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March 14-18, 2023

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Ep. 128: Managing the Stress of Construction with Ryan Priestly

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9/26/2022

CONEXPO-CON/AGG Podcast Ryan Priestly episode

Joining Taylor White on the podcast this week is Ryan Priestly, President of Priestly Demolition, who you may know from the show Salvage Kings on the History Channel. Ryan kicks off the episode by discussing the scope of Priestly Demolition’s work, from bringing down power plants to bridge demolitions to asbestos abatement - taking on projects both big and small along the way. He shares his background as a second-generation industry member, having taken over the business from his father fifteen years ago, and how he’s worked to hone his workers’ skills and create a harmonious team who work together effectively. He also discusses Salvage Kings, the impact the show had on his business, the challenges involved in making it, and why Priestly won’t be returning for its third season.

Next, Taylor and Ryan delve into some of the big issues facing the industry right now, including the impact of inflation and the likelihood of an economic course correction. They also chat about stress relief and how to achieve a work/life balance and maintain your well-being in an industry that doesn’t always make it easy to sit back and appreciate your achievements. Taylor then asks Ryan to share some of his most memorable “Oh, man” projects, the ones that caused the biggest headaches, and Ryan describes some of the unique and challenging projects he’s been involved in over the years along with the lessons he learned from them. And finally, Ryan closes the show by sharing what’s up next for him and the business, including some ambitious plans for growth and bringing on the next generation of Priestly Demolition employees, including his son and nephews.

Topics:

  • Inheriting the family business
  • The impact of Salvage Kings
  • Inflation and its impact on the industry
  • Ryan’s most memorable “Oh, man” project
  • What’s next for Ryan and Priestly Demolition

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Episode transcript: 

Taylor White: Welcome back, everybody to the CONEXPO-CON/AGG podcast. I am your host, as always, Taylor White, and first off, I want to thank everybody. We released our podcast, our first episode with Scott Pushysix, last week, and I appreciate all the positive feedback on that. And all our platforms that everyone listens to them on, we've had a lot of five-star reviews, and I really appreciate it. It's been nothing but positive feedback. So, thank you for that.

But today, we have a guest that I've been working on for a couple weeks now. You may know him from his show, 'Salvage Kings' on history channel, or seen his incredible team and machinery demolishing projects such as bridges, buildings, or anything really that can be torn down, Ryan Priestley.

Ryan, I am happy to have you on.

Ryan Priestley: Thank you very much for having me, Taylor.

Taylor White: Yeah. No problem, man. First of all, to give people a bit of a background on how we got connected was last-- my first podcast I did with Scott, and he mentioned that you guys were both on a panel at CONEXPO 2020 together. And I reached out to him like, "Hey man, I've got to get Ryan on the podcast." He's like, "Let me talk to him and let me see what I can do." So, that was kind of how we got connected there.

Ryan Priestley: Yeah. Well, Scott's a great guy and he's always so great for the industry. It's trying to just get more people aware of what's going on actually in the field, which is really Scott's sort of ace in the hole. He likes to bring it down to ground level so everyone can see what's going on out there. It's refreshing.

Taylor White: No, I could not agree more with that. I guess, to give people a bit of a background, I figure the best way to--, I'm sure lots of people know who you are, but for those that don't, what do you do? And how would you describe what your business does?

Ryan Priestley: Well, my name is Ryan Priestly. I'm the President of Priestly Demolition, and we do work across Canada now and the US, and we basically remove anything. So, we have a lot of big projects that are-- taking down big facilities, steel mills, paper mills, power plants. We do a lot of civil work, bridges, dams, concrete recycling, crushing. We do asbestos abatement, environmental mold, all that. And on top of all that, we do a lot of labor work. So we do a lot of interior work inside of buildings and the biggest piece of equipment might be a wheelbarrow or a bobcat. 

So, we have quite a vast project that we do day in and day out around here. And it's just been trying to cater to our customer base over the course of time, and it's a little different in certain areas. So, a year ago we purchased a small company in Alberta, Calgary, and then we do a little bit of work spending a little time out on the East Coast, and we took a job, a project in the US a few years ago, and we've been trying to build up down there as well. So, there's a lot of moving parts on a daily basis here, we're just trying to keep it between the ditches.

Taylor White: Yeah. Well, that's super impressive. I mean, like even here in Ottawa, I think you guys did like a massive bridge demolition. And one of my buddies, he's a foreman with ACON, and you guys were there doing it and it was like overnight, you guys took down an entire bridge in like the span of like 12 hours. And there was actually, somebody live streamed it too. And it was just incredible. Like you said, the scope of work that you cover is like both big and small, but you seem to be able to do it with precision, and accuracy, and quality.

Ryan Priestley: Yeah. We started doing bridges about 20 years ago, and I remember we did the first one on a weekend where my actual sister was getting married. So, I worked on the Friday, but I didn't work on the Saturday for obvious reason. And ever since then, it's just been progressively honing the skillset of the guys. And now it's almost like just a matter of, you know, hold them back until you say,"Okay guys, let's go." And it's almost like harmonious, just everyone working together, and it's really interesting to see, and now, we're doing it every weekend almost. So, almost every weekend in the summertime, we do a bridge removal on a 400-series highway somewhere, somehow. And then you get some work over some water, and you get some work over some areas like-- last year we did the work at the Gardiner Expressway. So that was a little different, a little interesting, and different again, not a 400-series highway, but you get to watch-- like, even there it's like more pedestrian traffic than even car traffic. 

