This year, B.G.E. Service & Supply Ltd., The Filter Shop (BGE) will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, a truly remarkable milestone for a second-generation family-owned and operated air filter manufacturer and distributor in Western Canada.
The anniversary will be a joyous event with customer and employee appreciation events taking place to commemorate BGE’s past and to celebrate its future, but sadly, the anniversary will also mark a bittersweet time in the company’s history.
Recently, the company’s figurehead, Darrel Sutton, who joined B. Guthrie Engineering in 1968 as a salesperson selling replacement filters, passed away unexpectedly. Mr. Sutton eventually purchased the company, growing it, as well as his passion for the world of filtration, throughout the years.
Mr. Sutton’s loss leaves behind the legacy of a family man, the 1974 Brier Champion, and a successful and innovative businessman who had a major impact on the industry. He had a true respect for the people he did business with, the employees who worked for him and the community he and his family called home.
“We believe that BGE is a family business that cares about our team and their families. My dad always said to my sister and me, ‘You know, it’s not just the family sitting around the dinner table; you have to think of the 190 families that depend on the success of our family business,’” explained President and Darrel’s youngest daughter, Roberta MacGillivray.
Mr. Sutton recognized a need in the marketplace and addressed it with a vast inventory of air filtration products, odour and gas filtration, dust collection, and specialty equipment, paired with quick turnaround, reliable delivery, and outstanding service.
BGE serves diverse industries including heavy industrial and manufacturing, commercial, education, healthcare and pharmaceutical, agriculture and food processing, and institutional from its seven fully-stocked locations in Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Prince George.
Through its seven locations, BGE ensures customers have access to products they need, when they need them. BGE meets all of its customers’ needs by delivering a suite of clean air services coupled with a comprehensive product selection.
“One of the things we do really well is tailoring our services to meet the unique needs of our customers based on their location and their specific filtration needs. What you need in commercial vs. healthcare vs. heavy industrial can be very different and there isn’t just one filter that will work across segments. The #1 question we get is, ‘what is the best filter to use?’ and our response is always, ‘That depends.’ We must visit the customer and complete a survey of their systems in order to recommend the best solution. We love working with our customers to improve indoor air quality. It’s the best part of our days,” said MacGillivray.
BGE continues to invest in its capacities to improve productivity, efficiency, output, R&D and quality assurance processes. In the last year, BGE has increased its manufacturing capacity by 10 percent using LEAN Manufacturing methodologies, capital equipment investment while keeping headcount relatively unchanged. “It’s important that we continue to maintain a competitive advantage as a Western Canadian manufacturer guaranteeing customers have access to the right filter, at the right place, at the right time, when they need it most,” said MacGillivray.
“Customers are telling us that we’re proactive in helping them solve their problems, that we’re making it easy for them. We have the product they need when they need it,” which has helped to build the trust that leads to lasting customer relationships that BGE prides itself on.
BGE offers unmatched expertise on the subject of filtration. Filters are the unsung heroes of clean air everywhere and when a customer chooses price over value, they often get what they pay for. “The unit cost may be lower but in the long run, you’re going to pay more for poor indoor air quality through complaints, illnesses, broken down equipment, and more will be required, so if we provide customers with the right knowledge and education, they’re going to make the best decisions for their organization,” MacGillivray explained.
Education, for both employees and customers, is a big part of BGE’s success and longevity. As MacGillivray noted, “That’s something that’s been instilled in our company from my dad and onward: making sure that we’re the experts, that we provide the most knowledgeable support to the industry by investing in our team’s education and knowledge.” Being the expert allows BGE to proactively advise customers on all issues related to Indoor Air Quality and focus on innovative solutions.
Mr. Sutton developed the Clean Air Clinic, BGE’s training program that educates employees and customers but also serves as a resource for property managers, building operators and HVAC technicians alike, who can expand their knowledge about indoor air quality and the importance of filtration.
BGE is also committed to helping employees who are new to the country learn English as a second language. Twenty-five employees recently graduated from its language program and it has had profound results.
“After the first day of English as a second language training, we were amazed by the increase in self-confidence in every student. Not only did it improve communication at BGE, these students explained how they were able to help their children with their homework, they could visit their doctor without an interpreter and they didn’t need to rely on their spouse to translate for them all the time,” said MacGillivray.
