Powering through the pandemic: Eastern Ontario’s top 10 fastest-growing companies

Editor's Note

Read the whole story in the Eastern Ontario Business Journal’s fall issue.

2022-10-27

Meet EOBJ’s first crop of fastest-growing companies! We’re excited to have launched this program this year in Eastern Ontario. The top 10 fastest-growing companies has been a popular feature at our sister publication, the Ottawa Business Journal, for some years. So we felt sure that it would resonate equally as well with our Eastern Ontario audience.

Not surprisingly, our top 10 businesses are a diverse bunch, representing the varied sectors and industries in the region. They all have one thing in common: their revenues have grown substantially over the past three years, despite the backdrop of the pandemic and all its disruptions. Judging by what they tell us, they’re also currently struggling with many of the same issues: shortage of labour, inflationary pressures, and supply chain bottlenecks.

“In my accounting practice, I’m seeing strong growth, especially in construction and manufacturing,” said Krystle Mitrow, partner with MNP. “It’s great to see how businesses in the region are seizing opportunities, even with the many challenges that they’re facing, like labour shortages and cost increases. But in the last few years we’ve definitely seen businesses reinventing themselves, they’re doing things differently through COVID, and it’s really paying off.”

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

Check out the launch event here and meet three of the top 10 in our EOBJ Podcast.

Meet the top 10:

10. Le Boat 49% (Smiths Falls)

Le Boat is a luxury houseboat rental company operating on the UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal, from Kingston to Ottawa.  

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

Our biggest challenge hit us in March 2020 when all international borders were closed due to COVID-19 and the world went into shutdown and mass closures.

What did you do to address it?

We had to pivot our marketing strategy and begin to market our tourism product as a great “staycation holiday” for those living in Ontario and Quebec and looking for a COVID-friendly travel option. We also increased our cleaning procedures, followed all local health guidelines and obtained the Safe Travel Stamp.  

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

Be agile, be flexible and have a good leadership team that is able to meet on a regular basis and be able to pivot global sales and marketing team strategies. Have great people in place and treat your customer the way you want to be treated, they will remain loyal and support you when the world opens up again!  

9. Fab-Cut Systems Inc 72% (Kingston) 

Fab-Cut Systems is a CNC plasma table manufacturer, specializing in custom designed and engineered wood and plasma cutting CNC systems.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

Supply chain and price increases have been our biggest hurdles next to employees catching COVID this year alone, which affected 17 of our 21 staff members.

What did you do to address it?

We had to expand our sourcing outside of North America and utilize the global supply chain network in order to complete the growing number of orders we were securing. This meant that we were able to offer other brands that were not the norm in North America. In some cases, this wasn’t well accepted by our current suppliers but it enabled us to supply new CNC plasma cutting tables faster than most of our competitors.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

What we learned really quickly was that we needed to “diversify to stay afloat” and our team has come to understand how helpful that has become as our growth has reflected our successes in the past three years.

8. JPB Fabrication Services 87% (Smiths Falls) 

JPB Fabrication Services is a 24/7 turn-key industrial service provider specializing in ferrous and non-ferrous fabrication, machining, maintenance and custom design/build.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

Our biggest challenge is people — finding enough good employees to complete all the work we have been able to acquire. The employees that we have are very talented, however, we could definitely take on more jobs if we could hire more tradespeople.

What did you do to address it?

We have advertised on Canada Job Bank and various other recruiting sites. Also, networking with colleagues and on our website.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to believe in yourself when expanding the business. When I started out in a small garage with one employee, I couldn’t imagine we would ever get where we are today, but with courage, patience and a big vision we continue to grow. 

7. Wonton Crunch Inc. 102% (Smiths Falls)

Wonton Crunch produces wontons of various flavours using a machine developed by the owners. 

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

As the business grows, it is difficult to build new equipment. This is holding us back from growing even faster than we are currently.

What did you do to address it?

We are still looking to get financing but at this time we are trying to get new employees to start a second or even third shift.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

I would say having the support of the community has a lot more merit than I ever imagined. Building a brand requires support from a very large circle, not just customers.

6. HFI Pyrotechnics Inc. 129% (Prescott) 

HFI Pyrotechnics is a 149-year-old startup providing search and rescue flares around the world.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

The biggest challenge HFI faced in doubling the company’s size was recruiting and retaining employees. From 2020 to 2021, HFI recruited, onboarded and trained more than 305 persons to fill 65 positions. This churn created chaos for the HR team through to the production floor; the introduction and exiting of employees slowed production, introduced quality issues and left no time for a team’s ability to bond.

What did you do to address it?

