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Finding Balance: Keeping focus when you’re outside the 9-5 world

Highway maintenance is not your typical job. The hours are all over the map, and the work is demanding. But Frank Rizzardo and Emcon Services Inc. have found their own form of balance, and it’s kept them in business for over 30 years.

Balance can come in many forms. For some, it means an equal distribution of time between work and home. For others, including Frank Rizzardo, President & General Manager of Emcon Services Inc., balance is more about giving it your best effort while you’re at work and giving your family the best of you at home. After all, highway maintenance is not a typical 9-to-5 desk job; the hours may be erratic, and expectations are great.

“We assume our management team will arrange their time such that their primary concern, their home environment, is number one, and work is number two,” says Frank. “We ask a lot of them while they’re at work — 150% effort — but we also expect that they’re going to be at home, with family, raising kids.”

This approach is partly what has helped keep Emcon in business for over three decades, which is no easy feat in the maintenance industry. And this commitment to employees comes back full circle to the company, where they have seen former employees retire from the working world but still come back to pitch in where they can. It’s all part of the passion and dedication that has become embedded in Emcon’s very DNA.

Commitment from all levels at all times

Leaving the working world doesn’t mean leaving highway life behind. Especially when you’re as dedicated to your work as your company is to your well-being.

“We have a fellow who retired with us recently. He survived a fairly serious health condition, and we were there for him for the two years he dealt with that,” Frank says. “And he’s one of the ones that comes back. He’ll drop on a dime to be here to help us out, either with RFPs or going out in the field and assessing what’s required on a response for us.”

This is the positive atmosphere that Emcon has built over the last 31 years in business, a fact that Frank is exceptionally proud of. “That’s something we really hang our hats on,” he elaborates. “They’re still with us, and they come back. They retire but they don’t ever want to leave the industry.”

Frank is all too aware that this isn’t the case for many others in business, and that this level of commitment and loyalty is becoming rarer. However, he’s confident in Emcon’s ability to continue these practices. “We’re still trying to develop more of that commitment,” he says.
“We think our success is through our people. Anything that I or any one individual does in any of our locations all contributes. Success is a team result, which is what we stress.”

Better banking gets you balanced

Balance also means leaning on the resources you have to help when they’re needed. CWB has assisted Frank and Emcon Services with their latest ambitious acquisition, taking over the contracts and leases from Carillion Canada’s operations in Ontario and Alberta.

“When you have a banker that delivers your argument very succinctly and is able to convince the risk guys that we know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, it’s a huge statement,” Frank says of the bank’s support in court to process the sale.

This move effectively tripled Emcon’s size and volumes, and could have easily been overwhelming without the proper support from the bankers that have always worked to understand their business operations.

“They’re there as partners,” Frank says of CWB. “They react to our asks more than anything else. Where CWB tries very hard is to support individuals in expanding their knowledge base to fit the industries that they’re trying to service.”

When your bank can be a trusted partner at a pivotal moment in your business’ history, it’s much easier to keep balance in all other areas of your day-to-day.

Remember to tend to your own, too

For Frank personally, work-life balance has been a challenge at times. He fiercely believes in paying his good fortune forward, pushing himself to be a strong presence on various boards or in groups that have a voice. “I do a lot of agency and association work to pay back the industry that has been very kind to us over the years,” he explains. “That means a lot of travel and meeting with individuals, companies, governments, agencies and ministers across the country.”

While this may achieve balance in the sense of equally contributing back to a sector that has given so much, Frank acknowledges that if you ask his wife about the work-life balance she may give a very different answer.

One helpful advance in technology has made it easier than ever before to stay connected, though. With the advent of video calls, Frank can be present without physically crossing the country. “I have six grandchildren, and I try to spend as much time with them as I can,” he notes. “It can be on FaceTime or Skype or in-person. Regardless of the method of maintaining that connection, family is really key.”

However, if forced to make an either or choice in his life, Frank knows there’s only one option: family. “I would give up the business connection. I’d come up with someone else to run it, or I’d take actions relative to that.” And Frank expects any of his team to make the same choice as he would if necessary.