Hebert proud to be EY Entrepreneur of the Year

November 17, 2022, 11:12 am
Sierra D'Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Kristjan and Theresa Hebert at the awards ceremony in Calgary on Nov. 3, 2022.

On. Nov. 4, the president of Hebert Group, Kristjan Hebert, was recognized as a Prairies region EY Entrepreneur of Year at an awards ceremony in Calgary.

Hebert was one of the seven Prairies region entrepreneurs across Canada to win the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award.

“The event was good, I took my wife, my mom and dad, and Jeff Warkentin and Evan Shout, that’s my CEO and CFO, with me,” said Hebert.

“There were seven Prairie winners, it was good to meet the other companies. It’s always neat to talk to them and find out what they’re doing different.”

Hebert said it was exciting to be one of the winners.

“It’s always pretty exciting if your business gets nominated, yet alone happens to win,” said Hebert.

“For me, I think it’s because of the great team that we have around us that does pretty much everything. Some days I wonder what I do anymore. It’s always good for them to see, the team, that they’re going in the right direction.

“It’s always humbling to see the people that you’re beside. One of the other Prairie winners was the guy who owns all the Peavey Mart stores, 96 stores across Canada. To even be on the same stage as him is pretty humbling.”

The Hebert Group is a family of agriculture-based businesses based in Moosomin, Saskatchewan.

Since 1978, the farm has grown from 320 acres to over 30,000 acres. Hebert Grain Ventures also utilizes the latest in climate positive practices and cutting-edge technology.

“In my mind it’s still a family business, my dad’s there everyday, my mom’s kind of recently retired,” he said.

“I just explain it as I want to give my kids the opportunity to go to Harvard, but it’s my job to build something cool enough or progressive enough that when they are done university and get a job offer from Goldman Sachs and Facebook, that the Hebert Group offer is on the kitchen table with it.

“If they choose it that’s great, and if they don’t, that’s fine too, but, if I don’t build something progressive enough to at least be an option then I didn’t do a very good job.

“That’s sort of how I explain the growth and the goals for our business. Secondly, our team is growth oriented. They like the change and challenge, to me that’s part of the reason that we’ve had success not only as a farm, but on the human resources front is because we’ve just surrounded ourselves with a group of people who are ambitious. I think the more ambitious people you get in a room, the more things you can accomplish.”

Secret behind building a large business
Hebert spoke about how his business as increased its size over the last couple of decades.

“You only grow your business by people. We’ve been able to recruit and retain really good people on the team,” he said.

“We’ve been able to maintain and build pretty good relationships with landowners and also the companies we consult with on the other side.

“When I went to business school I read a lot of books and kind of rolled my eyes that if you focus on people and execution, to do what you say you’re going to do, that growth and money will follow that. I have to admit that I was wrong when I first read those books because it is.

“The business side is super important, but the people side, the relationship and networking side is what drives most progressive businesses in my mind.”

Hebert was asked what are some of the challenges for running a successful business.

“I would say some of the challenges, even though agriculture is the oldest industry in the world, it’s been pretty slow to adapt in certain areas when it comes to risk and financial management,” said Hebert.

“Banks and insurance companies still treat farms like they’re all pretty small and are not really educated. We spend a lot of time with our banks and insurance companies to really move them forward on some of the new innovative ideas that are available to other businesses that currently don’t always become available to farms.

“The other part is, I’ll use it because everyone says it, you’re always on the hunt for good people. I wouldn’t say it’s been really hard for us because we’ve been super lucky that our team helps us recruit, but we’re always looking for innovative ways around to find improved people to add to our team and continue to grow our team.

“I like to promote internally, not really bring outsiders in at a high level, we’re always trying to find new ways for our team members to grow and we can add another layer in underneath them.”

Winning as a Prairies region EY Entrepreneur of the Year, Hebert said this award will help shine a light on Hebert Group.

“These types of things for the Hebert Group are really good when it comes to human resources and recruiting talent,” he said.

“We’ve had to bring some young guys and girls over from New Zealand and Australia, when they’re looking on the internet to go look for a farm or an agriculture-consultant company. Everyone uses Google nowadays, it’s something that differentiates us compared to some other agriculture operations.

“That award really helps there. Our consulting company is based in Saskatoon, talent’s hard to get there and it’s no different than it is in Moosomin.

“I think that’s the biggest thing when it comes to stuff like this, it just allows you to differentiate and utilize social media and the internet to help attract talent.

“Also, it brings opportunities to you. It’s no different for a company like Ernst & Young (EY) who hosted this and probably had never heard of us because they’re not real big in the agriculture space. Now all of a sudden when we’re out there, we met most of the partners that are in M&A for instance, they started quizzing us on opportunities in agriculture and where they may be able to help us out.”

He said he is glad to be a business owner and is proud of Hebert Group for growing to be as big as it is, today.

“I’m pretty lucky to get up every morning and feel like I don’t have to go to work because I enjoy what I do every day,” said Hebert.

“I don’t think everyone in the world gets to say that. At our last Christmas party I think we had 26 or 30 kids under the age of 14 from all the people in our crew. I do lots of hockey in the winter, I enjoy going to the rink all the time whether it’s for my kids or someone that works for me whose kids are playing hockey. I enjoy having fun in the local community and building the local areas.

“Sometimes I think large farms and large businesses get thrown out as far as hurting the community and I would argue the other way.

“As I said, we have 26 to 30 kids in local schools. Our team members get to help pick where we put our donations to team sports, to education, and health care. I think our goal is to keep rural economies alive and that’s probably the part that’s exciting for me.”
Herbert was asked how he was selected for the award.

“I was nominated by someone in the business world and then I went through an interview process,” he said.

“I think it was between 50 to 90 nominations and they chose seven Prairie winners. This group will go forward for the Canada award after.”

The Prairie winners will move forward to compete against peers from the Pacific, Ontario, Québec and Atlantic regions at the national awards celebration in November 2022, where 10 national winners will be named.

The future of Hebert Group
Hebert sees a bright future for the Hebert Group.

“We’ll probably keep growing one way or another. I don’t always say that acres is growth, there’s lots of different ways to grow,” said Hebert.

“We’ve got a consulting company in Saskatoon, we’re looking at a couple value-add opportunities, but really it’s just a matter of maximizing the opportunities that our people allow us to take.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to grow our internal team and to add collaborations and joint ventures on the outside that might add value internally for us.

“I think everyone is important. I think team sports and rural roots are two things that I want to see on every resume that comes to our group, and I think it can benefit a lot of companies.

“That’s one of the highlights of being where we are, we’re lucky to be in Moosomin and in the area. It’s a little town with little town morals, but acts like a big city because of the area that it deals with. We’re pretty lucky to be based there.”