Ep. 141 – Innovator Industrial Services COO, Chris Coombs

Our guest today is COO Alliance Member Chris Coombs, COO of Innovator Industrial Services.

A company can only last as long as they keep on innovating. For Chris Coombs, Innovator Industrial Services exists because they look at innovation, taking what happens in the industry and figuring out how they can do things differently and better. In this episode, he joins Cameron Herold for a chat about how he is facilitating the company’s works and processes as the COO. He shares the types of services they provide in the energy, oil, and gas industry, why large companies outsource to them, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted them. On their people, Chris then talks about identifying the maintenance budgets for potential clients and grooming internally, and finding people externally for management roles.


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Chris supports the company mission by transforming Innovator’s vision into actionable steps that create traction towards realizing their vision. Chris also serves as the Technical Director offering extensive knowledge of Innovator’s service lines while ensuring that work done on each project meets and exceeds regulatory compliance for both the innovator and their customers.

In 2006, Chris began his career after graduating from a technical college in Newfoundland, a province up in Canada. Chris worked in Alberta in the oil and gas industry, advanced into engineering and designing engineered pressure enclosures, and obtained his professional technologist designation through ASCT. Chris later transferred to New Brunswick, working as an operations manager gaining experience on various service lines in the specialty maintenance industry.

After two years, his role as an operations manager ended when the company closed, Chris returned to Edmonton where he eventually received the call to perform work in his home province of Newfoundland. This call would be the start of a career at Innovator, where he’s continued to grow himself and the company for years. Chris, together with his wife Stephanie, have two young boys, Clark and Brady. Chris enjoys taking his family to their weekend campsite, where the boys can play and enjoy outdoor fun. When not enjoying the outdoors with his family, Chris can be found playing men’s league hockey or playing golf. Chris is also one of the members of the COO Alliance. Chris, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me.

Before we started, you mentioned that you first heard about the COO Alliance, which you joined through the podcast. Can you give us a bit of an update on that?

Sure. My CEO first sent me a link to the podcast and it was a short message. It was something like, “You would find some value in this. You should listen.” On that day, I subscribed and that was probably a few years ago. I’ve been a subscriber ever since and that was definitely for me, the starting point to my journey or towards the COO Alliance. It was helpful.

Any episode that stood out for you? Do you remember any of them?

It’s one of the first episodes. Not that it was more impactful than some of the others but it was so unique. I believe it had to do with the Boston Red Sox Organization. It was a vice president of sales or business development or something like that. It was getting a perspective from an area where I would never get a perspective in that sense. It’s like a major sports organization and that was one of the ones that stood out to me.

That was an early one. That was probably in the first 30 or so. It was the Cleveland Indians. It was totally random. When I got introduced to the second command for the Cleveland Indians, I started laughing to myself thinking of how ridiculous to me it seemed that I was getting to interview somebody at a level like that and running an organization like that. It seemed that I was out of my element a little bit but it was an interesting episode, too. I enjoyed it. It was episode number 43. That was pretty early on because we’re at 140 now. Tell us a little bit about Innovator. What exactly do you guys do?

I will do that but before I do that, I’m going to save you from the off chance that you have some readers in Newfoundland.

I’ve officially been screeched in so we can explain what that is to some of the readers so they can understand what that one is.

If we want to go there, the screeching to become, I would say, an honorary Newfoundlander. We won’t go through the whole process, but it involves reciting some Newfoundland slang, which there’s a lot. It involves kissing a codfish and taking a shot of rum, which we refer to or it’s branded as screech.

It was on some pretty famous street in St. John’s. I kissed this frozen cod and definitely drank the screech. I definitely had to recite some poems. I was definitely pretty hammered when I did it as well. It was a fun night. Tell us about Innovator.

Sure thing. Innovator Industrial Services is a specialty maintenance service company in the oil and gas sector and not oil and gas, petrochemical facilities are where we focus. When we refer to specialty maintenance, it’s a company where there’s a high level of tradespeople in our business. We have pipefitter trades, machinist trades, electricians, and various trades. There’s maintenance performed at these facilities. A lot of that maintenance is general maintenance performed by an end-user, owner-operator, or a general contractor and there’s a maintenance that’s a step above usually requires additional training, maybe some special with pieces of equipment.

