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Doug Fixter - Who Am I?

I was born in 1936.  My mother was a farm girl from Clifford, ON of Swiss and German extraction.  My father was 7 when his parents brought their 6 children to Canada from England.

Growing up as one of 5 children, I have great memories of a close family, who despite having limited financial means, always had a positive and humorous view of life.  Mom stayed at home – canned, cooked and cared.  Dad spent all his working years as a foreman in a leather tannery.  Our house was on the outskirts of Kitchener.  It had a deep lot with room for a huge garden that provided amply.

Sports dominated my early life and shaped my character.  I was fortunate to be part of a group of really good local athletes.  We won the Ontario baseball Championships as both peewee and bantam.  I had every boy’s dream of playing pro but a broken thumb prevented that.  High school saw me balancing Jr. “B” hockey and football including a trip to the provincial Red Feather Tournament.

After graduating from high school, I went directly into the Chartered Accountancy training program with Thorne, Mullholland – now KPMG.  There I was taken under the wing of a man who had a great influence on my future – Bert Spry.  During this busy and stressful time, I did manage some diversions.  In 1955-56 I was a member of the Waterloo Siskins Sutherland Cup 


champions.  I married Donna MacPherson in 1958 and we had 45 great years together before she passed away in 2003 after fighting cancer for 12 years.  Our first son was born just prior to writing my CA finals – that presented a challenge, but good prevailed.  We had 4 great kids who have given me 4 grandchildren.

When my CA internship was finished, my inherent nature sought a pro-active business future and I moved from public practice to private industry.  A series of career advancements followed which prepared me for later. This was in an era when frequent career change was sometimes viewed as a measure of instability or even failure.  In my mind it served me well.

I moved to Montreal as Assistant Treasurer of Kingsway Transport where I got my first taste of the corporate world. One amusing remembrance is of the day we sent a driver out with a load of tennis shoes COD.  My instructions were to obtain a certified cheque for the goods and freight.  He arrived back with the customer’s cheque across which had been written “certified” in red ink - my first real life experience with bad debts.

I next moved to London with John Labatt where I learned about clear communication of employment conditions.  I was hired as Assistant Corporate Controller at head office but was immediately assigned to a subsidiary drug company to develop a standard cost system.  This was not what I want but I did learn a lot about cost systems which would benefit me later.

By now my former CEO at Kingsway was now CEO of its parent company, Canada Steamship Lines in the pre-Martin era.  I moved back to Montreal as controller of the Package Freight Division. There my operating experience grew exponentially as I was involved in everything from shipbuilding, to dispatch and deployment of ships, to labour negotiations.  What fun it was!~  It sure didn’t seem like a career in Finance.  But IIN 1967, the year of Expo and 4 years since my return, separatists were kidnapping ministers and putting bombs in mailboxes.  Education of children only in French was the new deal in Quebec, so we joined the Anglophone exodus.

Back in Waterloo, I joined the Sunar Division of Massey Ferguson.  There I got a great knowledge in manufacturing process and its accounting and controls.

In early 1969 I met the man who was most influential in my corporate life and my future success – Ralph Barford. He became a member of the order of Canada and has served on numerous corporate boards.  When we met he was a young entrepreneur who had fathered advertising on Yellow Page covers in North America.  He had sold his advertising business to his employees and after returning to Canada in 1960, purchased Beatty Brothers in Fergus, ON.  They did a reverse takeover of General Steel Wares (GSW) and thus began a 33 year career and a personal relationship that still continues.  Throughout my career with GSW I had a wide range of experience.  I was division controller in Fergus.  Over the ensuing years I had leadership roles in addition to Finance that included Human Resources, Organizational Planning, Long Range Corporate Planning, Business Development, Acquisitions and Divestures.  I also had operating responsibility for many businesses requiring turn around.  I 1979 I was sent to the 13 week Advanced Management Program at Harvard. When I retired in 2002, I was Senior Vice-President.

I never lost my love for hockey and would drive from Toronto to play with a group of old-timers until I was 60.  For many years I “struggled” at golf but eventually embraced Mark Twain’s  philosophy – “golf is a good walk spoiled” so I golf less and walk more.

 Now I play “old fart” tennis – the object of which is to hit the ball where your opponent CAN return it.  I play with my favorite partner and best friend with whom I have partnered for 5 year.  Gloria Nordby, whom I have known since high school, happily was talked out of a successful real estate career and into my life.  We travel extensively and spend time with our merged family of 7 children and 10 grandchildren.

With that happy thought let me say how much I enjoy the fellowship of Probus and how pleased I am that we have coffee back!

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