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Elaine Minacs: Staying the course

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

Imagine you've started out on the journey of your dreams. You're not exactly sure where you're going, but you've got your sights set on the horizon.

Suddenly, a large boulder lands in your path. Some will get busy, trying to figure out how to get around the boulder, climb over it or even move it out of the way. Others will simply turn back and call the whole journey off.
Elaine Minacs, CEO, Minacs Worldwide.

And then there's Elaine Minacs. Those closest to the president and CEO of Minacs Worldwide say she wouldn't see the obstacle at all.

That unwavering spirit has allowed the 57-year-old to scale heights she never imagined when she set out in search of a flexible schedule to accommodate her young daughter and a chance to control her own destiny.

It's been 20 years since Minacs launched The Employment Centre Inc., a temporary staffing agency based in Durham Region. "It's always important not to be daunted by where it's going to go, you just know it's going to be somewhere great," she says of her early motivation.

As the company evolved, Minacs embraced new technology and launched a call centre business. "It just catapulted us into an entirely different world. The secret there was we weren't afraid to look for innovative solutions," Minacs says.

For three years, Minacs operated both the staffing agency and the contact centre business. Soon, she realized the need to focus her energy and resources on just one venture.

"The temporary services agency was a bit of a sunset business," the Toronto resident says of her decision to sell it.

"I saw us entering an evolving marketplace. If you enter the market early, you have an opportunity to become a market leader, and you start helping design the future."

With the creation of Minacs Group Inc. in 1989, Minacs focused her sights on Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Customer care centres, she determined, would fill an important niche, allowing companies to communicate more effectively with their customers to achieve long-term relationships and loyalty.

"It was an evolving industry, and it wasn't massively understood by the marketplace. Its potential wasn't understood. The technology, which was one of the drivers, was also evolving," says Minacs.

Encouraged by clients that included large corporations like GM, Minacs created The Minacs Group (USA) and eventually Minacs Worldwide, which employs 4,000 people and has offices in 23 locations in Canada, the US and Europe.

Today, the company provides customized, multimedia contact centre services to Fortune 500 clients. It has been growing by more than 50% annually -- twice the growth rate of the CRM industry.

Minacs has achieved that growth through a three-tiered strategy of organic expansion, acquisitions and strategic alliances. She took the company from a privately-held corporation reporting revenues of $35.9 million in 1998, to a publicly-traded company with recorded revenues of $146.1 million in 2001.

Her goal is to see Minacs become a $500-million (Canadian) company on five continents by 2004. "Beyond that, we know we need to be a billion-dollar company. What will our company look like in so many years? I don't know that it will look a lot like the company we are today."

She credits her success to her ability to dream and the courage to stay the course, despite -- or perhaps because of -- any boulders that might have landed in her way.

"To be able to dream big dreams is really wonderful," Minacs says. "Another element is being able to problem solve or see around the corner and not be daunted by obstacles."

(Linda White ( is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)

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