No one could have imagined that the legacy of a City of Calgary firefighter and his wife would be found in the asphalt and concrete industry. In the 1970s, Robert McArthur traded in his fire hose for a hammer and set out to make his mark in home construction with wife Gail. They soon found that one thing was holding up their schedule: a lack of paving companies in Calgary.
“There were only three or four paving companies serving our area and often property and business owners were unable to complete their projects as the existing supply companies were fully booked, so my dad recognized the need for more paving suppliers,” says Robert’s son Sean McArthur, president of Bow Mark. “I guess you could say the creation of Bow Mark Paving in 1979 was due to my father’s own needs as a developer.”
The company started with only six employees, all of whom were McArthur family members, and set out to do residential driveway paving and commercial projects in Okotoks. Bow Mark represented the McArthur family and their values so completing projects correctly was a high priority and remains one of the company’s core values today. By the time Sean McArthur and his older brother Steve bought the company in 1999, it had only grown to 10 employees. As new owners, the brothers had big plans for the little operation.
Over the years, Bow Mark Paving has become known for its reputation for quality workmanship – a go-to company for any and all paving needs in Calgary and surrounding area. That continued through the transition of ownership in 2012 when Sean bought out Steve’s interests to become the sole owner of Bow Mark. In 2013, with partners Ben Bjorge and Tim Becker, Sean expanded Bow Mark adding a concrete division that allowed the company to offer a more complete product to its growing clientele. Growth at the company has been organic and measured, and while the company embraces and adapts to change, it doesn’t seek it out frivolously. The slow, cautious growth pace has certainly paid off. Today, Bow Mark has become the benchmark for quality and service in the paving and concrete industries.
“Our business only grows with the quality staff we employ. Even if we see a market we believe we could service, if we don’t have the people, we choose not to do it. We wait until we have the right staff and then we expand accordingly. We never force growth,” Sean McArthur says.
Bow Mark’s approach to growth has clearly worked. Over the past five years, the company has expanded in scope and size, now boasting 110 employees (in the office and on job sites) working on projects in concrete, municipal and commercial paving, and project management.
Bow Mark also offers general contracting services for large commercial and industrial projects, road construction and large residential projects. The company prides itself on completing jobs on time and on budget whether it’s for country residential asphalt, a patterned concrete driveway or a major thoroughfare. It is also a pre-qualified prime contractor with the City of Calgary and has been a general and prime contractor for a number of municipal projects in the area. Over the past four decades, Bow Mark has been involved with everything from road rebuilds to airports, utility installations to revitalizations.
In fact, Bow Mark has gone from one town to the next tackling revitalization projects. With High River and Okotoks under its belt, it is currently doing the downtown revitalization in Coleman.
“Revitalization entails pretty much everything – just taking the whole main street and tearing everything out and putting all new underground storm systems, electrical, street lighting, concrete, trees, the whole works,” McArthur says. “Exciting to bring new life back to a city’s core.”
Bow Mark crews are equipped to handle all the concrete and paving components of these revitalization projects while specialty project foremen manage all other trades and crews in the remaining aspects of the job. The municipal clients know Bow Mark will ensure their high standards apply to subcontracted crews on their job sites. The company fosters strong relationships with outside tradespeople and these valued partnerships only serve to make the product and the company itself better.
This is important to McArthur and his team as their goal is to provide the best product possible and to continue to grow and improve. One way the company has done this is by not only attracting skilled, dedicated staff but also by keeping them.
“Our genuine commitment and investment in our staff is unique in an industry that is seasonal and demanding, but our low turnover and long-term staff speaks for itself,” he says. “This is something that is important to our management team. The people we work with and our staff matter to us. They are our community.”
This positive work culture is something that Robert McArthur introduced from the beginning and his core values hold true 40 years later. Just as it did in 1979, Bow Mark follows through on its commitments and strives to do the right thing for clients every time. The team stands behind its product and prides itself on quality output. At Bow Mark there are no shortcuts and no compromises. Customers are the focus, and management does all it can to ensure the staff is positioned to do a quality job for clients. Using technology to track progress and communicate changes in real time, Bow Mark can limit delays and improve efficiency.
“We focus on timely-productive communication and care and attention to details on each project, leaving the customer satisfied with the results,” McArthur says.
The company also strives to stay abreast of new approaches and product applications in order to remain at the top of the industry. Staff complete annual safety and operations training, and in the off-season Bow Mark encourages employees to enrol in classes so they can add to their own resumés as well as learn how to better serve today’s marketplace. Likewise, the management team is dedicated to professional development and training as well.
“Learning is a lifelong skill and being open to new possibilities keeps Bow Mark working towards our future for the next generation of staff and management,” he says.
The family-owned and operated company treats their employees like part of the family. Employees work hard and are invested in the success of the company, even more so given Bow Mark operates on profit-sharing with staff. When the company does well, everyone gets a piece of the profits. Even in the tough economic times of the past few years, Bow Mark avoided layoffs and kept the schedule booked for the season, with jobs like the Highway 762 Slide Rehabilitation as well as rebuilding the town of High River after the floods of 2013 – even donating equipment and manpower during the initial stages of the flood.
The McArthurs are grateful for their success and are happy to pay it forward in the community. Bow Mark supports numerous organizations and groups including Foothills Country Hospice, the Centennial Centre and the Foothills Community Centre. It also supports a dozen hockey teams on top of being a major sponsor of the AAA Bow Mark Midget Oilers hockey team. Bow Mark is proud to have built the McArthur Outdoor Stage at Okotoks Old Towne Square Plaza in recognition of Sean’s parents Robert and Gail McArthur.
“It’s really important for us to give back to the community. It’s how we were raised,” he says.
Bow Mark has given back to the community and to its clients for the past 40 years and is eager to carry on Robert and Gail McArthur’s legacy for another 40.