Leadership means developing Your skills, too.
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Arcticold Refrigeration manufactures aftermarket replacement refrigeration systems for the RV (recreational vehicle) fridge industry. What’s interesting about this type of refrigeration is that it uses absorption refrigeration technology – there are no compressors or pumps. They use ammonia, which happens to be an environmentally friendly type of refrigeration.
Matthew has chosen an unusual place to set-up his growing manufacturing business – in the tiny village of Saint-Antoine (population 2,000) about 30 minutes north of Moncton. They use logistics companies to supply their product across North America with warehouses located in Calgary, Atlanta, Houston and soon a new warehouse on the west coast of the United States. This model allows Arcticold to get their product to their customers fast.
There have been many challenges along the way, including barriers to growth and issues related to their location. I started my conversation with Matt by asking him if the RV market is his only market…
A: No. Actually, this type of refrigeration is also used in off-grid applications such as camps and cottages.
Q: What makes your units ideal for off-grid use?
A: This type of refrigeration can operate off electricity, propane and kerosene. So there are many uses for this type of refrigeration. The largest market, of course, is the recreational vehicle market.
Q: What’s your competition look like and how do you compare?
A: Our main competition is the companies that manufacture new refrigerators. There are three companies one of which was just purchased by one of the other two. But these companies are manufacturing refrigerators for the OEM. This means, if the fridge in your RV stopped working and sprung a leak – the most common issue with these fridges – you would have two options. You could buy a brand new refrigerator for $1,500-$2,500 or you could repair your refrigerator, which would consist of purchasing a cooling system from us. We would send you the installation instructions and a video on how to install it. It’s very much a do-it-yourself project at a cost of $700-$800.
Q: So your clients are do-it-yourselfers?
A: Yes, that’s the majority of our clients. Our solution has a lifetime warranty – all of our new products come with a lifetime warranty.
Q: What got you into this business?
A: My grandfather fixed old cooling systems years ago, my father did too, on a very small scale. It was a rebuild type of market. If your fridge wasn’t working, they would take the cooling system out, fix the leak, paint it, foam it, do what they had to do and then put it back into the fridge and the customer would be on his way.
Q: How have things changed?
A: We actually started off doing that here until 2012. We rebuilt these cooling systems. Now the market has changed. The main turning point for us was the rebuild market. It’s the same market, but the problem was reaching out to the US clientele. When you’re rebuilding a cooling system you need to get the old core back so you can rebuild it. If not you would run out of cores and you would not be able to continue on increasing your sales. In 2012 we decided to actually build them from scratch.
Q: How did this transition affect your business?
A: Our sales increased by 50 per cent every year. Building them new enabled us to do that. Now we build a brand new product and put a lifetime warranty on it.
Q: You operate your business in Saint-Antoine?
A: Right here in Saint-Antoine. Our staff has increased dramatically of course. We currently have 17 year-round employees and we’re looking at taking on more employees right now. We hope to grow by another 50 per cent on top of what we’ve done in 2015.
Q: What helped you scale your business?
A: Honestly, it took some time to arrange the financing, the planning and the equipment. My father was a help to me and we’ve had some great support from the Province of New Brunswick through the local CBCD, BDC and from our Charter Bank. All of this combined with a lot of planning and hard work to get to where we are today.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge during your growth period?
A: The most challenging thing would be the hiring and training of so many new employees. It’s gradually getting easier. Being situated in Saint-Antoine has its challenges – it’s difficult getting the labour out here.
Q: So what are you doing to try to overcome that?
A: We try to get as many candidates as possible by putting our job postings out there. We do R&D and we’re constantly increasing our technology so we have state-of-the-art advanced machinery. That certainly helps attract interested people.
Q: What does the future hold for Arcticold?
A: I don’t see any end to the growth. The market is there so we just need to produce. I also hope to, in due time, have a good size company to pass down to my children.
Q: What are your goals for the next five years?
A: We’re right on target this year to hit our forecast. I think next year will be the same and for the next five years we’re going to continue to grow and expand.
Q: What advice would you have for anyone interested in getting into their own business?
A: When things are tough just keep pushing, work extremely hard and you will succeed. It’s just a matter of staying focused and persistent. All the tools are available and you just need to use the tools that are put forth and keep driving forward. It’s not easy, especially as a young entrepreneur. But it is possible, so if you have a vision and work hard you will succeed.
Q: Any thoughts on being employed by a small or medium sized business owner in New Brunswick?
A: Our employees in New Brunswick are very willing to advance their training. We have a great workforce. People are more willing to work for small businesses. They understand that there’s a lot of opportunity here to grow and to move up and to create new positions.
Q: How would you finish this sentence? “A leader’s job is to . . .”
A: A leader’s job is to not only lead but to grow. Being a leader doesn’t always mean being the boss, it means that you have to develop your skills just as much as the people that you’re trying to lead.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. Email Dave at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com or follow him on twitter @dave_veale.
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This article published in the Telegraph-Journal on Saturday, March 29, 2016.