Team Player: Hans Gjerdrum leads Kudu Industries to the top
Several years ago Kudu Industries made it a goal to have half of the company’s revenue come from international sales by 2015.
Hans Gjerdrum, the company’s vice-president of international business development, says they’re going to meet that goal early. He says that in 2013 approximately 60 per cent of the company’s revenue will come from exports. Gjerdrum’s focus since he was hired in 2003 has been on growing Kudu’s international presence, and although that’s obviously been a success, he isn’t about to take all the credit himself.
“We have really built a strong reputation as a company,” he says. “We offer a quality product with quality service to match and that has created a strong demand for our product. But the only way I can be successful is if the people that work with me are also successful. The company that I work for needs to be successful too; otherwise I’d have to start looking for a new job and at this age, that’s not something I want to do.”
Gjerdrum is approaching the age of 68 and he admits that retirement has been on his mind lately, if only a little. But he continues to work because, he says, he loves both his job and how Kudu Industries allows him to do it. “The company I work for has allowed me the freedom to do what I believe in,” he says. “I have to give an awful lot of credit to my leaders for that. I’ve worked for companies where that wasn’t necessarily the case and as a result I wasn’t as creative.”
Kudu Industries manufactures progressing cavity pumps (PCPs) that pump everything from heavy oil to coalbed methane out of the ground. Although Gjerdrum has spent his career in the oil and gas industry, he wasn’t necessarily destined to end up in it. The born-and-raised Norwegian studied chemical engineering after military service, and he quickly decided that if the oil and gas industry was going to be his future, his best bet was to move to Canada and learn English. He did that in 1967, and aside from two short stints living back in Norway, Gjerdrum has called Canada home ever since.
Gjerdrum’s first job in Canada was as a chemist with Gulf Oil, but he eventually moved into the service side of the industry because he found working with people more rewarding. It also offered a more interesting career path. “I never wanted to be that person who was trapped at the same job and already planning for retirement in my 20s,” he says. But it wasn’t just his future that Gjerdrum was concerned with. During one of his stints back in Norway he and his wife made the decision to return to Canada, not only for his career but also to ensure the best possible future for their five children. “Norway is a very great place to be, but we felt the greatest opportunity for our children was to move back to Canada,” he says. “It was the best thing to do for my family.” In addition to their five children, Gjerdrum and his wife have 12 grandchildren.
Being a grandparent hasn’t slowed him down though, and his role with Kudu requires him to travel as much as he ever has, visiting places like Romania, Kazakhstan, Australia, Bahrain, India and Russia, where Kudu Industries has operational interests. It was Gjerdrum’s experience in dealing with Russia, in fact, that originally sparked Kudu’s interest in bringing him on as a consultant during one of its forays into the area. Gjerdrum’s involvement as a board member on both the national and Alberta chapters of the Canada Eurasia Russia Business Association (CERBA) is something he credits for his success as an exporter, and is something he recommends to any business looking to increase exports.
“People who want to grow exports need to step outside of their own company and product,” he says. “When looking at a specific market, you should find out what other companies are doing and analyze their successes and their failures. In Alberta, a lot of companies are small and specialized and are competing against giants. This can be done, but it’s a challenge so you have to learn from other companies. Get on a board, have a say and help drive things. Build the right teams. One of the things as a leader that I take a lot of pride in is other people being successful.”