Simon Billo caught the entrepreneurial bug early. He’d learned a thing or two about the value of hard work and responsibility as a young man working The Albertan paper route. In the humble newspaper-delivery business, Billo garnered many fundamental principles of success – take care of your customers, assume responsibility for your actions and fix any problems that come up. He and his brother woke up at the crack of dawn to deliver the day’s news to their customers – rain or shine.
Twenty years ago, the success story of Simon Lift Systems, a high-reach rental equipment company began when a wise, business-savvy friend planted the seed in Billo’s head.
“I was working for a local meat-packing company in a sales and marketing role and I really didn’t care for it,” says Billo. “My friend, Dave Werklund, had his own business and so I proposed that he let me work for him, but there were no positions for me at that time.”
Instead of turning his back, Werklund suggested Billo start a business of his own. “I saw that he had a knack for customer service and an obvious attention to detail,” says Werklund. “It was easy to see that Simon would be a great leader and entrepreneur. So, I recommended that he look into the rental industry.”
At the same time, with a young family to take care of, Billo was pondering the idea of going back to school. His mother and biggest supporter told him: “There are two kinds of schools in life, Simon: the formal kind and the working kind.”
“Once we had made the decision to get into the rentals industry, we decided to take a ‘business’ trip to Holland to shop for inventory. Looking back, I think it might have been an excuse to just go have fun. But we did bring back a few pieces that we won at an auction,” chuckles Billo.
Billo credits Werklund’s mentorship with much of his success over the last two decades. “The people who influenced me most in life and in business are my parents and Dave,” he says. “They all really helped reinforce the importance of acting with integrity, being transparent and building mutual respect,” he says. And in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, a homegrown success story built on these traditional values is a refreshing change of pace.
“Simon always had a desire to learn and would willingly take my advice,” says his friend Dave Werklund, the founder of what is known today as Tervita Corporation, as well as a recent inductee into the Order of Canada in recognition of his outstanding lifetime achievement. “I’ve been on this journey of inspiring others to have solid leadership principles and to help them succeed.”
From boom lifts to scissor lifts to telescoping lifts, Simon Lift Systems’ mission is to provide safe, reliable, innovative lift solutions while offering exemplary customer service. The company specializes in both indoor and outdoor high-reach equipment and serves a variety of industries including heavy and light construction, oil and gas, residential and commercial building, window installation and recently, film and television. And every piece of that equipment is in pristine condition.
“If you’ve invested in something, you take care of it,” says Billo. “We won’t send out a machine with dirty windows, even if it’s intended for outdoor use. It becomes unsafe. I believe that attention to detail plays a huge part in our success – we look after and take pride in our equipment, and it shows.”
Being the successful bidder on long-term rental projects such as the new South Health Campus in southeast Calgary, as well as the expansion project on Foothills Medical Clinic in the northwest, were transformational projects for Billo’s venture and have paved the way for continued growth.
“Dave advised me to not be afraid to be competitive when the market needed us to be,” says Billo. “If you know your market well and can still attend to and exceed your customers’ needs, it builds trust and loyalty. And as my mother said: ‘If you want something then ask yourself, what are you prepared to do to earn it?’”
Simon Lift is a lean company with a team that works together like a well-oiled machine. They multitask, share responsibilities and do what it takes to get the job done right. As a proud family man, Billo is pleased to have all three of his children and his wife contribute to the company’s success. His sons Joshua and Matthew work in the shop as service technicians, and his wife Julie and daughter Jennafer assist with clerical support and other tasks within the office.
As an active member of the community, Billo is involved with the Calgary Rowing Club and was recently appointed as a board member.
As for the future, well Billo would be proud to see any of his children take over the business that he built from the ground up. Way up.