MOGENS SMED

CEO and Founder, DIRTT Environmental Solutions

If you haven't heard of DIRTT Environmental Solutions, it's time you did.

Founded by Calgary entrepreneur Mogens Smed just four years ago, DIRTT is thriving-revenues are expected to hit $100 million this year-at a time other companies are barely hanging on.

DIRTT-an acronym for Doing It Right This Time-manufactures movable walls that replace drywall and studs. The walls, which don't look movable, are sturdy and can be tilted down and moved to another location when change occurs in the office. DIRTT also sells software for modular workspace design.

"We're a replacement for conventional construction," explains Smed, who is also DIRTT's CEO. "The conventional process is, first of all, extremely time-consuming. Second, it's environmentally destructive. Third, it's very expensive compared to our
mode of construction. Our whole program is all about sustainability."

With over 500 employees and a new manufacturing plant in Savannah, Ga., DIRTT's client base continues to expand throughout North America.

"We do all of Google in the United States," Smed says when asked for an example.

It's apparent Smed hit upon a good idea at the right time.

"Green construction, regardless of the economy, has been a growing market," he points out. "We literally have no competitors in the interior green construction market at all."

But don't be fooled. Building a company from scratch is never easy-particularly in a market like Calgary. Smed had to grapple with the labour shortage just like many of the rest of us.

"We've managed to accumulate a great team of people here, but it's been very, very difficult," Smed acknowledges.

Focusing on the business has been important as well. Of the current economic environment, Smed offered this observation: "Most businesses-whether they're prepared to admit it or not-are run by the accountants. The accountants don't have any way of responding to a challenging environment. All they know is how to save. They don't know how to grow a business.

"There're obviously opportunities in this kind of environment-there always have been and there always will be. But their role is to protect whatever assets a company has. That's a losing battle in some cases because all you do is save yourself into bankruptcy."


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