Skeleton Steel Plans So Your Job Isn’t D.O.A.
May 31, 2015
How to Get COR Quicker
July 1, 2015

How to Prosper in a Downturn

The price of oil can be a scary thing to watch here in Alberta. So many of us depend on it for our livelihoods…

…or do we?

Believe it or not, it IS possible to prosper in an economic downturn, even if you work in oil and gas. Our clients are proof of that, and we’re so proud to serve such a creative and industrious group across multiple industries.

We’re particularly inspired this month by the group at Octo Mechanical, who have been growing steadily through the downturn and have been partnering with Boreal for safety program maintenance for several years now. They’re hard at work across Alberta (on oil and gas sites and elsewhere), and they show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Acting general manager Vern Johannson is here to share exactly how you can do it, too.

Vern, tell us about Octo Mechanical.

We’ve been around since 2012,  doing millwright and onsite machining work. We’re based in Leduc, Alberta, but we do all our work out of town — typically on industrial oil and gas sites, but we’re in other industries, too. Equipment installation is our speciality and our forte.

Octo1A vapor recovery unit, installed by Octo Mechanical,
at the Husky refinery in Lloydminister.

Have you really stayed busy even in the current downturn?

Yes, we’re busier than ever right now.

How is that possible?

We have a three-pronged approach to success that isn’t dependant on economic conditions:

  1. People.

    From our onsite team to our leadership group, we focus on people. It’s important in boom times and in slower times. This business really is all about attitude.

  2. Quality.

    We are committed to providing high-quality work every day. It’s how we set ourselves apart and become a provider of choice, regardless of what’s going on around us.

  3. Solutions.

If we see problems or challenges, we never just throw them back at the customer. We figure out how to make those challenges go away, or we remedy them without turning them into RFIs with weeks of delays. This is one the biggest things that has kept us onsite in slower times. We come up with solutions.

What do you prioritize between jobs?

We focus as much as possible on internal readiness — that is, getting ourselves prepared for each next job. In our first couple of years, we did most of our preparations in direct reaction to customer request. We were just trying to keep up, but now we can position ourselves better before things ramp up. We get ourselves strategically ready so that tools, equipment, and manpower are a lot easier to deploy when we need them in the field.

This project included the complete installation and commissioning
of three booster pumps at the Foster Creek site.

How did you get started with Boreal Services Group?

We needed someone to help us develop a safety manual that we could present to our clients and that would meet all the OH&S requirements. Deidra was recommended to us, and she gave us a great product.

A Climax FF6200 flange facing unit that Octo used 
to repair some 42” pump flanges at an Enbridge site.

How has the relationship evolved?

It continues to grow, and it’s been a big weight off our shoulders to be able to count on Deidra to handle so much. She does our ongoing safety stuff, she handles our project management software (SmartSheet), and she’s now doing our tailgate stuff as well. This is really valuable — we just open it up, and our daily tailgate topics are right there for us. We use them across multiple sites. There are always fresh ideas ready for us.

Deidra has been excellent, and she’s always there to help when we need it.

Forrest KerrA travel cutter is used to cut and bevel (weld prep) 112” hydro dam inlet
piping in Northern BC.  This work site was about 2 km inside a mountain.

What do you foresee for Octo over the next 5 years?

We expect to maintain where we’re at right now. We are following up on project opportunities, and we’re considering work on the maintenance side of things, too. All our of guys are capable of adapting to other types of work, and we work in a lot of different industries, so while we do a lot of work in oil and gas, we’re open to and experienced in other avenues, too.

What advice do you have for others who want to prosper in the downturn?

The real key is to step outside of the economic conditions.

If what you’re doing has been working, narrow in on the qualities of that, and see if you can open more doors with the same attitudes and processes you’ve been using.

If you’re really starting to slow down, now’s the time to take a good look at what you’re doing. There are others out here who aren’t slowing down, so what other factors can you harness to turn things around? We may not be able to change the price of oil, but we can focus on those three things above, and we can position ourselves well by being willing to work with clients in new circumstances. Things like timing, rates, and added value are all up for adjustment to make for win-win opportunities in any climate.

Ultimately, if you want to get onsite, you can find a way to make it work.



Thanks, Vern! What do you think, everyone? How will you apply Octo’s success strategies to your own business?

For more about Octo Mechanical, visit them online, or email GM Vern Johannson at

For more on how Boreal can help you prosper in a downturn, contact us


  1. […] little bit and wondering when the next opportunity will come your way. We’ve written before about how to prosper in a downturn, but we know there’s less work out there right now, and that many of you are wondering how to […]

  2. […] 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 focus on growth […]

  3. […] little bit and wondering when the next opportunity will come your way. We’ve written before about how to prosper in a downturn, but we know there’s less work out there right now, and that many of you are wondering how to […]