Naylor Building Partnerships is a true family business.
Lauren and Greg Hitchman say they “grew up” in their father Tom Hitchman’s mechanical, electrical & plumbing contracting business. So, when the siblings took over in 2013, they had a clear understanding of what could be improved, and what had to stay the same.
Since high school, the two have worked nearly every job at the Oakville, ON-based company — starting with mowing the lawn, chiselling tiles and serving as wait staff during company functions. “Between the two of us we’ve filled a lot of different roles within the company, and we had meaningful operating positions early on, working alongside current mid-level managers and operators,” Lauren says.
When their father bought the company from its original founder, Brian Naylor, in 1968, there were only 15 employees. By the time Lauren and Greg took over a decade ago, the headcount was up to 150, and today the company has grown to over 250. Key to that growth, say the current co-owners, is carrying on their father’s tradition of putting employees first – especially those that work in the field.
“Before he bought the business, our father came from the construction world, and he came with the mentality of respecting the field staff; giving them autonomy and authority over the decisions they need to make at a customer site,” Lauren says.
When the two took over the business in 2013 they inherited their father’s commitment to supporting employees, but they weren’t averse to adopting new tactics and technologies to further that effort.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve had to put more systems, policies and processes in place, but we always think about how to ensure the field person is not bogged down,” Lauren says.
“We’re the largest non-union mechanical contractor in Ontario, and that’s because we treat our people really well; we pay them above union rates, and we help them when they need it,” Greg says. The company also stands out for its investment in new technologies that can further those relationships.
The company has long maintained an emphasis on career planning and promoting from within. That policy, according to Greg and Lauren, further strengthens the relationship between field staff and a back-office that also has plenty of experience in the field.
“The vast majority of our upper and middle management is promoted from the field, and that has a huge impact on the culture of the organization, because everyone in the field understands they don’t need to look elsewhere for career growth,” says Greg.
The emphasis of upward mobility has had a dramatic impact on employee retention and recruitment. The co-owners say they can fill positions quickly, including 100 new hires added last year alone.
It’s this combination of long-standing reputation, and willingness to innovate processes to the benefit of employees, that led to Naylor being named a Best Managed Company for 2023, an award that recognizes excellence in private Canadian-owned enterprises.
Ayesha Modgil, a CIBC senior manager in commercial banking and coach to Naylor who supported the company in their submission for the Best Managed Companies award, says the most challenging time for a family business can be during the transition of ownership from one generation to the next.
She says the current owners at Naylor stand out for their strong understanding of what made their father successful, and their ability to maintain those elements while continuing to innovate.
She credits Naylor’s success in this year’s Best Managed Companies program to its open lines of communication between management and its stakeholders — including employees, customers, and suppliers — through regular surveys, check-ins and meetings.
“Naylor is finding that feedback helps them understand how they can be proactive while consistently supporting their employees,” she said. “That’s what helps them keep the family oriented culture within the business while also being innovative and ground-breaking.”
To take the next step in becoming a Best Managed company with the help of CIBC, click here.
This is one of four profiles from the “In their Orbit” series in partnership with CIBC, where leaders of Canada’s Best Managed Companies share what gives their organizations pull.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with CIBC. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.