Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

 

August 7, 2017

SaskPower's Mike MarshBy Scott Williams

Mike Marsh, President and CEO of SaskPower, has been a leading figure in Saskatchewan’s electricity industry for almost 25 years. Joining SaskPower in 1991, Mike began his career in engineering and maintenance. He spent the next two decades playing a key role across a number of business functions, taking the helm as President and CEO in 2014.

During Electricity Human Resources Canada’s most recent awards ceremony, then-board chair Norm Fraser described Mike as “a great leader with a fair and amicable way of engaging with people, having strong labour relations skills from years of experience at the bargaining table. As a proponent of health and safety, Mike possesses the necessary experience to support and lead the industry forward.” These comments formed the basis of CEW’s conversation with Mike.

Do you believe that awards like this are useful for the industry?

They are. Our industry has so many hardworking people, and it’s good to be recognized by your peer group. The more we recognize people, the more we build confidence in the things that we're doing. 

What personal growth challenges and opportunities stand out for you in your career?

Prior to joining SaskPower, I spent 12 years in the construction industry. I was in a small office and didn't have any people reporting to me, I was working on various projects but not having to lead groups of people. Then I moved to Boundary Dam* and started in the engineering department in there, I guess it was my ability to work with and communicate with people — from tradesmen to the plant manager at the time. Within a year I was promoted into a maintenance supervisory position. It was something that I felt nervous about, but when I stepped into it, my first rule was to provide for the people. I realized I had an ability to talk to them in a way that was respectful. I didn't know I had that ability.

When you're starting to manage more and more people, doesn't this become a bigger challenge?

It certainly does. It's about being genuine, and making sure people understand your true intentions, and building trust in the workplace. As a leader, you have to make tough decisions. But that doesn't mean that you have to be demanding and authoritative. You can deal with difficult situations in a way creates trust and confidence. 

Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?

There have been a number of folks. Two come to mind right away — a colleague and coworker at Boundary Dam. In the early part of my career, Lane Hutton was a maintenance supervisor, and I looked to him for advice and direction. His approach wasn't “Do this, do that.” It was more like, “Well, have you considered this? Have you thought about that?” Having different perspectives on an issue is what helps leaders grow as they encounter new experiences in the workplace and in life. 

The second important person in my SaskPower career was Rick Patrick, a former vice president who I came to know and work for over the years. Very knowledgeable and confident in the industry. As I was growing and getting to understand the business, he encouraged me to take calculated risks on certain things. That was another very important learning opportunity, when you're encouraged to make decisions and take risks, and try to move the organization forward.

What kind of risks?

Making decisions about organizational alignment. For a number of years I was involved with the HR department for all the generation business units — dealing with people issues and facilitating resolutions to conflicts. I started to assert my opinion more. In an environment with a strong hierarchy, sometimes that can be a risk in itself.

Have you had opportunities to be a mentor?

Oh, yes. We have a leadership development program here at SaskPower, and over the years I've mentored employees who have come through that program. Then there is the informal approach — the open door concept. I have always encouraged employees to come and talk to me. While it can be challenging in terms of time management, I try to make sure that anyone who requests time gets time. Last week I had a young engineer come to talk with me about his role and his future. Just trying to understand where he could move his career. 

Is this part of SaskPower’s culture?

I believe it is. We encourage openness and collaboration. Trying to build trust inside an organization so that you can get the most out of an engaged workforce is very powerful for a company. Knowing that everyone in leadership has their back and is willing to talk to them, that's a powerful motivator for a workforce. 

On SaskPower’s website, safety is the first value listed. Is safety a priority for you personally?

Yes, I am engaged at many different levels in safety issues and programs. I’ve been involved in safety directly throughout my career. We’ve had very good people working with our field divisions, whether it’s in generation or transmission distribution, to improve our safety culture and safety performance. We continually try to raise the bar to increase safety awareness, and encourage workers to be conscious of safety at all times. 

