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4 proven ways to enhance productivity and grow successfully

A careful approach to growth paid off for this entrepreneur

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Rob Read had big plans for the future when he acquired a small fire extinguisher maintenance company a decade ago.

But the President of Winnipeg-based Bison Fire Protection didn’t realize the challenge he would face as the company rapidly expanded into lines such as alarms, sprinkler systems and fire protection services.

“Growing is trickier than it looks,” says Read, whose company has progressed to 50 employees from five when he took over.

“At first, our success depended on how well we worked. But as we added more people, how well we manage became just as important.”

Read identified four productivity-enhancing initiatives that Bison Fire Protection has undertaken to build its competitive position and grow successfully.

1. Hire mid-level managers

Owners of smaller businesses generally have direct relationships with most, if not all, of their employees. However as Bison Fire Protection grew, it became harder for Read to manage those relationships. He eventually realized that integrating a management team was an important next step.

He brought in an operations manager and a controller to implement and maintain effective financial information systems. In addition, he empowered front line personnel to take more responsibility.

2. Consult with experts

Read is a believer in using outside management consultants for help in areas where he has less expertise. For example Bison Fire Protection retained; BDC Advisory Services to perform an organizational diagnostic and recommend key changes, notably hiring personnel.

3. Implement new technology and processes

Like most businesses, fire protection companies need to adopt new technology to keep ahead of the competition. This plays out at Bison in two ways. First, the company strives to offer customers the latest innovations in fire protection and suppression gear. Just as importantly, it also uses technology to help boost employee productivity through such steps as issuing iPads to workers in the field to improve work and document flow.

4. Grow but carefully

Losing control is one of the biggest threats to the health of a growing business. Read has avoided that trap by taking a patient approach to new projects. Before making his next move, he has taken the time to integrate major changes such as expanding into Saskatchewan and acquiring Thompson Extinguisher, a company that took him into the lucrative mining sector.

Despite Bison Fire Protection’s success, the company isn’t resting on its laurels. Read is on the lookout for new lines of business to add and plan to begin distributing and installing electronic card access systems.

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