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A history lesson

Author: Professor Joe Martin


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In 1858, nearly a decade before the creation of the Dominion of Canada, a young Scottish immigrant named Philip S. Ross gave up a secure position as a Montreal ship’s chandler to found his own accounting firm. When Ross was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame, the citation described him as “one of the Fathers of Accounting in North America.”

One hundred and fifty years later the firm he began — Deloitte Canada — has become not only Canada’s largest professional services firm, but also one of our largest businesses, serving thousands of clients through a network of more than 55 offices and 7,600 people.

How did the original enterprise become one of Canada’s important service providers? Through a commitment to client service, delivered by professionally competent people who care about their clients’ welfare.

But growing from one person to more than 7,600 was not achieved by simply recruiting and retaining good people. It was done by reaching out in what was originally a field of hundreds of small professional firms. Over the years, a number of mergers permitted the firm to serve its clients better with a wider range of offerings.

One of the largest of the mergers occurred in the late 1950s when P.S. Ross & Sons combined with George A. Touche. In 1990, Touche Ross joined forces with Deloitte Haskins & Sells Samson Bélair, and has since operated as Samson Bélair/Deloitte & Touche in Quebec and Deloitte & Touche elsewhere in Canada.

Through the years and through the mergers, the focus has always been on clients — on major Canadian corporations such as Sun Life, the Royal Bank, the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Bell, the Irving Companies, and on thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs.

Some of these entrepreneurs became world famous, like Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil. Others simply contributed to their local community by providing goods and services.

For 150 years, the firm that has become Deloitte has served clients well by recruiting and retaining people who care about their clients’ success. This is why Deloitte consistently strives to be one of Canada’s top rated employers — and why it will continue to succeed in serving its diverse client base.

Joe Martin is a former leader of Deloitte’s international Consulting practice. His upcoming book titled “Relentless Change: Capitalism in Canada from the Mid 19th to 21st Century” will be jointly published by the University of Toronto Press and the Rotman School of Management.

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