For 20 years, those challenges have been spelling opportunity for Edmonton’s Katch Kan. The company had its genesis in the oil-patch experiences of CEO Quinn Holtby, who founded the business in 1994.
“I began working on drilling rigs at 18,” says Holtby, “and over eight years I witnessed countless preventable accidents, irresponsible waste and unnecessary environmental damage. So I committed myself to doing something about it.”
That “something” has become the company’s two flagship products, its Rig Safety System and its Zero Spill System. These work together to help protect the health and safety of oil rig workers, minimize pollution by preventing spills, and reduce operating costs by allowing expensive drilling fluids to be recycled. Manufactured at the company’s facility in Edmonton, Katch Kan’s systems are now exported to more than 60 countries.
Katch Kan has three corporate offices: the head office in Edmonton, Alberta, a second in Conroe, Texas, and a third in Bahrain. Elsewhere it operates through distributors, which are sprinkled around the world from Mexico to Saudi Arabia to Japan. And its successful mix of products and service has brought the company widespread recognition—it was a 2009 Alberta Export Award Finalist, for example, and won the Award for Excellence in Health & Safety Products, Midcontinent 2014.
David Nygaard, Katch Kan’s Business Development Director, attributes the company’s success to several factors. “First and foremost is our product line, which deals with specific safety and environmental needs in the industry. We also invest a lot of money in R&D, in innovation and in creating custom solutions for our clients. Another important factor is that our manufacturing and management processes are ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified, which helps us maintain the quality of our products and customer service.”
In the North American market, one vital contributor to Katch Kan’s success isn’t so immediately obvious, mainly because we’ve become so accustomed to it. This is NAFTA, which gives Canadian exporters an edge over their non-North American competitors in the United States and Mexico.
“These two markets are incredibly important for us,” says Nygaard. “Since we manufacture all our products in Canada, NAFTA allows us to export them to our Mexican and U.S. customers duty-free. I don’t know if we’d be doing the same amount of business in either of those markets if it weren’t for NAFTA.”
Regulations and relationships
Like most oil and gas companies, Katch Kan can be affected if a government arbitrarily changes its oil and gas policies in a market where the company has customers. “In that situation,” says Nygaard, “having a diversified global business is a great advantage for us, since we can wait to see how the changes will affect us at the operational level. This ability usually pays off when the market comes back.”
In a related area, Katch Kan takes great pains to understand the regulatory conditions of a new market. “Safety and environmental approaches may be quite different from those in Canada,” says Nygaard, “and we have to take that into account. Sometimes, also, regulations aren’t as rigorous as they are at home, so we try to work with like-minded local people to encourage greater safety and environmental protection.”
Another perennial challenge for Katch Kan’s international growth is finding the right strategic business partners and building relationships with them. This receives a lot of attention from company management.
“Our CEO is very active in promoting the company,” Nygaard observes. “We’ve participated in the major oil and gas shows around the world for years, and make extensive use of the assistance provided by Canadian government agencies such as the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the Government of Alberta and Export Development Canada (EDC).”
EDC’s relationship with the company, in fact, has been a close one. Earlier in its growth trajectory, Katch Kan used EDC’s financial and risk management tools, but more recently its emphasis has shifted to developing new business relationships in cooperation with EDC.
“As just one example,” says Nygaard,”EDC has been instrumental in helping us open new doors to the U.S. market and its supply chains. This kind of help is extremely valuable to us, and we’re continuing to work with EDC’s U.S. and Mexican representatives to develop more contacts and relationships.”