When sisters Sandra and Shelley Milne purchased Action Health & Safety Services in 2008 they quickly turned the established Dawson Creek business into one of the fastest growing companies in Canada. Sandra, who ran the day to day operations, started out as an employee and jokes that she liked the company so much that she bought it.
Although the world was in a recession, the oil and gas industry was expanding. By 2010, Action Health & Safety, which supplies the oil patch in northeastern B.C. and northwestern Alberta with first aid, emergency care and security services, had a 250 per cent profit increase. Action Health increased the number of oil and gas units serviced from 12 to 40. It became one of Profit 100’s fastest growing Canadian companies and the sisters were named in the top 25 entrepreneurs in Canada in 2010 and 2011.
“When asked how they’ve done so well in the male dominated field of oil and gas, Sandra says it’s a non-issue. “Shelley and I have always worked in male dominant fields and as far as we’re concerned, people are people and business is business. We are successful because we are experts in our field and people respect that.”
Shelley was largely a silent partner until 2012 when circumstances forced her to take over; Sandra was diagnosed with cancer. “It was one of those life changing moments that led to a lot of soul searching,” Sandra recounts. “We had many discussions about the future and work life balance.”
As a result they scaled back to make the business more manageable. “It’s now the right size so that Sandra and I can easily run things,” Shelley explains.
Although Health & Safety provides stable employment to 30 employees and many more contract workers in the oil patch. One of the keys to its success is treating them well. “Treat your employees as if they’re also your clients. It’s important to have happy people working for you,” Sandra says.
Shelley is amazed at the number of entrepreneurs in the Dawson Creek area. “Most running start ups in our area are people under age 50 and most are self-starts who didn’t inherit their business or their money. They have amazing work ethics and the ability to manager adversity by analyzing what went wrong and learning from it. That, to me, is the mark of a true entrepreneur.”