without losing the essence of why you started all of this in the first place. 

The best news? It’s also never too late to define a purpose for your business (but you definitely shouldn’t wait until you run into trouble to do this essential exercise either.) So whether you’re a rookie turning a side-hustle-into-a-start-up or a seasoned business owner with a reporting structure taller than Mount Everest, this is your step-by-step guide to finding your purpose. Existential crises and meditation retreats not required. 

#1 Understand what you mean when you talk about your “purpose”

While discovering our own personal “why” might require delving into the meaning of life, nailing what that means for your company is a little bit more straightforward. “Purpose defines why an organization exists and the role it plays in clients’ lives,” says Forbes. “Purpose is the lens through which business decisions are made, the way products and services are developed, the way employees act with one another and the ways an organization interacts with its clients.” 

#2 Understand what purpose is NOT

“Purpose is not a marketing tagline,” cautions Forbes. Sure, it might inform consumer-facing messaging and shape how you talk about your business with the wider world, but your purpose should be evergreen: It lives beyond a single campaign, isn’t seasonal, and doesn’t tie to a particular service, product or phase of the business. If you successfully hone in on your mission, your business should have the same purpose statement in 25 years (although, of course, there is always room for evolution). “In contrast, your business strategy may change with the operating environment. It’s important to know which is which when making changes to your approach,” says Forbes.

#3 Defining your purpose should be a collaborative exercise

As Forbes puts it, “purpose creates a common focus and binds a company together and sets it apart from competitors.” That’s why you should do your best to consider (and even involve) as many stakeholders as possible in this development process. That can look like anything from creating a cross-functional task force from across the business and gathering them for whiteboarding sessions, or even informally surveying some of your most loyal customers about why they choose your business over and over again. After all, as Forbes says, “Clients want to feel valued for their business and appreciated for their loyalty, and they want to work with a company that they trust to act in their best interests.” 

#4 Your employees should know your purpose

So often the company’s purpose can end up buried in the depths of the HR manual, never to be repeated beyond orientation day. It’s a shame because the right purpose can energize, empower and even inspire your team. “Purpose is the reason they come to work everyday,” says Forbes. If your employees really understand your purpose, it can make them more productive, more nimble and more cohesive as a group. Having a well-socialized and aspirational purpose can also help you attract top talent, says Forbes, because “more and more employees are choosing their employer based on the desire to do meaningful work at a company with values that line up to theirs.” 

#5 Your purpose should be a living, breathing part of everyday operating procedures

Having a purpose is not a one-time exercise in corporate reflection. Your purpose should be something that influences your business daily. You–and your employees–should constantly asking yourselves if a decision aligns with your purpose. More importantly, it should be shaping your company culture, the way each person who draws a salary there behaves, day in and day out. “A purpose-driven value proposition can only be delivered by people,” Forbes underlines. “When a team is fuelled by the inspiration of a singular purpose, they can make a real difference for those they serve.”

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Frequently Asked Questions

Français: FAQ/Modalités

What is the Growth 500?
Celebrating its 31st anniversary in 2019, the Growth 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies—previously known as the PROFIT 500—ranks Canada’s top private and public companies based on five-year revenue growth. Results of the annual ranking, with stories profiling the growth leaders who make the list, will be published in a special report in the October issue of Maclean’s magazine (reaching millions of readers from coast to coast) and at Quebec-based winners are also featured in L’actualité magazine’s ranking of Les Leaders de la croissance.

What is the Startup 50?
Because the Growth 500 is based on five-year revenue growth, businesses must be at least five years old to be eligible. But we believe fast-growing younger firms deserve commendation, too. That’s why we also celebrate the growth of younger companies with the Startup 50 ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies, a companion to the Growth 500 that ranks public and private firms on two-year revenue growth. The entry process for both rankings is the same.

Why should my company enter the Growth 500 or Startup 50?
The Growth 500 and Startup 50 are designed to celebrate winning companies, and past winners report they have benefited in many ways from their appearance on the list. In addition to national media coverage in Maclean’s and at, many winners get publicity from local and industry-specific media outlets. It is common for winners to see increased employee motivation, receive industry accolades and make contacts with potential new customers and collaborators. We also honour the leaders of winning firms at an exclusive, invitation-only CEO Summit, featuring top-tier speakers and unparalleled networking opportunities. Finally, there’s also the sheer satisfaction that comes from knowing your business is among Canada’s best.