That’s where the specialty maintenance contractors will come in. Things that we cover would be portable machining so a lot of machining activities are done in machine shops. Companies like us have equipment where we can do that activity at our owner’s facility to save them time and save them cost from logistics. We do a lot of hydro testing, so if they’re repairing some piping or pressure-containing components, we will hydro test it for them.

There’s a lot of bolting applications so everything in a facility has to be buttoned up, we refer to it, so there’s a lot of different methods for bolting from a technical aspect that we perform as well. In a sense, that’s the type of service we provide and for us, the reason we exist is we look at innovation. We take all that happens in an industry and we try and figure out how we can do it differently and how we can do it better.

Who would your end customers be? Would it be the big oil and gas companies? Would it be the drilling companies? Is it more than oil and gas?

It’s an oil and gas company. For instance, we would be your Suncor, CNRL, Cenovus, Husky, or Shell. Those are the type of end-users, those are the oil companies. For us, we work for facility operators. In most cases in Canada, the facility operator and the owner are one and the same, so Suncor would own and operate their own facility. It’s the same thing with Husky, same thing with Cenovus in most cases. There are a few cases where they’re not but we tend to work for either the owner-operator or the general contractor for that owner.

Are you in multiple countries or only operating in Canada?

We’re operating just in Canada.

Why is that?

It’s not the long-term plan. For now, our target market is Canada. I don’t know if you’ve necessarily helped us with but you’ve helped us with the concept of it. In the vivid vision, we were expanding into the US, so we have three locations identified in the US where we want to take our business. For now, when we consider our target market for the size of our company and for how we’re growing, we’re focusing on Canada.

Do you have competitors or partners in some of these other countries as well that you would work with or do you stay away from that and focus solely on your backyard?

We have a lot of partners globally that help us do business in our backyard, but we don’t execute work in other countries through partners.

I’m wondering if you’re their partner in Canada? Are there companies that are maybe doing this in the US or down in Venezuela as a big oil area? Are they coming to you to do their Canadian operations for you or for them?

We have one partner in the UK and we’re their Canadian provider.

SIC 141 | Innovator Industrial Services

Innovator Industrial Services: The needs of the oil and gas companies are similar when it comes to the maintenance of the needs of the mining companies.


How about outside of oil and gas? Are you outside of that industry?

We look at it as that. Not necessarily oil and gas and we refer to oil and gas as it’s our majority, but it’s anything in energy. In Ontario, for instance, we have a large nuclear market where we work with Ontario Power Generation. In mining, there’s a little bit we do in mining around Alberta and I would say that’s pretty much it. We look at petrochemical facilities, mining facilities, and any energy facility.

I was curious whether you were doing some of the mining as well. It was a former client of mine in Edmonton that did a lot of work up in the oil sands called Morgan Construction. Pete Kiss was doing a lot in the oil and gas up in northern Alberta but I was pushing them years ago to get into the mining industry to diversify. When oil fell off a cliff, they started getting into that space. Is that why you got into the mining space as well to diversify or was it a customer who came along that needed what you guys already did?

I would say it’s a similar activity from a maintenance perspective. The needs of the oil and gas companies are similar when it comes to the maintenance of the needs of the mining companies. It wasn’t necessarily a diversification, maybe more of a shared market from a maintenance standpoint.

We’re in a different time now in business. You’ve been there for years growing yourself and the company. This whole COVID flare-up globally, it has impacted a lot of businesses. Has it impacted your industry?

It impacted our industry tremendously and not just COVID. It seems that during COVID, and oil prices both of them together have created, and we refer to the few times as a perfect storm for our industry. Our fiscal 2021 has already started but in the spring of 2020, we saw a big downturn in our industry. We were slow for the spring and early summer. It had a big impact on us.

Why do you think it was slow? Was it generally people were getting skittish or getting nervous or was it that customers were slowing down because their employees were nervous? What was the slowdown based on?

