“Create an environment in which your staff doesn’t know whether they’re working or playing and stick to your core competencies,” says John Stanton, describing how his retail chain The Running Room continues to surpass its competitors.
This philosophy helped make his family-owned Calgary-based business, North America’s largest specialty running and walking retailer. It has also earned him the spotlight at this year’s Family Legacy Series Gala Dinnerhosted by the Sauder School of Business’s Business Families Centre.
A major fundraiser for the Business Families Center, the annual dinner will draw more than 400 guests to Vancouver on October 25. The event gives Canada’s top performing business families the opportunity to share their experiences of how they work together and transfer knowledge across generations, providing a model for other family enterprises to emulate.
Stanton and his two sons, John and Jason, his partners for the last seven years, will take the stage at the event to provide insights into the inner workings of The Running Room and their family dynamic which has allowed it to thrive.
For Stanton, it all began with a three-kilometer fun run with his young sons. Inspired to change his lifestyle, he went from a 238-pound chain smoker to an accomplished runner, completing several marathons and triathlons, including the Hawaiian World Championship Ironman.
When struggling to find a shoe retailer with deep knowledge of running, Stanton got the idea to open a store that made expertise in the sport its hallmark. In 1984, The Running Room was born in Edmonton in a one-room store in an old house shared with a hairdressing shop.
The company now stands as one of Canada’s most successful family-owned businesses, with 114 stores across Canada and the U.S. In 2007, the Running Room’s success was recognized with a Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies award, and it was inducted into both the Canadian Retail Hall of Fame and the Alberta Business Hall of Fame.
The Business Families Centre’s Family Legacy Series dinner has featured numerous leading Canadian business families since 2001, including most recently: the McLean family, owners of one of B.C.'s leading family-owned and operated conglomerates (2011); the Beedie Family, the largest landlord of industrial space in B.C. (2010); the Foord family, owners of Kal-Tire, Canada's largest independent car dealer (2009); and the Molson family, owners of the Molson family of beverages (2008).
Sauder’s UBC’s Business Families Centre was created in 2001 with the support of more than 30 founding business families. A leader in the field, the centre is known for its comprehensive research and academic programs, addressing issues such as succession planning, wealth management, family dynamics and governance. It also serves families by educating professional advisors working with families.