Ranking Methodology

How are the Growth 500 and Startup 50 ranked?
The Growth 500 ranks firms by their percentage sales growth over the past five years. For the 2019 ranking, participating firms must reveal their gross revenues for 2013 and 2018 (or 2014 and 2019, where 2019 results are available).
The Startup 50 ranks younger companies (founded after July 1, 2013 for the 2019 ranking) on two-year sales growth. Participating Startup 50 candidates must reveal their gross revenues for 2016 and 2018 (or 2017 and 2019, where 2019 results are available).

What financial information will be published about the companies?
To best serve participating companies, Canadian Business and the Growth 500 adhere to the following guidelines regarding the financial information we publish about winners:

  • Revenue figures for the most recent year (e.g., 2017) will be published only as a range (e.g., an actual revenue figure of $3.7 million will be published as “$2-5 million”)
  • We will not publish revenue figures for the base year used in our calculations (e.g., 2013 for Growth 500 candidates; 2016 for Startup 50 candidates), though we will require that information for verification purposes
  • We will not publish any information about the profitability of individual companies
  • Sample:  The financial information accompanying a winning firm’s 2019 Growth 500 listing might be presented like this: “EntrantCompany Ltd. / 2018 revenue: $2-5 million / 5-year growth: 127%.” (Click here to review the information published on 2018 winners)

How is revenue recognized for the ranking?
We define gross annual revenue per generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Sales that cannot be booked as revenue under GAAP do not count for the purposes of the Growth 500. (For instance, a travel agency can claim as revenue its commissions on airline tickets sold, but not the total dollar value of the tickets.) Gross revenue must be reported net of returns and discounts. Franchisors must report corporate revenue only.

How are candidates’ claims verified?
After submitting a ballot, all eligible candidates must complete an in-depth candidates’ questionnaire before submitting complete financial statements for the fiscal periods used to calculate a five-year (for Growth 500 candidates) or two-year (for Startup 50 candidates) growth rate. Our policy of verifying financial statements is what give the Growth 500 and Startup 50 credibility, and is a mandatory step for prospective winners. Companies that fail to complete the candidates’ questionnaire and/or provide financial statements will not be considered for the Growth 500 or the Startup 50.

Eligibility Requirements

Who can enter the rankings?
To qualify for the Growth 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, or the Startup 50 ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies, a company must:

  • Be headquartered in Canada with significant operations in Canada
  • Be independent (i.e., not a division or subsidiary, unless the parent company is strictly a holding company)
  • Have majority Canadian ownership if owned by private individuals or companies. (Public or venture-backed companies with 50% or less Canadian ownership will be judged on a case-by-case basis)
  • Operate at arm’s length from related companies that have also declared their candidacy for the ranking (See “Can related companies apply separately?” below)

What are the revenue requirements for the Growth 500?
There is no maximum revenue limit for the Growth 500. Minimum revenue requirements apply as follows:

  • In the most recent fiscal year used in the five-year growth calculation (e.g., 2018): Growth 500 companies must have revenue of $2 million or more
  • In the base year used in the five-year growth calculation (e.g., 2013), qualifying companies must have been generating operating revenue
  • In the base year used in the five-year growth calculation (e.g., 2013), any companies with revenue of less than $200,000 will have their revenue for that period lifted to $200,000 for the purpose of calculating five-year growth that is not grossly exaggerated by immaterial differences in the base-year revenues of otherwise equal candidates (for instance, a company that grows from $1 to $2 million would have a higher growth rate than a company that grows from $2 to $3 million). Here’s a sample calculation that shows how this works: A company that reports 2018 revenue of $2.2 million and 2013 revenue of $100,000 would be assigned the minimum 2013 revenue of $200,000, resulting in a five-year growth rate of 1,000%: (2,200,000 – 200,000) / 200,000) * 100 = 1,000%.

What are the revenue and eligibility requirements for the Startup 50 ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies?
The Startup 50 is meant to celebrate companies that have demonstrated strong growth, but that are not yet five years old (and are therefore do not yet have five years of sales data to measure). We will do that by ranking startups based on two-year revenue growth. Companies are eligible for the 2019 Startup 50 if they started operations between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2016. There is no maximum revenue limit. Minimum revenue requirements apply as follows:

  • In the most recent fiscal year used in the two-year growth calculation (e.g., 2018): startups must have revenue of $1 million or more
  • In the base year used in the two-year growth calculation (e.g., 2016), qualifying companies must have been generating operating revenue
  • In the base year used in the two-year growth calculation (e.g., 2016), any companies with revenue of less than $200,000 will have their revenue for that period lifted to $200,000 for the purpose of calculating two-year growth that is not grossly exaggerated by immaterial differences in the base-year revenues of otherwise equal candidates (for instance, a company that grows from $1 to $2 million would have a higher growth rate than a company that grows from $2 to $3 million). Here’s a sample calculation that shows how this works: A company that reports 2018 revenue of $1.2 million and 2016 revenue of $50,000 would be assigned the minimum 2016 revenue of $200,000, resulting in a five-year growth rate of 500%: (1,200,000 – 200,000) / 200,000) * 100 = 1,100%.

