Alumni couple builds business behemoth, gives back to industry and community

SFU alumnus Greg Malpass (BBA ’99) spent nearly a decade in marketing and sales roles after graduating with a bachelor of business administration—and then created his own company, Traction on Demand, in 2006.

What started as a way to help a small client group unite sales and marketing teams is now North America’s largest, dedicated salesforce consulting and application development firm—and one of the continent’s fasting-growing technology companies.

Today, Traction has more than 340 employees, four offices across the continent and has made Canada’s Top 10 Great Places to Work list for four years running.

A visit to Traction’s Burnaby headquarters reveals why. From the unique office setup and décor to an employee hot lunch program, the unconventional company’s success begins in its own workplace.

Malpass’s leadership style, and his SFU academic career, are equally unconventional.

“While I graduated from SFU with a business degree, I never actually gained admission to the faculty,” recalls Malpass, who graduated in 1999 majoring in marketing, international business and finance.

“After my first semester, I had a 1.54 grade point average (out of a possible 4.33) and was on academic probation. From then on, I had to negotiate my way into every class until I graduated.”

Yet in just 10 years, Malpass has grown his company beyond all expectations. By 2016, it ranked 21st on the PROFIT 500 list. The same year, Deloitte named it one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, placing it 21st among its “Fast 50,” and 177th on its “Fast 500” across North America. Business in Vancouver (BIV) ranks Traction as the 11th fastest-growing company in B.C.

The company’s success is a labour of love that Malpass shares with wife and SFU alumna, Michelle. A communication graduate (2003), she held several non-profit-sector posts before joining the company as director of community performance in 2012. At the time, she was one of just 10 employees.

Greg Malpass’s commitment to workplace culture and community, and his leadership style, have also led to significant awards. In 2013 BIV named him to its Top 40 Under 40 list, and in 2016 named him CEO of the Year. The Burnaby Board of Trade named him 2016 Business Person of the Year.

Today, Malpass is active in B.C.’s tech community, sitting as a board member with the B.C. Tech Association, and as a partner with B.C. Social Venture Partners. He’s also active in the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) and Young President’s Organization, and sits on the advisory board for the new ‘Institute for Entrepreneurship’ established by Charles Chang at SFU’s Beedie School of Business.

The Malpasses also have a passion for philanthropy, creating Traction for Good, the company’s community engagement program. Since 2011 the company has directed 100 per cent of its partner referral fees to funding technology projects for non-profit organizations.