Consultants Ltd. | BCBusiness
Return to: B.C. Entrepreneur of the Year 2011
Congratulations to Darby Kreitz , president and CEO of Allnorth Consultants Ltd., the 2011 Pacific Region Entrepreneur of the Year in Business-to-Business Products and Services.
It would be easy to pass Darby Kreitz on Burrard Street, near his firm’s Vancouver offices, and not realize he heads a successful engineering services firm. He’s just as happy camping and quadding with his wife and three kids, or biking and snowmobiling in the mountains around Prince George as he is in the city. But his unassuming manner masks a no-nonsense attitude that has allowed him to quietly build Allnorth Consultants Ltd. into a national engineering services firm.
Saskatchewan was recession-bound when Kreitz graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1992, so he headed west and landed a job at 14-year-old Allnorth Engineering Ltd. in Prince George. Kreitz, then 25, saw the potential for Allnorth to broaden its focus, and in 1994 he struck a deal with founder Michael Tkachuk to launch Allnorth Consultants. The new company would engineer forestry bridges, and under a profit-sharing agreement with Tkachuk the venture’s profits would fund the eventual purchase of Allnorth Engineering. Growth outstripped expectations and Allnorth Consultants acquired its parent in 1997.
What was your first real job?
I worked at a fishing camp in northern Saskatchewan as a general run-around, go-for.
What was your first big break in your current business?
Working for Canfor in Fort St. James. It led to some other jobs. You had a corporate resume you could continue to build with.
Drive and determination to convert an opportunity to an economic solution.
character, who would you be?
The deal required Kreitz to find support from banks and other lenders – a tough sell for a venture that had good financials but few hard assets. Kreitz garnered the support required, however, and the company soon made good on its lenders’ gamble.
Allnorth began offering more services to its clients, moving from structural design into process engineering and environmental services. Today it serves clients in sectors ranging from natural resources to municipal infrastructure and marine services. Its head office in Prince George is home to approximately a quarter of the company’s 400 staff. In total, Allnorth has 14 offices across Canada. Allnorth and Maple Leaf Loading Ltd., a coal-handling division established in 2005, have combined annual revenues of approximately $120 million.
Still, Kreitz says the company’s low profile makes it difficult to attract staff who fit the company’s customer-oriented ethic. Allnorth hired 170 people this year, and Kreitz says it could add 105 more. Kreitz is nevertheless setting his sights on expansion in the U.S., as well as the Caribbean and South America.
“The opportunities for us will continue to expand by location,” he says. “The real challenge is not getting work; it’s getting people to do the work that’s out there.”