Confidence is a vital key to success, whether it be in business or in life, and Chris Wilson, owner and CEO of Indigenously owned and operated Birch Mountain Enterprises has all the reason to be confident.
Born in Fort McMurray and raised in Fort McKay, Wilson always had dreams of starting his own business, but that’s not to say the decision to start Birch Mountain Enterprises (BME) at the time was easy. It meant walking away from a stable job with the company that had trained him, into the unsure world of entrepreneurship.
In 2004 Wilson made that choice. He consulted with Syncrude management, his brother Lee, and his family, and decided it was time to start BME.
“I always grew up dreaming of owning my own company, but along the way I’d always let someone else talk me out of it,” said Wilson. “It was never the right time, or my current job was too good to leave to risk it all, but I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit and eventually you just have to go for it.”
That risk paid off, with BME growing from just Wilson, his brother Lee, and their friend Ivan Boucher in the early days, to over 330 employees working across multiple oil sands sites in fluid and waste management, fuel delivery, and equipment cleaning.
“Every day I go to work I’m always impressed and I’m always proud,” said Wilson
“I never thought it would get this big or successful, but when you hire good people and they buy into your philosophy it just works.”
It’s that confidence in the team he’s assembled that has allowed Wilson’s company to grow and flourish. He believes in hiring the best talent available, and then giving them room to do their job.
“You have to be confident in your work, and the team you’ve assembled. At the end of the day, that’s what our clients see is a company that works together like a family and stands behind each other, and that translates to good business in the field.”
“I’ve got leaders who have been with me from almost day one, and they’re not afraid to make a call. They’re not afraid to back up their decisions because they need space to be leaders.”
It’s those leaders who’ve allowed Wilson to step back from the fieldwork he cut his teeth in and to transition into the day to day office work the company requires to grow. In the office Chris has had to learn how to transition into a leadership and director role, under his direction the company has grown by leaps and bounds.
“It is hard, I’ve been used to having my hands in it and getting dirty, and to transition into an office and the primarily the leadership side of the business my mind has to work a lot harder than my body now.”
“It has its own rewards though. In the morning when you have trucks ready to go, and things are running smoothly, you can stand back and look at all you’ve accomplished with a sense of pride.”
The success of the company also has Wilson looking for ways to give back to the community that’s given him everything. Whether its sponsoring a hockey team or a local MMA fight, or contributing over $250,000 to the Northern Lights Health Foundation, Wilson is always ready to rally to a good cause.
“Giving back is simple, it just feels good. This community, this region of Wood Buffalo has given me every opportunity I’ve had to be successful in life. This community is where my daughters were born, it’s where I got my post-secondary education, and now that I’ve been fortunate to have some success in life giving back makes me proud.”
When asked who he could point out who helped him succeed along the way, Wilson was quick to provide a list. He would like to thank his family, Keyano College, the Fort McKay group of companies, and the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association.