In that period of time, our customers do what they call a turnaround or a shutdown. They shut down their facility for a defined period of time and they perform maintenance. Those are large scale activities with thousands of people working close to each other, hand in hand to execute. I’ve heard one person refer to it as during a turnaround, in cost, you spend the same amount as you would buy a facility yet you don’t get a new facility. It’s a large project. Understanding how to execute that with thousands of people working hand in hand, people didn’t know how to do it. There were a lot of people deferring the projects and maybe even pushing them off to the next year and getting an extra year of operation out of their facility. A few clients performed their shutdown in 2020.

How come when the companies that you’re outsourcing to are so large, why don’t they perform these services on their own? What is it that you’re bringing to the table? Is it that they don’t need it constantly and they only need your services once a month or something? Is it such a specialized skill that they don’t have internally? Why do they outsource to someone like you?

It’s both of those things that you mentioned. The skillset is not the normal skillset. Having to not only train to get someone there, but then to keep them active, which is the biggest part. For us, if we’ve got a crew of twenty of what we refer to as technicians, we have twenty cross-trained technicians that we train in all of our different service lines. If I have fourteen different service lines, I’ll set them up in groups, and those groupings will get cross-training.

I can have a guy working at a Suncor facility doing hydro testing and the next day he could be at a Cenovus facility performing a bolting operation. We can keep our people active and keep the training up to date, think of it as sharpening the saw. The owner can transfer that cost to subcontractors versus having to keep that ongoing for themselves when it doesn’t happen, it’s not a regular activity. A lot of what we do is in response to a failure, so we’re showing up to fix something that’s broken.

The fact that you can do that and deploy that person in that machinery in another way, the organization years outsourcing to whether it’s Suncor, Husky, etc., wouldn’t have that same need. That equipment would be sitting idle more often. I’m curious about the oil and gas sector. I don’t know exactly what oil prices went from but let’s say $80 a barrel down to $10 a barrel or something roughly. I’m making that up but you can give us more accurate numbers. Was it better for you when the oil industry tanked because it freed up labor and it brought salaries and compensation levels back to normal? It seemed like it was years ago that salaries up in the oil sector, at least in northern Canada, were out of control. Has that been good for you? Are you indifferent to it?

That part hasn’t affected us. When the prices went down, the facility spend went down and that’s what we rely on. One of the components that we talked about earlier when you mentioned our clients and who they were, so we look at clients who spend, approximately or over $1 million in our maintenance sector. That client, when the price went down, their spending and maintenance also went down and that’s what affects us. It’s not necessarily salary-wise and freeing up people. It was their spent on maintenance activities that went down. When they reviewed and reduced their budgets, all of their budgets were reduced and that’s where we feel the effects.

How did you work around those budget reductions?

For us, it plays into our strength as a company in that everything we do is about adding value and reducing overall costs. It’s not necessarily pricing, but reducing costs. One of our three unique startup companies, we refer to it as optimized execution and a big part of that is reducing a footprint. If a normal contractor specialty services contractor would execute a project with 60 people, our go-to market strategy is that I want to do that project with 35. By deploying the right cross-train people and the right mix of equipment, I can do that with almost half. In most cases, I can do it with half, maybe a little bit more. That strategy for us is what we rely on and push even harder in times like this. Not only can we get your project completed, but we can get complete for less cost.

I’m starting to wrap my head around your business a little bit now as well. How do you know your customers’ budgets? That was intriguing when you said that you look for companies that have $1 million maintenance budgets. How do you know what their maintenance budgets are? How do you find those companies to target?

It’s not a science but we do have some algorithms that we use to help us identify it. The number that we use is based on the barrels of oil per day that a facility will produce for an oil and gas facility. It’s different for a mining facility, but we’ll target oil and gas. If they produce X amount of barrels per day, we’ve got historical data that we can then apply and say, “Based on this, their budget in these areas must be this much.” We start with the amount of barrels per day and work it through an algorithm that our CEO created. That spits out a fairly accurate number for what our clients spend on maintenance.

How many provinces are you working in?

We are working in every province except we’re not working in Quebec.

Is it because of the laws in Quebec or labor laws in Quebec? Why not?

It has to do with a little bit of different labor laws. That’s the most of it. It’s not somewhere where we’ve had success.

