BizBuzz Volume 3 Issue 2

We complain about the rough economy. We grumble about free and fair trade, or the lack thereof. We moan about high taxes and how unfair the business world is to most of us. But thankfully, few of us have ever had to face to type of challenges that Kim Blair has had to face. Kim is the president of Steven Blair
Contracting. And what she has been through makes those economic concerns trivial – perhaps even meaningless – by comparison. Four years ago, her husband and namesake of the company, Steven Blair, was killed in a road accident. Given that enormous tragedy, and with the futures of her two young boys and a long-standing company in her hands, Blair chose to press on. “It was a real drastic change,” understates Kim, noting that Steven committed most of the inner workings of the business to memory. “He had stuff in his head, I had to have it all on paper,” she explains, reflecting that “I just had to have all of it in front of me to see what was really, really happening and how much jobs cost and are we making money, losing money and stuff like that, so yeah, I guess that’s how I kind of got through that time and now I feel confident that we’re on an even keel as to how we carry on from this point forward.”

 

Based in Oxdrift, Steven Blair Contracting has been operating since 1981. It grew from a single owner operator business to owning about 20 trailers, 10 pieces of heavy equipment and eight tractor trailer units, plus other assets. The diverse company hauls across Canada, and also does excavating and site preparation, installs septic fields, performs snow plowing, road building and grading, as well as bull dozer work. Kim Blair says that diversity is helping the contracting company successfully weather the economic storm. “So far this has been the best quarter we’ve had in five years,” she tells us, “so I guess we’re holding our own and just looking at different aspects. We haven’t had to change our ways too much yet, but we’re definitely open to new suggestions . We’re turning a little bit more towards the mining companies and a little less of the forestry because that is the big one right now.”

Kim Blair has a good business background, including three years of computer programming in College, along with courses in accounting, industrial relations, and marketing. She took several business courses in high school as well. She is also getting a hand from her son, 20 year old Cameron, who Kim says might someday run the business. “He’s been operating equipment since he was 13 and always had the crappy jobs like washing the trucks and greasing trucks and doing all those type of things, cleaning the shop and things like that, so that’s kind of where he started,” relates Blair, adding “he’s come a long way now and I don’t know where it’s going yet, but…l think it’s been great and all of a sudden he’s got ideas that I’ve never had, so yeah, I think there’s nothing like it.” Kim also has another son named Cody who is a couple of years younger than Cameron

While Cameron Blair may wind up being a big part of the business in the future, Kim says she isn’t quite sure what the future will hold for the business. “Well, my five year plan keeps changing, so I don’t know where it’s going to go,” she smiles, but adds that “I don’t look at growing any bigger than we are right now. Maybe changing and modifying things or buying different trailers to accommodate the environmentally green biomass type of industry. If we have to do that type of thing, that could be a possibility, but not looking to grow at this point of time in size anyway. Maybe downsizing a bit to just make it more economical and do it that way as opposed to having everything and maybe looking at where we are really making our money.”

As the family works at strengthening the company for the long haul, Kim says the business location is ideal for long haulers. “In the trucking industry you have half load restrictions. You’re basically shut down for a few months while that’s going on. So when you’re on the highway, it’s a prime location… people want to park their stuff there until they can move it,” explains Blair, “and just for us to go to certain jobs because we are in that location has been beneficial and then hauling across Canada, being centrally located on the highway is an asset. People can pop in quite easily with their big rigs and know that they don’t have turn around problems, so it’s an excellent spot.”

While the road has definitely not been an easy one for Kim Blair and her family, she acknowledges that there have been a number of people who have lent a hand to her both in business
and in life. “The loyal employees have really helped me because they’ve been with me some of them ten to fifteen years,” says Blair, “so having them in place has really helped me cope
too.” But despite all she has been through, when you mention the word challenges, Blair responds this way. “Challenges? I guess!” laughs Kim, adding insightfully before “I’ve learned to enjoy them or I’ve learned to go with the flow and then finally get to the enjoying them stage.”