Shannon Bowen-Smed is the President & CEO of BOWEN Group, the leading independent Canadian recruitment and contractor management firm headquartered in Calgary, AB. Shannon was recently awarded 2018 WBE of the Year award and WBE Canada team was so impressed with her accomplishments and impact on the community that we decided to ask Shannon couple questions to inspire other women entrepreneurs.
WBE Canada: Why did you go into this business?
Shannon: My mother actually founded the business in 1974 and after a misguided start at University of Calgary, I joined her on what was intended to be a temporary basis while I sorted out my longer term career plans. Starting out as the receptionist of what was then still a small staffing agency of five people, I took the first tentative steps in my journey to where I am today. Over time, I took on different roles within BOWEN and eventually went back to the University of Calgary to earn my Human Resources certificate, and I worked closely with my mother and our colleagues to grow and expand our business. In 1996, I was offered the role of President. Today, BOWEN is an $80 million a year company. Next May I will celebrate my 35th year doing exactly what I was meant to: helping people.
WBE Canada: When it comes to your business, what are you most proud of?
Shannon: I don’t have just one thing and it does change from time to time. I think what I am absolutely most grateful for right now has been BOWEN Group’s ability to navigate what was the worst economic climate in our company’s 45 year history and to even be better because of it.
WBE Canada: As a business grows it has a tendency to focus on institution instead of inspiration. How do you prevent this from happening?
Shannon: In order to show up every day and love what I do, I believe everyone around me needs to do the same. To that end, we don’t just focus on what we do, we focus on who we are and the community around us. It means we get to bring our full selves to the office and with that all the things we love and care about. It makes for very rich and rewarding days.
WBE Canada: How do you encourage creative thinking in your company?
Shannon: I do one on ones annually with every member of our team. I invite them to share what’s working and what’s not. We carry those conversations in a more formal and holistic way with full company quarterly meetings where we brainstorm on innovation and opportunity. Creative thinking is simply part of our DNA.
WBE Canada: How has your WBE certification helped you in your business?
Shannon: It hasn’t yet, but I remain hopeful that the awareness and value of the program will hit Western Canada with the same impact it has in the East.
WBE Canada: How does your company champion diversity?
Shannon: We steward the growth and development strategies of the company and champion inclusive workplaces. One example of how we work towards supplier diversity is through BOWEN’s partnership with Stream Source. BOWEN operates and is invested in Stream Source, an Aboriginal-owned national provider of innovative recruitment and contractor management services. Stream Source’s mission is to secure long-term sustainable employment for Indigenous people; tradespeople and Indigenous businesses in a manner that is based on mutual trust, common understanding and open dialogue.
WBE Canada: What advice would you give to another woman at the beginning stage of building her business?
Shannon: Be so excited about it that it keeps you awake at night and be sure to surround yourself with the talent you don’t have to bring it to execution.
WBE Canada: What has been the most challenging time in your business and how did you overcome it?
Shannon: The past four years really tested our stamina and mental fortitude. However, on the other side of it, we have tripled our geographic scope and five times our signed master service agreement portfolio. Where there is a will there is a way.
WBE Canada: What has been the biggest triumph?
Shannon: While I am incredibly proud of the awards we have won, I think our greatest triumph has been the creation of our two client advisory boards, one of which has now been running for more than 25 years.
WBE Canada: What is your superpower?
Shannon: Networking. I can’t say enough about the doors it has opened for me and the opportunities it has created. Never allow yourself to be your city’s or industry’s best kept secret.
WBE Canada: How do you continue to develop and grow as a leader?
Shannon: I think my board work has been instrumental in challenging me to look outside the business to ask what could be. Surrounding myself with folks much smarter than myself keeps me on my toes.
WBE Canada: Has there been someone who inspired you and how?
Shannon: There hasn’t been just one person. I take inspiration from my colleagues, clients, family and community every day. I am reminded constantly that often great acts come from the folks we least anticipate them to.
WBE Canada: What is your favourite quote?
Shannon: No matter where you go, there you are.
WBE Canada: Are you actively involved in community work? If so, please provide a brief outline.
Shannon: I think we have a duty to give back to our communities that have supported our success – whether that’s through time and energy or financial contributions. Each month, we donate a percentage of BOWEN’s profits to charities dedicated to helping vulnerable families in Calgary. I presently sit on the Calgary Zoo Board, The Calgary Economic Development Board and I am Co-Chairing the YWCA Hub Development Fund Campaign.
WBE Canada: What do you hope your legacy will be?
Shannon: That I will have been part of elevating our industry from a people transaction focus to a human engagement experience.
About Bowen Group
BOWEN Group is the leading independent Canadian recruitment and contractor management firm. Throughout its 45-year history, BOWEN has transformed the human capital space and placed more than 120,000 candidates across the country. With a commitment to championing inclusive cultures, harnessing diverse talent and enriching safe working environments, it is BOWEN’s mission to make people matter. Connect with them on their website or on Twitter.
About WBE Canada
WBE Canada is a Canadian non-profit organization that is opening doors for women-owned businesses to supply chains across North America. It certifies Canadian firms that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by women and introduces them to opportunities with corporations. To learn more about how we support women-owned businesses, click here. If you are a mid-size or large company looking to support women-owned businesses through procurement opportunities, we want to hear from you. Click here to learn more how you can get involved.