You’ve got operations across Canada, how many employees have you got?

We’ve got 40 employees.

Are those some of your contractors that are doing the work as well? Do you have subcontractors as well? Are you managing the whole thing with 40 people?

We manage our entire business with 40. However, when we do one of those projects, like a shutdown or turnaround, we ramp up and we ramp up through union halls. That’s when we would put in a call and if we need X amount of pipe fitter trades, X amount of machinist trades, we would execute that project. Months ago, our employee count would have been 100. We have 60 people on a project and once that project ends, they would disperse and we would leverage that union relationship for the next project that we would execute.

What’s a union hall?

SIC 141 | Innovator Industrial Services

Innovator Industrial Services: By deploying the right cross-train people and the right mix of equipment, you can do with almost half of the budget.


I don’t know if I could give you the exact definition but for our trade, we’d have a pipe fitter trade. In Alberta, I would say, there are metal trades so those metal trades cover various activities and the union would represent those workers. You would have a union hall. It would be a place where you could put it to dispatch. I would put on my form that I need X amount of workers with this skillset and they would provide me with those workers.

It makes a lot of sense and how you’re able to scale up and scale back down as well and not having to have all these people full-time on staff. Are the 40 people that you have that are running the business, are they mostly sales, marketing, and project management?

Exactly. With the group of core technicians that we keep for our day-to-day maintenance activities.

You sub out everything. Genius. I like it. How has the company scaled since you’ve been there? You’ve been there for a couple of years. What has the growth been like? Has it been up and down? Because the oil industry itself has been a little bit of consistent growth every year?

It’s been up and down. I’ll take us back to a little bit around 2014. The oil industry in Alberta was booming and there were a lot of large scale construction projects. We executed the project with 500 people on site. It was our biggest year ever and the company itself, in terms of our staff and our core size, didn’t change but our ability to the amount of people we had employed and the revenue we had that year was the highest it’s ever been. Since then we retracted a little bit. From going from 2018 to 2020, we’ve had a steady increase in our revenue and our size going from approximately 30 employees to 40 and from about $10 million to $15 million.

How do you manage the ups and downs internally? Year over year or even internally within a year like when you have those kinds of fluctuations. How do you guys manage the stress that that causes?

One of the things that we do is try and structure our business with as much flexibility as we can. In that, our indirect costs are not fixed so when we have a workforce that we can call them when we need to that helps us keep our indirect cost low when we have a slow period. That’s the goal. It’s to keep those indirect flexible so when the revenue is not there, we can scale down our indirects as well.

Is the head office in Newfoundland?

No. Our head office is in Edmonton.

You’re not managing the whole company from Newfoundland. How many people would be there and how many would be in Edmonton then?

I’m in Edmonton. For our offices across Canada, we have an office in Edmonton and an office in Hamilton, Ontario.

I was wondering how you were managing such a complex operation and doing it from such a reasonably remote place. It makes sense that you’re there. Talk about your skills, what have you had to work on over the years and your growth in the organization?

I started in Innovator and in this industry from a technical aspect. I started as a design engineer. One of the services that we offer, we refer to it as Online Leak Repair. A client would develop a leak so you can imagine if they’re producing oil and one of their pipe springs a leak, then that’s costing them money. An important service that we do is we would design something to clamp onto that pipe to seal that leak and keep them operating so they don’t have the shutdown to fix it. They don’t have any environmental concerns and they’re not losing profit by spilling it out onto the ground.

That’s a key service that we provide and my start in the industry was to design those fittings. I was a technical engineer. As I progressed in my career, I was able to adapt to the practical a lot more than a lot of other engineers in our industry. I was able to see a lot more on the operation side more so than how things should be designed and go together and that gave me a unique perspective. From there, I started to focus on the business side and a big part of it was focusing on leadership. I spent a lot of time studying, reviewing material from my CEO, listening to the podcast, and sharpening my skills from a leadership standpoint.

I want to ask about that but I need to go back to this whole finding a leak because I’ve always been curious. I forget what movie I watched. It’s about some guy 100 years ago in California building some oil thing. I can’t remember what it was called. How do you know where the leak is in the pipes? Do you have to go through hundreds of miles to find it or is there some measurement that’s happening every mile to show you that the flow is changed or something? How do you know?

