Raising Resilient Communicators: Expert Social Skills Advice
Wesley Marstaller is CEO and Partner at Biomaxx Environmental, a company who helps solve wastewater challenges for industrial companies as well as municipalities in Western and Atlantic Canada.1 “We take headaches and handle them in a smooth and cost effective manner,” he says.
He could just as easily have been talking about ITS Consulting, the Vancouver-based business technology solutions company where he’s also Partner.
Despite his busy schedule, Marstaller was nice enough to speak with us about the challenges and opportunities facing both industries, as well as hiring, retention, and business culture.
One Objective Between Manufacturing and Technology Development
“They’re clearly very different industries,” concedes Marstaller, “but in both cases we provide an essential service on a repeat basis.”
Whether it’s water treatment challenges or broken IT, the companies address problems, allowing their clients to focus on their day to day business.
“Poultry guys don’t want to have to worry about water, so we take that problem off their hands,” says Marstaller.
Biomaxx helps companies manage the patchwork of regulations that surround water and wastewater.
“There are increasingly stringent regulations around the amount of contaminants you can have in water and what you use to treat the water,” explains Marstaller. “We help companies navigate this landscape so that they can meet these regulations as easily and cost-effectively as possible.”
He reports that companies are getting better at water management, but calls it a “slow process.”
ITS’, on the other hand, focuses on IT support and security, which is also an area of great concern to businesses and individuals alike.
“Successful fraud attacks are on the rise everywhere,” says Marstaller. He states that some tools can be cumbersome and expensive, but believes there are a host of ways that companies can protect themselves. Part of ITS’ value proposition is helping their clients discover and implement the strategies that make the most sense for their specific needs.
“We look to determine what makes sense for each company in terms of IT infrastructure, based on their needs and budget,” Marstaller says. “There is a happy medium where you can improve functionality and remove significant risks, while staying within your budget.”
Staff Taking Holistic Approach Toward Employment
Biomaxx employs a mixture of engineers, environmental scientists and field technicians in BC, Alberta, and Atlantic Canada. It’s not exactly news that compensation demands have increased alongside inflation, but Marstaller says that it’s other elements of the employment package that have evolved more dramatically.
“People’s appetite for travel has changed a lot,” he says. “We can’t just do away with it, but we’ve become smarter and more efficient with our travel requirements in order to avoid burning people out. People are considering their employment more holistically.”
Small Business Culture Attractive to Candidates
In addition to flexibility and balance, Marstaller has found that candidates are attracted to the opportunity inherent in smaller companies. He describes both Biomaxx and ITS as small, growth-oriented companies that offer a welcome change to those who have spent their careers working for large, bureaucratic organizations.
“Our culture is appealing, which leads to opportunity,” says Marstaller. “There’s the prospect of moving the dial in a way that can be more difficult to do elsewhere. We are much more nimble about getting in and out of different service offerings and decisions can often be made in a single meeting.”
Retaining Junior Workers, Hiring New Canadians
Marstaller says that retaining junior members can be a challenge at Biomaxx, with employees often departing for other opportunities, or simply moving to other geographical locations, after several years of employment. He seems to take it all in stride, understanding that it’s part of doing business.
He reports that new Canadians have been a great source of talent for the company.
“We’ve had great success hiring people who have immigrated to Canada and completed a university education here,” he says. “It’s been a great channel for us to get high caliber engineers and scientists who are very excited about our industry.”
Experience, Aptitude, and Willingness to Learn are Top Desirable Traits for Candidates
Marstaller says that in the absence of direct experience, aptitude for learning is a desirable trait for candidates.
“If we find a candidate that has exactly the right experience, that’s fantastic,” he says. “But we focus more on skill set in general. For Biomaxx that’s Industrial B2B, while for ITS it’s often professional services.”
While Marstaller admits that both companies are very technical in nature, he’s willing to provide opportunities for those that are willing to learn.
“Are they ready to jump in and learn a new industry?” he asks. “Have they successfully moved between industries before?”
When it comes to making these types of determinations, Marstaller believes that honesty is the best policy for both parties.
“We’re upfront and plain spoken about our expectations, and they usually are as well,” he says. “If their appetite for learning isn’t up to speed, they won’t be productive or happy in this environment after six months.”
Addressing the Challenges of Water and Cyber Security
“Only when water stops coming out of the tap do people really begin to pay attention,” he says. “It becomes a lot more expensive to fix than it would have been five years previous.”
As for IT infrastructure and security, Marstaller believes that increasing levels of vigilance will be necessary to manage the threat.
“All of us have to take it more seriously in our work and personal lives,” he says.
1 Direct Communication with Wesley Marstaller