Are non- and not-for-profit enterprises eligible for the Growth 500 or Startup 50?

Are franchisors or franchisees eligible for the Growth 500 or Startup 50?
Franchisors are eligible; Franchisees are not. However, franchisors are ranked by corporate revenue only; they should not report system-wide sales.

Can related companies apply separately?
In the case of related firms that do not operate at arm’s length from one another, only one of those companies is eligible. Also, divisions and subsidiaries are ineligible.

How to Enter

How do I enter my company in the Growth 500 or Startup 50?
Companies must declare their own candidacy in order to participate. Simply fill out a short ballot before the entry deadline of May 31, 2019. If it looks as though your firm is a contender for either the Growth 500 or the Startup 50, we’ll contact you with next steps starting in March of 2019.

Can my company be on both the Growth 500 and the Startup 50?
No. Your eligibility for either ranking will depend on your founding date, as provided on your entry ballot.

How much does it cost to enter the Growth 500 or Startup 50?
There is no entry fee for either program.

Should we report fiscal or calendar revenues?
Fiscal. For the 2019 ranking, you must report revenues from the most recent fiscal year completed through April 30, 2019 and for the fiscal year five years prior (two years prior for Startup 50 candidates). For instance, the Growth 500 will rank firms with a September 30 year-end on the basis of the fiscal years ending September 30, 2018 and September 30, 2013. In the case of a January 31 year-end, we require revenues as of January 31, 2019 and January 31, 2014.

What if my fiscal year end has changed in the past five years?
We encourage you to enter the rankings using the fiscal year-ends you have on record. Each case will be considered individually.

What if my company reports in U.S. dollars?
Submit your financial information in whatever currency you used for reporting.

What happens after I enter the Growth 500 or Startup 50?
If your company’s growth rate appears to place you on either list, in the spring of 2019 we will contact you to fill out an in-depth candidates’ questionnaire and to verify financial information. Once those steps are complete, if your company remains eligible, we will send your chief executive an email to confirm the financial data we have on file is correct. If your company makes the ranking, you will be informed before July 1, 2019, though please note that we will not reveal any company’s exact position until the ranking is released.

When will the winners be announced?
The 2019 Growth 500 and Startup 50 lists will each be revealed on in September 2019, and in the October 2019 issue of Maclean’s, on newsstands starting in mid-September, 2019.

Terms & Conditions

Can my company be disqualified?
Canadian Business, Maclean’s and L’actualité reserve the right to remove any company from the Growth 500, Startup 50 and/or les Leaders de la croissance ranking[s] at any time if we determine the company to be ineligible, or that inclusion of that company would discredit Canadian Business, Maclean’s, L’actualité or their respective ranking programs. Canadian Business, Maclean’s and L’actualité also reserve the right to withdraw invitations to events related to the rankings.

Errors in the rankings
On rare occasions, the growth rates of participants in the Growth 500 program are misstated due to incomplete or inaccurate information provided by participants or errors in the interpretation of that information by our research team. In such instances and upon the request of the participant in question, we may publish a correction notice at our sole discretion to the rankings at

For More Information

I still have a question. Who do I contact?
If you need more information, please email the Growth 500 and Startup 50 research team at or call our hotline at 416-987-9270.

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Online Form – Growth 500 Ballot – English – 2020

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In partnership with CIBC 

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Photo: iStock

It seems like everyone is talking about innovation—it’s the subject of business books and magazine articles, and companies from Patagonia to Netflix to Square are praised for their innovative business practices. There’s good reason for that: new services, products and even internal processes can boost revenue, cut costs or save time. Of course, innovation isn’t just about doing things in a new way or investing in new technology. For a change to really be innovative, it must drive growth. But it’s not always obvious just how companies can create a culture of innovation. Here, we offer four practical tips for companies that want to innovate but aren’t sure where to start.

