Barb Tait

General Manager and Co-Owner (Business Administration, BBA)

Barb Tait, Electrolab Training Systems

Even before applying for university, Barb Tait knew she had a strong interest in business. She chose to pursue business studies at Laurier because she had heard great things about the university. Barb speaks very highly about her professors and maintained that they were the best part of her Laurier experience. Her advice to students is to utilize professors’ office hours because they genuinely want to help you. Barb graduated from the BBA program at the top of her graduating class and was awarded the Governor General Gold Medal, which is given to the student with the highest average across all faculties.

During her studies, Barb discovered that her favourite classes included organizational behaviour and human resources. She carried the skills she acquired in the classroom into her career at Electrolab Training Systems, a family-run business that she joined immediately after graduation. Electrolab Training Systems provides workplace safety training programs to other businesses. The product that they are most proud of is SAFESTART™, a product that allows employees at any firm to broaden their safety awareness and develop their personal safety skills.

Barb believed that her business program equipped her with comprehensive skills, knowledge and experiences to tackle the labour market right away. She strongly advises students to foster real-world, work experience before pursuing a masters, doctorate or any post-graduation business training program, “as experience is what helps you to make the connections between classroom theory and the challenges of execution – actually getting things done in the business world.”

Barb mentioned that one thing she wishes university had encouraged more students to do was to look for jobs with smaller firms. She said that employment with small businesses provides the perfect opportunity to develop and enhance your skills, not to mention that most new job creation exists in the small business world. When Barb started working at Electrolab it was a small business with only 15 employees. She knew right away that she did not want to focus in just one area and she saw that the business lacked the structure and organization that a great manager could provide. While her other family members were busy developing sales leads and product lines, she knew that she could provide more foundation for all the other employees. They needed a manager; someone who would be in charge of staffing such as firing and hiring, solving daily problems, meeting with the bank and even payroll.

As general manager and co-owner of the company, Barb is in charge of all the employees at the head office. Her job is to be with the employees on a day-to-day basis and to train them so that they understand the vision and strategy of the company. Barb maintains that the most important part of her job is connecting with the employees and encouraging them so that they can flourish within the company. Another important part of her job is the projects, which are a constant at any company. They are always looking ahead, whether it is updating the software that they are using or developing a new website.

Barb mentioned that as a manager, you are a leader and people look up to you for direction. She is always making final decisions on behalf of the company striving for consensus but also what is in the best interest of the corporation. Barb is responsible for the outcome of the decision and making sure that at the end of the day her employees are getting a positive work experience and a pay cheque.

Barb notes that interpersonal skills are the most important aspect of her HR oriented role. She said it is integral that you know your employees so that you are aware of their capabilities and how you can help them. As well, delegation, accountability, being humble and letting people work for you while still having autonomy in their role is equally important. You are not going to be the smartest person in every area of the company, which is why you hire the best people for that job! Barb said that you will not be able to grow your business by pretending you know everything. Her advice is that if you want to focus on one thing only, small business or entrepreneurship may not be for you. The saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none” – and you have to be comfortable with this.

Over the past 20 years, Barb, along with her father and brothers, has been able to grow the company from 15 employees to over 70. They are rapidly growing with the need to constantly hire more employees. The company is also looking to expand by moving the office to a bigger and better building. Barb said that she loves watching the business grow and most importantly she loves seeing her employees grow and succeed in what they are doing. Barb holds that if you want to be in a small business, you have to believe in it. You have to believe that what your business is doing is important.

“I highly recommend a career in small business. You know you make a difference every day, and can see the results of your efforts – it’s a career you can take pride in.”