ATCO Wood Products has made it through many peaks and valleys in the B.C. forestry industry over 60 years.
The Beaver Valley producer of softwood veneers and fibre byproducts is recognized as a leader in stewardship, sustainability practices and in 2017, was named the top B.C. exporter in natural resources.
But ATCO’s most recent recognition – Family Enterprise of the Year – is on a national scale and especially meaningful because it gets to the heart of the business.
ATCO has always been family-owned, operated and highly-regarded as an employer and key corporate citizen on the local front.
“Being named the 2018 Canadian Family Business of the Year is incredibly and particularly meaningful, as a majority of family businesses that start, fail to negotiate changing business conditions and transitioning generations over multiple decades,” began Scott Weatherford, chief executive officer.
“We’ve successfully transitioned through various generations of family, and many different management teams over that period.”
The distinguished award will be presented by the Family Enterprise Xchange (FEX) an independent association of business families and their professional advisors, during a symposium at Niagara-on-the-lake in September.
Also recognized by the FEX, is what sets this family business apart as a place where people want to work.
“Our family business takes the concept of family and applies it beyond the traditional and restrictive definition of blood relation,” Weatherford said.
The vast majority of employees stay with ATCO Wood Products for many decades, and in some cases, there are employees who are multi-generational members of the same family.
“We take the concept of family business literally, and treat our employees as extensions of our family,” he shared. “These unique connections between the business and the employees in turn give rise to a tight knit, team-based corporate culture where employees encourage each other, look out for each other, and hold each other accountable for a job well-done.”
While family businesses are unique and extraordinarily beneficial to communities and society, Weatherford says they are also incredibly difficult to transition from generation to generation.
“Few family businesses survive the transition from the first to second generation, let alone transitions to subsequent generations,” he explained.
“Our business has not only successful transitioned to a third generation ownership, but has also thrived and played an invaluable role to our community for nearly 60 years.”
As a father of two, Weatherford says his children are at a point in their lives where they are young and still figuring out where their passions and interests lie.
“We are encouraging them to pursue the paths to fulfilling careers and lives, while including them in the family business in age appropriate and unique ways,” he said.
“We provide them an understanding of the business operations, the commitment that required as members of the family business, the legacy of the family and the business, and an appreciation for the deep responsibility that the business has to our employees, customers, suppliers, and community,” Weatherford added.
“Whether their future paths bring them into following our footsteps, is a decision that they will be free to make themselves at the right time.”
Juggling work and play is a constant balancing act, so the family isn’t sure who will travel to Ontario to receive the prestigious award in a few months, but they’ll work it out before then.
“ATCO has been amongst a small group of family businesses across the nation that has been able to remain independent and family owned for several generations, and this award recognizes that unique achievement.”
The family’s core value statement is “Giving Back, ” which is reflected in philanthropic ventures that include summer camp sponsorships, support of Scouts Canada and Girl Guides programs, contributions to the hospital health foundation, local park initiatives and the bi-annual community train rides – that’s just to name a few.
“Our family recognizes the importance that our community has played in our business’ success for three generations,” said Weatherford. “And the symbiotic relationship that exists between our community and our business. It’s in this vein, that our family recognizes the importance of supporting our community, and giving back in a meaningful and impactful way. “