Wyoming’s Redi Services lives up to its name as a do-it-all service provider in the mining and energy exploration fields
With gold prices climbing past $1,500 an ounce and experts anticipating continued solid prices, mines are in full operation to extract the valuable metal from rock. In eastern Nevada, mine owners turn to the local branch of Redi Services, headquartered in Lyman, Wyo., for an array of services.
Serving the mining operations is part of a successful do-it-all growth plan for Redi Services’ co-owners Gary Condos and Jay Anderson. The pair – Condos organizes field work and Anderson is the chief financial officer – founded the company in 2005 with a goal to diversify until Redi Services becomes the one-call, one-shop support service provider to gold and trona mines, electric power and gas plants, refineries, energy exploration companies and municipalities.
In the name of diversification, they’ll do everything from pumping sumps and disposing of waste materials to painting and coating containers and insulating components. The breadth of challenging jobs requires a varied and muscular fleet of trucks and a crack team of multitasking operators.
Focusing on maintenance services less affected by swings in the economy, Redi Services has opened eight branches in five states – Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and North Dakota – and employs nearly 500 workers. Just when it looked as if no other opportunities remained, another would show up.
Condos and Anderson recently initiated a fire suppression business and began a civil earth-moving and excavation division. The continual searching for add-on services across the wide-open Western states has paid off. Annual revenue for the company has exploded from $5 million in its first year to $55 million for 2009.
The company’s most important assets are not its equipment, says Condos, but rather its people. “If I have a secret to success, it’s surrounding myself with top-quality managers. They are the honest, self-disciplined, hard-working folks who are always looking.”
In turn, the partners concentrate on giving managers latitude to do their jobs. “If they don’t measure up, the system spits them out,” says Condos. “Successful companies don’t have a lot of hierarchy, rules, and regulations at the managerial level. That stifles progress.”
Condos’ philosophy is that there are challenges once in a while, but never any problems. “My favorite saying is, ‘We have only good days, but some are better than others,’” he says. “We can choose to use the different challenges as learning experiences.”
Condos constantly reinforces business ethics with his managers, holds weekly conference calls, and spends much of his time working with them at different locations. “The managers are responsible for maintaining quality throughout our 30 business lines,” he says. “It’s a big challenge. One inferior job from even the world’s best company will damage the relationship with that client.”
Because experienced operators are difficult to find in the Rocky Mountain region, the partners try to retain employees when they acquire a new company. As incentive, they offer a 401(k) retirement plan, paid vacations, sick days, and health insurance with dental and eye care.
Their reputation for acquiring companies prompts many business owners to call with offers to sell. Properties that interest the partners have the correct market niche and solid reputation. The location also must have industrial clients requiring sufficient support services to bolster growth.
“We look at what the firm did well and not so well, listen to our gut feelings, and make our decision,” says Condos.
It began in 2005 with the purchase of Redi Industrial Services, an industrial insulation company in Lyman, Wyo. The partners deleted “industrial” from the name, then went looking for other maintenance services that fit their business plan. GTM Ltd. in Meeker, Colo., purchased in 2006, launched them into solid waste management and water and septage hauling for the oil fields. The territory had an insatiable need for those services, enabling Redi to grow rapidly.
A fleet of 50 trucks supports the industrial cleaning, vacuum loading, and hydroexcavation work. There are four Guzzler Classic industrial air movers, 10 F2 hydroexcavators from Tornado Hydrovacs, and four Mud Dog hydroexcavators from Super Products LLC. Most have Dresser Roots positive displacement blowers producing 27-inches Hg. Redi also moves product in 14 5,000-gallon bobtail vacuum trucks, 10 5,000-gallon vacuum tractor trailers, five 3,200-gallon bobtail potable water trucks, and four 6,000-gallon tankers.
The fleet also includes septic and portable restroom service trucks. Most are from Satellite Industries Inc., as are the 2,000 Maxim 3000 restrooms in the company inventory.
“Offering portable sanitation got our foot in the door more than once,” says Condos. “After that, my guys are really good about cross-selling and we end up doing multiple services for the client.” Restrooms go mainly to construction and energy exploration companies, the mines, and construction firms. Condos reserves newer units and Liberty (Satellite) handicap restrooms for special event uses.
GAME DAY EVERY DAY
The company’s Elko, Nev., branch has a strong presence servicing gold mines in the area. Redi workers engage in high-pressure (40,000 psi) pipe cleaning to remove deposits from the ore extraction process, vacuum sumps, and sandblast, paint and coat tanks and containers.
