EDMONTON, Alta. –‘The lil’ company with a big heart.’ That’s the motto behind the continued success and growth of the lil’ Edmonton, Alta. company that got its start hauling water to oilfield drilling rigs in 1994, and now boasts over 45 trucks and support units and a more varied portfolio.
“We’ve diversified a lot more out of the oil patch,” said Josh Laczko, president, CEO and majority owner of Rebel Heart Trucking. “It’s not that we’re out of it, it’s just that we’re doing more things. We really started to focus about a year ago on drinking water, so we now service a lot of the Adrossen, Sherwood Park and Tofield areas. We have two trucks full time that haul water out there.”
While completing college, Laczko was looking for some work when he popped into the Rebel Heart office and soon found himself working part time.
“The winter of 2013, we started talking about buying the company,” Laczko recalled, “and 16 months later, I purchased a majority of the company.”
Since then, he has continued to work on diversifying the company’s business in an effort to bring more stabilization to the company and its employees.
“Like any business, you’re super busy, super slow, super busy, super slow, so we want to get more steady work,” Laczko said. “It helps the company to have a more steady cash flow, it helps staff have steady paycheques…it’s good for everybody.”
Laczko said the company’s ability to haul more potable water has brought more stability to the business.
Rebel Heart remains involved in ice road building and hauling water for hydraulic fracturing operations.
“It’s just that there’s not much of that to go around anymore,” said Laczko. “So a lot of our work is a lot more localized…everything is a lot closer to home now.”
Roughly 40% of Rebel Heart’s business is centered around the oil and gas industry, with another 40% for commercial/industrial and the remainder in residential and miscellaneous.
They cover an area that circles the Edmonton area from Redwater, Fort Saskatchewan, Josephburg, Leduc and Spruce Grove, but have sent trucks to Moose Jaw, Fort McMurray, Edson and are willing to service all of Western Canada. The past year has also brought the company more into the wide world of technology.
“The biggest thing has been how we’ve been able to use technology to our advantage,” Laczko explained. “We track loads for customers, and with all the spreadsheets using Google Sheets and using cloud technology we’re able to share with our customers what we’re doing and they’re able to see what our trucks are doing on site. That’s been a really important part of our continued success.”
Despite his youth, Laczko said he is far from the most tech savvy at Rebel Heart, and commends his staff for taking a leadership role and being a huge part of the implementation of various new technologies.
Creating a safe workplace is another item on the top of Laczko’s priority list, as the president and majority owner has for the time being taken the role of safety manager onto his plate.
Laczko said he is currently handling the company’s safety program because they have had a string of ‘bad luck’ hiring safety managers, but now have a consultant that is coming in and it appears that that person will eventually be retained as a permanent employee.
“Obviously all things are my responsibility whether they go good or bad,” Laczko said of the company’s safety measures.
“It’s so important. I remember eight years ago when I used to work north of Slave Lake, (safety) just didn’t matter; you got it done and you left. It’s unbelievable how much that has changed in the last 10 years. It’s not so much about speed anymore, it’s about getting it done right and safely. Those are really the only two things that matter. Money almost always comes after those two things now.”
Laczko said he believes the reason people’s attitude toward safety has changed is because the culture in society has changed.
“No one wants to get hurt,” he said, “and as reasonable people, no one wants to see anyone get hurt.”
Though he said 2016 would bring a certain degree of maintaining the status quo, Laczko remains vigilant to strike at the right business opportunity at the right time.
“We do have some growth in mind, but it has to make sense and it has to be for the right reasons,” he said. “If we add to our existing business or go into a new one it will have to complement a business we are already doing.
“There’s already been some opportunities that have come up in the last six months, and they just weren’t the right ones.”
During the last recession in 2008-09, Laczko was managing a company, and he said this is the first time he has had to navigate the turbulent economic waters as an owner.
But Laczko isn’t shy about putting his two cents out there with respect to business management.
“The ones that have sat back on their ass the last couple of years and just rode the wave of easy money and success, that is over, so if they’re not willing to get their hands dirty and get in there with their teams, they’re not going to last,” he said. “If they’re only in their office in their suits, it’s not going to work for them anymore. I’m not scared to get out there.”
For Laczko and Rebel Heart Trucking, good business is not about putting all its eggs in one basket, it’s about not being afraid to be a little rebellious from time to time.
“History repeats itself to a point,” said Laczko, “but there’s always some changes along the way that make it a little different.”
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