Pro Paint is a western Canadian provider of industrial coating, painting, and abrasive blasting solutions that is known for punching above its weight. At a time when the industry is rationalizing and pruning, there are a number of good reasons why Pro Paint prospers.
Owner and operator Cody Wallis began the company with fellow owner-operator Randy Brown in mid-summer 2011. Wallis was primarily an investor (he was involved with another business at the time), with Brown at the heart of the operation, but after a few months, Wallis stepped in to help with the field division and remains hands-on to this day.
Wallis remembers how the company began in a Quonset hut out in the country; in its early days just a small crew spending its time sandblasting up to 400 barrel tanks at a time and coating them in an adjacent barn.
After three months, rapid growth had overwhelmed the company’s first facility, forcing a move to the current location in Red Deer County, Alberta. Today, Pro Paint’s primary focus is serving the coating industry with its solutions as well as numerous types of industrial applications, ranging from structure seal piping and internal and external tank liners to pipeline and main line coatings, with in-shop facilities (on-site or in the field), and more.
Pipeline of growth
Recently, Pro Paint has invested in abatement with automated blast machines, one of which is completely dustless (meaning it leaves a smaller on-site footprint and needs less manpower), making it a safer application and one that clients love.
In late 2011, a field division was added to the company, and 2015 saw the expansion of its shop to over 17,500 square feet as its field-equipment fleet grew and services expanded. The company also internally produced an automated spray machine, with software designed and developed by the project manager.
Wallis – with admirable attention to detail – notes that a highlight of the company’s developments is the ability to coat even a diminutive two-inch slotted pipe with 100 percent solid coating. As Pro Paint comes close to celebrating a decade in business, it is still introducing new services and methods to keep its product offerings dynamic and its clientele satisfied.
A strong workforce
Pro Paint is an owner-operated business in the literal sense, meaning that management – including Wallis and Brown – operate hands-on on its many projects, something they’ve done since the company’s inception (they appear in hard hats and mud on the company website). Wallis confirms this identity, noting that management has a close relationship with the workforce.
“We care about them, and our guys care about working for us, [which] puts us ahead of other companies at points.” The company puts emphasis on its high levels of product quality and safety, and the ability to provide a solution for any customer’s concerns no matter the problem or project; or as put succinctly by Wallis, “we never provide [clients] an empty bucket.”
As a coating provider that is a service company as well, Pro Paint applies itself intensely to achieve its customers’ desired outcomes, even when it involves extremes of innovative thinking or a challenging and extended process of development. Wallis describes a customer in Canada who arrived saying no other outfit was capable of providing a solution – a challenge that Pro Paint gamely took on and is now a successful project in the finishing stages.
At all times, the company works tirelessly to elicit a customer’s end goal and the image they wish to project, and to create the solution together. Resulting from the success of this approach, a lot of the company’s work is repeat business, building its name on the successful projects it has completed in the past. Wallis adds that this is how the company grew its customer base in its first seven years, so never had to advertise or invest in a sales department.
The company’s commitment to safety is also an essential aspect of its identity, a commitment that functions from the top to the bottom. All employees from front line to management are expected to hold each other accountable for workplace safety.
Wallis is firm that no employee should overlook any potentially unsafe action or hazard, that “no one is above or below… it’s all of our jobs.” He says with feeling that every business in the construction sector should follow that commitment to the letter.
As most companies in the coating and abatement sectors feel the current squeeze and rationalize, Pro Paint continues to provide a high-level professional service at affordable rates suited to market conditions. An apparent reason for Pro Paint’s longevity is that competitors and clients alike appreciate that the company is owner-operated as opposed to publicly owned, meaning that it has a better feel for the pulse of the market, and can change pace quickly.
Thanks to this operational agility, it can also make snap decisions based on a customer’s or project’s changing circumstance, sometimes even adding overhead costs as bigger companies are driven to cut them.
That’s why, while the total market sector has dwindled, the company has remained more than competitive.
Another aspect of the company that distinguishes it from remaining competitors has to do with one of its owners. Cody Wallis and Randy Brown bought out their third partner a few years ago to become fellow equal owners. With that, Pro Paint became in effect a 50 percent Aboriginal-owned outfit through Randy’s cultural background.
Wallis explains that while the company is proud to be a part of the Aboriginal business sector, it does not use that identity as leverage; however, a few larger proponents within the Indigenous communities have reached out for face-to-face meetings, inquiring about this aspect of the Pro Paint identity, and the Indigenous communities would like to see someone like Brown be considered for any work they provide.
Bright past, bright future
Over the years, Pro Paint has become known for such projects as the NOVA Chemicals re-expansion in 2016 (a $1.8 billion expansion project); the Trans-Canada Fort Hills Project in Fort McMurray; and the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (a Co2 pipeline that looks to capture excess carbon monoxide in Alberta province and store it underground where it can be re-used or absorbed).
The future looks to be every bit as promising as it looked ten years ago. Pro Paint expects to be doing more allotted abatement in 2020, for which it now has a presence in Ottawa, and also more tank work in Winnipeg. Further work in British Columbia for the LNG (liquefied natural gas) Canada Project is currently in a bidding process, as well as a project to build a trans-mountain pipeline.
Wallis, when asked about surviving in a sector with larger outfits in play, resists the notion that Pro Paint is a “smaller” business. He notes that while the company has around 50 to 70 staff members, it still offers a competitive price against the larger coating firms in the industry and has proven itself fully capable of handling very large projects.
It’s clear that Pro Paint is a company that carries the attitude to succeed as well as the practices and services to back it up, big reasons why it’s on an upward track as it approaches its ten-year mark.