How Scouting Contributed to a Vibrant Culture at Massey Capital

July 13, 2021 News

By: Roman Kocur

It is no surprise that companies with vibrant cultures outperform their competition especially when it comes to innovation.

It may surprise some that building a vibrant company culture is directly linked to one’s lifetime experiences from childhood to early adulthood. My lifetime experiences have included many years spent in scouting and athletics – long before I started in the business world. The powerful connection between my early years’ life experiences and our culture at Massey Capital is something that I only recently began to fully understand.

Growing up in Toronto, I spent more than 12 years as a cub, boy scout and boy scout leader. Starting at the age of 9, I began to learn and practice scout values that included principles such as trust, respect, teamwork and helping others. As I entered my teens, our scout adventures included canoeing in Killarney & Algonquin park, biking along the long roads of the Western Prairies and climbing the Rockies. Beyond the fun and adventure of these trips, our scout activities and merit badges were focused on acquiring leadership skills, reinforcing strong values and learning to effectively work both independently and as part of a team. I did not know this at the time, but the lessons I learned on the rivers, lakes and mountains in Canada would ultimately have an enormous impact on the importance I placed on culture in the business world.

I never thought much about my scouting days when I began my career at PWC working towards a CPA designation. In fact, at the time, I saw my past scouting journey as providing little beneficial experience to the business world which I was entering. I learned that many of my CPA peers spent their high school summers working on Bay Street learning about a variety of business concepts which I had no clue about. Was I foolish to have spent so many defining years (age 15 to 25) leading boy scout troops on canoe, backpacking and biking trips in Northern Ontario?

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

As my career progressed and I took on increasingly senior roles at numerous major Canadian companies, my thoughts on business came full circle. I began to realize the importance of leadership and culture. At one point, I can’t recall exactly when, I finally understood that leadership and culture were the foundation for success in executing every strategic plan. There was no doubt in my mind about this. For years I read extensively on leadership, learned from great role models and incorporated leadership concepts that were instilled in me from a young age. My teams began to experience tremendous success. In the end, I became a true believer in Drucker’s infamous mantra “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Culture Trumps Strategy at Massey

What has driven our success to date at Massey?

In my view our success at Massey comes down to one word – culture.

Our culture at Massey is what we feel differentiates ourselves from others.

When we speak about culture at Massey, we are referring to the attitudes and behaviors of our team. We are referring to the way we interact with each other, the values we hold and the way we make decisions on a daily basis. We are referring to a variety of our programs, such as “Next Gen Leadership Forum,” dedicated to enriching the professional development of our team members. Most important, we are speaking about a commitment by each leader at Massey to continue to build a culture rooted in diversity, inclusion, collaboration, respect and transparency.

Our “Secret Sauce”

We believe leadership, character and potential is more important than experience. This is a core principle in our talent acquisition process. It is the “how” behind the “why” our team operates so effectively. We believe that this is part of our “secret sauce” in building a vibrant culture.

Massey Founded in 2017

In 2017, we started Massey with the goal of building a great culture. We knew the importance of every hire at every level was going to have. We built a playbook built on 3 core ideas that remain firmly entrenched today:

(i) a philosophy that culture trumps strategy;
(ii) a commitment to not allow our ambition to override our company values; and
(iii) a mission to acquire lower mid-market platforms based in Canada and growing them into industry sector leaders.

Stellar 4 Year Performance

How has Massey performed during the past 4 years?

This year at Massey, we completed our 13th acquisition. Most important, during these 4 years, we have retained 99.7% of staff, suppliers and customers. Concurrently, every one of our portfolio companies has grown stronger through a variety of initiatives in product innovation, technology, sales, marketing, finance, process re-engineering and geographic/product expansion.

We feel lucky to have carried on during the pandemic with every one of our businesses having been declared “essential” by the Province of ON.

Mondays at Massey

Our culture is reflected in Mondays at Massey – a weekly meeting that occurs every Monday morning and includes all members of Massey. On this call, every member of our team has a voice, and all senior leaders are transparent about issues. Shout-outs occur regularly. Each month, we focus on one of our company values. Last month, the company values focus was on teamwork which included Anam Chaudry presenting and discussing an HBR article titled “The Secrets of Great Teamwork” by Haas and Mortensen. As the chair of this call – I make every effort to help ensure that discussions are rooted in collaboration, learning, support, and direction.

Bottom Line

After adding 13 companies to our portfolio during the past 4 years, our philosophy remains the same – culture trumps strategy.

Advice to M&A Buyers in the Lower Mid-Market

For those individuals or companies who are planning to grow by acquisition in the lower mid-market business – remember the following things are “table stakes”: finding a great company to acquire, executing on an LBO transaction, developing strategies for growth and acquiring great talent. Many firms can do this and do this well. In my view – the only truly sustainable competitive advantage may be in the culture you build.