“We’re busier than ever right now”

Are You Ready for the Next Boom?
November 3, 2015
New Year’s Resolutions for Your Business
January 4, 2016

“We’re busier than ever right now”

Downturn? What downturn? Many of Boreal’s clients are busier than ever this year, thanks to your steadfast commitment to success. But did you know there’s another characteristic you all share that will get you work—regardless of the economy?

We recently sat down with Phil Whitson of Whitson Contracting, one of Edmonton’s busiest contractors and a happy client of Boreal Services Group. As a 30-person team, Whitson is what you might call a small contractor, but they’re using that to their advantage, and they’re prospering as a result. With 10-20% annual growth projected for the next five years, Phil says, “We’re busier than ever right now, and we’ve got steady work for the next 14 months.”

Here are four ways Whitson is capitalizing on their smaller size to stay busy and successful in a slow economy. Their strategies will work for you, too!



1. Flexibility

A change order submitted to a larger contractor is a big deal: dozens of people need to get involved to review the request, adjust the drawings, change the price, redo the schedule, approve the new plan, and then completely change course to fit the new parameters.

It sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

The process is so much more efficient for a smaller contractor, a fact that Whitson has capitalized on to great effect.

The client needs something different; can we do it? The answer comes in just a couple conversations, not twenty, and then everyone gets back to work—often with very little effect on the original schedule.

You can sell this in your conversations with potential clients. A smaller team means less likelihood that a project will hit delays due to inevitable changes.


2. Adaptability

Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell, we all know the true disadvantage that Goliath was at in his battle against David. Picture Goliath doing yoga—not too bendy, is he? A similar scene plays out in the latest Jurassic Park movie, wherein (spoiler alert) the mighty T-Rex is taken down by the relatively tiny velociraptors.

A smaller opponent is better equipped than the bigger guys to adjust rapidly to a changing market. Less work in one sector? Whitson addresses this with a simple pivot: assess the diversification of the team, and leverage those existing skills to seek out work in other markets—particularly the commercial sector, where filling the pipe with a year of work kept them busy through the 2008 downturn, and is working again 2015.


3. Personality

Whitson’s hand-selected workforce is no accident: they’ve got an in-depth, personalized hiring process in place to ensure that each person on their 30-member team knows and buys into their strong company culture before being offered a position.

Does your company have a personality, a culture, or a series of guiding principles? If not, now is a really good time to invest in the branding process. For the Whitson team, a simple and relatable phrase dictates the road map for every project, and helps them stand out from the competition: We’re not done until we’d be happy with it in our own homes.


4. Efficiency

Whitson’s lean structure means they’re accustomed to making decisions quickly, and it’s been Boreal’s pleasure to maintain that expectation when it comes to engineering solutions.

The ability to assess a project’s challenges and provide innovative solutions quickly is a specialty we both prioritize, and when we met on the site visit for the Rossdale Power Plant project, we both knew right away that replacing the roof was going to be a challenge. The expected approach—standard scaffolding—was a safety concern on such a historic building, but we didn’t have much time to brainstorm an alternative.

Together, we came up with an innovative engineering solution that no one else had thought of: suspended scaffolding. It was unique, it was effective, it was efficient—and it got Whitson the job.

Consider the size of your team at its leanest. How can you leverage what you have now to get things done efficiently—for yourselves and your clients?

Thanks to Phil and the entire Whitson team! Learn more about them here.

We’d love to hear how your company is staying busy in the downturn, and we congratulate you all for doing the hard work of small business ownership. We’re keeping the economy going.

And if you’re looking for new ways to position your business for upcoming work, please let us know.


  1. […] place to be right now. Some insist that the economy is all doom and gloom, but our clients are proving that to be false, and as the old saying goes, you attract more of what you focus on. So let’s […]