PROFIT/Chatelaine W100


Martha Zenker

Founder & President

Company Profile

Company: Lisgar Development Ltd. Head Office: Oakville, Ont. Website:

Company Financials

3-year revenue growth (%): -22 2013 Revenue: $5M-$9.9M Employees: 15
Revenue from Exports (%): 0    


What her company does: Owns, manages and rents out commercial properties ||

In the 58 years since Zenker opened Lisgar—facing the serious challenge of being a woman in construction in the 1950s—she’s learned a lot about business. But perhaps the most valuable lesson has also been the most painful: that succession can easily go awry. In the late 1990s, Zenker performed an estate freeze and gave each of her children common shares in the firm. One of the kids had different plans than the others, and it took a decade of litigation, a big buyout and a near-total restructuring to settle things. “Getting a successful business running is extremely challenging, but the battle doesn’t end there,” says Zenker, who, at 92 years old, credits her business with maintaining her health. “The estate freeze seemed wise, but people change for the worse with money. Receiving good legal, accounting and succession advice would have made a world of difference.”