Progress Magazine’s Best Places to Work awards: A road trip adventure

A drizzly Tuesday morning. 7:30 a.m. Seven chilled professionals in raincoats and heels. One big white Suburban. The scene is set for what would turn out to be a surprising day for the group of MRSB staff who ventured to Halifax for Progress Magazine’s Best Places to Work awards luncheon.

As our behemoth of a rental sped down the highway, across the Confederation Bridge and pulled into Timmy’s for our first pit stop, the general mood was tepidly optimistic at best. Sure, we always enjoyed each other’s company, and Kathryn, our HR Manager, had brought along a peppy mix of pop-rock favorites to keep us seat-dancing. But our chances of coming home with the coveted No. 1 spot were only 1-in-31…not fantastic odds.

Still, there was a chance. And as we finally cruised through downtown Halifax and pulled up to the Westin Nova Scotian hotel, we felt ready for whatever the afternoon had to offer (especially the three-course lunch!). After a quick pic of our team posing inside the lobby, we made our way to the banquet hall and took our seats.

The first wave of suspicion came when we were joined by Terry Keough, Sales Manager with Progress. Cordial conversation ensued, but seeing as accountants don’t tend to beat around the bush, particularly in matters of grave importance, we cut right to the chase. ‘Do you know something we don’t?’ one of us asked with raised eyebrows. Being a seasoned veteran in this type of game, Terry replied ‘Not at all!’ He then went on to explain that the magazine takes a highly objective role in choosing each year’s Best Places to Work in Atlantic Canada. That is, the results of each nominee’s employee surveys are analyzed by a third party and, according to Terry, only two people at Progress even get to see the results before they’re announced. We settled back into our salmon and mashed potatoes.

The banquet room was festively decorated with a Hawaiian theme, and we were prompted to have a group shot taken in the onsite photo booth, leis and kooky glasses mandatory, of course. By the time we had sat back down and started dessert, they’d begun announcing this year’s winners. We should note that there were several other Island businesses present, and that for the past two years PEI has laid claim to the top spot. Our marketing officer’s fingers were furiously tweeting congratulations and updates to our legions of online fans (ok, to our 600 followers) as the list started at 31 and worked its way up.

As nice as it was to see a variety of outstanding companies walk smilingly onstage and accept their award gift, our fingers began to tremble with each forkful of chocolate mousse as we pseudo-patiently waited for our name to be called. As number 11 came and went, we began exchanging excited glances. We were at least in the Top 10!

...our fingers began to tremble with each forkful of chocolate mousse as we pseudo-patiently waited for our name to be called.

By the time Halifax Stanfield Airport’s Peter Spurway announced Provincial Credit Union as the #5 Best Place to Work, we were buzzing as if we’d all just downed a litre of Starbucks along with our meals. And then, suddenly, it was down to two…This must be what the contestants on American Idol feel like when they think Simon is going to verbally flay them but instead praises their contract-worthy warbling. Peter finally announced the runner up… Beaubear Credit Union! We were #1! After much cheering we made our way to the stage. The moment was complete as we gathered for a group photo, each of us grinning ear to ear.

Let’s just say the ride home was a bit more, um, boisterous than when we’d set out that morning. A gregarious rock song blasted from the speakers as we rattled the CBC clappers we’d received at the banquet, and Kathryn kept us all singing and jumping up and down in our seats as if we were on a school bus heading to Rainbow Valley back in ’92.

By the time we’d gotten back to the office, things were slightly more subdued. The building was quiet, everyone having gone home at the usual time. But we were thinking about what the day’s events meant to our small business, and felt lucky and honored to be recognized by our local community. We would like to congratulate ALL winners of this year’s Best Places to Work, and thank Progress Magazine, our Partners, staff and clients for giving us the chance to show what we can do as a determined small business in Atlantic Canada.                                                                              

Stay tuned for our next post, which will provide some tips on how you can make your business next Year's Best Place to Work!