But yeah, you never know what's going to come up next, and there's just always a demand for people getting things removed. And a lot of the guys in that civil industry, like you made mention of an ACON, they would attack it themselves, you know? And they have good people, they have good equipment, they have all that. I guess the biggest issue for them is, it's just not their specialty. It's just not their skillset. So, at the same token, it's not really something they want to put a whole lot of time and energy into, whereas we thrive on it. We want to come up with a plan that's going to work for everyone, and we want to come up with a plan that's going to make it efficient, and safe, and get done on time.

Taylor White: Yeah. There's value in getting good people to do good work. And I learned that even at our size, which is super, super smaller compared to you in your scale, but getting people in to do it-- sometimes, we might be looking at a project and seeing where we can save a little bit here or there, but then to do like a concrete curb, and be like, "Wow, we could do that." And then you do it, and then you screw it up and you go, "You know what, we should have just got somebody that actually does concrete, and is professional in it to just do it, right?"

Ryan Priestley: Yeah. Yeah.

Taylor White: So, you were saying like,"We started doing bridges 20 years ago." I feel like maybe a bit of a backstory, that’s interesting. So, you've been doing it for a while, are you a first gen, second gen, third gen, like myself, or-?

Ryan Priestley: Yeah, my father started the business. He started his first business in 1971 called Vic Priestly Contracting, and then he formed Priestly Demolition in 1993. I graduated my college days about 26 years ago, maybe. So, ever since then, I've been involved with the business and I took it over full time probably about 15 years ago. My father is definitely still around, and he's definitely still willing to get involved, but on a day to day basis, he doesn't really get involved. He still has an office here, we see him most days, and he's always busy buying and selling, sometimes properties, sometimes antiques, sometimes antique farm tractors, and then, he just called me about 10 minutes ago. He is like, "I'm coming to pick up the bulldozer from your house and I'm taking it up to the auction house in Orillia tomorrow morning." That's his big job tomorrow. He wants to go get that done, and that's great.

Taylor White: That's awesome.

Ryan Priestley: That's what it's all about. So, for me to be able to afford him the ability to get up in the morning and do whatever he pleases is me accomplishing that goal. You know, it's not to try and cause a fight with my father or a disagreement. I mean, that comes naturally, sometimes you can't really prevent that you can't--

Taylor White: That happens. Don't lie, that happens. I'm in the same boat, it happens.

Ryan Priestley: --you know, you can try to avoid it or dance around it a little bit, but every now and again, it's almost like that era of generation that's just how they exist. That's how they work. And, we're in a different generation now, and I think it's even interesting the generation below; if you actually get upset, or raise your voice, or start flinging your arms all over the place, they almost just shut right down. So, you’ve got to watch how you handle yourself, but, when it comes to my father, I know exactly what I'm getting.

Taylor White: Yeah. No, I agree with that 100%, that speaks true to me as well. I mean, I'm not at the goal. Like, my dad, isn't getting up and maybe having the freedom that your dad has right now, but I mean, over the past four years, since I've taken over, that is ultimately the goal is well too. I want the call from my dad saying,"I'm going up and buying this old Farmall Model H, and I'm going to auction it off and do that and do this." But what more spoke true was what you were saying is like, I was raised by my father, and I'm like an old soul, I guess you could say. And I struggle with the same thing, and that's actually why I brought my wife on. She's doing some HR work now for us, just helping out as we're growing, because how I handle and deal with stuff is very different than how a lot of the younger generation-- because, I'm 27. I'm saying like the 17-year-olds, 18-year-olds that are out of high school now that I'm hiring, they handle stuff way differently than how I handle it. And when I deal with it, it then gets to a level where they're like, "I can't handle the way that he spoke to me." And it's not because I'm doing it in a way. It's just like-- I remember being 12 years old and shoveling shit on a job site, and my dad would like grab the shovel out of my hand and be like, "What are you doing?" Like, "That's not how you shovel, that's how a wussy shovels. You shovel like this." And he'd, grab it out of your hand and do it. Because-

Ryan Priestley: -throw your back into it, man. Come on.

Taylor White: -yeah, exactly. Or, "If you're not going to do anything, just go sit in the truck." That kind of attitude, which now, like you said, it doesn't work. But I don't want to skip ahead I guess, to that part of it, because I want to talk about that obviously, about how the construction industry is changing, and all that, but I want to talk more about the CONEXPO. You were at the show in 2020, and you were on a panel with Scott Pushysix as well, correct?

Ryan Priestley: That's right, yeah.

Taylor White: Nice. What did you guys chat about on that?

Ryan Priestley: Well, it was just basically Scott, he's endorsed by CONEXPO to a certain degree I guess. He does these interviews and stuff like that. So, we just kept it pretty open. So, he basically just asked me questions and I answered it, and we were on the stage there, and they record it and it's available to everyone to see. So, what I did learn in doing that is obviously it was-- he's Canadian, I'm Canadian, only one of the only Canadian sort of acts if you will, down there, but they do it on all kinds of things.

So, on us, it was more to do with the reality TV show. He was trying to ask what the TV show was, and what the appeal there was, and why did you guys do it, and how do you find it? Basically, the TV show that we had is good, it's great. I think it's some way for people to see what's actually again happening in the demolition work world, and to get it on national television. It's great, and now it's aired all around the world. 

I just went to the Calgary Stampede this summer and I met these people who recognized me and said, "I watch your TV show." So, I was a little bit put back by that. I mean, it does happen right there and-- so you just see it, but I think it's good for-- again, like we're discussing, like the next generations coming up, they can see it. We did two seasons with the TV show, but we're not going to be doing a third.

