Macleans: Waterworks Technologies goes where demand for water infrastructure is greatest

excerpted from “Why do 40 per cent of big Canadian firms not do any business outside our borders?”

Trent Sukovieff is savouring the comforts of his hometown of Calgary after spending the past four months in Iraq. “It’s like Christmas, New Year’s and everything all rolled into one,” he says of his visit. These days, home for Sukovieff and his fiancée is Dubai, where he heads up the Middle East headquarters for Waterworks Technologies, the company his father Len founded.

Building a water-treatment plant in Iraq is a tricky business, requiring patience and sensitivity to the local culture, Sukovieff says. Procuring a nut or bolt of a certain size, available at any hardware store in Canada, might take a week in the war-torn country. If you need something done right away, you can’t just call head office; they’re all asleep, so the support of a full-service office in nearby Dubai is a necessity.

A lot of companies in Canada would ask, why bother? Sukovieff has a compelling answer. “We have a lot more business coming out of our Dubai office than we ever have out of the Canadian office,” he says. The company has projects on the go in Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Djibouti—places thirsting for the proprietary water and waste-water treatment systems that Waterworks designs.

The company started in 1985 serving clients in Canada and the United States but very quickly gravitated to the developing countries where the demand for water infrastructure was greatest. “In Canada we have a lot of water,” Sukovieff shrugs. Thus the potential for his firm’s growth here is limited. And the challenges of living, working and profiting abroad? To him, it’s all part of the adventure.


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