Blacktop Paving

HR Superstar

Location Edmonton Owner Sean Davey
Employees 60 Founded 2007

★ The Business

Last winter, Sean Davey, the owner of Edmonton’s Blacktop Paving, kept 32 of his employees on through the entire winter season. In the end, while he had them working on some snow removal contracts and doing other odd jobs, the decision cost him an estimated $150,000. So why did he do it? “If you look at what it takes to find good workers in this market,” he says, “it’s a good investment. We keep those key guys in the winter so we can train them and get more out of them the next year.” That might help to explain why, in an industry where turnover is a given, Davey estimates that anywhere from 70 to 80 per cent of his seasonal workers come back the next year for another kick at the can. “We’ve done incredibly well,” he says. “On our paving crew, which is nine guys, we got all of them back but one.”

★ The Case

Sean Davey isn’t afraid to invest in his employees, and when it comes to retaining members of his management team, he’s even more aggressive. “If I see a talented guy and I want him to stick around, I give him the opportunity to earn a stake over time. And if he can’t afford it, we’ll help him finance it.” His decision to let his best employees buy small parts of the company isn’t driven by altruism – as he puts it, “the company’s only worth what you can sell it for.” Having multiple people with both a professional and financial stake in the business ensures that he’ll have some options when it comes time to sell. But it’s also about creating a culture in which everyone has a stake in the company’s success. “The way I’d describe it is ‘socialism that works,’” he says. “If everyone is dialed in on our success, it’s good for everyone.”

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