BSCAI President Reflects on Career in Cleaning
- How Bee-Clean Acquired Heritage Building Maintenance
When looking at the history of Canadian building service contractors (BSCs), the Mack name is synonymous with industry pioneers. Starting with Henry Mack — an immigrant to Montreal from Ukraine who founded Brooklin Window Cleaning in 1896 — a generation-spanning tradition was born.
Michael Mack, Philippe D. Mack’s grandfather, would work with his uncle Henry until 1937, at which time he launched his own venture, Empire Window Cleaning, in 1938. Michael would then pass the torch and sell the business in 1954 to his sons Maurice and Daniel (Philippe’s father), who rebranded it to Empire Maintenance Inc. In 1956, another son, Edward, joined the company. The brothers along with other executives expanded the scope of services to include commercial cleaning and grew the client base nationally.
Fast-forward to 1984 as Philippe D. Mack graduates from Concordia University with a goal to follow in the footsteps of the generations before him. Proudly carrying on the Mack name, he would accomplish that goal over the next 42 years (and counting). The path for Philippe, however, was one less-traveled — and one that would require a certain sense of perseverance.
Philippe — who today is a Certified Building Service Executive (CBSE), serves as the CEO of Heritage Building Maintenance, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development for Bee-Clean Building Maintenance, and 2024 president of Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) — would learn that embracing change was necessary if he wanted to carry on the Mack family legacy in commercial cleaning.
A Winding Road
With generations of successful cleaning enterprises preceding him, Philippe understood the importance of working from the ground up and examining a business from every angle. Leading up to his graduation from university, Philippe worked a variety of jobs, developing a diverse skillset that encapsulated the many components of a facility management/cleaning business. For example, he worked as a custodian in a department store, as an equipment repair technician and even had exposure to administrative work as a payroll auditor.
“My dad wanted me to learn the business and to earn the respect of my colleagues and co-workers,” Philippe recalls. “He also told me if one day I wanted to work in the business full-time, I had to get to get a university degree. Empire is not a small company. It has complexities.”
After obtaining his Bachelor of Commerce degree, Philippe jumped right into full-time work in Empire’s sales department. Despite his last name, Philippe quickly learned that this job would be no ordinary nine-to-five, as his days often spilled into after-hours cold calls, work estimations and simply learning the ins-and-outs of what clients needed and how to deliver on those expectations. He thrived in this environment and cherished the experience — especially the connections he was able to build both within the company and beyond.
“I loved my experience at Empire, the people I met and worked with, the clients, the industry; it really had a significant impact on what I did,” says Philippe. “I spent a lot of valuable time with different colleagues fishing, hunting, and playing sports. I really got to know people and their families, which was super important for me.”
Those relationships fostered nine years of sales success in the Montreal office, after which Philippe took on leadership responsibilities as the general manager at Empire’s Toronto office. He stepped up again when the family decided to sell the Empire business in 1998.
Philippe played a vital role in helping to restructure the business and manage a crucial liquidity event as ownership shifted to Unicco (known today as Cushman & Wakefield). The sale was completed in 1998, and Philippe stayed on with Unicco to assist with the transition. His proficiency in assuring the transition went smoothly earned him a role with Unicco as vice president of Eastern Canada, a role in which he oversaw facility services until 2002.
This stretch of Philippe’s career saw many twists and turns in high-pressure situations, making him wonder if cleaning was his right fit. After his Unicco tenure, he took a short sabbatical to explore and learn about managing real estate properties, a related field. This would prove beneficial upon his return to the cleaning industry in 2003 with Aramark in Montreal.
During this period, Philippe started his family with his wife Beatrice in Toronto, and they now have two teenagers, Thayla and Tristan. His kids have also attended several BSCAI CEO conferences over the years.
It was not long before Philippe was recruited by Hurley Corporation Principal J. Michael Horgan in late 2004 to serve as senior vice president of operations for the Toronto-based entity. It was then that Philippe truly saw the benefits of having a diverse industry background pay off in what became a pivotal step in his professional journey.
“I stood out as a strong candidate when J. Michael’s number two socialized his retirement. My experience working in and facilitating the sale of a family business, my proven ability to navigate the transition and its dynamics and my focus on strong business values, made me uniquely qualified for the role,” reflects Philippe. "I started off as his senior vice president of operations, then got promoted in 2009 to chief operating officer, which included some business in the U.S., primarily in Upstate New York and Massachusetts.”
In 2010, Hurley, which had revenues of about $135 million at the time, sold to Compass Group Canada. Philippe again played a pivotal role in the transition process and earned the role of CEO of support services. Thanks to the relationships he had built across Canada and through his extensive knowledge of the region, Philippe would spend the next seven years helping to expand the scope of operations for Compass — including the acquisition of two additional BSCs in Canada — and growing the business to about $280 million in revenue by 2017.
How Bee-Clean Acquired Heritage Building Maintenance