The Top 50 Small-To-Medium-Size Canadian Employers 2010

By Mark Swartz
Canadian Workplace Specialist

I’m really pleased to once again see a list of Top Employers that doesn’t mention the usual suspects. You know the ones, where giant corporations always seem to feature prominently, even if their staff just launched a class action lawsuit against them for massive overtime violations, or if you know someone who works there and they’re completely miserable because of one company policy or another.

Now the bright lights in the empire of small-to-medium-size employers (95% of Canadian employers have fewer than 50 staff) get to shine publicly. This list of firms who have between 50 to 399 employees was produced by Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, and was announced early in February. The university’s Centre for Business Venturing teamed up with global human resources consulting firm Hewitt in this undertaking, now in its sixth year.

And The Winners Are…

For 2010 the top ten employers on this list are:

1. Booty Camp Fitness Inc., Toronto
2. ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd., Edmonton
3. Hood Group, Sherwood Park, Alta.
4. RL Solutions, Toronto
5. Radiology Consultants Associated, Calgary
6. Concept Electric Ltd., Calgary
7. Gibraltar Solutions Inc., Mississauga, Ont.
8. PEOPLEsource Staffing Solutions, Toronto
9. EPIC Information Solutions Inc., Winnipeg
10. Vista Projects Ltd., Calgary

Booty Camp Fitness? Beating out a couple of established engineering firms, a radiology consultancy, a staffing company and high tech solutions business? Surely this is a misprint.

Shake Your Booty

Let’s take a look at Booty Camp Fitness and see what they’re about. According to their website, they’re Canada’s largest women’s only boot camp. What’s a “boot camp”? Kind of like a gym on steroids, pardon the expression. Instead of entering a typically sterile health club, boot camps are physical fitness programs held both outside – in parks or playgrounds, for example – or indoors if the weather’s bad. They provide supervised cross-training that incorporates healthy eating and fun.

The actual term boot camp refers to the physical training that militaries use when whipping soldiers into shape during basic training. Wearing army boots during calisthenics gets you sweating for sure!

Why Did Booty Camp Fitness Win?

The rankings from Queens’ list are mainly based on results from Employee Opinion Surveys administered by Queens and Hewitt. An organization only makes it onto the list if its employees think it's a great place to work. Other components are a Leadership Team Survey and an HR survey.

So what are the Booty folks doing that’s enabled them to grow from zero to 95 licensees in under three years? Founder and fitness buff Sammie Kennedy says “We live and breathe what we promote starting here in the office. We have fresh, organic groceries delivered weekly and make fitness a part of our daily routine by doing an activity like yoga or kickboxing as a group. It was also a great team-building opportunity when the whole office went to Hawaii to shoot our latest workout DVD.”

Hmm…what a great idea: get everyone in the company to do jumping jacks in unison. Sounds eerily reminiscent of the mandatory exercise that some Japanese companies used to demand of their employees. Except at Booty Camp the nine head office staff clearly enjoy a bit of cardio as part of their daily work routine.

“Our non-traditional environment and corporate culture allow everyone who works here to develop and grow, knowing that their contributions will have a visible and significant impact on the business. Our employees all exemplify the company’s three core values: fun, friendly, fitness,” says Kennedy.

Lessons For Other Small-To-Medium-Size Employers

Passion and committed leadership can go a long way in motivating your staff. Now, not everyone can be a superstar like Kennedy. In 2009 she was recognized on both the PROFIT W100 Top 10 Emerging Women Entrepreneurs list and by Women’s Post as one of the Top 20 Women of the Year. But if you’re willing to be persistent, and lead by example, your staff may be more willing to put in extra effort themselves.

Another takeaway is that when you’re hiring new employees, try to find ones who really share in your organization’s values and get pumped about what your organization does. The staff members at Booty Camp Fitness are there not just because it’s any old job, but because they believe in the founder and love how fitness and fun – the cornerstones of the company – are woven into their work.

I realize, of course, that the number two employer on Queens’ top 50 list is an engineering firm; it’s unlikely their employees will be taking breaks to do stretches while sipping mango-pomegranate juice infusions. But if the firm has hired people who love engineering, then why not create fun, team-building activities around this?

Same goes for you. Are you hiring not just for technical skills but for shared values? Do you reward people for displaying these principles in their dealings with co-workers and customers? Maybe it’s time to plan an activity that’s fun for all and drives home your founding principles. You may not get your staff to do cartwheels in the hallways…though if your Booty camp, you just might.