From offices in mobile trailers to one of the biggest and most successful bridge and highway construction companies in the province, former Chief Financial Officer Tom Barley witnessed it all in his 24 years of service with Dawson Group.
“There’s a lot we look back and laugh at now. It was awesome to see how we went from being unknown in the community to becoming a household name provincial wide,” said Barley, who retired in April 2016.
Raised in southern Alberta, Barley was doing finance for Paper Time in Kamloops in the early 90s. He was introduced to Dawson Group by a mutual acquaintance who encouraged him to apply for a controller position that Dawson was hiring for at the time. Barley’s strong financial skill set was exactly what the company needed as they managed through a challenging business period and looked to advance the company’s goals.
“I had worked with similar sized companies in Alberta previously. I thought my experience handling their financial matters with organizations made me an ideal candidate,” said Barley.
Barley started with Dawson in 1992, and after a few years of improving their accounting functions, assisting in reports and managing finances in a new way, the company successfully completed a turnaround in the early 2000s. At that point, business opportunities and areas of growth were becoming an option to Dawson and Barley, and the management team were keen to capitalize on new initiatives.
The successes started to stack up. Barley was key in facilitating the addition of International Truck Centres and Idealease companies. He partnered with Larry Nelson, former General Manager of Interior Roads, on the startup of a new company that would hold real estate assets. Together they negotiated the purchase of road maintenance buildings that were formerly owned by the provincial government. Over the years he also worked with Nelson and Gord Procknow (former General Manager of Paving), to successfully bid on road maintenance contracts.
The added responsibilities in more corners of the province had Dawson’s reputation of hard work in the spotlight, especially when natural disasters occurred.
“The flood in Bella Coola in 2010 was terribly sad, but made for a very busy time for Dawson, as we did a lot of work to help those people out. From that point on, our Dawson Construction crews didn’t stop working,” said Barley.
Having the Construction company run year-round instead of shutting down in the winter made a huge financial impact for Dawson. That, combined with the road maintenance provided a strong foundation for the other companies and accelerated Dawson’s impact on the province of B.C.
“Having Construction run all year gave us five-to-seven more months of business that we didn’t have before. That was one of the biggest changes I saw in my time with the company,” said Barley.
Each of the different companies were working closely together, with a focus on self-performing most of the work to keep the business in-house. Having the companies support each other with required services was the inspiration for the formation of Dawson Group.
As CFO, Barley made sure there was enough financing for the equipment crews needed, managed the banking services and cash flows, and set up by the accounting systems and different department managers. He wanted to provide as much financial support needed for each company to get the job done.
“Eventually, we increased our revenues significantly over the years, which allowed us to keep our employees a long time. We were also becoming more well known in the community, as we moved from 11 scattered mobile trailers in Knutsford down to the corporate office on McGill in 2004. That really boosted employee moral and helped us become a fixture in the community,” said Barley.
Aside from funding award winning projects and working with some legendary individuals (a memoir is rumoured to be in the works), when asked about his favourite memory from his time at Dawson, Barley’s answer is an obvious one.
“I met my wife at Dawson. She was in our accounting department and moved onto Idealease,” said Barley. “That was the best thing to happen to me while with the company.”
These days, Barley is enjoying retirement. Whenever he isn’t travelling, he can often be found teeing it up on a local course with friends and former employees, having a laugh and reminiscing about the good old days.
On our 100th Anniversary, Dawson Group extends its sincerest gratitude to Tom Barley for his 24 years of dedicated service. His contributions helped us achieve this significant milestone and lay the groundwork for our promising future.
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