Local company returns to basics of business
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 24, 2013 06:00 am
A local company has returned to the basics of business by building relationships.
Located in St. Albert’s Campbell Business Park, Synergy Projects has ridden the ups and downs of the financial markets like any other construction company. But throughout its 20-plus years, it survived by shifting its focus according to the market, and social changes.
Now Synergy looks to build on past experiences to tackle the coming years.
“Construction has not changed in our industry for hundreds of years,” said Marius Veldtman, vice-president of operations and business development. “It’s still somewhat secretive to our recipe going forward but a big part is going out there and changing how we do business in a construction organization.”
When Dennis Mozak, president of Synergy, started the company in 1996, Veldtman said he focused on commercial construction. But with the downturn of the economy in 2007, the company was soon forced to expand into other markets and has grown ever since.
Today, its 100-soul workforce manages everything from the construction of office buildings, to commercial and retail developments, residential housing, recreational facilities and tenant improvements.
Synergy is also one of the largest contractors for public institutions in the Edmonton area (building health care and research facilities for local universities such as Grant McEwan and the University of Alberta,) and one of the few companies with ISO standard certified quality control and environmental processes.
While some of its more recent projects have taken the company all the way from Fort McMurray to Victoria, B.C., Veldtman said its focus remains local.
“We see a competitive marketplace now being shared with people from Ontario and British Columbia and all over the place,” he said. “Mostly on the institutional sector. But in the private sector site, the city of Edmonton and surrounding communities are still a very tight network.”
But Synergy does not only diversify in the marketplace. Since its early beginning, the company seeks tight relationships with both customers and employees.
To keep relationships, Synergy’s senior management team decided to remain personally involved with their clients. Veldtman said that begins with building trust in the early stages of the planning phase and goes as far as making a monthly phone call to check on the process of construction.
Though he remains vague about future plans, Veldtman looks to use a similar approach with his employees.
The younger generation especially, does not only care about money but also experience and travel, he said. With 75 per cent of his staff employed in the field, he wants to improve communication with workers – although that may involve unusual practices.
“I can’t say that enough to my teams – but we need to understand what you need for the younger generation,” he said. “I joke about it, having text lines to the office, but the reality is they don’t speak to people anymore.”
But Synergy cannot complain about high turnover rates. Many of the office staff were handpicked by Mozak and remain loyal to the company, Veldtman said, albeit some left the company in the past only to return a few months later.
Most of the company is employee-owned, which holds many of its staff accountable, he added. But management also decided to add a few extra perks to make life at the office more comfortable – with a fully staffed kitchen and exercise room with a personal trainer.
While that doesn’t eliminate challenges in human resources, Veldtman said understanding future generations and new technologies will save them from surprises once the older generation retires. The next step is to expand employee ownership from the office to the crew in the field, and knowing their dreams.
“Without the people most companies have nothing. And if the people don’t appreciate you or have value or royalty in the company that won’t represent you as a company,” Veldtman said. “You can’t say much more than the fact that you are selling people.”