We have a motto here: “Although we work on dangerous equipment, we do not do dangerous work.” Think about the hazards associated with the job, plan the job accordingly, then do the work. If it’s done according to procedures and with the proper safety equipment, you will have a positive outcome. 

Mental well-being is emerging as a major workplace issue. Is this happening at Saskpower as well?

Yes. We recognize that mental health is a significant contributor to things like productivity. It certainly affects the ability of employees to be in the moment and have a good situational awareness when working with hazardous equipment. It’s all part of being engaged in the work that they're doing.

How does the organization encourage that?

We're always encouraging our staff out there to take that extra few minutes and think about the job at hand. Don't move quickly into doing a job that could have a hazard that has not been properly identified. If you can identify the risks, you can identify the proper mitigations and perform the job safely. Nothing is worth an injury or potential loss of life.

How do you see the industry changing in the next 10 years?

I think the movement towards a lower carbon future is going to impact the electric industry in a very significant way. It’s certainly accelerated the path that we were already on. The transportation sector alone — electric vehicles, electric trains — is really going to help shape the electrical grid of the future. The amount of data we're now collecting that we can utilize and share with our customers is remarkable compared to a decade ago. Integrating renewables will transform the electrical grid in North America. 

I would think relationships with customers are also changing quite a bit.

Oh, they are. More information and data are available to all types of consumers. There is a growing expectation of having that information available, as well as other services to help customers monitor and manage their energy consumption. As an industry I think we're moving quickly. 

The advent of social media is also changing the way we communicate with people. It's not just one-way communication anymore. Just like how the electric grid is changing. It’s morphing into a two-way system, where electricity can come into the system from any location and can be used at the source or pushed back into the group. What we see in the next 10 years to 20 years will be amazing.

In your personal down time, what's your favourite place?

I would have to say my and my wife's favourite place is our cottage in northern Saskatchewan. It's that place that you go to relax and unwind. The smell of pine trees, and water… 

We try to get there as often as we can over the summer… mostly weekends. If I can get away for a couple of weeks in the summer, that's where we'll be with our grandchildren. On the boat, kayaking… 

How easy is it to detach from work when you’re on holiday?

We always stay connected through the Internet, but I try not to engage. I will read emails but won’t necessarily respond. Otherwise, you get drawn into the conversation. 

What would you tell a young person starting a career, whether it's electrical or not?

The biggest thing is, don't be in a hurry to get somewhere. We have a lot of young people with energy and creative ideas, working hard and providing a valuable contribution to the company. But in many cases, I think they expect to move into senior leadership roles within a very short period of time. 

Life goes by fast, and my advice is to enjoy it while you’re here. Be positive, make a positive impact on those around you, and contribute to the goals of your work unit, even if it’s not your ideal destination. 

At the end of the day, those moments and experiences will be the ones that you remember, and will bring you the most satisfaction. 

Scott Williams is Associate Editor of EIN.

 

* Boundary Dam Power Station, located near Estevan, Saskatchewan, consists of two 62 net MW units (decommissioned in 2012-14), two 139 net MW units, one 139 net MW unit, and one 273 net MW unit. It is also the site of a carbon capture and storage demonstration project.

Latest Articles

  • Prev
Heather Gerrie Kwant and Elaine Gerrie-Valentini, Co-Presidents of Gerrie Electric Wholesale ...
  After completing our full planning and budget cycle we are excited to embark on some ...
Stephen Hawking fears it. Elon Musk begrudges it. Mark Zuckerberg embraces it. There is no shortage ...
  The rise of cyber related attacks on Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet ...
  The recently released Bluetooth Mesh standard was developed with lighting as a target ...
What are we leaving behind to the next generation? The landscape in the electrical industry ...
Industrialized nations are being influenced by transformative forces creating what many are calling ...
On January 18, the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition sent a letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau ...

