Canada Medical Ltd. is a B2B distributor of branded medical supplies. Serving clients across Canada (predominately in Western Canada) the company aims to service customers and vendors while exceeding their expectations; but it’s not just the customers Canada Medical works so hard to please. Internally, the owners have created a work environment that is fun, engaging, educational, and that uses each employee’s talents to their full potential. Living its mission and values every day, it’s easy to see why Canada Medical has been in Edmonton for 30 years, and counting.
“I can’t speak on behalf of our founders, but I can tell you why I chose to continue building on their foundation,” says Carla, who worked with the original owners before co-purchasing the company when they decided to sell. “Our goal is to continue to create a company that goes well above a distributor’s common role of product storage and handling. We consult, train and educate our customers – we have become the experts.
“Our journey isn’t very dramatic. After starting in 1986, we have grown steadily. I think this is a testament to our business model of great service and competitive prices. Our last fiscal year, we had the highest growth in the company’s history.”
For Canada Medical, being a reliable, expertly-managed company that provides outstanding products with value pricing is the reason the management and staff get up in the morning.
“We carry over 10,000 items, giving us the flexibility to participate in all types of markets, including spa facilities, tattoo shops, dental clinics and more! We also install, maintain and fill first aid kits in local businesses.”
Canada Medical stays on top of the newest equipment and never stops learning about emerging technology in their industry.
“We are really excited about the new Welch Allyn RETeval-DR Electroretinograph. In three minutes, you can objectively screen for vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy (VTDR). The unit enables efficient, comfortable, non-mydriatic screening for VTDR that improves patient compliance to help preserve vision in patients with diabetes,” says Carla.
She’s excited about what’s going on inside their office, too.
“We keep hiring! The nice part of our industry is that, despite the price of oil, we’ve grown our staff by over 30 per cent in the last two years. We must be doing something right. Finding the right people, retaining them and ensuring they buy into our culture is very important. Each team member’s personality can have an enormous impact on the harmony and productivity of the business. There is no magic formula here – only experience and face time can reveal whether the employee and the company are fit.
“In order to build a great team you need two things: great people and a great culture. We strive to create a culture of extreme ‘openness’ which, in our opinion, leads to accountability to one another.
“We are proud of the culture we have here. It took some time to get it right – to instill a family culture. It’s extremely rewarding to bring together total strangers who have become our extended family.”
Canada Medical is progressive in the work force as well as in the industry; 70 per cent of its staff are women.
“Our employees take great pride in their jobs, and I often have to remind them they are human and can’t take on all tasks. Quality work over quantity,” smiles Carla.
That quality has not gone unnoticed.
“We get recognized for some of the charity and volunteer work we do with the community. We’ve also had a couple sales awards from vendors. Our inaugural medical supply and equipment tradeshow was held in May this year. This holds special significance for me because our staff and I organized and executed the event without a hitch. We had amazing support from our vendors and customers. We are hoping to grow the trade show into an event that healthcare professionals from around the country would want to visit.”
It takes more than the unique insider knowledge Carla has of the industry, and of the people that rely on Canada Medical’s products, to be successful. “Everything takes longer and costs more than you initially budget for,” laughs the company owner, “and I’ve learned that leadership is all about getting out of the way of great people. Once you find the right person for the right job, you need to be able to cut them loose and let them flourish.”
While she admits that she’s still working that elusive work/life balance, Carla also knows taking time for the things that refresh the spirit and soul keep her, and the company, going; as does being grateful for the people and ideals that have been instrumental in getting Canada Medical this far.
“When I do find a few moments to myself outside of chauffeuring my kids around to soccer and gymnastics, I enjoy sitting on my deck with good friends, eating great food paired with a nice glass of red wine. I am also the chair for the PTA at my children’s school, so I’m always organizing some type of fundraiser or school activity.
“My husband, Mark, is by my side every step of the way. We share the same goals as to where we want our company to be. He is integral at keeping us on track. I wouldn’t have seen this success without him. Also, my parents taught me early on about hard work. They immigrated to Edmonton from Sao Miguel, Azores in 1970 with next to nothing. Seventeen years later, they quit their jobs and purchased a local grocery store which they worked at until their retirement in 2003. It was a family business, so I was working the cash register, stocking shelves, as early as nine years old. Work ethic was instilled in me from an early age. My parents do everything 110 per cent all the time, and they expected the same from my sister and me. They are the hardest working people I have ever met.”
“We believe in corporate responsibility,” confirms Carla. “Every year, our team volunteers with different charities. We have cooked dinner for the families at Ronald McDonald House, manned different stations at the Neurosurgery Kids Fund Christmas party and participated in the DIL walk. This year, we also sent medical supplies up North to assist Fort McMurray during the recent wildfire.”
Thirty years is a long time for any business, and a spectacular feat for a medium-sized-but-growing company to realize during the course of two economic recessions in Alberta. Thanks to hard work, dedication, continuous education and great relationships with staff, suppliers, vendors and clients, Canada Medical not only has a firm hold in Western Canada, but it is also planning an Eastern expansion as well.
For Carla and the rest of the staff at Canada Medical, it’s all in a day’s work – but that day’s work is each day’s passion.
“Thank you for valuing our relationship,” the owners say to Canada Medical’s clients as the company prepares for the next decades of being the one to watch in and out of the industry.