Fort Modular stacks up success in Western Canada
The family run business aims to keep their culture the same as they continue to scale.
- Fort Modular has become one of the largest, most successful modular construction specialists in B.C.
- Despite this growth, the owners believe that keeping their family-business culture intact is the key to continued success.
- The company also believes strongly that there is no substitute for experience, and their decades in the sector allow them to outperform newcomers to the space.
The Whole Story:
Fort Modular is on a trajectory for major growth as modular construction becomes more accepted as a way to rapidly build homes, student accommodations, remote work camps, indigenous infrastructure, social amenities and other projects.
After a decade in business and acquiring assets from several other companies in the modular space, Fort is now the largest locally- and privately-owned modular building supplier in B.C. But as they expand, Fort’s leaders are determined to maintain the family-owned company values that got them there.
Staying small while growing big
Originally established with a focus on renovations and rentals, the company has since expanded operations to include new custom-built structures and permanent solutions to serve a wider array of clients. Fort operates out of a 40,000-square-foot facility located on a five-acre site in Aldergrove and now owns a 17-acre location in Barrière to further cement its reach.
Despite all this growth, brothers and company owners Bryan and Mark DePedrina are adamant that Fort doesn’t become bogged down with corporate complexity and bureaucracy.
The pair have lived and breathed modular work ever since they were kids. Their father got into the modular construction business back in the 1980s and the brothers worked there for a decade, doing projects as far away as Louisiana, Alaska, Russia and Japan.
After their father’s company was bought out, Bryan and Mark decided to go against its new corporate culture and form their own business in 2013. They’ve never looked back. In fact, by coincidence they now work out of the same factory site their father did.
“We are trying to maintain some of those ‘mom and pop’ values while we take the company to the next level,” said Mark. “It can be a challenge, and when all the new people join us, that’s exactly what I tell them. We can’t have it so corporate that everyone feels as if their hands are tied. We empower our employees to do what they were hired to do without micromanaging. These are the things that brought us success in the past and we need to continue with it even through a growth period.”
Bryan explained that this approach allows Fort to move faster than other modular providers by making common sense decisions as our team has direct access to the owners.
“This ‘get it done’ mentality has been a huge reason for our growth on both fronts, custom manufacturing and rentals,” he said.
Knowing the details
The DePedrinas have been about modular from day one.
“For me, it’s all I’ve done,” said Bryan. “I’ve never had a job outside the industry.”
The brothers believe this in-depth knowledge is another reason for their success.
“Bryan and I did our time in the factory and in the field,” said Mark. “We know. We’ve done this. We’ve seen all aspects of it because we’ve grown up in it. So there’s another level of confidence. We can tell if people’s modular construction project ideas will be successful or not right away. We also educate them about the challenges they may have to face for a successful outcome.”
They noted that many have seen headlines about large, flashy modular projects and tried to enter the space assuming it will be easy.
“We understand what we’re selling, but I feel like there’s a lot of fly-by-nighters right now,” said Bryan. “All the sudden, everyone is a modular provider even though they’re basically acting as brokers and have never been in the industry. You look at these scenarios and you feel bad. Someone is going to learn the tough way about going with an inexperienced group for their large-scale project, which in turn will hurt the industry as a whole.”
Fort also prides itself on being able to provide that expertise to customers without having to go through layers and layers of bureaucracy.
“I think the biggest thing for our clients is our ability to answer questions and make decisions quickly to get things done effectively,” said Bryan. “Fort’s owners are right there in the office. It happens in 30 seconds instead of three months.”
Diversification has been part of Fort’s strategic strength.
“We have a two-pronged approach to our business with two income streams,” said Bryan. “We have the rental division and the manufacturing division. if you are purely a manufacturer and things slow down you’re taking some punches to the face. It can be very detrimental to the business. Since we have our rental division it can be a bonus. We can build our own inventory during these gaps and breaks. We can avoid the ramping up and down of operations and instead have a steady flow of production.”
The latest part of Fort’s growth strategy has been hiring renowned modular expert Rick Welch as vice president of its permanent modular division and promoting company veteran Greg Tymchyna to vice president, rentals & fleet. Fort believes this will strengthen both parts of its business.
Tymchyna has been with Fort Modular for 5 years, with 15 years experience in rental and fleet management prior.
Welch has over 30 years of experience in modular construction with a versatile background in education, commercial, industrial, housing and hospitality markets. Bryan and Mark said he is one of the most knowledgeable people in the entire country when it comes to modular structures and will bring a wealth of knowledge to Fort’s operations.
They added that during Tymchyna’s years at Fort, he has embraced the company’s culture, making him an excellent person to lead part of the business.
“While we’re experiencing all this growth and pushing the boundaries, we are still holding true to our core values and beliefs, which has been the best thing about Fort Modular,” said Tymchyna. “And it’s just so much fun. The owners are our friends. We are a family. We are living and working a dream job.”
The DePedrinas believe these leadership changes will help set them up for future success as the growth continues.
“The idea behind some of these hires is to alleviate some of the day-to-day operational work so we can do higher-level decision making and take us to the next level,” said Bryan.
Arguably one of the nation’s foremost experts in the field of modular construction, Welch felt Fort was the best place for him to be.
“Fort Modular is the fastest growing modular company in B.C. and is a good personal fit for me. The company is privately owned by like-minded brothers, Bryan, and Mark DePedrina,” he said. “Both are long-time modular industry professionals with a proven track record for integrity, humility, partnerships, and customer accountability. Fort Modular’s reputation for their positive work culture also makes it easy to attract and empower employees.”
“The modular industry needs to recognize what it does well: deliver the modular buildings. Unfortunately, some have tried to become a developer or a large general contractor,” said Welch. “So you start competing against stick-build general contractors as opposed to partnering with them.”
If you are looking for a modular specialist to help you rent or build, contact Fort’s team of specialists here. And those who are looking to join Fort’s unique company culture, information about careers can be found here.