By Mandy Johnson | Photography Scott Cooper
“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” – Robin S. Sharma
Barrie Trim and Moulding has been a landmark business in the Barrie region since 1985. It has evolved over time and supports a legacy that is both steeped in community and expertise in its craft. Lee Whitaker, owner and president, has grown up in this local business and has taken the very seed that planted the vision and grown it into an orchard.
Having emigrated from England 4 year’s prior, Lee’s father Brian Whitaker, had originally opened the business in response to the growing need for trim and finishing materials. It was born out of the need to create work for himself and sustain his family during times of a career transition. What proved to be a side job; became a viable business opportunity. Barrie’s growing community had little support for this specialized product and service ñ hence, the birth of BTM. Expansion came quickly and the humble beginnings of a small shop in the North End of Barrie quickly turned into a larger location in the Cedar Point Plaza. Again, the company would find itself in the fortunate position of growing out of its home and the signature location on Saunders Road became the new home for BTM.
The exposure from Hwy 400 and a location in the industrial centre of this booming city made the brave move a great decision. Continued growth involved opening a stair division in 1995 and further complemented the existing business. Working with homebuilders, professional trades and homeowners alike, affirmed the commitment for custom interior finishes in this area. Steady growth has enabled the stair & railing division to recently double the size of its facility and a greater focus on building a strong team continues to improve the client service experience.
Lee, a second-generation entrepreneur, would confirm that this growth came with new growing pains. The original business was more of an order desk rather than a full service business as it stands now. Today’s contractor and homeowner clients are discerning and there is a greater awareness of the value and investment in home building and renovations. It is not merely a retail location for these products but also a custom manufacturer for all products. BTM has become the “go to” location for interior doors, trim, mouldings, stairs, railings, and installation services because of this expertise. The retail location only touches on the endless possibilities for trademark options. There are in-house and onsite sales people available to consult and educate both professional and do-it-yourself clients of the many choices available to create signature projects. It is the boutique service and high quality that makes the business stand out.
The evolution, particularly of a family business, requires a different kind of commitment. There were many learning lessons along the way. For Lee, it really was a grass roots understanding of what BTM is all about. He has stood in many shoes over the years and appreciates the efforts of all who contribute to their success. The Whitakers have moved through seasons of life and cycles of growth that have required the talents of many employees and the patience and understanding of family.
Lee is all too familiar with the duality of being owner and family man. Together, Lee and his wife Kelly, balance work and two young children with the added responsibility of managing an extended work family too. Lee continues to assume operational responsibilities as president and Kelly assumes an important role in employee and community connection. It is part of the business soul that is very important to BTM. Collectively, it’s about operating the business not only in the now, but also finding vision for tomorrow.
Entrepreneurship is always a balancing act of personal, business and social responsibility. Taking care of over 40 employees is a big part of that trust. Lee has been a firm believer of creating a “work family” and fostering an opportunity for people to not only work but also find a career in the Whitaker’s local business. It is always about relationships: those you work with, those clients and customers that use the products and service, family and outreach. Lee’s vision for sustainability is steeped in bringing people along for the ride. Success, on paper, is only half the satisfaction. Both Lee and Kelly invest not only in the staff that work within the organization, but they also have a strong philanthropic connection to the community in which they operate. Kelly works closely with organizations such as the Barrie Colts, Habitat for Humanity, Easter Seals, Gilda’s Club, The Redwood Project, RVH Foundation and other local charities, to coordinate important connections to those in need.
The vision for tomorrow continues to be about growth – business, family and community. The Barrie and Simcoe area have proved to be more than home to BTM. However humbly Lee tells his family story, the legacy of this thriving business is a testament to vision and commitment of connection and fostering relationships within his community. Support goes both ways.