Taylor White: Yeah. That's what I was going to ask. So, what's going on there? So, you decided maybe-

Ryan Priestley: It was very, very difficult to find the projects that would suit the needs of the TV show in the sense that they need a little tighter timeline. Like if you have a project for six months, they want to film a whole season in six months. So, you can't do that. And then a lot of the homeowners and stuff like how many houses can you film, and stuff like that. So, we were trying to find little odd jobs and then during the pandemic, it became tougher again, because then they couldn't even film in certain areas. Because back when the pandemic first started, you know, this area's green, this area is yellow. So, TV wasn't even open for a bit, so then they had to go up North, and we did some of the second season, a lot of it up North because we were able to film up there. So, it just got a little bit too funneled for us to really partake in. 

So, they're going to take the show and they're going to keep doing it. Ted, who worked for us, is going on to keep doing the show. And I think it's a great opportunity for Ted, and I think he really enjoys it. I think the rest of us were doing it as, "Okay, well, today I got to do some TV show work," I guess. So, it was more for Ted in the end, and it'll be a lot of knickknacks and antiques and stuff like that. And I don't really know what the direction is because I haven't been involved, but I'm assuming they're going to have some demolition involved, but probably not as much as before.

Taylor White: That's pretty interesting. That's pretty cool. So, do you think that overall, it was a positive experience for your business? Like, do you think it helped the industry as a whole, as far as demolition, showing it? Or did it help your business more?

Ryan Priestley: I think it helped the industry as a whole to a certain degree, and I think it helped our business to a certain degree. It's not a financial gain to do the TV show. You don't make money by doing the TV show. If you were to air for like 10 seasons and get that big bolstering of followers and you really had- .

Taylor White: -this ‘Gold Rush’ or something.

Ryan Priestley: Yeah.Like, if you had something like that, then it's a little different. But Canadian television is not like American television, financially. So, the financial reward here in Canada, it's a lot different than the US. So like ‘Gold Rush', for instance, I don't think they had to make money mining. They had to make money on the TV show. Whereas some years they made money in the mining probably, and some years they made money on the TV show, so they did twice as well. But here, it's not really a money-making adventure to make a TV show, but it did help. We would get calls saying, "Oh, you know, I have this building to tear down, I'd be willing to be on the TV show." And, there is some brand recognition for sure, through the TV show. But again, getting brand recognition in the UK does really help us get work in Ontario.

Taylor White: Yeah, you're right. But I imagine someone such as yourself too, though, you probably have a lot of really good connections or reputations, or people, you know within your network, or even with the city of Toronto, or it's like, "You know we do good work."

So, necessarily how much work are you trying to pull from something like that versus showing Priestly Demolition the brand, the culture behind it, and maybe attracting people to come work for you might actually be the biggest gain, right?

Ryan Priestley: Exactly. I think you nailed it on the head. It's all the above. You know, it is a little bit of everything. So, like I say, it was overall good for our business, and it was a little bit of, maybe didn't get us a whole lot of new connections or new business, but maybe some people came and applied, and they wouldn't have applied before. And maybe like you say, some people called, and they wouldn't have called before. And I think even the people that work here enjoy that, to a certain degree. So, I think it was good for culture all round, and stuff like that. So, it was great. It was a good experience.

Taylor White: Awesome. No, I'm happy to hear that. It's just not the same thing at all, but I mean, I do YouTube, I have a videographer and editor that follows me around all day, every day, and my whole team is on it. And I actually don't make money off YouTube if everyone thinks that I make money off it, but I actually demonetize my own videos because I use copyrighted music, because I find that it makes the videos even better. Because If I don't want to watch the video and I find it boring, then I don't want to put it out there. And sometimes non-copyright music is like elevator music. It's just like pulling hair out of my head. It's just boring. So, I'll use Morgan Wallen or a Hardy, or 50 Cent, or an Eminem, stuff that's fun and interesting. And I make $0 from it, but it's larger as far as growing my brand, and growing the culture, and showing people, because one of the issues in the industry right now is labor shortage.

So having people just email us from our contact form on our website being like, "Dude, I love watching your stuff. I live in Ottawa. I'm working for this company, and I love what you do with your employees, I want to work there." That's super cool. But that kind of segues into the next conversation.

One of the reasons I actually really want to have you on, because I really would value your opinion on-- and I guess that's what a CONEXPO was good for as well, talking to other business professionals, and people that are dealing with the same issues and stuff that you have going on as well. There's a lot of positives, but I think what's really interesting right now is this labor shortage, and issues that we have going on as far as inflation, fuel prices, and stuff like that. What are your thoughts on that? What do you see as the biggest issue? Maybe it's not labor shortage for you, maybe it's the fuel prices, or maybe it's something I'm not even covering. But what are some issues that you see with the industry right now?

Ryan Priestley: I do think everyone is paying more for everything. When I go to the beer store and I buy a case of beer, I actually say to the lady, "Thank you very much. I feel like you're undercharging me for the first time in my life." Because beer really hasn't gone up. Like, everything you touch-

Taylor White: Thank God, baby.

Ryan Priestley: -right? So, everything you touch, I mean, it doesn't matter if you're buying groceries, or if you're buying tires, or you're buying parts, or you're buying fuel, or you're buying an airline ticket, or you're buying paper for the photocopier, it's all gone up.

And the question with inflation that really as a business owner is, what's the number? Is it 3%? Is it 8%? Is it 5%? Is it 22%? Is it 13%? And, you know, I just feel like there's a real disconnect on what's happening percentage-wise, truly. You hear all like-- again, not to pick names, but you know, this equipment manufacturer or that equipment manufacturer say price is going up. You know, prices are going up 12% November 1st.

When's the next increase? And when was the last increase? I mean, is it 12%, or is it more, like 18%? Because there was already a hike like a year ago. So, it's just very confusing out there for a business owner to know what inflation really is and how it affects the bottom line. And there's no question we had to charge more for our service. So, a project that you used to charge $10,000 for, or whatever it was, we need to charge10,800 for, or something. It's just the reality of the world we live in, and it's attacking us. It's eroding us without even being able to realize it. And having a conversation from within your organization with the powers to be on inflation is quite confusing.