Our vision of “Together/Stronger” has been a simple and strong message that worked well during COVID-19 and continues to create a family-like environment. We tailored our recruitment ads, questionnaires and interviews to ensure we were clear about what we were and who we wanted. We created an intensive onboarding that exposed the new hires to all parts of our organization so they knew who we were and allowed our team to confirm new hires fit our expectations. We reworked our organizational structure to give employees a career path. Every step had expectations, titles and remuneration and was driven by the employee and their direct supervisor. We reworked our remuneration to be financially competitive. We emphasized the existence of the benefits and we increased our starting rates significantly.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

We had to move fast and we had to be transparent with our employees. It had to be easy to explain and attractive to our employees and we had to keep the organization in the loop through the evolution to the new structure.

5. Marble Rock Developers & Construction 133% (Gananoque)

Marble Rock Developers & Construction specializes in restoring neglected residential properties, major additions and commercial renovations.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

Finding the right partners and staff was the first big challenge. From suppliers to tradespeople to in-house staffing, finding and developing these relationships has made the biggest difference to our growth.

What did you do to address it?

We were diligent in sourcing partners and staff using agencies like Keys Job Centre, local suppliers and being willing to travel to source materials when we were faced with gaps in the market or supply chain.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

Our most important takeaway over the past three years has been that there is no such thing as too much planning or flexibility. We spend an enormous amount of time planning for different scenarios in staffing, financing, supply chain and, of course, weather! With contingencies in place we are able to be nimble when changes occur.

4. BGM Metalworks 151% (Kingston) 

BGM Metalworks is a custom fabrication, machining and welding job shop. 

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

Space and manpower. The biggest challenge was growing both without creating a “too big too fast” scenario.  

What did you do to address it?

We moved into our newly constructed facility in early 2020, which provided a much better work environment and gave us some more room, which allowed the work to flow better through the shops. We added positions to complement the very capable group of existing employees. Retention of existing employees and finding the right people to fill new positions are both key factors in our success. With the right team, it is easier to diversify and break into new markets.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

Be aware that you can grow too fast. While you need the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, it is important that we stay true to our core values and grow on our own terms. Every situation needs to be handled with integrity.

3. Theia Markerless Inc. 471% (Kingston) 

Theia Markerless develops software for tracking 3D human motion from video sequences using a fusion of artificial intelligence and biomechanics.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

Maintaining focus on producing a complete, general, accurate and reproducible solution for tracking human motion and not getting distracted by competitors launching short-term specific applications in “sexy” markets.

What did you do to address it?

We focused on our core market by implementing a data-driven approach to tracking key performance indicators for research and development, marketing and sales.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

A data-driven approach to technology development, marketing and sales through tracking key performance indicators has allowed us to take an unwavering approach to our growth.

2. Distributive Corp. 1,033% (Kingston) 

Distributive Corp. offers software that aggregates computing power from idle computers and devices at universities, hospitals and government buildings to power arbitrary computational workloads.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

Selling to hospitals is a really long sales cycle and we’ve had to sell to one hospital at a time. Each hospital’s needs are slightly different, which required a lot of extra feature development before arriving at a solution that satisfies most sites.

What did you do to address it?

We joined organizations like CAN Health Network and the Early Adopter Health Network. They help connect vendors offering innovative solutions with hospitals and health organizations interested in evaluating new products.

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

Truly connecting with and understanding the stakeholders’ needs and pain points allowed us to make sure our solutions solve real problems and deliver true value.

1. Plan A Kingston & Quinte 1,200% (Kingston) 

Plan A Kingston & Quinte is a staffing, strategy and technology company in the senior-care sector. 

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in relation to the fast growth of your company?

The biggest challenge that we’ve faced would be the cost of increasing capacity to meet the demand, including increased costs of operation: marketing, recruitment, increased office support staff and an increased roster of health-care professionals.

What did you do to address it?

Cash flow takes a great understanding of where best to invest within your business structure to create a strong foundation for continued growth that not only is focused on the short term but also the long term. There are sacrifices to be made both in time and money in order to strive for that next level: working more hours, hiring more staff, innovating technology and revamping business practices, all while creating an environment that fosters leadership and teamwork. 

What has been your biggest lesson learned?

Learning that it’s important to discuss thoughts, ideas and goals with fellow professionals but understanding that getting advice does not mean you need to do what they offer. You can take pieces of information from a variety of sources while infusing your “je ne sais quoi” flair to create the desired product. Everyone has an opinion but you decide what’s best for you and your business. Take inspiration but don’t idolize; remember that you don’t need to become them, you need to be true to you.

Get our email updates

Get up-to-date news about the companies, people and issues that impact businesses in Ottawa and beyond.

Sponsored