I would say all of the above. I couldn’t say the percentage, but a large percentage of leaks are visual. You see them.

You’ve got an oil pipe that’s going from point A to point B. It could be hundreds of miles.

I would say 90% of our work is not pipeline. In the beginning, when I mentioned facility, operating facilities is where we focus. In a pipeline scenario, they do a lot of aerial surveys and a lot of thermal surveys as well. If you have a thermal survey of a pipeline, and you see a hotspot, that could be an indication of a number of different things. You would search, you could strip that location and identify if there was a leak. It’s much harder to do it in a pipeline scenario.

Their electronics, their measurements are going to tell them when they may drop pressure or drop flow, so something’s happening. We’re in facilities. They would still have their nondestructive examination surveys, corrosion surveys, a lot of those things help uncover these leaks, and sometimes they’re visual. Steam is a big thing that leaks in these facilities and you can imagine a big steam cloud when it’s under pressure is quite noticeable.

The movie came to me as well. It was called There Will Be Blood. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a fantastic movie about the oil industry 100 years ago. You saw some of the operational sides of the business more than others did. What was it that was allowing you to see that? What was popping up that allowed you to understand it and get it? Did you grow up around the business or did you have those insights and you weren’t stuck in your role?

The biggest part for me was my transition. When I first moved to Alberta from Newfoundland, I worked in the design side of the business so strictly engineering. When I moved back east, the office that closed I was running that office. I was there as the office manager and I was doing the design work and planning the operational activity. I picked it up fast. The right way to say it is that I adapted to it quickly or I gravitated towards it quickly. It wasn’t a struggle for me with the planning activity and the hands-on approach. It might have a lot to do with starting as a technologist in the technical college that I graduated from. Mechanical technologists versus a mechanical engineer, you emphasize the operational side as much as the design side.

That’s interesting so you had some exposure to it in the training as well. Are you grooming people internally to go into the management or are you hiring them externally and bring them in?

We’re doing both. We are grooming internally and our leadership team has changed quite a bit over the last few years. Two of the newest members of our leadership team were groomed internally.

I would think that because you’ve got the high technical side of the business that internal would be better. Is that true? Do you feel that way?

I do feel that way but not necessarily because of the high technical side. There are other companies that offer similar services. What’s great about the internal grooming for us is the approach that we take. That cross-training and reduced footprint is a difference maker for us compared to how other people would look at the technology. For instance, executing the same project, a goal of company B could be, “I’m going to put as many people on that project as I can because that’s more revenue for me.” Whereas for us, we want to do it with the least amount of people as possible. It’s a different mindset and it helps when you’re immersed in that mindset.

Do you run a mini P&L on every project and understand what your contribution margin is or gross margins on every project? Do you manage the business that way?

SIC 141 | Innovator Industrial Services

Innovator Industrial Services: If the CEO and COO are on the same page, the frustrations are smaller, and they’re easier to create a solution.


We do.

That’s got to be helpful in doing it that way. How are you going to scale? Are you going to do acquisitions? Are you going to continue to grow organically? Any thoughts around that?

Yes, and it’s both. We’re going to continue to grow organically, so we have a plan set out for what that’s going to look like. We’re going from 15 to 50 and 50 to 200. To hit all those milestones, there’s a lot of organic growth, geographic location changes, but there’s a lot of acquisitions in there as well.

There’s got to be some opportunities to do acquisitions, I would think where there are either companies that are smaller or not as well managed or getting tired of the industry that you guys could pick up not only the talent but the entry point into the customers.

There’s a specific set and I don’t think that’s unique to us. We look for somebody who’s established in a region that we want to be in, so would be one of the first things we look at. If we want to go to Northern BC, who’s there now and who’s got a good customer base? We look at what services they offer and we think, “Do we offer that service, or are they complementary to our service? For what we’re doing for what they’re doing, can we add on or vice versa? If we were to come in and execute 50%, would they be able to finish it and take it to completion?” Those are the areas that we look for when we think about a good acquisition.

