2010 Hall of Fame
Ivan Beljo worked in his family vineyard and farm while attending grade school and high school in Croatia. His father passed away when he was 15 leaving his mother with 13 children, the youngest of which was only a few months old. This is when he decided to move a few hours away and start working construction in the summer months to make more money for the family. At the age of 18 he decided to escape from the communist regime of Yugoslavia which prevented them from living as free Croatian Catholics. From there he went to Austria, and eventually made his way to the great country of Canada.
Speaking only Croatian and some German, he started residential painting with some Croatian friends that he met. After seven years of that, Ivan found out that Rema Tip Top (which was the original name) was hiring. He heard that the work could be challenging and exciting. He took a pay cut of half his painting pay to start this new career as an apprentice in April 1976. After one week, he became a shift boss and one year later, they made him a partner. One year after that he became a Branch Manager. He always had a gift of simplifying massive belt installations, and complex rubber lining projects. He also needed to be the best at what he did, which I think was a survival technique from his early working years. He started off with a four man crew with some part time helpers in a small shop and is now in a brand new beautiful 20,000 square foot facility and a workforce peaking at 60 employees.
Ivan’s unsurpassed loyalty has resulted in very low turnover in all areas of his business. Low employee turnover, low supplier turnover, low customer turnover. He treats every employee, supplier, and customer with the same respect level regardless of their rank. He has been offered many product lines over the years. One in particular offered long term, guaranteed national contracts that he turned down for a much smaller piece of the pie at that time to ensure a long term future based on quality. He did end up with those long term contracts after all but with the quality lines that he waited with. This pursuit for quality helped earn him the recognition of the “Canadian Croatian Business of the Year” last year.
Although it is a 24/7 business, his employees have been getting overtime pay automatically on weekends since he became Branch Manager in 1978 although it wasn’t the industry standard, because he believes that weekends are family time – that is, if there is not an emergency job going on. It was very important for him to offer his employees one of the best benefit packages around, and he put a workout facility in our new building to promote a healthy lifestyle. One thing Ivan’s employees didn’t worry about when Vale went on Strike was being laid off. He hasn’t laid anyone off for 35 years.
They say that behind every good man is an even better woman. None of this would have been possible had it not been for his wife, Maria. He always knew that he could focus on work and she would take care of the household. Maria developed a pretty heavy foot from racing five kids across town to various activities.
My good friend Connie Houle always says, “Success isn’t measured by how far you’ve gotten, but the distance you travelled from where you started”. Ivan says, “When I came to Canada, I only had a quarter in my pocket”. Ivan that is one long trip.
Bob Rappolt was born and raised in Southern Ontario. His summer work experience ranged from farm work to working in Berlin, Germany (then behind the Iron Curtain).
He graduated from Queens University in 1976 with a mining degree in Mining Engineering.
Shortly after graduation, Bob joined Inco’s Sudbury Operations and worked on various engineering assignments.
In 1987, he joined the engineering arm of J.S. Redpath Limited, the Canadian contracting company. Jim Redpath had always believed that a strong engineering presence was vital to the success of the contracting, and that was a valued added approach that was different to most mine contracting companies at the time.
Bob soon led the mining engineering group within the engineering arm. He was the leader of development strong budgets and cost records – something that seemed a challenge to many others in engineering.
He also served as a facilitator between the engineers and contractors – and at times this was a very difficult assignment.
In the early 1990’s, Jim Redpath, who was semi-retired at the time, returned to the fold and determined the company, which had branched out into a variety of enterprises, should return to its original roots. One of those areas which was considered was the large engineering group, which then totaled over 80 people. He then sold the engineering company to a group of select employees, one of whom was Bob Rappolt.
Bob earned the position of Vice President and directed the Canadian Operations from that time on. Early success of the engineering group led to a full buyout from J.S. Redpath Limited, and by 1996 engineering was fully independent. That company went through a series of name changes, finally settling at McIntosh Engineering.
Bob led the operational aspects through a series of successes. In the late 1990’s, Barrick became a major client on a sustained basis. Bob secured an assignment in Kazakhstan with Glencore. A few employees received what Bob loves to call an “all expenses paid business class trip” to the site. Fast forwarding a few years, Bob continued to lead the company with a growth strategy which, of course, was eventually cut short by the events of September 2008.
By then, Stantec had acquired the company but that did not secure all jobs, and unfortunately about 30 good people lost their jobs and things were getting tougher by the day. By the fourth quarter of 2008, drastic action was needed to maintain the core of workers. Bob has a knack of sensing business potential, and increased his time in Saskatchewan. He always preached commodity diversification, and felt an opportunity coming.
By the end of March 2009, Bob had almost single handedly achieved success with PCS for the Allan Mine shaft upgrade. He continues to support that project which is underway at present, on schedule, and planned for completion in Q3 2011.
Then another project came to light with BHP. Again Bob led the efforts using his professional relationships to negotiate the multi-year contract. That work is underway at present and will be for some time to come.
This brief overview is just a few of the highlights of Bob’s career. He has been successful mostly as a result of his honest, straight-forward dealing with clients, and developing a good team around him.
A true gentleman and friend to many, Bob has truly earned this award he is being honored with today from SAMSSA.