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A ‘Smashers’ success: RRC grad turns dying demolition business into multi-million-dollar enterprise

February 15, 2018

David WilliamsSavvy salesman David Williams knows profit potential when he sees it.

And yet, when you ask him how he managed to turn a dying demolition business into a multi-million-dollar company, he modestly credits his teachers at Red River College — even though he graduated 15 years ago.

“I’ll never forget our marketing instructor,” says Williams, a 2002 graduate of RRC’s Commerce Industry Sales and Marketing program. “He was always discussing how diversification is the wave of the future because of the different economic challenges, and [that we should] try to have different types of business revenues.”

That seemingly small pointer became the secret to Williams’ success.

Five years ago — after working as a top-level sales executive at several companies and trying his luck launching a cellphone app — Williams turned to the trades, and started working with a duct cleaning company. His co-worker’s dad had a demolition company that was going out of business, so they took care of his remaining jobs.

Within a week, Williams realized it would be far more profitable to give up the dust bunny battle and pursue demolition full-time. That’s when he realized his dream of business ownership, and founded Smashers Demolition.

As anyone who’s ever watched HGTV would know, tear-down projects often lead to safety hazards — notably mold and, in older buildings, asbestos. Given that reality — and the tip from his RRC marketing instructor — Williams diversified his company by hiring asbestos and mold experts.

Now Smashers Demolition is, he says, “the No. 1 choice out there for asbestos remediation.”

“We recognized early on that safety is a huge deal in this field, and there were virtually no companies that were COR (certificate of recognition) certified in safety and asbestos,” Williams says. “We became COR certified in 2015 … That was a pivotal point. I’m pretty sure we doubled our sales when we got COR certified.”

Today, Smashers employs a staff of 45 and is one of the province’s largest demolition/asbestos removal companies. Last year it brought in about $5 million in sales, and it regularly lands jobs on $10-million, $20-million and $30-million contracts held by industry bigwigs such as PCL Construction, Bird Construction and Con-Pro Industries.

While safety is a priority for Williams — he devotes over $100,000 of his annual budget to training and equipment — he’s also committed to customer service. Again, he credits his training at RRC.

“At Red River, there was an emphasis on customer service and that was something that I took to heart,” he says.

“In this construction industry, because a lot of it is bid work, people get the perception that they don’t have to provide customer service because if they get the contract, that’s it. But the reason why companies keep calling me back — and we’re not the lowest price sometimes — is because we provide a way higher level of customer service than anybody else in the industry.”

Williams, who lets his leadership team manage “instead of micromanaging everybody,” works 10-hour days but enjoys the flexibility of being his own boss. “I get to wake up with my kids and spend more time with them,” he says.

He’s hoping to double Smashers’ sales over the next several years, and his 10-year goal is to have an office in every Canadian city.

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic,” he says.

Williams would know. He still keeps the practical training he received from numerous RRC instructors fresh in his mind. That’s one go-to business solution that’s never failed him.

“They weren’t just professors; they were teachers who had practical experience in our programs,” he says.

“They had businesses and they were sales professionals and they were able to take their experience and the curriculum and tie it together in a way that made a lot of sense and was really beneficial. That’s more valuable than anything. You can’t teach that in textbooks.”

Profile by Lindsey Ward (Creative Communications, 2004)