1. Find your focus 

According to Greg Elcich, Vice President, Enterprise Innovation at CIBC, figuring out where you should focus your innovation efforts is key to success. 

And since “innovation” looks different at every company—Amazon’s efforts are focused on shipping logistics, while Apple puts its resources toward designing boundary-pushing products, for example—it’s important to remember that what a competitor does may not be what your company needs.

Instead, “it comes down to two keys areas: aligning your overall business strategy with your innovation agenda, while gaining a deep understanding of your clients’ evolving needs,” Elcich says. “This understanding is paramount in identifying your company’s biggest areas of opportunity to ‘innovate’ upon.”

That’s why companies shouldn’t think only about huge, structural changes. If the new ideas your company would most benefit from are more specific than sweeping, all the better, he says. “Innovation doesn’t have to be big and complex. In many instances small, simple, incremental changes can prove to be critical for both a business and their clients.”

2. Make sure your people managers are on board

“Innovation requires three things to succeed: ideas, investment and empowered leadership,” Elcich says. And that last one is one of the most important factors for success, because “[even if there are] an abundance of new ideas and the right amount of funds to invest, without leadership’s buy-in and encouragement, your innovation efforts will struggle to succeed.”  

In fact, a McKinsey & Company report found 94% of senior executives say people and corporate culture are the most important drivers of innovation. That’s because “leadership at all levels must celebrate both innovative successes and failures, and focus on building an innovation culture. This must be embedded in employees’ everyday work experience, equipping them with the right innovative knowledge, skills, toolkits and frameworks to succeed,” says Elcich.  

More importantly, they must create an environment where innovation thrives—which means embracing risk, investing adequate resources (which means both time and money) and tracking outcomes closely.

3. Don’t get too hung up on progress

The most inventive companies implement new ideas quickly—innovation can only occur through experimentation, after all. But it’s equally important not to get discouraged by setbacks or ideas that don’t come to fruition. “Although momentum is important, it’s also necessary to acknowledge that innovation doesn’t happen overnight,” Elcich says. “Having the right teams and talent in place who are empowered to continuously learn and ‘fail fast’ ensures you ultimately don’t invest in things that may not result in meaningful benefits.” 

You’ve likely heard the maxim, “fail fast, fail often,” especially in the start-up space. There’s a good reason for that. Failure is an important part of innovative processes, which is why it’s important to counteract people’s natural inclination to avoid it. In a blog post for Harvard University’s division of continuing education, Phil Swisher, the founder and CEO of Trevian Wealth Management and the previous global head of innovation at Brown Brothers Harriman, argued that “many small failures can lead to a big success,” which is why a leader’s most important task is to “keep the organization trying, failing, and learning—and acting on that learning—as quickly and effectively as possible.”

4. Hire diversely 

“Diverse teams working in an inclusive environment are more innovative, make better decisions and deliver the best in class results for clients and shareholders,” Elcich says. Experts agree—in 2019, the World Economic Forum published an editorial that argued the business case for inclusive hiring, and one of the top reasons was the correlation between diversity and innovation. It cited a Boston Consulting Group study that found “companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation.” 

It makes sense; a diverse group of people that represents a variety of genders, ethnicities, sexualities, classes and abilities will naturally come up with a wider and more creative range of ideas, something that’s key to successful innovation. 

 “That’s why it’s critical to build a culture that’s inclusive, collaborative, and agile. This empowers teams to be creative, share ideas and take ownership to improve and create the very best client experiences possible.”

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Canada’s Best Managed Companies

Way back when, many company succession plans were pretty simple. When Junior was finally old enough to start learning the family trade, Dad would have “& Son” stencilled onto the end of the name on the side of the truck, and the “& Son” would begin pitching in on jobs. Some families might even have him drop out of school and focus solely on the business. And if the “& Son” was a daughter? It was likely she wouldn’t have been considered a suitable successor. If the son didn’t want to carry on the business, the dad could try to sell; but, if he couldn’t find a buyer, then he’d likely close up shop when he finally retired. Countless successful businesses have died this way.

But times have changed. For more and more family-run companies, the priority now lies not in keeping the business solely in the family, but in working to ensure the company’s success for generations to come. Sometimes the successors are sons or daughters. But, just as often, the focus is on hiring skilled, dedicated, loyal, ambitious employees from outside the family, people who want to help the company succeed and even have an eye on rising to the executive or ownership level themselves. Smart business owners allow outside people to become like family  in order to leave a legacy: a foundation on which to grow. Many of those businesses are now two or three (or more!) generations away from that first owner, and their leaderships know exactly who is poised to take the company into the future.

