Steve Madden—Reinventing how a non-profit delivers housing in Grande Prairie
Steve Madden: Master of Business Administration, 2015
Based in: Grande Prairie, Alta.
Steve Madden has never been complacent. After studying environmental science in his native P.E.I., he couldn’t find a job locally so he packed up and moved west to Alberta.
He spent the next 2 decades building a successful career in his chosen field, most recently as an environmental service manager. Through it all, Madden had another, bigger plan in mind: to get his MBA.
“My motivation was professional growth,” he said. “The MBA would give me the tools to do what I’d always wanted, to be a leader in my community.”
After completing his Athabasca University (AU) MBA in 2015, Madden moved quickly through 2 senior management positions, first at a local engineering company and then in Bon Accord, a small community northeast of Edmonton. He most recently took the helm of the Grande Spirit Foundation (GSF), a non-profit housing management body that provides rental accommodations for more than 1,500 seniors and families throughout northwestern Alberta.
“My motivation was professional growth. An MBA would give me the tools to do what I'd always wanted, to be a leader in my community.”– Steve Madden, MBA '15
As GSF’s chief administrative officer, Madden works with his employees as well as provincial and federal counterparts to find capital for future housing projects. The need is significant, and there are “huge wait lists,” Madden said, adding he was drawn to this work because of his progressive social politics, as well as his experience managing rental properties as a family side business.
Madden is already making his mark at GSF by leading the development of a proposed $24-million care residence in nearby Spirit River that would accommodate 125 seniors and employ up to 30 people.
It’s a break from the organization’s roots. To date, GSF has primarily provided housekeeping and meal services with homecare to seniors who are able-bodied. But Madden’s plan is to build a facility that will be able to provide 24/7 assistance to residents who develop dementia, mobility, and eating difficulties. The goal is to help people to “aging in place,” which is increasingly important as Canada’s population gets older.
This “shift in thinking,” as Madden calls it, has proven complex since it entails dealing with many different stakeholders in order to move the project from wishful concept to reality. The epic challenge was conceived before Madden’s arrival at GSF, but it’s no less his baby.
Whether working to motivate employees or negotiating with cash-conscious governments, Madden has applied a “win-lose/win-win” principle, something he learned during his MBA. Madden begins by trying to understand where the other party is coming from, or, “What their limitations are,” he said. He then builds a solution from that point rather than forcing his position from the start, something required for being a good leader.
“If something goes sideways, you accept the blame,” Madden said. “But if it’s a success, then you give it back to staff and say this is your win, not mine. You have to be humble.”
“That’s what defines an MBA graduate, you’re always thinking outside the box and trying to better your community.”– Steve Madden
Madden is also putting this wisdom to use as the newly elected president of the local Rotary Club, where he plans to help rebuild a community centre, support youth exchange programs and scholarships, and raise funds to send service vehicles such as school buses, ambulances, and fire trucks to Mexico.
For Madden, receiving an MBA was a double dream come true. He was not only the first in his family to get university and graduate degrees, but his education also landed him squarely in that coveted role of community leader, trying every day to improve the lives of neighbours near and far.
“That’s what defines an MBA graduate,” Madden said. “You’re always thinking outside the box and trying to better your community.”
Looking ahead, Madden is optimistic about getting that new seniors’ residence up and running. “It will require planning, business acumen, negotiations, and strong relationships,” he said. “Success in this area will be a milestone for the organization.” And, surely, for this MBA grad too.
Learn more about AU’s MBA program.