There are a growing number of reality television shows that focus on entrepreneurs assuming control over struggling companies and turning them into new successes. And while Rob Tebb hasn’t been on television (other than a profile by the Saskatchewanderer), he has demonstrated how to successfully turn around a company in this province.
Tebb had been working for an established machining company in Regina since 1989, spending much of his time employed at the company’s hydraulic cylinder factory on McAra Street. Then, the company began shifting its focus more toward other areas, which meant a decrease in employees allocated to hydraulics and a subsequent loss of clients.
“They brought me over to try and re-energize the factory. I was successful in this, but it wasn’t fast enough. About four years ago, they told me they were closing that location and would like to move me to Saskatoon,” Tebb said.
“I said, ‘If you’re closing down the shop, then I’m interested in buying the shop and recovering it.’ They agreed to let me purchase the business.”
With no business background, however, Tebb needed help before going through with the deal. He received business support from the Clarence Campeau Development Fund, which supports Metis businesses. He received some financial assistance from the fund, but more importantly, they did a great job of providing guidance and pointing him in the right direction. Tebb and his wife/co-owner Katherine approached a variety of banks, mortgaged everything they had, and took over the shop in September 2013.
The new owners rebranded with the name Xtended Hydraulics & Machine: “We thought the name ‘extended’ suited it well, because hydraulic cylinders extend the life of machines,” said Tebb.
Asked why he was willing to take such a huge risk, Tebb said he saw “huge potential” for the business. Over three years later, it’s clear that he knew what he was talking about. Xtended Hydraulics & Machine has become a trusted full-service machine shop specializing in hydraulic cylinder repair. The company has expanded from six employees to 14.
“Through my years working in the industry, I knew what made the product better and what you had to do to get those customers back,” explained Tebb. “The biggest thing I did was that I found quality employees. I hired the best guys that I knew in the industry. Our ability to meet delivery dates has also been huge, especially when dealing with potash mines or steel mills. If you come back to the table with service, they come back to you very quickly.”
Earlier this year, a major potash company in the province purchased some new equipment, but before putting them into service, the company stripped all the hydraulic cylinders off and sent them to Tebb’s company to be rebuilt.
“They told us, ‘If we put it into service with the cylinder that comes on the machine, we’ll get three months out of it. If we put it into service with yours, we get a year,’” said Tebb. “So that was a pretty big compliment.”
Tebb is proud that his company hires talented young Saskatchewan employees, focusing on northern communities, and gives them the opportunity to go through the apprenticeship program. And who better to train them than former Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST—now Sask Polytechnic) instructor Dick Wilson?
“I’ve known Dick my whole life. He and my dad worked together and Dick was the guy who got me into machining,” said Tebb. “After retiring from SIAST, he popped into the shop and said, ‘Rob, if you’ll hire me, I’d love to come work.’ I eagerly said yes. Dick is the youngest guy in Saskatchewan to get his journeyman certificate and he has been a great mentor to our employees.”
It has been quite the success story so far for Xtended Hydraulics & Machine and the next chapter looks even more promising. In the coming year or so, Tebb said the company will be constructing a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Saskatchewan.
“We’re going to be bringing some equipment in that Saskatchewan hasn’t seen before, while making the operation as green as we possibly can,” Tebb said.
“Right now, I don’t think anybody can touch us for custom built cylinders for mines and steel mills, but we can’t always compete with the larger companies who produce small, standard off-the-shelve cylinders. Our new facility will have a custom side, but we’re also going to have an automated side that will allow us to build industry-driven tie rod cylinders that fit the masses.”