Well, this is turning into a bit of a mini-series, isn’t it?
We can’t help it—Boreal clients are such an inspiration to us, and every time we learn something new from you (which is every day), we can’t help but think how valuable your insights are for everyone in this growing network of small business owners.
We’ve been working with the team at Connect Fall Protection for 12 months now, and we think you’ll agree that their success is well deserved. Despite a downturn in the economy and bleak forecasts in all the papers, Connect has been growing steadily for three years, and they’re projecting even greater expansion through 2016.
How, exactly? They’ve got a surprising answer to that.
Eight of them, actually.
But first, an introduction: Connect Fall Protection specializes in the kind of turn-key fall protection services that are often missing from the industry today. They conceptualize, install, inspect, and maintain both permanent and temporary fall arrest systems, and they offer fall arrest-related training, too. Their team of four services industrial and commercial job sites throughout northern Alberta, and they are planning for expansion beyond this through 2016.
Here’s Jason Karasewich on the unconventional business strategies they use at Connect Fall Protection to keep growing and expanding despite the doom-and-gloom forecasts.
Jason: One thing that sets us apart at Connect is that we’re all ironworkers. We have over 50 years of combined experience directly in the trade, and building a business around that has given us a strong foundation when it comes to communicating with our clients. We understand first-hand how jobsites work and how to be efficient on them. We’re in and out—no time is wasted.
Jason: Fall protection is one of those aspects of a project that had a lot of opportunity for improvement. We realized that manufacturers sell the product but can’t give a full turn-key service, so we’ve stepped in to take care of everything from sale through maintenance, which makes work easier for our clients.
Jason: Small diversities keep us rolling, and we always look forward to new challenges that make sense for our business. We recently completed a sound attenuation job, and some small structural jobs, but we’re being really intentional about it. Fall protection is our primary focus, and we’re doing more and more that across Western Canada, Northwest Territories and United States.
There’s a fine line there when it comes to diversifying. You don’t want to spread yourself or your resources too thin because you’ll end up losing anyway. As tradesmen, we seek out jobs that are related to our business and that can help grow our business. It’s worked so far: we’ve gone from a two-person team this time last year, to a peak of ten this year. Through our relationship with the Ironworkers Local 720, we are able to supply skilled labor on a moment’s notice. In 2016, we’ll be growing into a new facility of our own with a bigger crew to help us take on more projects.
Jason: The concept of fall protection is usually conceptualized at the architectural stage in a project, or at the eleventh hour. It’s often an afterthought because it’s not a big money-maker for a client, but we’re working to change that by preventing down time. We make the end user more productive because they’re comfortable and safer. Strategic and intentional fall protection planning makes for such a solid project, and we’ve had clients be so blown away by our process that they’re now actually getting excited about the fall protection aspect of their upcoming projects.
Our process is different in that we don’t show up onsite and give a client just one idea. We listen to their needs, consult with Dean at Boreal Services for engineering considerations, and then present a few options. No one else does it this way, but it makes for stronger relationships, more trust, and more efficient projects.
Jason: Boreal Services has helped our business with both engineering and safety. We’re in constant contact with Dean for engineering-related sessions that help us provide the best options for our clients. I think I’ve sent him 4 emails just today.
We’re also working with Deidra to reissue our safety manual. We’re looking to develop procedures for everything we do: job procedures, safe work plans, everything. We want everyone who joins our team to understand how we work and feel comfortable here. It’s hard work upfront, but we see the value, and it will pay off in the long run.
It’s already paying off to get these processes out of our heads and into a document that makes personnel changes fluid.
Jason: From the very beginning, we’ve built this business on the idea that our management team has clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The processes and procedures that we’re developing with Boreal Services make sure that things get done a certain way, but we also want everyone to feel like they can make their roles their own, and that they are driving this ship just as much as we are. Being replaceable means we don’t get too comfortable, and that keeps us focused on the right kind of growth. It also means that we are forever preparing for our own departure. The sustainable way to do that is to ensure that all our processes are documented and we are training the next in line.
Jason: Business is variable. We smooth out the bumps in the road by making sure our ongoing overhead is affordable in a worst-case scenario. You don’t want to be scrambling every time you hit a roadblock, and if money is coming in and out erratically, it’s tempting to force the growth at an unnatural rate just to keep up. We don’t want to do that.
We’re growing by focusing instead on relationships, which are so much more valuable than I ever understood. The relationships we’ve built within our business, and with our partners like Boreal Services and our clients—that has been our real strength in the downturn. There’s this old-guard way of thinking that says you should just get in, get dirty, and get out, but that’s not true—not in this economy, and not ever. People support one another, and people work with people they trust.
We want to be someone our clients trust.
Thanks again, Jason!
Find our more about Connect Fall Protection on their website.
P.S. More successful Boreal Services clients:
P.P.S. Here’s a great story from Global News about why now is a great time to start a business in Alberta.