FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Fred Edwards
April 9, 2013
I sat down with Fred Edwards over lunch recently, I learned that we have some things in common beyond appreciation of good food (Kudos to Alloy!), having found some similar bumps in our road. He says, “I love what I do.” Getting him to discuss that is a challenge – it begins with bravado, pride in his two sons Michael and Eric, his partner Tracy, acreage lifestyle (4 dogs, 3 horses,1 cat .. golf), redeveloping the Manchester property that houses his new office facility and a self-serve car wash, how he bought the company, but somewhere around the time desert and coffee arrived, he opened up more and really beamed about how it feels to help people change their lives. Given his business employs so many immigrants – often with incredible skills and education from their home countries, he sees their work ethic help them get ahead and cheers them on, especially when they get hired away by firms whose offices they clean every night! His roots are in Winnipeg’s west end, his heart is in the Lake of the Woods cottage that still draws him back often. His accountant father, Eatons’ clerk mother, installed work ethic in Fred and his fellow adopted brother. His trip to Calgary with a buddy who wanted to start a residential carpet cleaning business when Fred was 18 led to a bumpy early career. When he had a failure he told his dad of plans to return to Winnipeg – which was met with a ‘Don’t come home!’ message that inspired him . . .
I asked Fred how he sees the market, in his business, over the next 90 days?
… none. We continue to clean anything – homes, carpets, car dealerships, industrial buildings, disaster restoration, downtown office cleaning (1,000 people on the job every night), our industry tracks trends in the commercial real estate market. When vacancies rise, we clean less space. When new buildings come out of the ground, there is more business. There are 4 major cleaning firms in Calgary – we don’t look at each other’s books, but I can safely say we are #1 or #2 in terms of business volume.
. . . and over the next 5 years?
…. more firms will adopt the ‘Clean Intelligence’ software, as we have, to better manage our relationship with clients, better supervise staff and provide the best possible reporting and management information to our clients – electronic cleaning inspections. Underpinning that, of course, is labour. As immigration rules tighten, it impacts our industry in a huge way. Our cleaning crews are a virtual United Nations of new Canadians. Labour shortages are not just oil patch realities, they hit home for us every day. We compete for labour with fast food businesses and hotels.
What drives growth for you?
. . . growth in volume, growth in franchising across the country. We licensed the use of Servpro in Canada to an American firm – we own Edmonton and Calgary operations. Winnipeg is a franchisee. We will benefit from ongoing franchising, but day to day, we are focused here in Alberta.
What do you worry about, what keeps you up at night?
. . . health, my own, and my family
Was there a major influencing factor – and event or a person – that has impacted your life, your business?
. . . my dad’s support (he told me not to come home – he said giving me financial support was equivalent to funding my brother’s university education), mentoring of Bill Kujat, Lou MacEachern and Walter Chan – helped me a lot. The workout finance guys at BMO who helped me buy Servpro from the Madison Group in 2003 – it was a ‘workout loan problem for them’, we paid it off in 3 years!
What are you reading?
. . . The Compound Effect by Daren Hardy, Success Magazine . . . I enjoy reading about trends, strategy . . .
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