On a Monday morning after a particularly cold Calgary weekend, Arpi's Industries President Julie Berdin is in high spirits. It was a busy 48 hours for the company.
"Lots of repair calls," she says. Besides 24-hour emergency service to stoke the furnace fires on those -20 degree nights, Arpi's is a full service mechanical contractor, providing heating, air conditioning, ventilation, plumbing and air quality solutions.
"It's a mixed farm approach," says Julie, using an expression she will sprinkle liberally throughout our conversation. However, I soon learn, it's not a furnace industry term. Nor is it an air conditioning industry term, or even a plumbing term.
"That's Dad's term," says Julie.
The mixed farm approach was a survival method for her father, Arpad "Arpi" Berdin. In 1963, after emigrating from the country now known as Slovenia, he started Arpi's Heating in his garage. Soon he expanded to include plumbing for his residential customers, as well as moving into commercial work.
"Whatever work Dad could get, he'd chase it. We're now based fully in Calgary, but there was a time when Dad was in Saskatoon, Edmonton, Moose Jaw and Lethbridge. If the work was there, we went and did it."
Fifty years later, there's more than enough work to keep Arpi's three hundred employees busy, partly because of the company's vertical integration as it evolves to serve the community's needs. Not only does Arpi's install air conditioning systems and furnaces, it also provides the maintenance service. Commercially, it's the largest combined mechanical contractor in Western Canada. They have made major contributions to high-profile projects such as the Bow Building, the Calgary Zoo and Bankers Hall.
The company caught the eye of Deloitte, landing Arpi's on the Best Managed Companies list of 2012. Arpi's might have a retro feel when it comes to promotional pictures, but Julie attributes innovation as one of the reasons for their success.
"We are very much using computer-aided design, AutoCAD, these types of programs to do as much front end work as we can."
On the residential end, Arpi's in-house draftsmen do a lot of the advance planning, unlike many of its competitors. A private company, Arpi's owns its assets instead of leasing them, including a recent $4-million investment in state-of-the-art technology and equipment. But considering the company's Better Business Bureau ethics awards, the most important part of Arpi's acumen might be the down-on-the-farm friendly and respectful customer service.
"Every industry has its undesirables, but you're not in business for fifty years if you operate like that. I mean, Calgary's not that big," says Julie, laughing. "Word of mouth is probably a third of our business. You're inviting me into your home. It's a big deal."
By YouInc Columnist Tiffany Burns