It's a bigger issue than maybe we're even giving it credit for right now. And like the price of fuel like a year ago was a dollar less or maybe even more. So, at the start of the pandemic, it was like down to 80 cents, and then it was a dollar, and then-

Taylor White: It was so nice.

Ryan Priestley: -yeah. And again, we didn't really talk about it then as being this huge cost savings, because again, you pay so much for fuel all the time, anyway, that when you get a little--

Taylor White: I'm still complaining about fuel.

Ryan Priestley: Exactly. So, you have to try and fight it at both ends. Like, if we're going to do this work, how do we do it with the least amount of fuel? Same with the labor, how are we going to do this with the least amount of labor? Because if I wanted to hire 10 guys tomorrow, it's just not that easy. There's a shortage of availability on people, and it's across the board.

Taylor White: I agree. You kind of nailed it with that. And I think one of the things that I had at the beginning of the year conversations with my team, and even my father, were like, what do you think is going to happen this year? Because stuff is so much more expensive. And I'm like, well, to be honest with you, the price of fuel, I don't really care. Because who cares is the end consumer, because the price of fuel goes up. Sure. Great, I just charge more for my project. But who does care is the end consumer because they're the ones paying for it, which sucks.

So that was the whole thing for us. It was like, "Okay, sure. We can raise our prices and we can do more because the price of fuels is going up. Great. We're still going to get covered because we're going to charge more." But when does that end customer say, "Whoa"? You now what? That's what I think is when every work was going to slow down is whenever the end consumer was like, "We don't want to pay that."

Ryan Priestley: Well, and there's some rumors now in the industry where in Toronto there's all these condominiums getting built on a regular basis. I mean, they're anywhere from five stories high, to 50 stories high, and they're ongoing all the time. And people that have sold these condominiums are stalling these projects because everyone is charging more. So, by the time all the different trades to build that condominium, by the time you add it all up with all the inflationary costs, it's now become like a bit of a deal breaker to build that condo. Now, when you stop building a condo, the problem is, where do the people live?

I just heard a story this morning where the guy was like, "Yeah, my brother bought a house and he made it into seven bedrooms and within three days rented it all out."

Taylor White: Yeah. I think the rental market is crazy. 

Ryan Priestley: I don't know how big this house is, but I'm just suggesting to you that the problem is, we let immigration happen, and let people immigrate into Canada and they need to stay somewhere. And in the GTA, it's a hotspot. That's where people come to, and that's where you start your life in Canada, and then you can choose to go wherever you want from there. But it's happening across Canada and every small town, and there's just a shortage of places to be, and it's costing more to keep those places; i.e. the fuel prices for your propane, or your hydro- 

Taylor White: -or your natural gas, anything. 

Ryan Priestley: - your natural gas. And then I just had one of our guys went over to Ireland for a couple of weeks and he was saying over in Ireland, they've already announced there's going to be a 26% fuel increase by the end of the year, and they've told everyone, “That's as good as it's going to get. Like, it's only going to keep going up from there.” So, you get this war happening across the pond, and you'd like to say, “Well, what effect does it have on me?” Well, that's part of the inflation also, unfortunately. You can blame whatever you want, but it's all these factors feeding into it that it's just beyond your control. So, nothing to do with Taylor or Ryan and how we operate our contracting business. It's where you get the goods from, and where the goods are coming from, and the snowball effect down the line by the time it affects you. Like when you go to the grocery store or what have you.

Taylor White: Yeah. I love this. So then, where is your head at? Basically, what you're saying is, it's something out of our control, right? This is something out of our control. So then, where does the business owner such as myself or even yourself, because it doesn't matter what size you are, it’s affecting everybody. It doesn't even matter if you own a business or not, it's affecting you. So, where's your mindset as far as like, "Okay, I have a construction company, or I'm in this industry in this time in the economy.” Where's your head at? What keeps you awake at night? Does it keep you awake at night? It does, some nights for me.

Ryan Priestley: It does, some nights for me too. And I think that at the end of the day, that one of the simplest way to say it is you got to be able to balance your bank book. So, you have to spend less than you get in. So, if you know you're earning a paycheck and you're getting in $500, you got to spend 495. You can't spend 505 where every month you just keep going a little bit in the wrong direction. So that's number one. And number two is, I think that there's a real peak to what's happening here, and I don't think it can last forever. I mean, I've been saying it for about the last 12 months. Unfortunately, nothing makes sense. Did the pandemic cause this? Did the war cause this? Who knows? But even if you have unlimited funds, let's just say you won the lottery yesterday and you walk in and you want to buy even a Ferrari. Chances are, they don't got one anyway. Chances are, you're waiting. So, even when you're like, "Okay, well, that part is more money than I thought, or that product is more money than I thought, but, okay, I'm going to get it anyway." Sorry, sir, we don't have one of those in stock. You're just going to have to stand by and we can give you an update in about three months on what we think the next update.

So, you can't even get half the stuff now, anyway, which is crazy. Even if you're charging me, what I think is way too much money, but I'm willing to buy it anyway, because I need it, "Oh, sorry, we don't have it." So, it's just not a lot that makes sense right now, and I think there's going to be some kind of correction coming just with real estate, and price of fuel, and inflation, but I don't think it's going to be huge.

I don't think the correction is going to be 50% or anything like that. You're going to see things settle 10, 20%, maybe, 25 for certain things. And we saw it a little bit with lumber, next time we're going to back to maybe what we remember as the low point. So, if we're thinking of fuel is 80 cents, I think those days have come and gone. We got lucky for a bit there, but-- and even now, my house is not very far from my yard. I drive a diesel pickup truck, so I don't really follow the price of fuel as well as I maybe should-

Taylor White: I watch diesel.

