Business

From one-man show to one of B.C. best employers

Chris Davies started his company as an 18-year-old high school dropout. More than 20 years later, Chris’s Sign Service and Lighting Inc. has been recognized as the winner in the best employer category at the Small Business BC’s Successful You Awards.  - Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Chris Davies started his company as an 18-year-old high school dropout. More than 20 years later, Chris’s Sign Service and Lighting Inc. has been recognized as the winner in the best employer category at the Small Business BC’s Successful You Awards.
— image credit: Gary Ahuja/Langley Times

While it is not uncommon for 10-year-olds to have part-time jobs like mowing lawns or delivering papers, Chris Davies’ after-school job was a little more unique than those.

Davies would frequently ride along to work or go on out-of-town jobs with his father, Keith and his grandfather, Ken.

Ken Davies had founded Dogwood Fluorescent, a sign maintenance company in Vancouver back in 1966.

And the family patriarch influenced his own three sons — Keith, Phil and Wayne — to pursue a career in the industry as well, with Keith forming Malahat Signs on Vancouver Island in 1978.

Davies continued working for his father, but like most teenagers and their fathers, they clashed.

“I was a teenager and working for my father, and I just couldn’t work for my dad,” Davies said.

“So he gave me this old beater truck and he said see what you can do with it.”

This was 1991 and Davies — who had dropped out of D.W. Poppy his senior year— was 18 years old.

“It was a real tough go when I started,” he said. “It was a lot of hard work but I never regret getting into this line of work.”

More than 20 years later, Davies is still going strong as he has grown his company — Chris’s Sign Service and Lighting Inc. — from a single 35-foot 1975 ladder truck to having seven bucket trucks, a staff of about 20 and a 4,500 square-foot shop on 1.2 acres out of their Langley office. They service the entire province, working with both large businesses — McDonald’s Canada, Shell Canada, Future Shop, Best Buy, Starbucks, CIBC to name a few — as well as some smaller companies.

There is also a separate division covering Alberta and altogether, employs about 42 people. There is talk about possibly expanding to Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Despite whatever differences they may have had, Davies said his father always supported him, and still does even now in retirement, stopping by the office to give his two cents.

And last week (Feb. 28), the company was named the winner in the best employer category at the Small Business BC’s Successful You Awards. The awards ceremony was held at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.

The award recognizes the business which best demonstrated outstanding leadership in the workplace and promotes employee health and safety and values preventing workplace injuries in the same way they value productivity and customer service.

“This is just a fabulous place to work and all the staff feel the same way,” said Kevin Balzer, who has been with the company for about nine years.

“To put it in a nutshell, we are a family.”

For the 39-year-old Davies, he is just doing what he has always loved to do.

“I wake up excited every day,” he said. “I never dread going to work.”

Most days, he is up at 4 a.m. and in the office within the hour.

He hopes that perhaps one day his two sons: Nick, 15, and Riley, 10, may follow him into this line of work.

“I am hoping they want to get in the same line of work because it has been a really good living for us and I have really enjoyed it,” said Davies, who also recently completed his GED.

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