Fine Focus

Fine Focus

BC snowfighter Brad Caton explains why making the leap to "snow-only" was the best businesses decision to make.

January 6, 2020

Shortly after I graduated from high school I knew I wanted to own a business. I originally thought I was going to be a chef, but after working in the restaurant industry for a short while, I realized it wasn’t for me. I needed more freedom instead of being stuck in a kitchen all day. When I was about 20 I began working with a friend who had his own cleaning company in Whistler, a town in British Columbia. We cleaned hotel restaurants, lobbies, kitchens, etc. I was making good money and it gave me the freedom to enjoy my life, which, at that time, involved spending most of my free time skiing.

© Invictus
Caton really committed to his business model when Invictus became the first company in the Pacific Northwest to become ISO9001/SN9001 certified.
I enjoyed the work, but it was then that I realized I wanted what he had – a business of my own. I tried a few different things until one day, in 1998 when I was in my early 30s, I had an “a-ha moment” and started Invictus. The business began as Invictus Building Maintenance, and we did everything from pressure washing to gutter cleaning and power sweeping. Over the years I continued to grow the business and add more services, which eventually included snow and ice management.

The snow removal and de-icing/anti-icing part of the business began after a conversation with my cousin, who suggested it as the next logical offering since it was a service that he thought many of my existing clients could use. I asked one of my clients if she was interested and she enthusiastically told me, yes! I didn’t know anything about the business at the time, and I didn’t have any of the necessary equipment, but my cousin and I figured it out and made it work. Of course, it was not that simple, and there were challenges along the way, but I found that I liked the work and the payoff was great.

The following year I got some equipment, more staff, and we took on more work. I was still learning the business at this point, but the more work we got, the faster I learned. Then, a customer asked me if I could provide salting services. At the time I couldn’t, but I wanted to, so I teamed up with someone who did, and quickly learned that the real money was in salting. So, the following year we added that as another service offering and started doing it on our own. Fast forward to today, and Invictus now has over 30 salt trucks on the road and over 200 pieces of equipment out during snow storms.

© Invictus
Invictus maintains has more than 30 salt trucks on the road and maintains more than 200 pieces of equipment during snow storms.
Not long ago, I was going over the business and financials with a colleague, when he suggested I drop the other parts of my business, which at the time were landscaping and janitorial, and just focus on winter because it was becoming clear this was the most profitable area with the most potential for growth. It was a scary idea, abandoning the other parts of my business, but it made the most sense, so I took the plunge. About a year ago I sold the other parts of the business and officially changed the company name to Invictus Professional Snowfighters Ltd.

It turned out to the best decision I could have made for myself and the business. Invictus is now one of the only companies in North America that is 100% dedicated to snow and ice management. I really committed to this business and we became the first company in the Pacific Northwest to become ISO9001/SN9001 certified, which means we adhere to strict industry standards of quality. We also developed our own proprietary EcoBrine, EcoBrine Premium and EcoBrine Supreme products, which are Vancouver’s only LEED compliant brine products, that keep our customers’ properties surfaces free from dangerous ice. I now manage a staff of 300 contractors, and revenue is increasing each year, as we are continually getting calls from the biggest properties in the Pacific Northwest because they’ve heard that Invictus is the best.

Not only is the company now better focused and more profitable, but I’ve also found that my work-life balance improved dramatically. My summer is much more relaxing and I’m less stressed because I know that I’ll be making all my revenue in the months leading up to and during winter. It also gives me time to focus on my next goal – expanding Invictus beyond the Pacific Northwest.

Snow Magazine Contributing Editor Brad Caton is the founder and CEO of Invictus Professional Snowfighters in British Columbia.