Ryan Priestley: -but like, it's come down a little bit, for sure, from its highest point. And it's probably going to come down a little bit more, but that's probably going to be your new norm, we're probably not far from it now. And, you know, same with the groceries, and the real estate, and stuff. It's going to stand a little correction, but it's not going to go-- because again, that grocery store is paying more for their hydro, that grocery store is paying more for their natural gas, that grocery store is paying more for their labor, that grocery store is paying more for their deliveries, that grocery store is paying more for everything, because of everything. And there might be a slight correction, but there's going to be no massive collapse or correction of big numbers, in my opinion. But that's just a matter of opinion.

Taylor White: Oh, no. And I like getting everybody's opinion. It's something that again, like I said, does keep me up some nights thinking about it. Because you know, we did a massive growth spurt here in the last three years, we bought property. We’re renovating an office right now, we did a big shop, and like you said, it's kind of just like managing and working on cash flow. And then you’re looking ahead and it's like, “Okay, December, January, February, March has come and those winter months are coming.” Those are for me, my darkest days - the wintertime. As a growing business, cash flow is king-

Ryan Priestly: -I was like going to say, “quite literally.” It's like you go to work in the dark, you come home in the dark, it's dark times for sure. So, it's some days, you're hoping you got a little something done. I agree with you, the winter months are always hard, we're a little more fortunate with our industry in the sense that we can sometimes keep working. And if we have an interior stripping job, like we ripped out the inside of Maple Leaf Gardens in the winter, beautiful. Work every day, no problem. Beautiful roof over your head, you got high reach working in there. It's just like, this is awesome.

Taylor White: But it's good. Because you got to integrate into those things like you're doing.

Ryan Priestly: Yeah. But again, if that project had to happen in the summer would have done in the summer, too. It just happened to be in the winter.

Taylor White: Sometimes it works out like that.

Ryan Priestley: Build as big a building as you possibly can. Because every time you build a building, it seems like it's small in about three years.

Taylor White: It's already too small.

Ryan Priestley: Right?

Taylor White: It is, seriously, I know, I'm my dad said that as well. Because, you know, we're kind of planning out on like, we put two we put 3, 14 by 14 bay doors in it. And then we already had an existing 12 by 14, and the end wall was built so that you can actually extend onto it in the future, because we're like, “Wow, this will be big enough for the next five, six years.” And it's already too small.

It's already not big enough. But you know, as far as the economy and looking stuff, how I always think of is like, yeah, you know, like right now might be uncertainty in the market. But like you said, I kind of agree with you that there's not going to be some massive crazy crash downturn. But if you're patient, I think that if, you know, history repeats itself, there might be a little blip. But you know, 10 years from now the property that we just bought, it's still going to be worth more. 15 years from now it's going to be worth more. 20 years from now it's going to be worth more. So, try not to get caught up about these little blips is super interesting. 

But when I say that I get held up at night, sometimes I'm curious to someone that has as much going on as you and as much going on the economy like kind of more of a personal question, but what do you do as far as managing stress? Like what are your some you know, stress relievers like for me, I like running, but I also like acting stupid with the guys, you know, having a pint, having a scotch, and a cigar going golfing. Like for me, that's kind of like my downturn time. So what do you do?

Ryan Priestley: Yeah, all the above. I've always played hockey and I've always played golf and I enjoy going to my cottage on the weekends. I like getting away once or twice a year with some other couples or my family. I like going snowmobiling. I do a lot of snowmobiling in the winter. So it's all those things I think are good for the mind. A son who's 17, a daughter who's 15, and another son who's three months old. So I'm starting all over again. And it's-

Taylor White: Congrats.

Ryan Priestley: -yeah. So, you know, trying to balance that work life thing and it's always been there and it sounds like for me, it's never going away. But I think I enjoy it. I think having family has been great for me too. So that's just me. Yeah, enjoy. Yeah. All the above. It's all that and I actually think sometimes is even working. You know, sometimes it's like when you go and do a job or get a job done that gives you tremendous satisfaction and gives you sort of a boost for the next one. You know, every time you get something done, it's when you see something done. Like, actually done it. It's quite nice.

Taylor White: I agree. I find what I lack sometimes, and I know that some other people can relate is, sometimes I feel like I forget to stop and like smell the roses. Like, we’ll finish a big milestone project that like guys had been estimating and going back and forth with the contractor for four or five months, finally agreed on it, then like another eight months later, we get the project done. And then it's done, but then immediately my brain switches on to like, “Alright, well now what's next?” Because we got to keep going, I don't take time to actually sit back. Even when we acquired our building, I didn't take time to sit back and go, “Man, this is fantastic. This is a huge win for us.” It just was like, “Okay, now we need to do this and this and on to the next and on to the next.” You’ve got to take time for yourself.

Ryan Priestley: It's hard to do. And it's worth it. You know, when you have good mental state, you make better life decisions and all the people around you see it and feel it as well. So just stay in good health is good. It's important to me as well. I had a little workout this morning, I know you can’t tell but-

Taylor White: -you got to do something. It doesn't matter about what you look. I tell people-- like, I'll go to the doctor's office, for instance, I went to the dentist the other day, and he's doing some hard workout challenge. And I'm like, “Oh, cool. I did 75 Hard.” He's like, “Well, what's that?” I said,”You work out twice a day, 45 minutes outside, 45 minutes inside, for 75 days solid, and no drinking, no nothing.” And he kind of like looked at me because like, I'm 235 pounds, six foot three. I don't necessarily look like a runner. And I feel like he was kind of looking at him like-- but I don't care about the looks. I do it for this - because when I'm running, or I'm working out, I'm thinking differently. I'm thinking more clearly. I just feel on it.

