Growing up in Edmonton, there were two critical components of Sutton family life: curling (father Darrel Sutton’s team won gold at the Brier Cup in 1974), and filters. “My sister and I could walk into any rink in Edmonton, and people would come up to us and say, ‘I used to babysit you when your parents were on the ice!” says daughter Roberta MacGillivray with a laugh.
While curling is still a family passion, the legacy for MacGillivray is the business Sutton started 50 years ago: B.G.E. Service & Supply Ltd., which now operates under the banner The Filter Shop. Today, The Filter Shop has branches across Western Canada, and serves a diverse client base from heavy industrial employers to commercial real estate to hospitals.
“My dad started with a company called B. Guthrie Engineering in 1968,” explains MacGillivray. “They were predominantly selling the original equipment for heating and air conditioning. But they had this thought that there was probably a business in replacement air filtration.” By 1974, he had bought the filtration business from Guthrie and struck out on his own.
“For me, the biggest lesson from QuantumShift™ was the importance of strategy. When you have a good strategy—when you’re working toward it, and your team can see the clarity of things—that’s very powerful.”
MacGillivray worked summers and throughout university at The Filter Shop, but didn’t join full-time until 2002. She assumed the president’s title eight years later—the same year she enrolled in QuantumShift™. “The business had gotten to a size that more formalization was required in the HR department, IT, finance marketing: all those pieces that had been added from the original entrepreneurial business.”
For MacGillivray, QuantumShift™ represented a perfect opportunity to push boundaries and test new ideas. “For me, the biggest lesson from QuantumShift™ was the importance of strategy. When you have a good strategy—when you’re working toward it, and your team can see the clarity of things—that’s very powerful.” MacGillivray says that, because her dad was the entrepreneur, he took on so many roles—and made all the decisions—in building the company. “In an organization of 200, all the decisions can’t rest with the senior management team,” she notes. She’s since implemented a new ERP system, automated manufacturing technology, and now has a much more formalized management team in place. “We’re doing a lot of foundation building to set us on track for the next 50 years.”
MacGillivray continues to stay in touch with the entrepreneurs she went through QuantumShift™ with, many of whom are also running family businesses: “We’ve created this arena of success, of best practices—it’s like having an informal board of advisors.” And while she does see a potential role for her own two children (age 11 and 13) in that “next 50 years,” she also wants to create an environment where any one of her 200 employees could see themselves one day running The Filter Shop.
Just so long as they understand that, once a certain sport comes on the TV at work, nobody can change the channel: “We have some nice big-screen TVs in our customer service area,” she says. “Everybody knows that when curling is on—well, that’s what we’re all watching!”
A rigorous five-day executive development experience offered through The Ivey Academy, QuantumShift™ annually challenges forty of Canada's most promising entrepreneurs to improve their leadership style, inspire their business partners and maximize their growth opportunities. QuantumShift™ is for CEOs whose businesses are past start-up. They're innovative, insightful business leaders. And they're ready to shift a thriving enterprise to a whole new level of success. Candidates are nominated through KPMG Enterprise and participants are selected by Ivey Business School's Pierre L. Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship.
As QuantumShift™ turns 15, we check in with some of the more than 550 Canadian entrepreneurs who have graduated from the program to see what the experience meant to them and their business.