Small-town feel, big-time success

The Chilliwack Progress | By Jennifer Feinberg

Chilliwack's McAlpine Group has been named one of the 50 fastest growing companies in BC.

Business in Vancouver Magazine recently published its annual ranking of the province's leading businesses and the McAlpine Group nailed the 33rd position on its list. And it turns out the award-winning company was the only marketing and communications firm to crack the Top 50.

"I was blown away by the honour,” says Tim McAlpine, the company president and creative director. “We were named alongside some very big companies, including heavyweights like Telus and Intrawest Corp. So it gave me a lot of pride in a small-firm-makes-big kind of way."

Asked what he thinks the company is doing right, he replies, “I started this firm in 1990 as a home-based design studio. It was a one-man shop that has grown to include 10 full-time and six freelance staffers.

"We’ve done a heck of a lot of business locally but we know we had to look beyond the hometown to grow the business. We focused on the marketing and communications for larger companies with more than 50 employees. We specifically targeted those with over $10 million is sales and in a lot of cases it was businesses with multiple sites."

But the company also retained some smaller Chilliwack companies on its roster of clients, "in order to maintain and foster our hometown roots," says Mr. McAlpine.

Local clients include UCFV, Fraser Valley Meats, IMW Industries, Tourism Chilliwack, CEPCO, Minter Gardens and more. Some of their larger clients include Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa, Envision Financial, Tim Hortons BC and Ethical Funds.

"Many are surprised to find we are located in a small town like Chilliwack," Mr. McAlpine continues. "But we made a conscious decision to stay here. We're here because of lifestyle and excellent quality of life. We didn’t want the rat race of commuting to Vancouver.

"And once we have a potential client on side, we make the distance a complete non-issue by delivering materials electronically," he adds.

Over the years they’ve morphed from graphic design studio to a full-service branding, marketing and communications firm.

"We’ve not only added designers to our team, but also marketing strategists and we have aligned ourselves with talented PR and market research companies to be able to offer our larger clients the full-service treatment," he points out.

The magazine came up with it Top-50 ranking by measuring growth in annual sales from 1997 to 2002.

For the McAlpine Group, that meant a 258 per cent increase in annual sales over that period.

"I made a conscious decision to surround myself with very good people," he says. "That means people who know more than I do in their particular area of expertise.

"Most of our staff are local residents, who at one point commuted to large companies in Vancouver. Now most of them just have a five minute commute in Chilliwack."