Ryan Priestley: Yeah. There's a whole bunch of us here. And a couple of these guys are starting to do these marathons and stuff. And it's pretty funny. Just the inter-competition just internal here. It's pretty funny. So-

Taylor White: That’s good culture.

Ryan Priestley: -I didn't join up for that one. Not ready for a marathon just yet. But you know, I did go water skiing on the weekend at my cottage, you know, I slalom and stuff like that. So that really takes me down for a couple of days after that's like you're feeling all four quarters of your body for sure.

Taylor White: Oh, yeah, for sure. 100%.

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If you need to meet them, they're here at CONEXPO-CON/AGG. You'll meet industry leaders and friends. You also, I can guarantee this, that you will build some new relationships in the community. You will find the equipment services and people within your construction field. 

Ladies and gentlemen, registration is now open. And if you want to save 20% off admission, use the promo code: podcast 20. Again, that is promo code: podcast 20. That is something special that we're doing here on the CONEXPO-CON/AGG podcast for you. I'm going to be going, Ryan Priestley is definitely going, tons of people, everybody in the construction industry goes to this thing. Okay? It's North America's largest construction trade show. It's March 14 to the 18th 2023, in the beautiful Las Vegas Nevada. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. 

Check out conexpoconagg.com to register for more info.

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Taylor White: You were kind of talking about stress and stuff like that. Is there a project that you remember that, whenever I mention like project and stress,that kind of, like, pops out to you? And it's like, “Oh God, that- you know that river bridge project that we did seven years ago? Oh”, and everyone in the office kind of like, “Oh.” Is there a project like that that you could share that was like, “Oh, man”?

Ryan Priestley: The ‘Oh man’ projects for sure. Like, the biggest sort of tight timeline project we ever did was probably the Terminal One at the airport. But it led to 20 years of confidence in the marketplace. So at that time, that job was probably beyond what our company's capabilities actually were.

Taylor White: But you didn't say ‘no’?

Ryan Priestley: We didn't say ‘no’. Pulled it off, and at the end of the day was a tremendous success, not only for us, but for them as well. Like, we did a good job there for them. And here we are 20 years later, and we're taking out a runway at the airport. So we're still working-there is my point. And you know, when you fly to all the airports in the world, it seems like there's always a little work going on there. And it seems probably to be the same people time and time again, because there's a comfort level that everyone understands what's actually happening. So it's been good that way for us. 

But there's been some unique projects also, but that building at the airport that we took down it was a monster. It was just a big building. And you know, some of the equipment that we had at the time was not big enough and we bought some bigger equipment and we had to do it quickly to get it there on time to make it happen. But we actually fell that building so we do these control drops, where we cut these big columns. And I mean, the steel was pretty- four inches thick on the columns. So, you know, you're cutting holes in these columns and hooking the shackles is like, you know, 35 tons shackles, like, you had to be a good- to have your breakfast in the morning just to fit the shackle up, let alone hook the cable on, right so and we do this job and we worked every Saturday we worked 12 hour days, like we worked like eight months straight like that. And it just, it really- it was a big undertaking. And my son who's 17 now, he was born on November 1st, which was a Monday, and we did the last one on November 5th, the last poll. So we had the last 16 columns, and we cut them all and we had it all hooked up. And then we had a big barbecue. And we invited everyone out. And we pulled the four columns out and the thing didn't fall over. And I was like, “Oh boy, this– of course, you know, everyone starts–

Taylor White: -kind of an “Oh” moment.

Ryan Priestley: -yeah, it's like “Now what?” Right? And everyone becomes like the sidewalk superintendent. “Well, what you should do is, you know, well, let me tell you, and all the above.” Right?  So anyway, we ended up using the big high reach that we bought that summer, we used it and we pushed it, and it all came down as planned. So it just wasn't one of our engineering marvels. But it wasn't one of our not engineering marvels either, you know, so we pulled it off at the end, and it was great. And then it was, we cleaned it all up. But to be done that job on time with the amount of equipment we had at that time was pretty remarkable. And it's just the teamwork that happened and the commitment from everyone. And actually, it allowed a lot of people from within our organization to grow as well. You know, just knowing that we got to keep these machines running, or we got to keep this. We got to build the crew. And “Oh, this guy has been with us for two years. But let's give him a chance. Let's try this. Let's try that.” And it would just- it worked out pretty good in the end. So-

Taylor White: Yeah, well, building a connection like that to and following through with it is super important. I think there's a lot of value in what you just said, at the very beginning of it that I tend to do quite often is bite off a little more than I could chew maybe. But it ended up working out, you know, last summer we did or last winter for winter work, there was an opportunity to you know, do land clearing and get into some land clearing. And I'm like, “What a great way to spend the winter than in the bush perfect.” You know, there was 45 acres at our local airport to take down, another airport job, because we're doing development there. And it was way more than we could handle. And I remember just standing at the beginning of the bush at the beginning of the winter, you know, standing there next to my right hand, man, his name is Brad and I looked at Brad and I'm like, “Can we do this?” And he's like, “I don't know. But we’ve got to.” And we hammered it out. And we got it done. And we may not have made a crap ton of money at the end of it. We may have even just broken even but I kept guys busy for the winter, we kept the machines moving. And we built the relationship with the people. And now we do the majority of all the work on that site.

Ryan Priestley: Oh if you had to do it again this winter, you probably would do it a little different.

Taylor White: I would nail it.

