By Mabell, Dave on February 12, 2019.
In growing communities across Alberta, it’s often been local families and investors who’ve started the businesses that meet residents’ needs.
Many take root and prosper, and eventually they’re passed on to the next generation.
But not always. Sons and daughters may have different dreams and little interest in carrying on the family firm.
And that’s where an innovative Lethbridge business group can play a key role. Succession planning isn’t always easy. How can we find a motivated buyer to keep the company moving ahead?
Helping long-running businesses find a successful way forward is one of the missions of the locally owned Epiphany Group. It’s also ready to help southern Alberta businesses take the next step up, to serve a larger market.
At the same time, Epiphany’s owners are investing in Lethbridge real estate. To show what they’re interested in doing as property owners, they invite the public to visit their spacious new “business campus” in the former Sun Life facility on W.T. Hill Boulevard.
Darryl Kenna, the organization’s chief executive officer, says Epiphany stands ready to invest in local companies. By taking on part ownership, he explains, the group is able to make better long-term decisions than a fee-based consultant about business planning.
“A lot of people are quietly surprised when they see what we’re doing,” he says.
Instead of watching local firms being taken over by companies in Calgary or beyond, the business community is seeing management – and employment – remain here in the south.
Epiphany is also interested in looking at start-ups, points out chief financial officer Matt Calnan. Its “partners” division now includes an equity position with enterprises like Coulee Brew and Distilled Liquor Co. as well as such long-established businesses as the Dominion Lending Centres, Braemore Management, Hagen Electric and Lakeview Bakery.
At each, Kenna explains, Epiphany’s goal is to ensure there’s a qualified management team that’s aligned with the company’s long-term objectives.
In turn, those companies are free to acquire others that fit their business plan.
Directly or indirectly, says chief operating officer Angie Nilsson, the Epiphany Group now supports nearly 400 jobs in the community.
“And we’re only starting,” she adds.
Their launch pad, the once-deserted Sun Life call centre, reflects some of the partners’ creative side. Now branded the Kenna Professional Campus, it features a shared-use boardroom, kitchen and snack facility along with a larger gathering area for companies located inside, along with their clients.
Prominently displayed near the main entrance are several design proposals, indicating where additional buildings and facilities may be located as the business cluster grows.
As the Epiphany Group grows, Kenna says, it may partner with interested companies in neighbouring communities. For now, it’s ready to consider four to eight proposals a year.
“We have been approached by people outside the city,” he confirms.
Who knows? Lethbridge expertise “could go Canada-wide, eventually.”
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