David Gordon

Over the past few months as we’ve sat in strategy development meetings with distributors, reviewed distributor purchasing information, and talked to manufacturers’ reps and contractors, we’ve seen a purchasing trend that is roiling the industry. The trend, which mirrors what is happening in lighting with “unfamiliar brands,” is accelerated growth and acceptance of less familiar brands for infrastructure type products (electrician supplies, boxes, fittings, etc … consumables and products that go within the wall). This then begs the questions, “What is the value of a manufacturer’s brand,” and “What are the implications for manufacturers and distributors?”

Many have seen this as driven by...

Read more

 


 

As part a family company, I have heard my father talking about business ever since I was a little boy. Although it had always interested me, I had never thought I would end up working alongside my father and my uncle in the company my grandfather started a long time ago.

I had been working in sales ever since I was 16 years old in many different markets than the one I was about to enter, but I thought it would be relatively easy to handle. Very quickly I started noticing the challenges of being a 22-year-old sales rep for electrical products entering a world where most of the manufacturers’ agents had been in the business for a long time.

Read more

Changing Scene

  • Prev
Flextherm Celebrates 25 Years With a Big Bang PHOTO: EIN-37/CEW-18-CS-Flextherm-400.jpg The floor ...
Electro-Federation Canada’s 6th Annual Future Forum, Thinking Smarter — Channel Products, Energy, ...
In partnership with Habitat for Humanity Québec, Convectair is donating two heating units ...
Do you know an industry member who has greatly contributed to the Canadian electrical industry and ...
Kendra Smith will be joining the company’s Nationals Accounts team as the Key Accounts ...
Blueway has been added as a division within Sonepar Ontario, reporting directly to Sonepar Ontario ...
Pilz Canada has added Marcus Graham to its family. Marcus is now serving a wide base of customers ...
Christopher Balleine has been appointed Stelpro’s Sales Representative, Maritimes, ...
Based in Ottawa, Lafontaine will be responsible for building on Schneider Electric’s ...
Bill Smith from Electrozad Supply Company Limited has been selected as this year’s recipient ...

Looking Back

  • Prev
  As 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we take a look back at an aspect of ...
The resource-based industries of the Maritimes are looking to electronics to make their operations ...
  Electrical distributors must remain in both the electronic and electrical ends of the ...
  The public’s strong interest in energy-saving products should continue in the ...
  Even in a principally agricultural province like Saskatchewan, the impact of electronics ...
Electrical distribution companies operating in British Columbia will continue to get larger while ...
Golden anniversaries are celebrated by the mature, and our industry is allowed to celebrate ...
The last 50 years have been exciting ones for the electrical industry but they won’t compare to ...
The ceiling that had been placed on membership fees remained a point of contention among ...
The year 1982 started on a relatively good note for electrical distributors. Sales in the first ...

 

EFC 2018 Scholarship Program

This year Electro-Federation Canada (EFC) will award $156,250 across 62 scholarships supported by manufacturers, distributors and associations.

The annual EFC Scholarship Program reflects an industry that understands its responsibility to attract future talent. In the face of technological, demographic, and socio-economic evolution, the employment landscape is in constant transformation resulting in substantial challenges for companies as they work to define and redefine their recruitment practices. Furthermore, as competition for the brightest and the best of the next generation of business leaders intensifies, it’s more important than ever to engage young people. 

Read more...

 

 

 

Online

Building a simple customer experience that satisfies your customers’ expectations is a starting point (or evolution) in your digital journey. You might be asking yourself, “How do I know what my customer wants?” The data are available from their behaviour online, and many of your customers will tell you what they want. Putting the pieces together can appear complex, but it can be simplified if you segment the optimization of your customers’ experience into three buckets: design, usability and search.

Design, usability, and search pertain to how you can serve your customer. In order for your website to create value in the eyes of the customers, you have to optimize your website so that it is accessible to the greatest number of your ideal customers. Value increases with the number of customer touchpoints that the customers use.

Read more...

 

 

Copper $US Dollar price per pound

Kerrwil Publications

538 Elizabeth Street, Midland,Ontario, Canada L4R2A3 +1 705 527 7666
2016 All rights reserved

Use of this Site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy Policy (effective 1.1.2016)
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Kerrwil