Ryan Priestley: Exactly. Right? So there's a learning curve. And that, you know, you take on these projects. And then you know, once you've learned it, you’ve learned it, right? So like you say it's great to make all kinds of money. But if it was that easy, we'd all be doing it. Like making money is always hard. And it's always that you're taking a chance here every day. As far as I'm concerned in the contracting world, anything can happen. It can be perfect out there - flash flood, boom! That's a cost that you're never going to estimate. Oh, flash flood, how much? You’re just not putting that in the estimate? It's just not happening. Oh, everything's great. And all of a sudden, the gravel supplier, you know, gravel doesn't pass. What are you talking about?  When we talked a week ago, what's, you know, all this stuff. So it just goes on and on and on. Right? So just as far as facing challenges on a daily basis, the contracting business is pretty out there for that. As far as I'm concerned, It's just a very challenging job day in and day out.

It's the amount of hills you’ve got to climb on a given day. It's just sometimes you stopto think about it and it gives you a headache. That will keep me up but more at night than inflation and fuel price at least fuel price again, you would know this is how much I pay for the fuel if I want it or not right and half the time you need it. So you just take it right? But-

Taylor White: Yeah.

Ryan Priestley: -some of the other challenges that you get to on a daily basis - it’s from everything.

Taylor White: Yeah. Well, it's adapting, I think. And like you said, there's so many different aspects in construction. It's adapting on the day-to-day. Like, we started our week, last week, Monday morning, I was finishing a meeting with another guy that we do a bunch of work for and I got a call from like one of my yard guys and I'm like, “Why is this guy calling me?” He's like, “I'm sorry. I'm going to ruin your day.”And I'm like, “Well, it's a good way to start the conversation.” I'm like, “What's going on?” And we have a big 450 Komatsu loader, and he's like, “I just drove a metal pole through the front tire of the loader and it's done.” And a loader tire for that is $6,000. And you can't just buy one, you’ve got to buy two, right? Because then the loader would be sitting sideways. So right there was a $12,000 uh-oh, first hour of the day on a Monday morning. And it's a good example of like, you know, coming home at night, and the wife's like, “Oh, how's your day?” And just like, “Well, it was good. You know, it's everything I expected.”

Ryan Priestley: “Do you really want to hear about the loader tire? Because that part sucks.”

Taylor White: Exactly, exactly. But you're right, it's adapting and kind of getting over. And that's our industry. But I don't want to highlight so much about stress and stuff, because this industry is awesome. And that's, again, you know, what I am sure you're much as myself, all this stuff that we're talking about is stuff that I actually live off that stuff, I run on chaos, I love it. And I feel like in order to be successful in this industry, you’ve got to love the organized chaos, you have to or else you're not going to last because it is chaos.

Ryan Priestley: It absolutely is. It's just there's so many moving parts, it's as I tried to allude to before, it's just, you know, to be able to predict what's going to happen is almost impossible. So to adapt and move onwards and keep your head up and keep positive. It's only for the certain kind, you know, only certain people, and that's probably why there's so many people love it. It becomes like a fatal attraction can't get enough of it. You know, it keeps going and going and going. And, you know, as our company has grown over the years you just keep meeting more people and more, you know, different cultures. And, you know, the way they do work in Eastern Canada is different than the way they do work in Ontario, and versus Alberta and BC, and it's just, it's different everywhere you go, not saying it's bad, or it's worse, or it's just different. It's just, they do it that way. And that's the way they do it. And that's the way they've been doing it. And it works. And it's great. So, you know, he just can't come in there and kick down the front door and say, “Oh, we're going this way today”, it doesn't work like that. But even in the US., you know, it's very interesting to see the different cultures and how they approach doing their work. And it's all similar, but it's all different.

Taylor White: I had a podcast with the last one that we actually just released was with a guy named Nick Drew, and he's from the UK. And we were talking about machinery. And it really stood out to me. I'm like, “Yeah, no, like, you know, we have like four skid steers now and you know, some loaders.” And he's like, “Oh, like, we don't use those here.” And I'm like, “What do you mean?” He goes like, “When we're on site, we use site dumps, we call them.” So a track machine with a little-  and it's true. You see them all over Instagram. It's a track machine with, it's a little mini track dump truck that they use on site to bring material from one side of the site to the other. He's like, “It's super uncommon for you to see people using loaders or skid steers on sites. More so, it's just the site dumps.” And I was like, “That's really interesting because here, I've never seen a site dump.” I've never- like I've seen rock trucks and stuff on larger sites for mass excavation and stuff. But I've never thought about using a mini-track dump truck on a job site to bring material from one side to the other, you know?

Ryan Priestley: Yeah. And over there the wheeled excavators are called ‘rubber duckies’.

Taylor White: But they're ahead of our time. Because now at least in the City of Ottawa, like, you know, we talked like someone like Kavanaugh like they bought a bunch of wheeled excavators because there's such- no one has them and they're so handy especially put a roto tilt on a wheeled excavator and they're awesome because they’re in that niche where you could drive to the job site, right?

Ryan Priestley: Oh, Ottawa is still the size of town where you can sort of get around in one.

Taylor White: Yeah, exactly.

Ryan Priestley: You can drive it down the road. So you know, someone like a Cavanaugh, who’s doing so much work in the east end whatever you want to call it, the West End or whatever, and it's like, they could just float around job the job and go over here load a truck over here, clean this up, do a ditch over here, spread some topsoil over there or expose utility over here. It's like a rubber tire backhoe, only it can load a dump truck way quicker.

Taylor White: Backhoe I refer to as it's like the jack of all trades, master of none. The backhoe is super handy. And we have one and I'll always have a backhoe sitting in the yard. But do you want a grade a parking lot with a backhoe? No. Do you want to do fine grading with a backhoe? No, but they're handy.