“We also insulate parts and provide self-contained fire suppression units – four or five fire extinguishers with an arrester – for mining equipment,” says Nevada branch manager Scott Banks. “Another part of our maintenance and support is providing contract labor to supplement mine personnel.”
A fleet of vacuum trucks supports the gold extraction process, and drivers must keep meticulous records to meet the transparency level demanded by companies to satisfy state and federal environmental protection agencies. “But the work is not just about guys who can run vac trucks anymore,” says Banks. “Our drivers must have communication skills and be good at customer relations, because they are vital to us prospering in a highly competitive business. If there is a problem, we want to hear about it right now so we can fix it.”
Preventing emergencies by working with mine planners is another important role for Redi. One recent example was client error; a worker poured weak acid (pH 3 or 4) in the wrong tank. Banks immediately pulled a vacuum truck off a pond cleanup at another mine to handle the situation. “Our customers work with us when someone has an emergency,” says Banks. “They know we’ll then work late or do whatever is necessary to complete their project on time.”
EYEING SERVICE EXPANSION
Hydroexcavators play a major role in the energy fields by cleaning drilling tanks of inverted mud and hauling it to disposal facilities. “The unpaved roads pound the Tornado and two Mud Dogs to death,” says Pat Henkels, Colorado hydroexcavation manager. “They’re carrying 1,600 gallons of water to slurry the mud for vacuuming. Even then, the material is so thick that it takes a push plate to dump it, and so much remains behind that operators have to wash out the tank.”
In the gas fields, Redi uses Mud Dogs to expose lines and solve byproduct disposal problems. Waste materials are stored in pits 60 by 40 feet long and 4 to 6 feet deep. “The volume is immense,” says Henkels. “Even when using the larger Tornado, it takes a week to clean a pit hauling four to five loads per day. In addition, we’re constantly vacuuming the sand used to fracture the soil.” It takes three days to remove 6 to 8 feet of it from two frac tanks. The company also does environmental cleanups.
Redi workers have been effective at spotting expansion opportunities in untried areas. For example, Redi electricians working at wind farms in Wyoming heard from maintenance crews that 6- by 100-foot-long fiberglass turbine blades were cracking. Normally, they cut up the damaged blades with a demolition saw, but the process was slow, hazardous and dusty. Sim Aimone, Redi’s hydroblasting manager, convinced the client to try hydrocutting. His crew quickly cut the blades into manageable pieces, then safely disposed of them.
Often, Redi has to tackle challenging work done at an average elevation of 7,000 feet in Wyoming and Colorado and exacerbated by temperatures reaching 20 to 30 degrees below zero. “Winters are long and hard,” says Condos. “Developing procedures to winterize our liquid trucks was a huge learning curve.”
Condos and Anderson turned to their industrial insulation division, which includes employees who sew custom blanket and roll insulation pads that are sold worldwide. They have two inches of fiberglass insulation inside a heavy neoprene canvas sleeve. “We insulate all the waterlines with them and blanket other components that could freeze,” says Condos. “Some pads even have heat trace elements.”
One unusual challenge is finding the necessary workforce to support the Bakken Shale Formation oil fields in North Dakota. “We need experienced hydroexcavation and vacuum truck operators,” says Condos. “Last summer, 127 drilling rigs were operational and experts expect the number to increase. We’re supplying potable water for their camps and bathroom facilities, then hauling the septage. Our vacuum tractor trailers haul out produced water or bring in frac water for energy exploration. We even provide roll-off trash bins. It’s a very exciting area for us.”
Work in the Bakken fields is expanding too rapidly to determine average volumes, but Colorado’s numbers reflect the overall activity. “We transported 400,000 to 500,000 gallons of septage per month in 2009 and 600,000 to 800,000 gallons of potable water,” says Levi Roche, Redi’s Colorado fluid hauling manager. “October brought multiple major projects that increased our volume to 700,000 and more than 1 million gallons respectively.” Crews drove three 3,000-gallon and one 2,000-gallon septic trucks and six portable restroom trucks.
WORK ETHIC IS KEY
As Condos and Anderson reflect on the company’s growth trajectory, they say the progress – even during a tough economic period – is simply explained. It’s all about keeping your nose to the grindstone and being prepared to answer the call.
“Companies can hire all the brains in the world to analyze things, but in the end, success boils down to hard work so you’re ready when opportunity knocks,” Condos says. “My four sons and Jay’s two sons are steeped in it. Now they’re involved in running the business and we plan to just keep moving forward.”