In this year’s crop of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, there are many examples of this kind of forward thinking. “There’s a lot more thought around succession and next-generation leadership programs,” says Kari Lockhart of Deloitte’s private practice, and also co-leader of the Canada’s Best Managed Companies program. “Whether or not it is a family-owned business, they aren’t going to be taken by surprise. There is consistency in this long game.”

Consider a company like Modern Beauty Supplies. The initial business was a gamble for owner Mike Jomaa, who started out by cold-calling salons. With smart partnerships and a few leaps of faith, the company has now grown to include 26 locations and a 150,000-sq.-foot warehouse. A staff of more than 200 (including Jomaa’s son Amer as COO) will help move the company forward on all fronts. Or take Mattamy Homes. There is reverence across the company for the initial vision of founder Peter Gilgan, who started with just one house and grew Mattamy to the point where it can now celebrate building its 100,000th home. Gilgan didn’t do this on his own—he put a strong team in place that will also help Mattamy grow for decades to come. Neither company achieved its current stature by playing it small and close to home; it was about laying the blueprint for expansion, and knowing who was going to help get it there.

Businesses, both big and small, are looking more closely at their own workforces and determining future management potential, identifying individuals from their early days on staff and grooming them for larger roles. “There is a lot of thought around the next generation now. The population is aging and, more and more, there is an importance on who will be the leadership in the days ahead,” says Peter Brown, also of Deloitte’s private practice and co-leader with Lockhart of the Best Managed list. “It really ties everything together.”

But succession planning isn’t the only thing that binds these companies under the Best Managed banner. Many great businesses share similarities and align with emerging trends. Here are a few of the best practices shared by our 2020 group.

They have a renewed focus on purpose

Companies are drilling down on their raisons d’être. “It’s not just about vision, but about what is at the heart of why the company is doing what they’re doing, and how that resonates with their employees,” says Lockhart. “They’re looking at more and more aligned KPIs. It is much more tactical, in terms of measuring their success against their strategies.” Brown agrees: “The best of the best are way out in front on reinventing themselves with their purpose in mind.” This year’s Best Managed companies are working hard to identify and hone their competitive advantage. Then they are pushing that advantage, and working to keep it relevant.

They make positive workplace culture a priority

This doesn’t just mean talking the talk—Best Managed businesses are going above and beyond to make sure the health and well-being of their employees is top-of-mind. “You can walk around the floors of these companies and just feel it,” says Lockhart. “There is immense pride, and all of the employees are engaged, knowing what their role is and how [it] aligns to the overall strategy.” In fact, Lockhart says, this focus on people is so second nature to these companies that they’re surprised to learn it isn’t standard practice. This focus extends beyond company walls to include community engagement. For Best Managed winners, knowing their communities, and giving back to them, is in line with investing in their employees.

They have faced adversity

From a facility fire that nearly ruined an entire crab season for the Quinlan Brothers to highly demanding customers at Champion Petfoods, Best Managed companies know how to face a challenge and emerge better than ever. Many companies on the list have had to rebuild (sometimes from the ground up) at some point during their history in order to move forward.

They’re always pushing themselves

“These companies are all growing. They’re never happy with the status quo. They’re always trying to reach new and better levels,” says Lockhart. To achieve those goals, more companies are using advisory boards.  “Owners are realizing that not all roads lead back to [them],” says Brown. “They think, ‘I’m going to surround myself with a great team, but also with advisers who can help me see around corners.’ ”

Even with a softer economy, Best Managed companies continue to hold themselves to a higher standard, and are investing where they know it’s needed. “In the last recession, it was interesting that Best Managed companies were doubling down on technology when other businesses were turtling,” says Brown. “We’re starting to see that again. There’s a lot of focus on innovation in these companies. When the going gets tough, these folks tend to laser focus.”

This focus, among many other attributes, is what made this year’s 26 winners stand out from a large applicant pool. Each company has been evaluated using a scorecard that includes categories like strategy, execution, culture, finances, corporate responsibility and more. The application process is rigorous, and there is no quota to meet when it comes to naming winners; in fact, for 2020, there were half as many named as in previous years. “We’re getting tougher in our evaluation,” says Brown. “We believe this brand is the best of the best, so it’s an even more difficult club to enter.” That’s an extremely high compliment for this year’s class, as they join the impressive list of companies that came before them.

Even more of Canada’s Best Managed Companies »

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