Elaine Gerrie, along with sister Heather, was steeped in the family business from the very beginning. Their father, Ken, was a plumber and electrician who set up an electrical supply shop in Oakville, Ontario, in 1957, targeting the massive Ford Motor Co. plant nearby. Business quickly expanded beyond the industrial giant. “Dad would go out on the road, visiting small contractors in and around, from Oakville to Georgetown, Milton and Elora. He would sell just about anything,” says Elaine Gerrie, who worked warehouse floors and filled orders before moving into an executive role in the 1980s.
Gerrie Electrical developed a reputation for great service, and by the early ’70s it had established four branches. The growth has only picked up pace since, as Gerrie now sells everything from electrical supplies to lighting to IP network solutions. “Over the past 20 years we’ve been growing, so that every two years we either open a new branch, make an acquisition or start a new division,” explains Gerrie, who now serves as co-president and CEO with Heather (her father remains chair). “It gives us a good controlled growth, but keeps us focused on growing.” Today, Gerrie has seven divisions and 24 branch locations throughout southwestern Ontario. “The company has certainly become more complex,” she adds.
“I believe in continuous learning, and the program really appealed to me in that it would ‘sharpen the saw.’”
The increasing complexity of the operation – Gerrie was recently tasked with retrofitting the six TD towers in downtown Toronto, the largest LED lamp retrofit in North America to date – has meant that the co-CEOs needed to look at doing business differently than their father did. Enter QuantumShift.
“I believe in continuous learning, and the program really appealed to me in that it would ‘sharpen the saw,’” says Gerrie. “Learning from peers outside of the industry was also very attractive. I do a lot inside our industry, but I wanted an experience that would be outside of my group.”
Gerrie, who’s been on the executive team since 1988, credits QuantumShift with allowing her to see the broader scope of possibilities for the family firm and hone her skills, particularly on mergers and acquisitions. “We’d done eight [M&As] to date, and we did a significant one in 2012, right after QuantumShift, in Brazil,” she notes. “The program added to my knowledge base – and allowed me to better understand the financial pieces.”
But more than any one deal, what excites Gerrie these days is knowing that the business will remain in family hands. She eagerly mentions what she calls “Gerrie 3G” – the third generation – that will soon be ready to take the reins.
“All six of our kids – Heather’s four and my two – have grown up in the business, doing just like Heather and I did. But there are three that after university said, ‘We’re committed. This is what we want to do. We want to carry on the legacy.’ That’s very exciting for us.”
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.