“Our team’s engagement has really improved. The amount of suggestions coming from specifically those who are working on the production lines every day are invaluable. As we make those improvements it’s positively impacting our productivity and improving the quality of our products,” products which serve an increasingly important purpose.
As the experts in filtration, BGE stepped up by ramping up production and speeding up delivery times for those who were in dire need of carbon and particulate filters when a record-breaking wildfire season ravaged the markets it serves. It worked with its partners to streamline distribution and speed up delivery times from weeks to days to ensure customers had clean air to breathe as the smoke from the fires encompassed entire communities.
“Our customers knew they could trust us to help them. With fire, smoke and ash, you need a certain kind of filter. The work we’ve done with customers, especially in the last three years with new product development, we were able to improve our production capacity and right now we’re turning around these carbon filters within two days when normal lead times could be upwards to 10 days,” said MacGillivray.
Because BGE went above and beyond to service its customers during the 2017 wildfire events, the company was awarded the Building Owners and Managers Association of Edmonton’s (BOMA) Pinnacle Award for exceeding customer expectations and going “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.”
“We often hear from our customers that they trust BGE will provide them with the right solution and we’re not going to sell them more or sell them less than they need. We will worry about [their] filtration needs and they can focus on what is core to their business,” MacGillivray explained.
Just as caring for the customer is paramount, philanthropy and community outreach is also important to BGE. One of the causes the company regularly supports is kidney disease and renal failure, as Mr. Sutton’s eldest sister Diane was the first Canadian to receive kidney dialysis. To date, BGE has donated significant funds to the University of Alberta Hospital to help people with the costs associated with travel for dialysis treatment. The kidney, like the filters the company designs, manufactures and sells, serves the same purpose so it is very fitting – though the team hasn’t stopped there.
“We believe it’s important to invest in our communities where we work and so we’re donating, in commemoration of the fiftieth, $50 000 to local charities. Each branch will pick a charity that’s near and dear to them; commitments have already been made to Make a Wish, Kids with Cancer, Alberta Cancer Foundation with many more in the coming months,” shared MacGillivray.
Through initiatives like these, Darrel Sutton’s spirit is still very much alive at BGE. Under the leadership of MacGillivray, the company continues to thrive, despite the fact that only ten percent of businesses survive the transition from first to second generation of family ownership.
BGE demonstrated its strength was able to weather the most recent economic downturn. While Western Canada was particularly hard hit, the company was able to make the most of the opportunities that were present in the market and worked alongside its customers to ensure that they could weather the recession as well.
“While there may not have been a lot of capital investments happening in Western Canada in the last few years, it was really important that our customers were protecting the equipment they had. Clean air for their people and processes was still very important,” said MacGillivray.
Regardless of the ebbs and flows of the markets it serves, BGE has a simple purpose: ‘Clean Air Everywhere.’ “While there may be many complexities to the solution, we try to make it easy for the customer so they enjoy cleaner environments for their people and processes,” said MacGillivray.
“The market outlook is, I think, very similar to what we’ve seen in the past and I think we’ve risen to that challenge. Everyone is looking to reduce cost, everything is getting more expensive and everybody is looking at how they can be more efficient,” explained MacGillivray. “The easy thing to do is not change your filters as often. See how long you can stretch those intervals out but the result will be damaged equipment and poor air quality.”
With half a century of having a quality product, breadth of inventory and depth of expertise under its belt, BGE wants to remain a trusted advisor in the air filtration industry for its customers and for the markets it serves. It also wants to remain an employer of choice that provides opportunities for growth and work that is fulfilling and engaging. “Our goal is simple – Clean Air Everywhere – and we’re proud that we can make a positive impact on the air people breathe.” This will help secure the company’s success for 50 years to come.
“One thing that has really rung true – and I continue to learn from my father’s legacy – is how important relationships are with our team and our customers, how much time he took with all of our staff, how important loyalty and commitment and investment in people were,” said MacGillivray.
“I believe we still do that today and have carried that on, but it just rings even truer when you’re going through hard times. If you don’t have a strong culture and you don’t have good people, it’s really hard to go through those times, to get through it on your own,” which was proven during the recent loss of Darrel Sutton.
Together, MacGillivray and the team at BGE will continue to live the legacy of Darrel Sutton, fifty years in the making, doing him proud by remaining a true partner for customers, serving as the experts in filtration and continuing to promote clean air everywhere.