55 Years; Barry & Matt Reminisce

Left: Barry Strauss in Wuhan China, 2004. Right: Matt Meyer in an RGZ Crane, 2005.
Left: Barry Strauss in Wuhan China, 2004. Right: Matt Meyer in an RGZ Crane, 2005.

As DFI marks its 55th anniversary, we sat down with Barry Strauss and Matt Meyer, seasoned members of the team whose journeys with our company span many years and include key projects and significant transformations. These gentlemen offered unique perspectives on DFI’s evolution, what sets us apart, and the key factors driving our success.

Can you share a memorable moment or project from your time at DFI that stands out to you?

Barry: “Observing the first pipe being produced from our pipe mill in October of 2000. It was a significant milestone for us.” When asked about the reaction to this milestone, Barry reminisced, “There was Dave Freeland and his wife Jane, with a few of us. We were just kind of standing over and watching the thing come true.”

Matt: “Undoubtedly, the journey to Australia stands out to me. Building a business from the ground up in a new country and contributing to our presence globally. Coming from Alberta to an entirely different cultural and regulatory landscape, adapting to new protocols, laws, and business dynamics was a monumental task, like drinking from a firehose. It was a profound learning experience and a significant milestone in my personal and professional growth.”

How have you seen DFI evolve and adapt over the years to stay relevant in the industry?

Matt: “DFI has undergone significant changes. From expanding its geographical spread to adapting new technologies, the company has consistently prioritized productivity.” He emphasized the need to “do more with less” and acknowledged the challenges of efficiency in the industry.

Barry: “Innovation and risks have been at the forefront of our evolution,” Barry explained. “We’ve taken risks that others might shy away from, like building our own cranes and pipe mill. Additionally, owning real estate rather than renting or leasing has given us more control over our operations.”

What do you believe sets DFI apart from other companies in the same sector, particularly in terms of longevity and success?

Barry: “I think we have an employee passion culture; people are passionate about what we do. There’s a clear path for progression within the company, with many of our current leaders starting out as riggers. This opportunity for growth fosters loyalty and dedication among our team.”

Matt: “Risk and the right people.” Matt stated. “DFI’s willingness to take calculated risks, a trait that has propelled the company forward while others faltered. We also weren’t afraid to find the right people to help us when we needed it. In 2012-2014 we brought in workers from overseas, many of whom are still working with us today.”

In your opinion, what key factors have contributed to DFI’s success and sustained growth over its 55 years in business?

Matt: “Dumb luck,” Matt chuckled. “But also, thinking outside the box.” He credited DFI’s success to a combination of factors, including having “good people” and top-notch equipment. “Knowing when to boom and when to bust,” he added, underlining the importance of strategic decision-making.

Barry: “Design, engineering, and innovation have been instrumental. For instance, our crane design aimed to maximize reach and lifting ability, enabling us to tackle challenging projects. Similarly, the decision to build and operate our own pipe mill addressed critical supply chain issues, ensuring we could meet customer demands efficiently.”

Barry recalled the challenges DFI faced in the mid-90s. “We were constantly grappling with the issue of pipe lengths,” Barry explained. “Standard lengths often didn’t align with our customers’ requirements, leading to extensive cutting and splicing efforts to meet project specifications. Dave was quick to recognize the looming supply chain constraints and the need for a sustainable solution.” Driven by Dave’s foresight and a commitment to overcoming operational hurdles, DFI embarked on a bold initiative to establish its own pipe mill. “It was a pivotal moment for us,” Barry reflected. “By vertically integrating our operations and controlling the production of piling pipe, we gained greater flexibility, efficiency, and control over our supply chain.”

How has your role or responsibilities changed since you first joined DFI, and what have been some of the most significant challenges and achievements along the way?

Barry: “I’ve worn many hats, from operational to strategic roles. One of the most significant achievements was buying our current property, despite facing numerous government barriers. Overcoming these challenges reinforced our resilience and determination as a company.”

Matt: “My history in the business…” he begins. “I look around, and I see my DNA in the company.” He recalled the thrill of experiencing numerous “first times” and navigating challenges along the way, from Edmonton to Brooks to Red Deer, then back to Edmonton, and finally to Australia! Each transition brought unique hurdles and achievements, contributing to his profound understanding of the business.

Both Barry and Matt’s insights offer a glimpse into the rich history and enduring success of DFI, driven by innovation, employee empowerment, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. 

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