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Eager to change the game

Eager to change the game

Ashley Godwin and Kyle Melnyk took the leap toward building their own oilfield construction company with a combined 42 years of oilfield experience. The two self-proclaimed Alberta boys had seen it all—from poor response times to lax safety protocols. They were eager to change the game by raising the bar in all facets of oilfield construction.

Navigating the early years

From the comfortable confines of their "Bat Cave"—an office away from the office—Melnyk admits things haven't always been this cozy. Just over a decade ago, the partners set up shop in Godwin's basement where they established TAHK: a company focused on pipelining and facilities, gas plants, gathering systems and well pads. TAHK (pronounced tack) is an acronym combining the initial letters of the partners' and their sons' first names.

"TAHK's early days were challenging," reminisces Melnyk, who oversees project management and the company's pipeline side. "Breaking into Calgary, Alberta's oilfield epicentre, was tough without a sales or marketing team. We were a junior oil field construction company trying to get our foot in the door without a project backlog."
The turning point

The turning point

When TAHK landed their first big job on the Tupper West Gas Plant, they began solidifying their reputation for quality and safety. Today, Melnyk and Godwin agree they couldn't have done it without the right equipment supplier.

"Tupper West was a real turning point, and it transformed us from a junior to mid-sized company," explains Godwin, CEO of Facilities Tank Projects. "But even when we were juniors, SMS was excellent to work with from the get-go. SMS helped our small company get started, and they were always more than accommodating when it came to financing or buying equipment."

Komatsu: second to none

Komatsu: second to none

A helping hand

In the company's early days, TAHK was grateful for our creative financing solutions, which helped ensure they had the right equipment for the job. And when they ran into trouble at a job site near Hinton, SMS helped pull them out of the mud.

"We had sunk a track hoe in the muskeg and we had no backup equipment," remembers Godwin. "SMS refinanced us for a brand new excavator before the insurance came through, and we were able to keep the project running. In fact we had it up and running in 30 days."

Top service for all sizes

Top service for all sizes

"Small companies don't have the flexibility that larger players have," says Godwin. "With only a few machines, we couldn't swap out equipment—you need your single piece up and running. SMS was a huge help and they always stepped up—even at the very beginning."

"SMS has always been valuable to TAHK in terms of finding the right piece of equipment or the perfect financial solution," adds Melnyk. "They even helped manage our equipment prior to having an equipment manager. And we didn't have to buy multiple pieces to get great service—we've had it from day one."

Strength in relationships

Now servicing major companies in Western Canada, TAHK competes and succeeds in a new realm of oilfield companies. The company employs between 200-600 people on any given project—and yet, they still consider themselves small. It's their small-business values that have contributed to the company's success.

"As a small business, our personal relationship with SMS is very important," says Melnyk. "We want a face and a phone number. Our equipment manager has an SMS background and knows all the right people there."

During a quick growth period, TAHK rented equipment from other suppliers, but admits they just didn't measure up. "We always go back to Komatsu," says Melnyk. "The machines are durable, and we've built that relationship with SMS Equipment. Our equipment manager loves Komtraxand uses it on a daily basis."

Big-company service Small-business values

TAHK's story is the Alberta dream come true, complete with financial success and accolades. In its first year the company quadrupled it's forecasted revenue, and in 2015 picked up the prestigious Prairies Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. Despite their success, Godwin and Melnyk remain humble.

"It's never been about the money," insists Melnyk. "To us, it's always about getting the job done. Do the work well, and the success and rewards come later."

The company attributes its success to remaining adaptable, hiring great core people, and keeping those small-business values at the heart of everything they do. As owners, Melnyk and Godwin stay involved with clients and employees. They modify their policies and procedures to fit with those of their clients', and continue to offer big-company service with small-company efficiency.

True to our roots

True to our roots

One thing's for sure—TAHK has always stayed true to its roots.

"We'll never change who we are, and that's reflected in our company," says Melnyk. "We're easygoing guys who give our employees the benefit of the doubt. We grew up blue collar and we keep the culture that way—relaxed and easygoing atmosphere with a great work ethic."

"We're entering our 11th year of business, and SMS has been with us every step of the way," says Melnyk. "Our relationship has always been solid, and I think the future for both of our companies is bright."

The way forward
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The way forward

TAHK looks back on their journey fondly, and admits that while there were challenges, they wouldn't change a thing.

When asked to provide a nugget of advice for the next generation of oilfield entrepreneurs, Melnyk offers this: "Stay adaptable, stay competitive in the downturns and build a great relationship with your supplier."

Whatever the future holds for TAHK, SMS Equipment will continue to lift them up—through the muskegs and beyond.