Meet the CEO of Alberta’s largest energy services company

“We’re trying to drive for about 25 per cent of our revenue coming from strategies that we didn’t have five years ago,” Tervita Corp. CEO John Gibson says.

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June 03, 2013

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100-50Tervita Corp.
#1 on the Energy Service 50

Tervita Corp. president and CEO John Gibson wants to drive growth with strategies the company didn’t have five years ago
Photograph Colin Way

John Gibson is skilled at politely fending off questions concerning Tervita Corp.’s potential, if not probable, initial public offering.

“We’ve got a great set of shareholders right now, and an IPO just changes your shareholders,” Gibson says. “If we have [an IPO] – or if we don’t – is not as important to me as executing the strategy of the company.” As president and CEO of this large private company in Alberta’s energy sector, Gibson has been responsible for developing that strategy since March 2012 when Tervita formed out of the combination of 13 different companies. Last year, the ownership group behind CCS Corp., Hazco Environmental Services, Concord Well Servicing and 10 other companies decided to amalgamate its holdings into Tervita, a single, new brand and become a one-stop-shop for oilfield services. Has it been easy? Not exactly. Gibson quotes longtime IBM CEO Lou Gerstner saying, “When you come together to do something of this magnitude, you either need to change the people or change people.”

One of the first things he did was assemble management from each company and articulate what would become Tervita’s shared vision. Managers that didn’t buy into the shared strategy of Tervita had to go, but Gibson believes the departures have helped Tervita grow.

On being an integrated services company:
“We went from a bunch of companies that were just trying to make money to a company that is trying to determine what the next generation of invention and innovation is going to be.”
On creating a safety-first culture:
“We believe that the safest companies are the most profitable companies. We have safety performance contracts with every person in the company. My safety performance contract is taped up outside my door so that everybody can see what I promised to do each quarter and whether or not I’m achieving my goals.”
On how services companies evaluate new markets:
“We spend most of our time looking at what our customers are doing. We’ve watched how the Montney and Horn River have started up, and watched for public research on the quantity of reserves. Then we estimate what the size of the waste is going to be.”

In its first year as a consolidated entity, Tervita pulled in $5.6 billion in revenue. Gibson says that number is split between about $1.5 billion in operational revenues (demolition, waste management, environmental consulting) and $4 billion in energy marketing and distribution.

Further breaking down Tervita’s $1.5-billion operations business, Gibson says, “We were lots of $50 to $100 million companies, and with that, there are lots of redundant activities that you can remove.” In fact, the company laid off approximately 400 workers – or nine per cent of its staff – in September. Some of those cuts came from trimming the size of its accounting team since the consolidation. “We’re not spending as much money on finance because we’ve consolidated the back office and we’re spending more on research and development. That’s one of the big changes.”

The company’s new focus on research and development has led it into some interesting new markets. In 2012, Tervita led a $1.4-million research project to reduce water usage in the oil sands. It also signed an exclusive agreement with TTS Energy Canada to deliver a fleet of electric-powered drilling rigs in North America and is investing in research that it hopes will reduce, and then eliminate, tailings from oil sands operations.

The company has also invested in new waste management facilities for its clients in shale plays from northeastern B.C. to southern Saskatchewan, and from the Marcellus in Pennsylvania to the Eagle Ford and Barnett in Texas. Next, Gibson says, Tervita will extend its environmental services to the Northwest Territories and Yukon. “We’re trying to drive for about 25 per cent of our revenue coming from strategies that we didn’t have five years ago,” Gibson says.

2012 in Review

December Tervita inks an agreement with Chesapeake Energy to handle the Oklahoma City-based company’s waste water in Ohio’s Utica play
October Raises $290 million in a private placement of senior notes maturing in 2019
September Employees confirm that 400 people, or nine per cent of Tervita’s staff, have been laid off
March Hazco Environmental, CCS Corp., Concord Well Servicing and 10 other companies combine to form Tervita Corp.

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2 Responses to “Meet the CEO of Alberta’s largest energy services company”

  1. kcebgnillird says:

    One essential component that John Gibson and this company is not focusing on: Their employees and their families. I have never witnessed the curtailing of wages, hours, and truth within a company.

    I know of several invididuals who have raised a family very well during the times prior to the Tervita branding. I would like to know how someone is expected to look after their family and peace of mind when Tervita only cares about IPOs and at the end of the day filling the major shareholders pockets.

    As a prospective shareholder I would not invest one iraqi dinar in this company. A year ago they let go 500 employees. Tervita is a perfect model of why small businesses ( i.e. the companies they took over) are the backbone to the Canadian economy whereas Tervita Corp and all their execs can go back to Texas, eat a ton of pizza and exploit their own countrymen.

    • Albert Flasher says:

      Seems a tad harsh, given your lack of evidence to support your contentions.
      The “curtailing” of wages and hours and the layoffs of redundant staff are common and largely necessary results of mergers,
      and you offer nothing to back up your notion of truth being “curtailed”.

      Perhaps you are just a bitter former employee?