FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Eric Friesen
August 21, 2018
He’s been a subscriber to this publication for a long time (reads my daily column too). He reached out to discuss what is going on with green refrigerants and to discuss his product: IceCold. I wanted to learn about this ‘cool’ new refrigerant additive that stretches equipment life and saves operational costs – but I also wanted to learn more about Eric. Our paths have crossed before and we know lots of people in common, but I didn’t really know Eric very well. Now I think I do …
If you’ve been around the construction industry in Alberta or Manitoba in the last 30 years, you’ve likely met him or heard hi name. A veteran in the construction and buildings industry but still young – he has shifted focus from getting buildings built to making them greener with an innovative approach to green technology. A ‘really cool’ green approach to refrigerant, refrigeration and you can learn more about it from Eric. He’s Exec. VP at Cool Green Solutions Inc., , distributors of IceCOLD. And you can check out the twitter feed …
Eric’s life has been multi-national; born in Mainz, Germany, moved to Santa Barbara, California as a child, was raised and educated there – then back to Winnipeg, to University of Manitoba with his sights set on architecture. His mom was an accountant from North Dakota who met his dad in Winnipeg – they were in Germany because his dad, a professor in European history, was doing research there.
No siblings. Eric’s early interest: building blocks (fascination in building things from age three), sports (volleyball, basketball, football – big guy + a jock), golf (scratch golfer at 18 – he says he hasn’t kept that up!), strong interest in European history (dad’s influence) and he loved his dad’s home town Winnipeg (vacations with family). He earned his B. Environmental Sciences at University of Manitoba while learning he was more interested in the business side (rather than design) of the industry. His nine years of classical piano shifted at age 18 when he picked up an electric guitar and moved in a heavy-metal direction. He still plays. At 37 (they met on-line) Eric married Ruthanna who came with three daughters; they have one grandchild.
His career began with Concord Projects in Winnipeg as a site supervisor for a perogy manufacturing facility they were building; back to Santa Barbara he worked as a draftsman in an architectural firm, earned his B.Sc. in Business from University of California, Santa Barbara – then back to Winnipeg; Central Canadian Structures (building ‘Canadian housing’ in Romania for CANDU reactor staff), Elegius Consulting, many years of project work for Bert Polet (Winroc); Director of Construction Western Canada for Loblaw brought him to Calgary, Director of Construction for Ronmor, Dir. of Dev. at Stuart Olson – that’s not the whole resume, but I think I’ve covered the highlights. His long-standing relationship with Philip Strutt gave rise to the creation of Cool Green Solutions. Methinks he has finally ‘settled’ on this new venture – Eric has an interest in the business and also continues to consult in real estate development and construction management where he has very deep experience.
So, what is IceCOLD? “It’s a refrigerant catalyst – a liquid put into the refrigerant. It’s LEED certified in the U.S. – Canadian certification is coming. We are one of only two Canadian distributors of the product."
Why are you successful? “I learned early in my life that to be successful, you need to take risks – and that I needed to take risks, to not be afraid of risk. I have been blessed with great friends and I’ve appreciated that life is a journey, and it’s about the journey!”
What has held you back? “My own internal lack of confidence and a somewhat sheltered upbringing – and not taking the risks I could have and should have earlier on …”
How do you see your business – green refrigeration products – going forward over the next quarter?
… we are growing, slowly – this is a new product in this market that some people feel ‘sounds too good to be true’, but it is proven to reduce greenhouse gases and has a great pay-back. We have competitors – we are not the only product out there, but we are building relationships and educating the marketplace …
And over the next five years?
… HVAC and refrigeration aren’t going away – and they need to be more efficient and new technologies are always coming – but the existing infrastructure needs to be more sustainable, and we offer a great solution for that so we see lots of growth ahead.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I do as much research as I can, but sometimes I still don’t get it right. I find I size people up well, most of thte time, and I do business with people I’ve established a good trusting relationship with.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Eric Friesen, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… I’m loyal. Professional. Integrity. I’ve always practiced transparency with clients – especially on projects, cost disclosures etc. I represent a product and service I’m proud of.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… I want to know what people think. It’s about ‘the project’, and I want to work with the team – and have a team approach. Not everyone can be a leader, not everyone can be a follower, but I’ve learned that team success is the best kind of shared success …
… I do now!
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… I seem to ‘dream about’ work problems, but I often wake up with a solution. I worry about our kids. I struggle with my relationship with my dad (84) …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my uncle John Friesen – he had a Ford dealership in Winnipeg; he had little education but great skills as a businessman – demonstrated a great example of ethical behavior. He taught me how to relate to people. And, Bert Polet – we worked together for many years. He gave me his trust and independence in running projects – he showed confidence in me.
… mountains! We hike, but mostly sightseeing. Golf – I’m not very good these days. Music – electric guitar. We are both very active in the Foothills Mennonite Church.
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