Gurmit Takhar, founder of Evergreen Building Maintenance, joined by his daughter Nav and son Ranjit who are now managing the business and helping it to expand. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Kelowna family business expanding

Evergreen Building Maintenance vying for UBC Okanagan contract

Ranjit Takhar grew up in Kelowna and enrolled at UBC Okanagan’s business program with the idea he’d become a lawyer or finance professional.

He grew up around the building maintenance company started by his parents, even helping prepare contract tender documents online for his computer software-challenged dad as a teenager.

But he never really thought about becoming what he is today, president of the family business, Kelowna-based Evergreen Building Maintenance Inc.

“Looking back it was always the plan for me to start my own career but plans don’t always unfold the way we plan them to,” Takhar said. “When I saw the company could benefit from my education, that my father needed me to help make that happen, I was all in.”

Today, Evergreen provides cleaning services to 325 buildings, both private business and public institutional, in 18 municipalities across B.C. and Alberta, a long journey forward from when Takhar’s parents Gurmit and Rapinder Takhar started the business with three small building contract commitments.

And Evergreen has now taken another major step forward by entering the competitive ranks of national and international building maintenance consortium in bidding for the building maintenance services contract for the UBC Okanagan campus.

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The contract, a three-year deal with an option for a three-year extension, is expected to be awarded before the end of February.

“When you are in a room with 30 other representatives of national and international companies competing for a contract of that size, it is a bit intimidating,” Takhar said about the UBCO contract tender process protocols.

“But we are not trying to put undue pressure on ourselves. We have grown in a sustainable way to put ourselves in a position for a contract opportunity like this. So we have put our best proposal forward with the references we have built up with past clients and let those testimonials speak for themselves.”

If unsuccessful in the bid, Takhar said they will learn from the experience and be ready to bid again when the contract comes up for renewal.

He feels some advantages weigh in his favour—a local company for local clients with local support services in place to back up its building maintenance service commitments. Both Takhar and his sister Nav, who also now works for Evergreen, are UBCO graduates who both bring a student perspective of where past building maintenance service shortfalls existed; a commitment to establish three UBCO $1,000 student bursaries and they have taken the time to walk the campus and tour every building to better understand the student traffic flow nuances.

But that commitment to detail and customer service is what Takhar said has allowed the company to continue to grow at a sustainable level.

Going back 30 years, Gurmit and Rupinder Takhar were immigrants to Canada from India, living in Calgary where they operated a steam extraction carpet cleaning service.

Gurmit wanted a fresh business start and to raise his family in a “nice city,” and he chose Kelowna.

“My dad was just a lover of nature which goes back to when he was an agriculture inspector in India. He loves the lakes, the forest and that’s why he chose the Okanagan to raise his family,” Takhar said.

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He started Evergreen with his wife Rupinder cleaning commercial buildings when the industry was small and a handshake and commitment to quality service was his promise to his clients, Takhar recalled.

The industry in the years since has expanded, in large part to public institutions beginning to outsource their janitorial services to contractors rather than do the work in-house.

“There are 163 cleaning operation services in Kelowna now. It was not as competitive as it has become today back when my father started out as the outsourcing aspect was just beginning to take hold,” Takhar said.

Contract tenders have become far more complicated as well, as simply the lowest price is no longer the lone factor to how building maintenance contracts are awarded.

“Pricing now is about 25 per cent of the criteria considered. Other factors given weight in any bid are background of the company, work history, type of buildings you have done, how much staff, proper bonding and certified training for WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System),” Takhar said.

He cited Evergreen’s evolution in that changing contract environment is reflected by his company winning an environment sustainability award from the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce in 2016.

RELATED: Chamber honours business excellence

He said technology and changing public sentiments have brought new challenges to their industry, but Takhar says the perhaps old-fashioned business principles important to his father remain relevant today.

“My dad started the company with his own perseverance and intelligence, to just continue to always work hard,” Takhar said. “I may be the president now but he is still the boss.”

And his mom still works for a church client that she has been with for 25 years.

“We have talked with her about getting other staff to replace her, but she has such strong relationship with that client, they don’t want her to go. It keeps her busy and offers a sense of pride for her that she is doing something tangible to help the family business.

“That is a reminder for us that service to our client is important, and so is building a relationship with our customers.”



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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