Some people go into business for themselves after long and careful deliberation. Others simply recognize opportunity when they see it and step into the void to provide goods or services where they are needed. Joseph Thompson, founder and CEO of Tommy's Welding Ltd., was only 16 years old when he knew he wanted to become a busines owner someday. "It was always a childhood dream of mine to operate my own business," says Tommy, who celebrated the 35th anniversary of his Winnipeg-based company in October of 2014. At a time when many teens can't decide on what school courses they want to take, Tommy had his goals clearly defined and already nurtured the entrepreneurial vision.
But first came experience. Tommy became a journeyman welder and worked with the boilermakers and in later years the pipefitter unions on jobs throughout Manitoba and the neighbouring provinces. In 1979, he became tired of travelling and decided to strike out on his own; armed with ambition, a truck and a welding machine.
"The vehicle was a black GMC truck with a picture of a horse's head on each door and lots of rust", he recalls. He bought some trim clad paint from Canadian Tire and painted over the rust, had a Minister of Religion say a prayer for the success of the business and set out to find work by talking to various companies. Determination and persistence (qualities that he admits still define him) helped him to land some paying jobs. Nevertheless, he admits the very first months were a little slim.
Tommy recounts, "In the early days, if I made $200 in a week, I was doing very well." Notwithstanding, it was only about six months before he was able to invest in another truck. The work flowed and 35 years later, the company participates in some of the largest construction jobs in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
The secret to the company's longevity? "Quality work," responds the CEO, "and strong dedication to client service." In fact, Tommy says he rarely turns down a job. His wife Donna Thompson, the company's Administrator, seconds the thought: "Not even the pots," she says with amusement. The reference is to a time when a customer came in with a cooking pot to be welded and the company was only too pleased to oblige.
The company is certified by the Mechanical and Engineering Branch of Manitoba Labor and the Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB). They are also Certificate of Recognition (COR) certified with the Manitoba Construction Safety Association. COR is an occupational health and safety program accreditation through the Construction Safety Association of Manitoba and a high standard of safety that is recognized nationally. Employees have certifications in pressure, structural, sub arc, tig and mig welding and experience in reading blueprints and using Auto-Cad to generate precision drawings. There is also a professional engineer retained for consultations.
In the end, it is not the challenges that define a company, but how they deal with the challenges that matters. Many of the clients developed strong relationships with Tommy's Welding that have lasted to this day. It has also managed to attract loyal long-term employees, some of whom have been with the company since its inception. Roy Copeland, a 27 year veteran as a pressure welder recalls the early days when there were only three trucks and four employees at Tommy's Welding Ltd. He further noted that today, the company has increased its staff, its fleet and projects by leaps and bounds while still treating people fairly.
The company invests in training for its employees and provides work experience for an ongoing number of apprentices. Reinvesting in society is preserving the future. As a result of this Tommy's Welding Ltd. consistently offers sponsorships and scholarships to organizations like The Patterson Foundation, Afro-Caribbean Association of Manitoba Inc., St. Boniface Hospital and Doctors without Borders.