Terri-Jane Yuzda


Equinox Engineering Thrives As a Testament to Can-Do Entrepreneurialism

Freelance Columnist

Dean Lubarsky, P.Eng., and his team take Equinox to new heights of success.

About five years ago, an enterprising young chemical engineer gazed through his window at the glass towers of downtown Calgary. It was dusk and office lights were blinking to life by the hundreds.

"Those are all people I haven't even contacted yet," the young man said to himself.

To Dean Lubarsky, P.Eng., M.Eng., each illuminated office represented an opportunity: one more potential customer for Equinox Engineering, the oil and gas consulting company he created as a one-man startup in October 1997.

Next morning, Mr. Lubarsky began working the phones, making cold calls. And slowly, surely, projects began to roll in.

Today, his 80-employee team handles 50 to 60 projects at a crack. In fact Equinox completed $120 million in projects last year.

Still a reasonably small fish, to be sure. But Equinox remains one of the fastest-rising oil and gas engineering firms in the city.

The saga of one person's single-minded assault on what Mr. Lubarsky terms the "very mature" engineering/procurement/construction market should inspire the type of bright professional who chafes while toiling semi-anonymously for a large, perhaps impersonal, corporation.

"It's amazing, really, but much of the success is the result of the phenomenal staff we've attracted," the 36-year-old says during an interview in his much expanded office. (Equinox now occupies most of four floors of its building on 12th Avenue S.W.)

Fertile Ground for Entrepreneurs

"I think Alberta is one of the few places left where someone can start with nothing and go out, build relationships, prove they're capable of doing the work, build trust, build allegiances and make a go of it," he says.

"But you can't be afraid to call people and hear them say they're not interested. You have to have the confidence to stick your neck out and not get beat up when people don't need your services."

When things happen, sometimes they happen big. Mr. Lubarsky and the Equinox team are currently trading high-fives after another year of continued growth. "We believe the main reasons for Equinox's success are our quality personnel and project experience, combined with our technically innovative style and, of course, our EASE Program."

Mr. Lubarsky loves to extol the time-saving, cost-saving virtues of EASE, which is an acronym for Electronically Automated Systems Engineering. "Many of our clients continue to compliment us on the project management system."

Multipurpose Software

The proprietary EASE Program records details of every stage of a project in progress, for ready future reference. Meanwhile, EASE ensures quality assurance and control because deliverables are simultaneously assigned to one employee responsible for the work, as well as to another responsible for checking and reviewing.

"When work is done, it's checked by the reviewer and we have legal representation of the work performed. We use the same data for reporting and for payroll.

"That same information goes on the invoice. So when our client receives an invoice, he knows it's accurate because he's already seen the information via the Internet, real-time, as the project has developed," says Mr. Lubarsky.

From the Mud

A company like Equinox, however, needs more than good software. A well-rounded background in the industry is a major plus, and Mr. Lubarsky has just that.
By the time he earned his degree from the University of Alberta's engineering faculty, Mr. Lubarsky had long since picked up a practical grounding in oil and gas, right from mud level. From age 14, he worked summers as a gofer for his dad's Edson-based construction company.

"I did everything: painting valves, pulling apart equipment, general labour. I worked every summer with a number of service companies through school and university," Mr. Lubarsky recalls.

After graduation, he landed a gig in sour gas processing for RTM Engineering, and during that time he began work on his master's degree in project management.

When Stanley Industrial Consultants subsequently acquired the company, Mr. Lubarsky found himself in charge of the oil and gas group, which eventually grew to 70 members.

"At this point, I was doing technical work, I was involved in hiring, invoicing, working with settlements and dispute resolution and marketing." That started Mr. Lubarsky's itch to go solo. "I asked myself, What part of this business don't you understand? I couldn't think of anything," he says with a smile.

Within a year or two, he was sitting in the corner office on 12th Avenue S.W., with a $30,000 bankroll, a $250,000 line of credit, an office manager — and an eye on all those gleaming corporate towers.

That's when Dean Lubarsky started working the phones.

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