Any desire to go into the US market or any global markets at all?

Yes. We have a big desire to go into the US. We’ve got a few locations identified. The partner that I mentioned, we use a global partner in the UK, they also have a location in the US. We’re their Canadian representation and they operate themselves in the US. That’s a relationship that we also need to explore and we’re looking forward to exploring.

Talk about you and your role as COO for a bit. Where do you think you’ve struggled over the years as a COO? Also, maybe where have you failed as a COO? Any lessons from any failure or struggles you’ve had?

In some of the areas that I’ve struggled with, I refer to it as playing it safe, but my CEO would tell me that sometimes implementation is slow. Some of the things that I find is we have a new plan, a new idea, and we need to implement that across the company. Previously, not having a system for implementation has slowed down and hampered our effort to get things across the line. We’ve got a new great idea from the visionary, the CEO, and it’s like, “Let’s do it.” We’ll start it and maybe in six months, it dies off. Probably the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that having those implementation systems in place can make the difference there.

When the CEO is pointing out areas that he’s either struggling with or frustrated with, how do you guys work that relationship? There’s got to be normal frustrations that happen in every business relationship. How do you work together as CEO and COO?

We’re in a good place together. One of the tools that we use and you have one that that I know I’ve used from you as well, which is that same page tool. The first part is as long as you and the CEO are on the same page. You go through that exercise, and you look at vision and all the different parts of your business and if you’re on the same page, the frustrations are smaller, and they’re easier to create a solution. We do a weekly leadership meeting and a weekly one-on-one where it’s us and we can openly talk about those frustrations we have because we know we’re on the same page. It’s probably something minor that’s preventing that one thing from happening and it’s not a major issue and that’s how we can deal with them so effectively.

That’s a critical point, that whole same page. That’s you being on the same page with the CEO’s vision and the CEO being on the same page with your operating plan. If you’re both working from that song sheet together, you can work through any of the frustrations because you’re released both aligned. You’ve got your weekly leadership team meeting. What does that look like?

It’s structured and we do an EOS L10 Meeting. We operate the entrepreneurial operating system. We’ve adopted that and we’ve been running it for years now. It’s transformed a lot of areas of our business where we struggled previously. The leadership meeting is 90 minutes where we do a positive focus which is something that we’ve adopted even before EOS. It’s the power of starting meetings with a positive focus. It can’t be understated. It’s a great way to begin any meeting. We go through our introductions or our positive focus. We talked about our measurable, so we have a scorecard of thirteen measurables in our business and those are the measurables with the saying or the ideas that if you’re on a desert island and you only had these set criteria, you would know your business is okay. For us, we have thirteen. We go through all those measurable. We looked at our to-do list, we talked about some company headlines. We review our rocks, our priorities, and we jump into our issues.

You follow that same L10 meeting that works well. Did you have an implementer? Did you have an EOS implementer help you with EOS or did you self-implemented it as a company?

We have an implementer.

How’s that been working?

It’s been amazing. He’s a great implementer and it works for two points, the quarterly and annual workshops, having those structured is a great idea regardless if you’re an EOS company or whatever process you’re following. Having that outside facilitation, especially on an annual basis, helps take the burden off an individual to host a meeting and contribute to the meeting. Having an implementer helps there and there’s a sense of accountability. For us, we’ve had different leadership teams in different meeting cadences that never worked out. With our L10, we’ve never missed one so it’s been a few years and we’ve never missed an L10. Part of that is knowing we have that integrator. It’s an accountability partner and accountability piece that helps.

Talk about your one-on-one meeting then that you have with the CEO, what’s the structure of that.

The one-on-one meeting is about staying on the same page, so we know we’re on the same page and we’ll each bring three items that we want to discuss with the other. Usually, I start with my three and I’ll usually present it like, “Here’s the topic and this is what I’m looking for.” In most cases, I’m not looking for an answer or a solution. I’m maybe presenting it as an FYI or in some cases, I am looking for a little bit of advice. I’ll present my three topics and he’ll present his back. What we do before the meeting is, we organize them on an impact filter, or in your case, a decision filter that helps us get clear and lets the other person know what we’re going to talk about going in. It’s a quick five minute exercise to jot down the idea. Inside of our operating system or our CRM, we have an impact filter built-in. We can both fill it out, and it sits as the meeting plan.

