Andrew Watts is a man with a plan. When he took over his parents’ mechanical contracting business, Watts Mechanical Services Ltd., he had written out a short business plan with two chief goals: expand and diversify.
“I never really second-guessed it,” Watts recalls. “I just went after it.”
Good thing. Thanks to a massive list of projects, including the recently opened CrossIron Mills shopping centre, as well as restaurants, corporate buildings and commercial warehouses, the company has seen massive growth since Watts took the helm in 2002.
This year, Profit magazine named Watts Mechanical the 47th fastest-growing company in Canada, thanks to an increase in gross revenue from $694,692 in 2003 to $11.8 million in 2008.
The company now has almost 100 employees, compared to the two people it employed for its first 20 years of business.
Although the company’s growth is staggering, it’s no surprise Watts had such a smooth transition when he took over the company. After all, he did grow up with the business.
Some of his earliest childhood memories involve being toted along on worksite visits by his dad. As a teenager, he’d often come home to find a message on the answering machine from one of his parents, instructing him to go to a worksite.
“I’d show up at the job site and there’d be a shovel with a note on it, saying, ‘Dig this ditch three feet down and a hundred feet in that direction. See you at home later tonight,’” Watts says.
But Watts didn’t just spend his youth working for the family business. An avid athlete, he dabbled in a variety of sports, including rugby, volleyball and basketball, but his real passion during his teenage years was competitive ski racing.
During university, he tried snowboard racing and was immediately hooked, spending a year competing on the Canadian National Team. After coming just short of making the World Cup Team, Watts threw in the towel to focus on his business aspirations and certainly hasn’t looked back. But he’s the first to admit his time in sport had a huge influence on his work style.
“It’s helped me understand the value of practicing, pushing and putting the effort in to achieve goals. If you podium or win something, you know it’s because of your training,” says Watts, who put in between 80 and 100 hours a week during his first few years as CEO.
“It’s like anything in life. If you work hard for something, you appreciate it more.”
Why he’s the top: Andrew Watts’ leadership at his family’s business has created explosive growth and success.
The key to his success: “I think a lot of it is attributed to having goals and working hard toward them,” says Watts. “If you’re congruent with who you are and what you want to do, it’s pretty hard not to be successful.”