Ryan Priestley: Yeah, that's right. You can make a trench, you can backfill the trench, you can dig a footing, you can backfill the footing, and put a set of forks on it, you can do a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But we grew up in a time when the skid steers weren't as prevalent as they are today. Them and the mini excavators, like those mini excavators today are everywhere. So, you know you can have a mini excavator where you need a rubber tire backhoe before, Well, it’s a much smaller investment to buy a mini excavator, you know that for like a trenching crew or something like that. So-

Taylor White: Yeah.

Ryan Priestley: -but they still exist and they're still good. We have one and like you say it's kind of always out and around but it's not really busy all the time, but that's okay too.

Taylor White: Yeah, exactly. There's value in that. 

So to kind of wrap things up, I want to end on asking you, what’s next for Ryan Priestly or Priestly Demolition? I know that you've acquired some stuff out in Calgary. I was actually talking to Tara from Equipment Journal. She was mentioning that, you know, you've been doing some of that stuff out there, you've acquired a demolition company in Calgary. But looking forward, what's next for you? What's next for your business?

Ryan Priestley: We're just, we're looking at some more acquisitions in the future, for sure, probably do some south of the border, the US, our goal is to grow to 250 million by ‘25, which might be a little aggressive, but it's something that's doable. So, it's just learn hat you need to have a goal, at least then at least we're all going in the same direction. You don't want to lose complete touch with reality. You know, it's great to have a goal and stuff like that. But you know, at the end of the day, if it's not the cards, it's not the cards. But, so we've done a big, big investment in our team here in the last sort of three years, just trying to make sure we have the right people in the right place and continue to grow that team and continue to grow the business. We're a family business. So, my nephew who's 22, just entered the business a year ago. So that's great. And my son just started college on Tuesday. And he's taking Construction Engineering Technology at Fanshawe which is where I went.

Taylor White: I have two guys with their CET that works for me. I did it, I dropped out, I failed every course. So, I said ‘You know what? I'll just hire those guys.” I'm not book smart. So, I took the route of partying and it’s all stuff that I can't talk about on this podcast, I took that route, rather than that it took me longer to smarten up. But that's impressive that he's doing that; it's a super great course for our industry.

Ryan Priestley: It's something he can relate to he likes putting his boots on, he likes getting dirty, so that's good. And then the second nephew, my sister's younger son, wants to become a heavy equipment mechanic, which is also fantastic. Because-

Taylor White: Tell him to get that right away.Hard to find that.

Ryan Priestley: While it's definitely hard to find a good mechanic my whole career. But it's also hard to understand how to fix the equipment today. Like, it's just with these emissions and stuff. It's just, it's not-

Taylor White: -frickin’ death, man.

Ryan Priestley: -yeah, it's just not, it's just not the same. It's not as fun. You know, I used to be able to pull out a transmission at lunch, you know, go leave the high school, pull an engine out and then go back after school, and it's just not happening anymore. And it's so, it's just different than you know. So trying to keep all that into perspective is important. So that's the thing. I just really enjoy seeing the family, I have some cousins. And I have a lot of father-sons or father-daughters or all that type of thing that work here. You know, one of our machine operators whose son works for us and his daughter works for us and his father worked for us. And we just had a guy who retired after 27 years with us. He was one of our guys-

Taylor White: I saw that on Instagram. Is that the one of you guys?

Ryan Priestley: That's the guy yeah, he was just, he was like, cool as a cucumber man. He'd have those machines just fully extended. And he'd be like, working over top of the basement. And I was just like, “Yeah, John, we got to not damage the floor.” “No problem.” “Well, take your time, don't worry.” It's like, “Yeah, I'm still working man. I know, you're, there's no one better. Like, you're totally the guy we got to do this a certain way.” He’s like, “Don't worry about it.” And you know, his son-in-law works for us - so a guy that married one of his daughters. So, it's just nice to see that people are enjoying their time here and that people are making a career out of Priestly, which is super awesome.

Taylor White: Well, it's like you said investing in your employees is super important, too. And making sure that you get a good team. Like you have some pretty ambitious goals, which by no means I'm sure you will hit those goals. But having a really good team is super important too. I would not be able to do what I do without my team and I'm sure that you're the same like I said, I hire guys that are smarter than me. I'm just I'm good at the vision and where we're going. Not so much dotting the T's and dotting the I's and crossing the t's. That's what I meant, not smart.

Ryan Priestley: Yeah, no. It's all good. Like my daughter always says that “I'm dyslexic”. “Well, that's funny. When you want something, you're not dyslexic. When somebody says, Well, can you do this book report? She's dyslexic”.

Taylor White: Yeah. Good point. Okay, Ryan. Well, listen, hey, super pumped that you came on here today. And I want to thank you for your time, and obviously making the time. I know you're a busy man. And yeah, thank you for coming on the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Podcast, Ryan.

Ryan Priestley: Thank you very much, Taylor. And it was a real pleasure.

[Advertisement]

If you need to meet them, they're here at CONEXPO-CON/AGG. You'll meet industry leaders and friends. You also, I can guarantee this, that you will build some new relationships in the community. You will find the equipment services and people within your construction field. 

Ladies and gentlemen, registration is now open. And if you want to save 20% off admission, use the promo code: podcast 20. Again, that is promo code: podcast 20. That is something special that we're doing here on the CONEXPO-CON/AGG podcast for you. I'm going to be going, Ryan Priestley is definitely going, tons of people, everybody in the construction industry goes to this thing. Okay? It's North America's largest construction trade show. It's March 14 to the 18th 2023, in the beautiful Las Vegas Nevada. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. 

Check out conexpoconagg.com  to register for more info.

[End of Advertisement]

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