Stratford Managers & Calian Group: A winning team since 2010

Stratford Managers
Jacqueline Gauthier, left, who was recently named Ottawa’s 2019 CFO of the Year, and the executive team at the Calian Group have tapped into the knowledge of the team at Stratford Managers, which includes Colleen Kelley, the consultancy’s vice-president of strategy and operations.

Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by Stratford Managers.

Even seasoned executives of a successful company can benefit from an outside perspective – someone they can trust to serve as a sounding board and even challenge them a bit.

For the past nine years, Calian Group’s Kevin Ford (Ottawa’s 2017 CEO of the Year) and Jacqueline Gauthier (Ottawa’s 2019 CFO of the Year) have relied on Stratford Managers to play this role in support of the company’s growth and diversification strategy.

It’s not the kind of relationship where a consultant only parachutes in to resolve a pressing issue or crisis. Or about delivering a report that’s left to gather dust. With a business as large, complex and well-managed as Calian’s, it’s the cumulative effect of many small things that ultimately make a meaningful difference.

“The value that Stratford provides to us is never really tied to one big thing,” said Gauthier, who in 2018 became Calian’s Senior VP of Corporate Development after 17 years as CFO. “It’s always in the subtleties, the timing of what we do and how we choose to do it. Providing that sounding board and a continuum of support that ensures we have considered every angle and every pertinent detail before we decide to go.”

Common values and an open relationship

That kind of nuance just isn’t possible unless there is a well-established working relationship. On one side, there is Ford and Gauthier, supported by the Calian management team and board of directors, and on the other, Stratford Managers President and CEO Jim Roche and Colleen Kelley, VP of Strategy and Operations, with the support of their team.

Stratford’s consultants have lived as entrepreneurs, executives and CEOs of both small and multinational enterprises. So they know what it takes to scale an organization – including a diversified and publicly traded enterprise like Calian.

“We always work to provide value, and value can be measured in many different ways,” Kelley said. “Helping the client achieve their desired objectives – whether that is a profitable growth agenda, valuation or customer challenges – and understanding how the company ticks to most effectively achieve that.”

One example of this is found with Calian’s merger and acquisition strategy.

When Ford joined the company as CEO in 2010, he and Gauthier realized that the size and complexity of the companies Calian now sought to acquire demanded a more formal M&A process. 

Who is Calian Group?

  • A diversified Canadian company delivering a variety of products and solutions in the areas of Health, IT, Learning and Advanced Technologies 
  • 37 years in business
  • 3,300 employees across Canada 
  • Trades on the TSX (as CGY)
  • Revenues of $343 million for fiscal 2019

A ‘win-win’ acquisition strategy

“Our approach with companies we acquire has always been one of transparency,” said Gauthier. “It has to be win-win.”

The basic due diligence into financials and technology portfolios had to expand to include factors that are just as important, but far less black and white – company culture and values, and areas such as succession planning.

This prompted Gauthier to lead the development of Calian’s M&A Playbook – a set of guidelines and checklists with a goal to leave no stone unturned to ensure a strong match between the two companies. The playbook yields a score that qualifies a prospect as either Green, Yellow or Red.

“The culture side of it is huge,” Gauthier said. “We spend a lot of time with the management of a company before we decide to acquire so we have a good sense of what kind of people they are and what matters to them. If that is too divergent from what Calian is all about we will not proceed, because those differences will simply create too many issues post-close.”

While Gauthier led the development of that playbook internally, Kelley and Roche have played that vital advisory role at every step, providing input and leaning in with their deep M&A experience. 

“You know what you know and you don’t know what you don’t know,” Gauthier said.  “Having that external perspective to help us through that process has been extremely beneficial. Especially at an enterprise level – we have four different divisions, each with their own priorities and agendas, and we have to address all that while also meeting the expectations of the market, our board and our shareholders. We have relied on Stratford to help in this area quite a bit.”

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