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Staying power.

How some companies earn those annual gains

Only four Manitoba corporations have appeared on Manitoba Business's high performance list of fast-growing companies in each of the past seven years. While the Manitoba economy has grown 50 per cent since our first survey in 1985, Carlyle Computer Products Ltd., has grown 348 per cent over the same period.

Carlyle's robust president, Derek Johannson, credits the firm's survival in this high tech, high mortality field to staying abreast of new products.

As an example, he says the company sold 50 million computer punch cards when it opened in 1980 -- today it sells none. Instead, Carlyle will sell more than one million disks, ribbons for laser printers and toner cartridges.

Johannson says the top people selling and handling these supplies are the power assets in the success of the business. "We place high expectations on our staff and they come through," says Johannson. The incentive to do well, other than professional pride, is a profit-sharing plan. At two staff meetings a month, the sales force is broken into teams of two which are backed by a customer service representative to ensure a one day absence does not mean a lost sale.

And Johannson is always eager to listen to staff suggestions because "we succeed together or fail together." As a result, many of the company's alterations have come from within.

Another high performance company which has been on the list since its inception is Investors Group Inc. Listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Investors is Canada's largest mutual fund manager.

The recession has meant strong business for the company. Investors' growth since 1985 is 162 per cent, more than three times the provincial growth rate. David A. Horne, vice-president of marketing, says that during business downturns people realize they need help with their financial affairs. He says recent demand for that help has been "phenomenal".

In addition, as the leading edge of the baby boom gets closer to retirement they are looking to stash their money in a place where it will be safe and grow. Says Horne, "It is becoming more and more evident that the government cannot provide the standard of living people are accustomed to."

Since Investors is the largest mutual fund company in Canada, many boomers are turning to them. But all financial planners in the country profit from the same demographics, so what else accounts for Investors' growth? Horne believes a strong factor in Investors' success formula is that, of all the mutual fund marketers, Investors is the only firm in Canada that employs a sales force dedicated strictly to its own product.

Another consistent performer on our list is the payroll company, Comcheq. John Loewen, president and CEO of Comcheq Inc., says the reason the company has prospered is because "we look at everybody with a payroll and wonder how we can do it." By convincing firms across Canada that Comcheq can handle payroll duties more efficiently, the company has grown 173 per cent since 1985. Specialization, coupled with rapid acceptance of new technology, helped spur this growth as did looking out for new opportunities. Comcheq was one of the first to make a payroll service available to small businesses, at a cost no one else could duplicate. Loewen predicts the company will top the list next year following the recent sale of Comcheq to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Once the merger of the two former competitors is complete, the new company will be twice as big.

While our list favors smaller companies, the performance of one of North America's largest life insurance firms has always been in the thick of the survey with its percentage increase.

Ray McFeetors, president and CEO of The Great-West Life Assurance Company describes his firm as "mature". It is 102 years old but, despite its age, has logged a seven-year growth rate of 50.6 per cent. "Not all large companies are slow and lumbering," he says. McFeetors credits his company's growth to its ability to adapt new products to meet the needs of the marketplace. "We spend a lot of time, effort and money on business analysis," he points out. "We always look five to ten years ahead and we can tell a lot of things that are going to happen out there that are not known or understood by most people."

So, not only does GWL successfully sell life insurance, it predicts the future. On that point we'll likely see these companies on the list again next year.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Manitoba Business Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Manitoba's companies management techniques
Author:Ryan, Bramwell
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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