Trevor Styan, son of Ron and Julie Styan, has been honing his skills for his entire life beginning with helping in his father’s shop from a very young age. In Grade 12 he took a welder apprentice program and won a Skills Canada competition in Burnaby.
Working for his uncle’s excavation business from the age of 12 gave Trevor Styan, now 28, the skills for civil construction, but the family enterprise also taught him the values for leading a successful team.
“You need to be a little more humble, a little more personable and understand what motivates people,” he said.
“And you have to work 120 per cent over everyone else, or you’ll never have respect.”
Styan, who was also one of this year’s Earnest and Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year BCBusiness Top 30 Under 30, took the leap to entrepreneurship in 2010 when he won a $1.3-million Yukon Energy contract to build the foundation for an electrical substation.
“I’d never been shown how to do that sort of estimating, so I just racked my head and figured it out,” he said.
By 2011, he had formed Northern Civil Energy (NCE), a Nanaimo-based construction and earth-moving company that doubled its revenue in its first two years.
NCE has since completed 55 projects, with the average budget being $3.5 million (ranging up to their largest, a $10-million property redevelopment in Winnipeg for Manitoba Hydro).
In an unpredictable industry where costs can run to $30,000 a day, Styan quickly learned to be efficient.
He set up mobile “tool cans”—insulated 20-foot shipping containers, each fully equipped for specific project types.
“If we have a carpentry job, we’ll send a carp can—or a civil can or an office can,” Styan said.
“So when the team lands on site, everything is where it should be and they aren’t fighting those variables.”
NCE was also among the first civil companies in Canada to adopt data management systems that streamline estimating, team and equipment scheduling, and the extensive reporting required by the utility companies.
“Now the guys in the field can look at the calculations and know whether they are making or losing money
and can build their job around that knowledge,” he said.
Styan recently expanded into sewer and water and is considering other complementary industries, such as concrete, quality testing or engineering. But any growth, he says, will be driven by the talent on his team.
“I’m not going to build a massive enterprise just for the glory of it,” he said.
“It has to be because I have people who want to do it.”