Secrets of Calgary's Fastest-Growing Companies

41 innovative, dynamic and wildly successful firms from the city made the 2014 PROFIT 500. Here's what you can learn from them

Written by PROFIT staff

Who says Calgary is just an oil town? Think again. Yes, resource giants dominate the city—but the real action is happening among companies whose logos you won’t find plastered all over your nearest gas station. Look no further than this, PROFIT’s list of Calgary’s Fastest-Growing Companies for 2014. The 41 companies from the city that made the 2014 PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies span a vast array of industries, from software to retail to construction to, yes, services for oil and gas.

Collectively, these companies grew their revenues by an average of 466% over the past five years. (For the top 10, the average was an astounding 1,124%.)  In that time, they created more than 3,500 net new full-time jobs; at the end of 2013, there were 7,663 people on their payrolls.

Calgary’s Fastest-Growing Companies survived a brutal recession, an ever-volatile local economy and last year’s devastating floods and built innovative, thriving businesses in the process. They serve as inspiration for anyone who wants to grow a company, big or small. Read on to discover who they are (and learn some of their best business advice).

The Top 10:

1. The Roof Hospital

Five-year revenue growth: 2,594% (PROFIT 500 rank: 20)
Chief executive(s): Eric Gilbert-Williams
FTE employees: 48
Provides and repairs residential roofing and siding

How to thrive in a recession: “We started in a boom time, but it was in the recession that we started to see our strongest growth. Throughout all the fluctuations in the past few years, we have had a steady increase in sales. So our growth has nothing to do with the market,” says Gilbert-Williams. “Our growth is about a commitment to our core values: quality, team work, being proactive and learning every day. As we focus on quality and don’t deviate from it, we end up with more work. Construction in general often is very loose; we have tightened it up a bit and made it more professional.”

2. CoolIT Systems Inc.

Five-year revenue growth: 1,787% (PROFIT 500 rank: 34)
Chief executive(s): Geoff Lyon
FTE employees: 33
Provides liquid-cooling equipment and systems

You don’t need to be huge to hire the best: “Being located in Calgary, the competition for our engineering talent is the oil industry. And as a small technology firm, we don’t have the ability to offer the same types of perks and benefits that larger and more well-funded companies do,” explains Lyon. “In lieu of that, we try to provide a rewarding work environment. We have employee stock option plans, so that our employees get to benefit from the success of the company. That helps a lot.”

Read: More on How PROFIT 500 Firms Keep Employees Happy

3. Splice Software Inc.

Five-year revenue growth: 1,279% (PROFIT 500 rank: 53)
Chief executive(s): Tara Kelly & Andrew Hamill
FTE employees: 19
Provides customized audio messaging services

It’s the little things: To make expansion as hassle-free as possible, Splice has focused its export business on U.S. clients, and has opened offices in Toronto and Chicago to better meet their needs. “Time zones are a bigger factor than a lot of people realize,” Kelly says. “I really helps to be able to service clients from the same time zones.”

4. MaKami College Inc.

Five-year revenue growth: 1,174% (PROFIT 500 rank: 62)
Chief executive(s): Marija Pavkovic & Vladimir Pavkovic
FTE employees: 65
Private vocational college focused on massage therapy

Lesson learned: “I find that I have a good gut instinct and it tends to be right,” says Pavkovic. “When I have a feeling I follow it.”

5. Redrock Camps Inc.

Five-year revenue growth: 979% (PROFIT 500 rank: 74)
Chief executive(s): Troy Ferguson & Malcolm Huycke
FTE employees: 397
Work camp accommodations and services

The case for being ETDBW (“easy to do business with”): “We are a service provider to energy companies, whether they’re drilling for oil or gas or creating electricity. It’s driven by market forces, so we’re a little bit at the mercy of the stock market,” says Ferguson. “At the same time, our company has been really good at delivering hassle-free operations at the ground. So we’ve been able to not get hit too hard, and to take market share from other companies that couldn’t make it.”

