FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Daryl Ronsky
September 22, 2015
Why are you successful? “I used to be a mechanic’s helper. It was really important to anticipate what he’ll need next. Being able to anticipate what people – bosses, staff, and customers – need. I’m the helper … not the kick-in-the-walls leader. And I’m easy to get along with.”
What has held you back? “I haven’t been held back.”
I asked him, why pipelines – as opposed to other elements of the industry, or other areas of engineering? He told me there is a common thread through his life – his work, his career, everything – that is ‘new stuff’. “It’s fun!”
He runs the Canadian operations of the ROSEN Group – Rosen Canada. If you aren’t in the pipeline field, you’ve possibly not heard of them. An interesting story, fascinating company – intriguing counterpart/client to work for, to work with on some fascinating (for me!) projects.
When I met Daryl Ronsky - several years and transactions ago – he interviewed me to be his back-up real estate agent, standing-by if the need arose. It did, and so began my education in ‘things that matter to Rosen’, and an intriguing relationship with someone quite unlike any other client I’ve met in my career. I thought he’d be a good interview – and it only took two years to finally get him to agree … so here is the product of our recent sit-down at his office:
“I like to see people doing things they are good at – getting the right people into the right position. That’s challenging when you grow as quickly as we have – because the skill-combinations we need now are not the same as in start-up phase”.
Growing up (born in Edmonton, Hinton, Edson) he got exposed to the outdoors and typical influences of school/sports – skating, hockey, school. Jobs at a bottle depot, flagman on a road crew, mechanic’s helper, KFC (though he says he hasn’t eaten any in forty years) – eldest of three boys, mom did office/admin work, dad worked the post office. Daryl says he scraped through engineering school – he wasn’t good at math. B.Sc. (Mechanical Engineering) from University of Alberta, P.Eng. On the subject of further education .. “someday I’ll return …”.
His resume is long, zig-zag, incremental and totally pipelines! His summer jobs, every job along the way from his start in 1975 with Nova back when it was still called Alberta Gas Trunk Line – early career engineering work, drawings, pumping stations – and consulting assignments between work at Nova, BG, GE and Rosen – starting with small crews, building. When he was recruited by Rosen to head Canadian operations in 2008 the staff was 6 including Daryl. Today it is 130. No acquisitions, just organic growth. Daryl tells me that is 80% pipeline inspection work, 15% consulting work and 5% software. And they keep growing …
Of the stories he tells – few are as entertaining as his description of how he met his wife Janet, also an engineer, when their paths crossed in the field. He remarked that anyone who looked that good in overalls was worth meeting, so he did. I met her recently at a Rosen function and can confirm he won the lottery that day!
Daryl describes the Rosen story with glowing regard for founder Herman Rosen – a farmer/engineer whose first products were devices for detecting/counting fish in water, ultrasonic devices for determining if pigs were pregnant – thirty-five years ago, has led to a leading edge devices and a globally dominant corporation in its field.
How do you see your business – pipeline services business – going forward over the next quarter?’
… it’s steady. It’s like changing the oil in your car – maintenance, and inspections, are required. We’re not doing much work on ‘new build projects’ right now in Canada. Globally, our company is very busy on new pipelines in China, Europe and Iraq.
And over the next five years?
… the need for pipeline inspections will increase. The environmental concerns are causing operators to be more rigorous about validating safety of their assets – finding defects before they become incidents.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… assessing value vs. dollars. Spread sheets [OK, he IS an engineer]. Some things are pure intuition/emotion. Criteria + skills + how does my gut feel. In terms of people, choosing people who our staff can be comfortable with – getting the right people in the right job.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Daryl Ronsky, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… I’ve been in the right place at the right time. I listen to the needs – try to find how to meet that need credibly, practically. I know the market, I know the customers, and I have some grey hair. Customers trust that I can deal with the sticky situations and find solutions.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… find the right people, get them in the right jobs – let them do their thing. Decisions by consensus. The way I work fits comfortably in the Rosen culture. Like developing new flow measurement devices – precision, figuring out how to develop new products. I’ve been lucky – things come along …
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… lots of things. My family – health issues. Our kids (two daughters) – their future. 130 staff at ROSEN Canada, keeping them gainfully employed.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… a guy with Nova – Dale Richards – who said ‘evaluate that!’. I was on a fairly traditional/technical path – he was always pushing for and pursuing new ideas to apply to the pipeline business. Keith Grimes at BG was a strong supporter/influence, encouraged me to try new things. He was able to see applications with a longer term view. My wife Janet. She’s always positive – encouraging me to not get bogged down in the little stuff …
Work-life balance – do you have it?
… feels like it.
… ski (downhill and cross-country), hiking (I don’t hang on ropes!), travel. I like to build stuff. Home reno projects, furniture …
What do you read?
… lots of technical industry material. Currently – books on mountains, first climbs on Everest. Ian Rankin books.
FACILITYCalgarynewsletters may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, re-disseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without prior written permission. All rights reserved. PLANDflex Corporation - http://plandflex.com