2019, Volume 4, Issue 2 - Fall 2019

Game Changers

Brought to you by Pinnacle

“If West Nile kills one person, malaria kills hundreds of thousands every year.”

Steve Kroft, President & CEO of Conviron, says as he leans back in his chair with his hands steepled in front of him in conversation with Rhae Redekop, Pinnacle Senior Recruitment Consultant, about the Game Changers within his organization that contributed to 40% growth this year over last.

“We had a customer in Maryland a number of years ago, The National Institute of Health (NIH) agency in the US. They were doing research into malaria and needed controlled environments to house mosquitoes infected with the disease. Through strategic questioning we were able to determine that they needed rooms that were a certain level of containment, pressure, temperature and humidity. Mosquitos will go dormant at less than 50 degrees. In the event they escaped the screened cages inside of the rooms, the researchers needed to be able to very quickly lower temperature with the push of a button. Once the bugs were dormant, someone could go in, sweep them up, get them in their cages and turn the temperature back up. It was a highly complex system with built in redundancies. I think that’s what sets us apart from the competition. We’ve become known for our specialized solutions.”

Conviron designs, manufactures and installs controlled environment chambers. Everything from reach-in products the size of a large household refrigerator to rooms over 2000 square feet.

Steve elaborates, “What we do is give our clients the ability to create very specific environmental conditions primarily for agricultural research, and more recently for agricultural production as in the cannabis space. Cannabis has been interesting for us, because no other company in the world has the level of experience we do when it comes to growing plants under precise conditions. But we’re not taking the business and saying, we’re all in research or we’re all in cannabis. We’ve opened the window to cannabis, because there’s potential to add value there too. Our research clients still depend on us to continue to move the needle forward in their industry. They have incredibly important work to do.”

RR: Have you learned something from the Cannabis industry to apply to your technology?

SK: “We’ve always prided ourselves on whatever the client wants, the client gets. However, the reality is that in order to maintain your quality, get your supply chain right, get volume through, remain competitive, give your clients value and then on top of everything, continue to grow your operations, we had to find ways to design alternatives for configurable systems. Speed and cost are critical considerations for start-ups, and we needed to adapt.”

RR: How have you seen that affect your team in regard to recruitment?

SK: “When it comes to recruiting, when every product and project was custom and you hired someone, it was two years before they could really contribute. Now they can plug into process and predictability.”

RR: Was there something that ultimately changed how you operate the business? Someone or a scenario you would refer to as a Game Changer?

SK: “Working with great recruiters has been beneficial. If you looked around our table – even as recently as seven years ago, almost everyone was Conviron bred. Now when you look around, we have people from Standard Aero, Buhler Versatile, New Flyer; some great Winnipeg design engineering companies. This combination of experiences has been wonderful for us.

To me, what’s important is curiosity and passion. We want people who are curious and who will ask questions. And I know, it’s probably the same answer everyone gives, but we want team players. When my kids or any student is worried about their future because of a bad grade, I say, look, I have almost 300 employees. I can’t tell you what any of their marks were or even where more than a few of them went to school. But I can tell you who asks great questions and who’s got a great handshake. I can tell you who the good listeners are and who is a real collaborator. I can’t tell you what they got on their GMAT or their second-year chemistry mark. And I don’t really care.

Some of our best leaders, including our chief engineer who just retired, was not a professional engineer. He grew up in this business and understood it. He was amazing with clients, knew what to ask, and he was the most passionate guy. He was our best salesperson. He was one of the guys that I always thought, what are we going to do when he retires? Well, guess what, we have a whole group of people who have learned under him and we’re in awesome shape.

When we’re hiring, we talk a lot about our values. We don’t need you to be a plant growth chamber expert, or an ag. expert. We don’t need you to come in and explain to us how photosynthesis works, or the difference between different light sources.

At the end of the day, we are a client centric business that focuses on C.A.R.E. – Collaboration (internally and with clients), Accountability, Respect, and Engagement.”

RR: What’s your vision for Conviron going forward? Five years, 10 years?

SK: “We try to go where science is going. We manage massive amounts of data with our clients on grows and we’re concentrating on how we can use that data and turn it into even more useful information for our clients so that they can really hone in on the details. For example, if we control the environment this way, with these nutrients, in this light, at this temperature, and this humidity, CO2, etc, we’re going to get the perfect crop. This research is used in medicine, food, textiles, companies producing a flu, cancer and other vaccines, and the list goes on.

We’re going to continue to lead with technology. And we’re going to continue to hire the best, brightest and most passionate people we can.”

About Pinnacle

Pinnacle is Winnipeg’s leading local recruitment firm with 25 industry-specialized recruiters in two areas: Executive & Professional Search, and Staffing & Recruiting. Learn more at www.pinnacle.jobs.