Versa Services Ltd.

Versa Services Ltd. spans Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia and from the U.S. border to Frobisher Bay in the far Arctic. In any one day Versa employees serve Canadians at airports, in schools, and hospitals, as well as regional correctional institutions, at sports and entertainment events, in homes for seniors, customers in public restaurants, and in an ever-increasing, wide cross-section of business establishments.

J.E. (Ted) Graham, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Versa Services Ltd.

Every one of the 12,000 full- and part-time employees at Versa is committed to providing quality services. In fact, the true hallmark of a Versa employee is that exceptional service to the customer and client precedes all other priorities. This includes support and operational front-line service staff, account and district managers, and vice presidents. This commitment can be directly traced to many executives including Ken Daigle, Dixon Chant and the visionary Ted Graham, who have charted the path for Versa’s success.

Today, Versa directs 16 operating divisions and subsidiaries which provide staff, management, and support services in food, nutrition, housekeeping, commercial cleaning, laundry, maintenance, materiel management and purchasing for a wide range of clients. Versa Services also provides full-line vending services and operates one of Canada’s largest group of companies providing brewed coffee for offices. A sense of Versa’s size can be gained by noting that 1200 operating units and over 30,000 office coffee locations produced 1996 revenues exceeding 400 million dollars. Each week Canadians make millions of individual purchases directly from Versa Services Ltd.

Commitment to service excellence is as much a priority for Versa Services today as it was in the past. First known as Vendomatic Services Ltd., the company was formed in 1961 through the merger of eight organizations under the leadership of Dixon Chant, with ownership made available to all Canadians through a public offering on the Toronto and Montreal Stock Exchanges. The initial corporate focus was clear: this people-oriented company would provide consistently high-quality services to Canadians.

In 1964 the company was renamed Versafood Services Ltd. Three years later, Philadelphia-based ARA Services Inc. (today known as ARAMARK) invested in Versafood, thereby increasing expertise and financial stability. By 1972 Versafood Services had been renamed VS Services Ltd., principally to recognize diversification into non-food areas. It had experienced rapid growth, moving from the $9 million of original merged businesses to $100 million in sales revenues. Highlighting that remarkable growth were new contracts in the health care sector, in the restaurant and theme park business, and in housekeeping services. As the company continued to expand across Canada, its present form began to develop so that, by 1976, VS Services was selected to provide food services for the 10,000 athletes and coaches at the Montreal Summer Olympics. The 1970s were formative years, a growth period in which sales volumes were constant while significant improvements were made in financial stability and profit.

An effective people handler, J.E. (Ted) Graham was chosen president and CEO in November 1980. Graham had joined the company in 1978 as vice-president, sales, bringing with him many successful years of experience with large corporations. Stressing growth through effective use of human resources, Graham was determined that employees became decision makers within a firm, centralized, financial control system. The operators responded to this changing corporate environment, thus freeing up new and innovative ideas for service improvement and ultimate client satisfaction.

As a result, Versa Services not only achieved remarkable growth in revenues under Graham’s visionary leadership throughout the 1980s but generated corporate loyalty among its many thousands of dedicated employees. In 1989, Canadian Hotel and Restaurant Magazine selected Ted Graham as recipient of its Silver Goblet award in recognition of his innovative and far-reaching contributions to Canada’s food service industry.

Versa Services strategically acquired control of 24 companies during the 1980s including Major Foods Limited of Nova Scotia, Parnell Foods Limited, Cory Coffee Services (the originators of the office coffee concept), and Modern Building Cleaning Inc. The purchase of Modern in October 1989 was, at the time, the largest acquisition in Canada in the contract service industry. Modern today is the largest provider of building cleaning services in Canada and employs over 4,000 full-time people from coast to coast.

In Quebec, a new name, Versabec, Inc., was established. Strong growth has made Versabec the largest service management company in la belle province.

As a result of the company’s unwavering commitment to clients and customers, Versa ended the 1980s with Ted Graham and his management team reporting a very impressive financial performance. By 1988 dividend payments had risen a remarkable 550 percent since Graham joined the company.

The roots of some of the businesses (now operating as Versa Services companies) date back over 100 years. The company is proud of its association with a significant clientele now entering their 20th, 30th, and 40th years of continuous service with Versa. Also indicative of the company’s strength is the lengthy service tenure of an ever-increasing number of employees throughout the organization.

Approaching the 21st century, the new management team led by president and COO Peter McCawley, a 26-year veteran at Versa, is well-positioned to carry on the record of vision and success of Ted Graham and past leaders. The company, privatized in 1995 and now employee-owned, brings a new zeal that will see Versa offering innovative solutions to meet clients needs and at the same time, providing service excellence to customers.