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Company focus Feb 22, 2023

In conversation with Jo-Anne MacLean

In conversation with...

Jo-Anne MacLean

Calgary branch manager at SERV-ALL Mechanical Services (Alberta, Canada)

A Reliable Controls Authorized Dealer since 1987



Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, surrounded by family and music. I have one brother, Michael, but my dad came from a family of 16 kids and my mom from a family of eight. There was never a shortage of cousins at family functions. And it’s really family that shaped who I am. I moved across the country when I was 18 to follow a dream of skating in the Olympics. For a large portion of my life I was an athlete; I was a short-track speed skater. I trained in Calgary until I was 26. Even though I didn’t get to skate in the Olympics, it was a very unique experience, and I took a lot of life lessons from it that I still rely on and use almost daily. After retiring from speed skating, I decided to focus on my education. I went back to school and took my electrical engineering degree. In my third year I met my husband, Blaine. We’ve been married now eight years, and we have two boys. Rohan is our oldest—he’s six, and Isaac is two. They are my whole world. I also have two stepsons, Kayden and Soren. And we have two dogs and a cat. So the life we’ve created here in Calgary is a busy one, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. 

How has skating served you professionally?

It taught me discipline and consistency. Being an athlete teaches you how to set a goal and achieve it and how to do it in a way that’s smart—making sure it’s measurable and attainable. Those are skills I apply in what we do today.

What else are you passionate about?

Family. Growing up, I spent all my summers in Washabuck, a small community on the Bras d’Or Lake in Cape Breton. My family has had ties to the community for nine generations. It has a strong Celtic heritage, so there was fiddle, and cèilidhs (step dancing), and stories around the campfire. My time there gave me a strong sense of family and community, of being part of something that’s bigger than me. That’s a passion I strive to instill in my children as wel


Describe your work responsibilities.

My job title is Calgary branch manager, but because we’re a small office, there are all kinds of roles to fill. Five years ago, with the support of our other two offices, I started the branch here in Calgary, and since then I’ve been involved in all aspects of our business: development, marketing, estimating, project coordination, service coordination, budgeting, and process planning. I’m part of the level 10 team that consists of members from all three branches. We meet weekly to make decisions that impact the organization. I’m lucky to be part of a team that adapts well to change and has been willing to step up and take on responsibilities as we continue to grow. We now have six full-time people in Calgary and over 60 people in our organization. We all rely on one another’s strengths and expertise.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

How every day is different. Every day has a unique challenge. Sometimes I’m out on site or answering calls, helping customers, or out meeting people. There are so many facets to the job that it always has something to keep me interested.


How do you grow business, and what projects are you most proud of?

At first, here in Calgary, there was a lot of door knocking—finding buildings that had existing Reliable Controls systems we hadn’t installed and trying to repair relationships. Doing that legwork, and in-person visits, generated a couple of projects I’m proud of. There were a few renovation projects where we went in and completely renovated the building automation system. Through maintaining customer contact, and them being very happy working with us, we were sole-sourced on their next big build. When that customer expanded another building, we were basically sole-sourced again. That all came back to the relationship we had developed—taking time to have coffee, talk to the operators, see what their day looks like, what impacts them, and what would make life easier. And just listening. That extra little bit can go a long way. At the end of the day, they trusted us. And now they’ve asked us to come in and do all their service maintenance work.

How would you like to see the industry develop?

I’d like to see some change around the bid specification process. It would be really nice if customers had more input and had more decision-making power in that process. When the job is awarded to the lowest bidder, the solution may be inexpensive but in the long run can cost the customer more money. I find the process frustrating at times. I’d like to help the customer find a solution that’s best for them.


Hindsight is always 20/20. If you could, what might you do differently?

When I was asked to start up the office in Calgary, I really focused on existing building owners: I went to operators, knocked on doors, and called maintenance departments. I tried to understand what they needed. I then went to engineers—we did some presentations and lunch-and-learns and tried to get into specifications. As a third step, I started to address the mechanical contractors. In hindsight, addressing contractors earlier might have been a better move, since they’re highly involved in the bid-spec process. We’re now starting to win jobs through bid specification, but it took a long time. So I would probably change the order I went about making contacts.


The SERV-ALL team from left to right: Daniel Kantyluk, Tyler Szpytma, team member, Jo-Anne MacLean, Curtis Termeer, Michael Jones.


Why do you choose to align with Reliable Controls? 

At SERV-ALL our core values are reliable, responsible, respectful. If you work for SERV-ALL, these are also your personal values. Basically, everybody in our company has to represent those. SERV-ALL aligned with Reliable Controls because those values aligned. The two companies have been a great fit for many years.


What do you enjoy most about working with Reliable Controls?

It’s a product and a company that has a solid reputation and something you can be proud to stand behind. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a Canadian manufacturer, either. Customers always like that side of it.


How do you demonstrate to clients that you are people they can rely on?

You have to earn that. It’s a lot of work, and it’s ongoing. I like to think our SERV-ALL team represents what we stand for; we’re very customer focused. The big thing is consistency. It’s not just the person in the business development role, seeing customers and talking over coffee, who makes an impression. I think of our field guys—they represent what the company is all about. How we treat operators, and the mechanics on site, matters. We look for those values when hiring new team members. 

When caring about customers is part of my team’s responsibilities, it changes their perspective. We enable people to fulfill that role by encouraging them to talk with customers and find out what their issues are. I tell my team it’s not necessarily important to have the answers but to listen to the customer. Make sure they feel heard and trust you’ll get back to them. When you’re newer to a position, that can be a little intimidating, but it usually goes a long way in showing we’re a company that can be relied on.


Do you expect your branch to grow?

Yes, we definitely will grow. It’s a large market, and I think Reliable Controls should have a bigger portion of it. I believe in our products and our team. I believe in what we stand for. So if you ask me what I think is best for our customers, we should be in all their buildings.