6. Precision Manufacturing Corp.

Five-year revenue growth: 945% (PROFIT 500 rank: 79)
Chief executive(s): Bob Yuchang Ding
FTE employees: 7
Provides well components to the oil and gas industry

Lesson learned: “Intellectual property is very important,” says Ding. “We’ve learned that when we do well in this area, we do much better as a company.”

7. MAC Engineering Inc.

Five-year revenue growth: 724% (PROFIT 500 rank: 94)
Chief executive(s): Mark Ross, Chris Rahbek-Nielsen, Allan Wong & Steven Heffernan
FTE employees: 40
Engineering services in high-tech and capital-intensive industries

Don’t let greed get the better of you: Rahbek-Nielsen has learned to keep the size of the bottom line in perspective: “Don’t be in too much of a hurry just to make money. When you’re growing quickly, sometimes it’s best not to reap the rewards financially right away. You have to keep the money in the company to keep growing. Remember, you’re playing the long game.”

Read: The Top Business Lessons of the 2014 PROFIT 500

8. Tundra Process Solutions Ltd.

Five-year revenue growth: 639% (PROFIT 500 rank: 103)
Chief executive(s): Iggy Domagalski & Dan Peet
FTE employees: 123
Industrial process services

Why patience and persistence pay off: “What is now our biggest client was our toughest and longest sale,” says Domagalski. “Their normal way of doing business was to go to three or four or five different vendors and have 10 engineers on their own staff to do the work we could do for them. We knew integrating with us would help them. It took a lot of persistence; we had to teach them that maybe the way they were doing it wasn’t necessarily correct. Ultimately, they changed their business model to meet the solution that we were offering. But it was a long road to get there.”

Read: Proven Sales Tips from the PROFIT 500

9. True North Mortgage Inc.

Five-year revenue growth: 567% (PROFIT 500 rank: 108)
Chief executive(s): Dan Eisner
FTE employees: 32
Residential mortgage brokering services

Furthering the stereotype of the unemployable entrepreneur: Eisner is blunt in his reason for venturing out on his own. “I kept getting fired,” he says, “so I decided to become an entrepreneur.”

10. Crystal Creek Homes Inc.

Five-year revenue growth: 549% (PROFIT 500 rank: 113)
Chief executive(s): Justin Bobier
FTE employees: 80
Builds and sells new housing developments

Homegrown marketing tip: “We’ve had great success advertising with the Calgary Flames,” says Bobier. “We have a sticker on the bottom of every seat in the Saddledome. So, we end up getting TV advertising out of that whenever someone gets out of their seat. For the amount that it cost, the return has been incredible.”

Read: The Best Marketing Strategies of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies

The Next 10:

11. CoreTech Staffing Inc.

12. Retail Media Group Inc.

13. Blush Lane Organic Market Ltd.

14. True North Automation Inc.

15. Compass Compression Services Ltd.

16. 2 Percent Realty Inc.

17. ComplyWorks Ltd.

18. Mosaic Capital Corp.

19. Groundswell Group Inc.

20. Stealth Energy Services

Other fast-growing Calgary firms on the 2014 PROFIT 500:

Action Furnace Inc., ARTE Group Inc., Avalanche Air Systems Ltd., Blackline GPS Corp., Bowen Workforce Solutions Inc., Cervus Equipment Corp., Cortex Business Solutions Ltd., CWC Well Services Corp., Danatec Educational Services Ltd., Deco Windshield Repair Inc., Dynamysk Automation Ltd., HC Piper Manufacturing Inc., Mainland Information Systems Ltd., ProStar Cleaning and Restoration Inc., Questor Technology Inc., Raven Bay Services, REC Media Inc., SI Systems Partnership, Solium Capital Inc., SysGen Solutions Group Ltd. and VistaVu Solutions Inc.

Want to know more about the 2014 PROFIT 500? Click here.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com