Mike Way has the power to see into concrete. It all began in April 2011 when he and a business partner acquired Underground Service Locators Inc. (USL-1).
With that action, the former printing industry vice-president gained a new identity and abilities uncommon to the average human—as long as he’s wielding his ground-penetrating radar equipment, that is.
Mike shares his new expertise with a team of skilled technicians that can be summoned with a (phone) call. The concrete scanning service is one of two that USL-1 offers; the other locates and maps private and public underground utilities for individuals or contractors.
The power of hard work
Mike and his business partner both believe in the power of hard work. “Hard work brings luck,” says Mike. “You’re eliminating the odds.” And now the “force” is channeled to his new company.
“After 20 years of giving long hours to others,” Mike recounts, “I began thinking, if I’m putting in that type of effort, why not do it for myself.” Or, he adds, work with a partner--a long-time friend and former neighbour with a wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience in privately-owned business.
For both, using Sunbelt Business Brokers to find the right business was a given. Mike’s wife had already sold a business through Sunbelt and over the years, Mike’s friend and new partner had sold two businesses through Sunbelt and was ready for a new growth opportunity.
A first step was for Sunbelt to find a buyer for the partner’s third business, which provided property landscaping services.
When Greg Kells brought USL-1 to their attention, he was confident the business would appeal to both. “It was stable and, after 18 years in operation, well established,” says Greg, Ottawa office owner and president of Sunbelt Canada.
“It made sense,” says Mike. “We felt comfortable that it was what it was said to be. And working with Greg and Jason Kells, who represented the seller, was great.”
Mike and his partner could see the company’s potential for growth. They could also see that relocating the business to a building his partner owned in the Taylor Creek Business Park would make it more accessible to the Queensway and Ottawa's east-end development.
So they bought USL-1 and did just that--re-opening the company on May 13, 2011, at 775 Taylor Creek Drive. “We’re fortunate to have been able to retain Mike Cross as manager,” says Mike. Five months into operations, all is going well. They’ve hired three new employees and are looking at expanding to other provinces in 2012.
Keeping pace with needs
USL-1 offers two services: one provides concrete scanning and the other locates and maps buried utilities. Meeting the needs of both requires speed, precision and advanced technology. “We need to be progressive to accommodate customer expectations and keep at the forefront of the industry,” says Mike. “We’ve recently purchased new state-of-the-art equipment and are looking at expanding our line of services.”
“Whether it’s an individual wanting to locate hydro, sewer, gas or other buried utilities or objects before they dig in their own back yard, or a contractor needing to meet the highest security, engineering and environmental specifications, we can handle the project from start to finish.”
Partnering requires clear understanding of expectations and roles
Business partnerships are often compared to a marriage where needs, beliefs and values need to be understood and respected. That’s how USL-1’s two owners see it. They emphasize the need for both parties to be very clear on their expectations of the business and the role each is to play as well as the benefit of having the same outlook on life at the end of the day.
“I have the luxury of a partner with a wealth of hands-on business experience,” says Mike. “We also had Sunbelt’s guidance to find and buy the business.”
“Our individual strengths complement each other’s weaknesses,” adds Mike, “and we both have a passion for what we do. That’s key. And with the great people we have out on the road, our business is bound to be successful.”
By Karen Runtz