Fab Loranger has always been proactive. When he ran out of money pursuing an architecture degree, he started framing and then moved to concrete cribbing, high-rise precasting and estimating. He even travelled to Germany to build houses. When he returned to Canada, he joined a large company and eventually became part-owner. However, his journey was far from over.
He decided it was time for something new, so he ventured out on his own and started Taurus Projects Group Inc., a common services business. The company performs facilities installations, moves and maintenance; material handling; parking lot construction and maintenance, including snow removal, sanding and dust control; and has a supply of electricians, gas and pipe fitters, carpenters and other tradesmen.
“I was looking for something else to throw myself into, and I had worked in common services for so long that it was the only logical thing to do,” recalled Loranger, who is the company’s Owner. “It wasn’t an easy decision. It’s difficult to get into the business and be successful, but we’ve been able to make it work.”
Today, Taurus Projects enjoys the fruits of Loranger’s experience and operates in a growing number of provinces. Loranger, however, credits the early success of the business to the help of many people along the way.
“Our first big break came from Tom Eggleston, who got us on the bidders’ list for the Shell Projects Expansion 1 job in 2006,” said Loranger. “Originally, Shell thought we were a ‘prototype’ company since we were so new, and tried to drop us. Tom knew me from earlier projects and fought for us to remain on the list. We did, and we ended up winning a bid. It was our first industrial project, and the growth we experienced from that was phenomenal – we could barely keep up with payroll because we were growing so fast. We were fortunate to have people lend us the money – sometimes as much as $1 million – until we got paid. Without the help of these people, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
Equipment Manager Ryan Midgley credits the organization’s safety-conscious attitude for its ongoing success.
“Our safety-first mind-set shows in our daily activities and enhances the company’s image by setting a higher standard for others to follow,” Midgley explained.
Loranger also says a dedicated staff of employees has been central to the success of the business. Longtime employees like Midgley and President Dave Zubko have helped to create and sustain a culture of honesty and accountability among Taurus Projects’ 225 employees. Even though Loranger’s reputation and vision have helped the company flourish, he continuously deflects credit.
“I may be the owner, but I’m just another guy,” he said. “I don’t like being called ‘boss;’ it makes me feel uncomfortable. The only difference between my employees and me is that I take more risks – that doesn’t make me any better. I treat everyone who works here with respect; I appreciate everyone.”
Diversification and expansion
From its inception, Taurus Projects has grown considerably, both in services and geographic footprint. The next area of growth for Taurus Projects is to create a maintenance division.
“Diversification is key to a company’s success,” said Loranger. “There is so much uncertainty in this industry that we don’t want to focus too heavily on one area. We hope to open a maintenance division to create more stability in the future. Hopefully, it will give us something else in our toolbox to keep people working, our bills paid and our lights on.”
Its service portfolio is one of many things that has expanded. Roughly 90 percent of Taurus Projects’ work occurs in Alberta, but it has begun to branch out to other provinces. It recently worked on a project for Saskatchewan Co-operative Association refinery in Regina. The company started the project on an 18-month contract and was extended to 52 months due to the quality and safety of its work. Loranger expects Taurus Projects to continue to look for opportunities in other provinces.
“We don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” he said. “The Saskatchewan project gave us some hard-earned respect there, and now we’re looking to do the same in Manitoba and British Columbia.”
‘Prototype’ to pacesetter
It is safe to say that Taurus Projects has shed its “prototype” image in the industry. The company that was almost dropped from a bidders’ list 10 years ago is currently working on two of the largest projects in Alberta. It joined the North West Redwater (NWR) Partnership – an $8.5 billion diesel oil refinery construction project in Edmonton – four years ago and has maintained a presence ever since.
“NWR is probably the highest-profile project in Alberta right now,” said Loranger. “Our package of services that we offer have made us a valuable asset to the project. We are performing material handling; road maintenance, including snow removal, sanding and road grading; and we were added to the bidders’ list for larger earthmoving projects.”
The NWR Partnership has experienced its share of hiccups along the way, mainly due to the global recession and a drop in oil prices, but Taurus Projects continued doing its job.
“When we started, the project was on hold because of the economy,” explained Loranger. “The site was graded, but the grass had grown back. We looked after the site – watched beaver dams and creeks. The main thing we did was dewatering because there was so much water on the site due to its condition. We felt it was important to maintain a presence there.”
The job was the driving force behind Taurus Projects’ decision to develop a maintenance division. Loranger says the company is contracted through 2017 at NWR, and he hopes the new division will offer services that can be attractive to NWR in its next phase.
Taurus Projects is also involved in the Fort Hills oil sands project in Fort McMurray, sponsored by Suncor. In the summer of 2015, Taurus Projects came on board to do material handling.
“We are fortunate to be able to be on two very big jobs, especially at an economic time like this,” said Loranger. “Our goal is to do a quality job and continue to offer as many services as we can. Hopefully, our role continues to grow at each site.”
Taurus Projects has been working with SMS for seven years, and Loranger said he considers SMS and Sales Rep Troy Gallagher as integral components of his business.
“Our first purchase with SMS was a Komatsu PC308 excavator,” recalled Loranger. “Then we bought three WA380-7 wheel loaders, and it’s continued from there. Komatsu machines are perfect for what we do. They are reliable and have excellent power and maneuverability.”
The rest of the company’s Komatsu fleet includes two dozers (a D65PX-17 and a D155AX-7), two more excavators (a PC490LC and a PC210LC-10), a GD655-5 motor grader and an HM300 articulated truck. Taurus Projects’ decision to continue to buy Komatsu equipment was influenced by the service and product support it receives from SMS.
“Being able to call SMS when we have an issue and reach a person – not an answering machine – is amazing,” remarked Midgley. “We can get an answer right away. That’s so valuable.”
Taurus has also taken advantage of KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s remote machine- monitoring system, in a commitment to reduce idle time. Loranger noted that there was an immediate impact.
“When we started, we noticed we had a motor grader that was running for nine hours a day but was used for just 45 minutes,” said Loranger. “It was getting turned on in the morning with the rest of the equipment to warm up, but it wasn’t getting turned off if no one was using it. We put 700 hours on it, and it had barely left the garage.
“What KOMTRAX did was provide us with hard numbers to show our employees,” he added. “That helped get them on board, and there’s been a definite change. As a result, we’ve used significantly less fuel, our maintenance costs are lower and we’ve gotten more out of our warranties.”
The next step
When Loranger thinks about the future of his company, he sees challenges, but also opportunities to expand.
“We’ve been fortunate to experience growth at a time when a lot of other companies are scaling back. It’s a nice feather in our cap, but it’s due in large part to our people and our reputation. We are honest and transparent. We give a fair price and do quality work. I think that’s why we’ve experienced growth, and why it will continue for us,” stated Loranger.
He concedes that growth will be difficult going forward because of ramped-up competition.
“Two years ago, there may have been three bidders for a project, now there are 60 because everyone is looking for work,” he reported. “Luckily, we are on some long-term projects right now, but diversification is going to be key going forward. We make improvements every day to ensure we have the right systems in place, so we can keep chugging along.”