It never ceases to impress me when I hear of a thriving company getting its start in someone’s basement. Often, it starts simply with an idea, and just sometimes, becomes a massive success story in only a few short years…
NexSource Power Inc., a company that provides power solutions to a number of industries, is such an entity. Established only six years ago, its operations now span all of Alberta, and it is growing. Business in Focus spoke with the founders of the company, Darnell and Amy Dakin, to learn more.
Darnell tells me that he started the business at the worst time, during the recession that began in 2008.While he was trying to make ends meet, his basement became the office for the business and his garage became the shop. Times were tough in the beginning, but Darnell was a certified master electrician, so he set up a truck and started to look for business.
NexSource Power Inc. was incorporated in March of 2009, and it has done very well in a short period. As the company grew, and overhead costs were no longer such an issue, he began to rent and buy space and equipment.
“I did a little electrical work and also rented out generators,” he says. “The electrical side of things kicked off pretty well, and I was able to hire more employees and get more rentals. I brought in some key people that are still with me to this day, and the company continued to grow.” Darnell believes in quality over quantity. From the beginning, the company has been all about service and customer satisfaction.
In addition to natural gas generators, diesel generators and light towers, NexSource offers rental of 1.2 million BTU portable flameless heaters to aid in cold weather start-ups, equipment shutdowns, maintenance, and construction sites. Fuel storage needs are covered by free standing double walled tanks that range from 500 gallon to 100 bbl. They can supply electrical distribution, cabling, transformers, and panels to meet any requirements.
Nexsource has since expanded into a manufacturing facility, and, in the last couple of years, they have begun manufacturing and building custom generator packages to client specifications. The largest generator built to date was made for a gas plant and is capable of producing two megawatts of power. To put that into perspective, two megawatts of power is enough to power 400 average Canadian homes. They offer the complete design, engineering, supply and installation of equipment from 20kw to multi-megawatt projects.
In addition to equipment, NexSource provides services for the oil industry, including Electrical and Instrumentation, welding, mechanical, and picker trucks. Their knowledgeable team of Electricians and Instrumentation Hands specialize in oilfield maintenance and construction projects. They offer a range of services for installation, maintenance, calibration, programming, and troubleshooting. “We help our clients build, optimize and maintain their systems.”
“By streamlining the products and services, we can provide companies a one stop solution and that sets us apart from our competitors.” explains Darnell. “As for customer satisfaction, we have developed strong relationships due to our job performance, offering competitive pricing, quality workmanship and a strong quality of staff.”
From the outset, Darnell has made sure that any hiring starts with quality from the top down. He knows that you have to surround yourself with good people, and the company is demanding concerning the standard of those it hires. NexSource’s corporate policy encompasses a strong safety program; they place the highest priority on the health and safety of their workforce. A mentoring program is in place to train prospective employees and increase skills. “We want to make sure that any new employees on board are mentored properly, so that when we send them out, they are upholding our standards.”
The recent downturn in oil pricing has created a very competitive market and presents certain short term challenges; many customers are trying to reduce costs wherever possible. NexSource has been working closely with its customers to establish cost effective solutions.
“Companies are starting to cut back and are shelving projects,” says Darnell. “The capital projects and expenditures are being slashed, so our present challenges are to get through this slump with the same amount of manpower.”
Despite market fluctuations, NexSource has been expanding over the last six years and has grown to 150 employees. “It would be good for us to plateau now and regroup because then we can focus on our efficiency and our operations to be prepared for when the market comes back around.”
Darnell plans to keep things in check by making sure the overhead is down, streamlining processes and in turn, being more efficient in operations.
Short term goals include strategic sales and diversification. The company will increase sales by approaching new customers from the field level to engineering. NexSource is looking at moving into commercial work, mining and forestry. They are offering additional specialized services, including fluid meter proving and a new burner division; with the addition of the burner division, NexSource can offer customers a fully certified upgrade to their burner management systems.
In terms of geographic reach, NexSource operates right across Alberta and will soon be spreading its wings into Saskatchewan and British Columbia. “We currently have construction projects on the go in BC and Saskatchewan and are working on expanding our presence in these areas.”
The long-term plan is to expand across Western Canada and internationally including the US and Australia. The team is currently in the process of setting up a division in Australia with the first set of generators being shipped in March. Australia’s mining and oilfield exploration has seen extensive growth in recent years. The demand for equipment is high and NexSource views this as an opportunity to break into the market.
NexSource also has a new line of generators which offer reduced fuel consumption. By partnering up with a company who has been developing variable speed transmissions, NexSource has been building generators that can reduce fuel consumption by 30 percent or more. While not pioneering the technology, NexSource has been helping with the research and development of this innovative transmission technology since its early stages. All generators, now available commercially, run at 1,800 RPM and 60 Hz. If the load is lessened, these new generators have a transmission that will slow down to 1,100 RPM while still maintaining frequency and voltage levels. “We have had these machines available in our rental fleet for some time now and have had some great feedback from those who have used them. We are still trying to introduce these to the market. It’s hard to convince people to try new technology when they are used to using conventional generators. Like any new technology, it is a little more expensive, but you save money in the long run.”
Darnell believes that the technology will eventually become very popular. NexSource has the distributorship for all of Canada, Australia, and some areas of the US. “You are lowering your fuel consumption and reducing emissions. There are a lot of upswings to these units. It’s a different product for us to push. This new technology sets us apart from our competition.”
Amy emphasizes that another point of differentiation is the company culture that has been developed. The culture does much to attract new people and to keep quality people. “Our positive, family oriented environment is a great atmosphere to work in,” she explains. “We offer competitive wages and benefits, profit sharing, retention bonuses, and a group RRSP matching program. We host a variety of events to promote team building including a Family Easter Brunch, Corporate Golf Tournament and our Annual Holiday Celebration.”
NexSource is also very much involved in the communities it serves. When the Sylvan Lake Arena collapsed, NexSource came forward as the presenting sponsor for the rebuild project which will be called the NexSource Center. This new 30 million dollar multiplex facility will offer recreational options for the whole community. NexSource also holds barbecues for community events and supports local charities and other organizations.
Darnell says that the company’s success is a three part recipe. Surround yourself with good people; don’t be afraid to take risks; and never say something can’t be done – find a way through it. Under the guidance of Darnell and Amy, it’s working.