Airdrie-based Evolve Surface Strategies has experienced phenomenal growth in the past 10 years, has muscled through the recent economic downturn and is now poised to expand its operations even more.
In the first year of its operation in 2007, the right-of-way firm had 1,160 employee hours generated for clients. This year, it is forecasting that number to climb to 62,500 hours.
“Longer term we knew the plan was always going to be to expand to other parts of Western Canada and potentially even in Eastern Canada,” says Brodie Allen, the company founder and today its president and senior project lead. “We’ve done some initial exploring but we feel it’s prudent for us to have sustainable growth.
“We were able to muscle our way through the economic downturn. Our intent is to ensure we are efficient and grounded in our Western Canadian presence before we start dabbling elsewhere.”
Since June 2016, the company has grown through three mergers with Jericho Land, SunAgro Land Services and Traverse LandGroup.
Evolve began in Calgary but relocated to Airdrie in 2010. Year one started with Allen and one administrative support team member. Today, the company has 48 employees company-wide with about 20 in Airdrie. Six people are in a regional office in Brandon and another four in a regional office in Grande Prairie. As well, satellite locations have team members working out of their residences in Lethbridge, Camrose, Winnipeg and Weyburn.
Airdrie has proven to be a great location for the company’s head office, offering great accessibility with a well-connected transportation network and proximity to the Calgary airport. Employee retention is important for Allen and Airdrie’s size and quality of life work well for that.
“We are accountable for community engagement and acquisition of land rights in order for companies to proceed with developments,” says Allen. “Development types could literally be any company that needs access to property.”
“Two main things we need to get is legal surface rights and meeting regulatory requirements.”
These developments can range from a cellphone tower, to a municipality needing to widen a road, to the installation of a pipeline or power line.
Allen says every development is different and the company, through its recent mergers, now has six core divisions – telecommunications, power transmission, renewables (solar and wind), oil and gas (midstream and upstream), transportation and municipalities.
Allen worked in the upstream oil and gas industry for about seven years before establishing Evolve. At first, the business was mostly oil and gas related. But the long-term vision was always to try and get into other markets.
“We were able to get into other markets around 2012. It wasn’t until recent years that we did some mergers with some other talented firms that have really benefited us,” he says.
“We feel now we have appropriate depth in each of our divisions. Now we’re shifting the focus on efficiencies and streamlining our processes.”
Today, 50 per cent of the company’s business is in Alberta, 35 per cent in Manitoba, and the balance in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
“I’m a firm believer that people are our products. We don’t have widgets. We’re not selling individual items. We’re not a manufacturing company. We’re hired for our consulting services,” says the 38-year-old Allen.
“Now we have all these talented people under the same roof and we’re slowly working toward streamlining our processes so we can become a bit more efficient. Hopefully evolve our firm into being leading edge.”
“People skills are first and foremost,” he adds. “We can train the technical stuff and we have a bit of a diverse background of where people come from.”
Allen says he’s blessed to have an incredibly talented, loyal and passionate team right from the company’s executive through to its client care team. There are a few team members who come from a traditional land agent program, with more of an oil and gas focus. Others come from a university background with majors in fields such as sociology. One employee is a certified mediator.