Tervita Corp.’s Mike Williams helps build communities

Alberta Oil C-Suite Energy Executive Awards

January 01, 2013

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Gee Brillon Chhina Hardy Norris Radford Stewart Williams

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Mike Williams, vice-president, corporate services, Tervita Corp.
Photograph Curtis Comeau

Mike Williams was almost brand new to his job at Tervita Corp. when wildfires razed the northern Alberta town of Slave Lake. Before anyone had tallied the damage, employees with the Calgary-based energy services and waste management giant were looking to help.

“I basically became the executive sponsor and did everything I could to encourage everybody to be creative,” says Williams, vice-president, corporate services, with the company and the recipient of Alberta Oil’s 2012 C-Suite Energy Executive Award for a senior community or government relations executive.

Tervita employees raised $50,000 for the fire-ravaged town through food drives, shaved heads and more. The money, which Tervita matched, helped finish a local hockey arena that has since been named after the company.

“We try and choose things that will make a difference,” Williams says of the company’s approach to outreach.

At the time of the fires, Tervita faced its own internal challenge. The private company, previously known as CCS Corp., embarked on a corporate rebranding initiative last year, consolidating 13 separate divisions under one name. That led to layoffs and cost cutting amid a pullback in client spending last fall.

It also fueled fresh reports that a potential $1-billion initial public offering was in the works. The company has remained mum on speculation. Instead, it has focused on marketing itself as the go-to provider of everything from construction- and environmental-drilling services to oilfield equipment rentals and oil sands core sampling.

Clients today demand integrated service providers, Williams says. Tervita has positioned itself smack in the middle of the unconventional resource boom underway across much of North America. Its closed-loop system for managing waste and fluids is a growing service niche primed to capitalize on changing regulations that eliminate the use of open pits for storing hazardous waste at drill sites in the United States, for example.

So-called “no-pit” rules in the U.S. come as drilling locations encroach on environmentally sensitive areas, raising fresh concerns from landowners and communities. Although much of the not-in-my-backyard anger is directed at a handful of producers with recognizable corporate logos, service companies can play a role in addressing local anxieties, Williams suggests.

“We all live somewhere and we’ve all had experiences where suddenly a landfill, or any other business we do, comes to your community,” he says. “We try to address those concerns right up front. We want to be clear about what we’re trying to do with our business and involve our communities in helping us make sure that we’re welcomed to the community, not seen as a pariah.”

Williams, 52, is a newcomer to the service business. A veteran of the telecommunications and utility sectors, he joined Tervita in 2011 as vice-president of human resources and communications. He graduated from Aston University with a post-graduate degree in human resources management in 1982.

He is no stranger to giving back, having served as a board member at Calgary-based Hull Services, a not-for-profit that provides support to kids, adults and families coping with mental health and behavioral issues. “I’m personally committed to giving back to community,” Williams says. “It’s an expression of our values.”

Career Highlights

  • Held executive positions at Cisco Systems, Newbridge Networks and British Telecom
  • Helped raise $16 million as board chair of Hull Services
  • Worked as chief administrative officer at TransAlta Corp. from 2002 to 2011
  • Co-ordinated Tervita fundraising for Slave Lake reconstruction effort

Verbatim

On being an effective leader: A very important aspect is humility, understanding that leadership exists to provide a direction, to provide clarity, but fundamentally to be the support for the people that really make the difference.

On day-to-day challenges at Tervita: The demographic pressures that we’re all facing are real. Access to enough talented individuals is an ongoing
challenge.

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