I love that you’re mentioning different terminology that some of the readers might know some may not. The impact filter tool is from Strategic Coach and the L10 Meetings and your one-on-ones and same page are EOS Traction. It’s great that you guys have adopted these different forms of systems and iterated them to make it your own. It is certainly helping you scale. If we’re going to go back to a question when you were graduating college and you’re getting ready to start off on your career, what advice would you give yourself back then that you know to be true now?

I would say one of the things that I would, and it’s funny because when I think about this, it’s a lot of advice that I give people in my organization now. It’s about where and how you focus your time and what’s important to you. This is common throughout the business. It’s how much time we tend to spend in that urgent quadrant two or the one that’s urgent and the time-sensitive, it’s that emergency whirlwind, and realizing that what’s in front of you is not always the most important.

That emergency is not always the most important thing. It’s taking the time to invest in yourself and invest in the process that’s going to help you fix those emergencies for the long-term and not having the mindset of, “I can’t fix this, because I don’t have the time to do it.” It’s understanding how to focus your time into the quadrant where you’re doing what’s important but not urgent and that would be the biggest piece of advice.

That’s right out of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People from years ago but it’s still one of the probably the top leadership books out there. Quadrant two is working on the high impact, low urgency items, which we tend to push aside because of the urgency. You’re right. It’s working on yourself, on your skills, on leadership development for your company, and working on the business instead of in the business.

If I could give you a little bit of evolution in our company on that side, imagine a little bit that in the past we might have struggled with implementation and needing a system to do that. We’ve got influences in our company from Stephen Covey, whether it’s 7 Habits or 4DX, we take a lot, we took a lot of influence from that. and we would go through management exercises, where we would say, “This year, we’re going forward. We’re going to plan all our rocks in accordance with 4DX and we’re going to do all our training in accordance with 7 Habits.”

We would do that and we take more inspiration from things like Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great and How to Be a Great Boss, and OKRs. There are so many of these resource materials that we gravitated to. We want to use and we see the value, but we struggled in implementing them and that’s for EOS for us brought it all together. What I mean by that is we never had to leave anything behind. What we learned in 7 Habits, Good to Great, and 4DX, EOS never meant that we left any of that behind. We’ve got to bring it with us but EOS allowed us to organize it so it was at our fingertips. Whether that’s on the V/TO or the L10 and that’s been the biggest success I feel for our company.

I love the simplicity of the Traction of EOS. It allows you to take all the ideas of The 4 Disciplines of Execution and Good to Great and scale-up and all these other amazing systems but the simplicity of Traction of EOS is allowing people to put the systems into the company, which is great. Chris Coombs, the COO for Innovator Industrial Services, thanks so much for sharing with us on the show.

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About Chris Coombs

SIC 141 | Innovator Industrial ServicesChris Coombs is the COO of Innovator Industrial Services. Chris supports the company mission by transforming Innovator’s vision into actionable steps that create traction towards realizing their vision. 

Chris also serves as the Technical Director, offering extensive knowledge on Innovator’s service lines while ensuring that the work done on each project meets and exceeds regulatory compliance for both Innovator and their customers.

In 2006, Chris began his career after graduating from a technical college in Newfoundland. Chris worked in Alberta in the oil and gas industry, then advanced into engineering, designing Engineered Pressure Enclosures and obtaining his Professional Technologist designation through ASET. Chris later transferred to New Brunswick, working as an Operations Manager, gaining experience on various service lines within the Specialty Maintenance Industry.

After 2 years, his role as an Operations Manager ended when the company closed. Chris returned to Edmonton where he eventually received the call to perform work in his home province of Newfoundland. This call would be the start of his career at Innovator, where he has continued to grow himself and the company for 8 years. 

Chris, together with his wife Stephanie have two young boys, Clark and Brady. Chris enjoys taking his family to their weekend campsite where the boys can play and enjoy outdoor fun. When not enjoying the outdoors with his family, Chris can be found playing Men’s League Hockey or playing golf.

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