Bison Fire Protection Inc.
Partners Rob Read and Emile Jolicoeur founded Bison Fire Protection Inc. (Bison) in 2001. “We worked for another fire protection company,” explains Read. “They wanted to get out of the suppression business and my partner and I wanted to strike out on our own, so we bought that division and started our own business. We started off with suppression systems for kitchens and shortly afterward added a fire alarm division. A few years went by and our customers were asking for sprinklers. We added those services, as well, which has rounded us off pretty nicely.”
With three offices, Bison operates out of locations in Manitoba’s Winnipeg and Thompson, as well as Regina, Saskatchewan. Over the years, the business has added related services and products, allowing the team’s diverse capabilities to offer clients a one-stop shop for fire protection, a quality that sets Bison apart from other providers.
“There are very few people who do the whole package and many try to specialize in one or the other,” Read elaborates. “The added advantage is that we are locally owned. We’re positioned better than the big international companies and are able to offer a far more personalized service.”
Read is proud of what Bison has accomplished. “We have added technology developed by another local business, Quantus, for customer relationship management, service, inventory and accounting, so we can manage our jobs like the big guys do, but without their multinational corporate price tags,” he continues. With efficiencies offered by the Quantus operating system, the crew has picked up several large projects over the last few years.
Value in Services
Bison’s services are broken down into three major divisions: alarms, sprinklers and suppression. According to Read, the company’s staff of approximately 50 is spread fairly evenly throughout the business. Read is also proud to note that Bison’s experienced technicians install everything in-house, relying minimally on trade contractors. However, the team does have the support of major suppliers, including Ansul and Siemens.
Major clients for the company include big-box stores, such as Wal-Mart and Cabela’s, among others. Commercial services extend into hospitality and multifamily housing, with a number of hotels, condominiums and large apartment buildings in Bison’s portfolio. Read is proud to say that Bison has also found work in the growing industrial resource market.
“We have had some good success with the mining industry,” says Read. “We go into a mine and go underground and every piece of mobile equipment has fire suppression. We have put in quite a few Siemens fire alarm systems underground and they are a world-renowned fire alarm manufacturer. Our team is authorized by Siemens and we have expanded contract sales on them. They have introduced a new panel, the Cerberus Pro, for use in sensitive areas like information technology rooms and document rooms. We are able to go into a business with a server room and install suppression technology that can put out a fire without using water.”
Embracing a Changing Market
Despite economic challenges around the world, Bison is experiencing organic growth. Of course, this growth has not come without challenges. “We are growing from a small to a medium-size company,” says Read. “Moving new inventory and managing service has been challenging, which is why we added the Quantus operating system. It’s something we need to do to grow in our current offices, and it will make bringing new acquisitions into the fold much more seamless.”
Read is quick to note that in order to uphold Bison’s esteemed reputation, the company cannot simply pull anyone on board. “The other issue has been finding quality, trained people,” he elaborates. “You can get anybody, but we don’t want just anybody. Our employees grow through the system. There are some really great opportunities here. Some of our branch managers started here as green as grass.”
As a business, Bison has a lot to offer both clients and employees. Bison is more than willing to invest in the growth of its team, ensuring crew members gain valuable skills and experience. Despite organic growth, Read plans to keep the business focused on what matters most: people.
“We have been able to merge and acquire some companies, but we aren’t the faceless corporation trying to buy them out,” Read explains. “We want to connect with our customers and with the community, like our involvement with Siloam Mission. You see companies who come in from outside the province; they get the project done and are never seen again, but customers and the community need support. They also need after sales service, as well as warranty. We see our customers regularly while they can’t. We are a part of the community.”
With a people-focused approach, Read and his team are looking forward to further expansion. Read is proud that Bison is slowly building a presence in Saskatchewan and says that leadership plans to open another location in the province soon, as there are also opportunities in northwestern Ontario. “We plan to expand geographically,” Read notes. “If there are mom and pop operators looking to retire, we’d be happy to go into those markets. We are open to new product lines and clients that are a good fit.” Bison Fire Protection Inc. continues to expand its capabilities and market reach, all while delivering quality products and services.