Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)

October 21, 2008 23:59 ET

Kean's Pump Shop heats up home energy efficiency market

ST. JOHN'S, NL, Oct. 21 - Since 2004, when he acquired what
was essentially a water pumping business, Matthew Hickman, 34, has
dramatically transformed Kean's Pump Shop Limited. Today, the flourishing
operation provides water, air and heating solutions and services for
municipal, commercial and residential clients. For this success, Matthew has
earned BDC's Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Newfoundland and
Labrador. He will receive the honour tonight at a ceremony in Vancouver,
British Columbia.
Before acquiring the company, the St. John's native had been involved in
water treatment projects for marine support vessels, such as oil rigs, in the
North Sea. While looking at adapting the technology to provide Swedish
communities with efficient, cheap and durable water treatment systems, he
realized that Newfoundland faced many of the same challenges. "The technology
actually wasn't adaptable, but while looking into it, I met the founder of
Kean's Pump Shop, who wanted to retire," Matthew explains.
Working with Kean's existing team, Matthew began by shedding less
profitable aspects of the company's operations in order to capitalize on
promising opportunities, including home energy efficiency. One area of the
business that posed a particularly big challenge involved municipal water
infrastructure work awarded by public tender, which represented 28.5% of the
company's sales. "The long-term potential wasn't there, so we had to find ways
to grow our business while getting rid of a very large part of our revenue
base that wasn't as profitable as it should be. I gave us four years to get
out of that market completely and we did it," Matthew says. Today, the
multi-faceted company provides a wide range of water, air and heating
solutions, including consultation, design, installation and service. Its home
energy efficiency products and services, provided through a franchise called
Aire Serv, are in huge demand due to the skyrocketing price of oil.

A higher standard of service

To reduce their reliance on less profitable areas, Matthew and the team
grew their service-related revenues by bringing a higher standard of
professionalism to customers small and large. "Our advice and services are a
reflection of our professionalism. Whether it's something simple or a project
for a multimillion-dollar house, we never lose sight of the fact that our
clients are trusting us with their investment. We spend a lot of time getting
to know their needs. We're not there to fix what's wrong today; we're there to
manage the client's entire system for them," he says.
Like many growing businesses, Kean's finds recruiting enough skilled
people a challenge. To overcome it, the company spreads the word through a
network of contacts, as well as through suppliers, community colleges and
certified journeymen. In the short term, the company's focus is on building
its thriving energy efficiency operation, a task that will include starting up
a facility in Halifax next year. "Since 2004, we've more than doubled our
overall technical staff. The challenge is making sure we have the operational
capacity to handle the volume," says Matthew.
Very much involved in the community, the company sponsors activities,
provides financial support, and donates products and services for various
causes. It also provides employees with paid time off to volunteer. "People
find it fulfilling, and everyone benefits. It's such an easy thing to offer,"
Matthew explains.
"Matthew has skillfully overcome the challenges inherent in acquiring an
established company to successfully reinvent his business and take advantage
of emerging opportunities," says BDC President and CEO Jean-René Halde.
Matthew is thrilled about the recognition his company is receiving thanks
to the award. "It's a great boost for the business and for the entire team,"
he says.

Highlighting young leaders

BDC's Young Entrepreneur Awards are a highlight of Small Business Week.
They recognize the entrepreneurial spirit and the business and leadership
accomplishments of Canadians between the ages of 19 and 35. Winners from each
province and territory are selected by a panel based on the originality of
their business concept, success, growth potential and social involvement. The
panel also considers the entrepreneur's age when the business was started and
any special challenges that were overcome.

Small Business Week partners

Contributing to the success of this year's Small Business Week and Young
Entrepreneur Awards are the following national sponsors: Rogers, Western
Economic Diversification Canada and Export Development Canada. Privileged
partners are the Pan Canadian Community Futures Group and the Canadian Chamber
of Commerce, which has been a privileged partner of the event since 1981.

About BDC

BDC is Canada's business development bank. From 94 branches across the
country, BDC promotes entrepreneurship by providing highly tailored financing,
venture capital and consulting services to entrepreneurs. BDC works with
entrepreneurs in all industries, through all economic cycles and focuses on
helping small and medium sized businesses in their development projects, local
and global. BDC manages a $10.6 billion loan and investment portfolio and
serves over 28,000 clients. Small and medium sized businesses make up 99.7% of
all employer businesses in Canada. Visit for more information.
Small Business Week is a registered trademark of BDC.

Contact Information

  • BDC Media Room: (604) 893-7343, 1-877-232-9321; After October 21: Johanne
    Bissonnette, Media Relations Manager, (514) 283-7929