Cirque du Soleil’s spectacular water show O has been entertaining tourists in Las Vegas for more than 20 years. Handling Specialty has been with the production since day one. The company installed seven lifts that lower and raise the stage from underwater. For CEO Tom Beach, it was a monumental moment for the company. “It’s the Granddaddy for us. It was the first turn-key project where the contract included installation.” But for the company, it was a great lesson learned. “We have a lot of scars from that, but Cirque du Soleil made us grow up. There’s no question about it.”
But the company wasn’t always involved in projects with recognizable names. At its inception in 1963, Handling Specialty made floor cranes that extracted engines from cars in the founder’s garage. In the ’80s, the company transitioned to scissor lifts. “We started to come out of our shell in the ’90s,” says Beach. That’s when the company decided to move into the automotive industry, so they could develop larger products, which were in higher demand. Working in the automotive industry also allowed Handling Specialty to learn what it’s like to work in high-pressure situations. “I call it our puberty years,” quips Beach. “The industry wasn’t gentle, but we learned a lot.”
After the automotive industry went through a second recession, Beach decided it was time to move on. “I was fit to be tied,” he recalls. “I realized it was time that we didn’t have our eggs in one basket.” The company started diversifying to industries like energy, rail, entertainment and aerospace, and went from having 90% of its business in the automotive sector to about 10%.
Despite its change in focus, the company has continued to grow. When that growth took it outside Canadian borders, Handling Specialty turned to EDC for its exporting knowledge and financial products.
Protection for global growth
Beach was first interested in EDC Credit Insurance. “We were selling bigger and more sophisticated projects to the United States and we wanted to be protected.” Over the years, he kept learning more about EDC and the many benefits available to him.
After purchase orders became contracts on the other side of the world, Beach leaned on EDC even more for bonding and guarantees. “Enter the strength of EDC to support us and give us good confidence to not worry about supporting contracts financially,” says Beach.
A meaningful connection
Given Handling Specialty’s diverse portfolio and unique product offering, the company was identified as a great candidate for EDC’s Business Connection Program. A virtual meeting with Siemens set up by EDC resulted in Handling Specialty landing a contract with the large corporation. “I don’t see us there with intent unless we’re there with EDC. I think that’s terrific,” says Beach.
Just as it evolved from making lifts in a garage, Handling Specialty is now embracing the age of automation and is looking to develop automatically guided vehicles (AGVs). “We’ve had to increase our manufacturing footprint to make AGVs. It’s big for us. I’m hoping in the next three years, it’s 25 to 30% of our business,” says Beach. And while the growing pains are inevitable, just like that first installation for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, Beach is optimistic each new stage will lead to something greater.
“Today, we’ll be flying 12 men over to France to install a theatre system for Royal Caribbean—it will be our fifth one, and we do it like we’re cleaning the floors. It’s just a normal part of our business now.”
EDC Service used
EDC Portfolio Credit Insurance is an online solution that’s ideal if you’re looking to insure your receivables for up to $500,000 per customer against non-payment.
It covers up to 90% of insured losses should your customer not pay, due to circumstances such as bankruptcy, payment default, market hostilities or currency conversion or transfer.
EDC Service used
Bonding and Guarantee Solutions
Posting bonds and letters of guarantee are a necessary part of exporting—buyers can demand bonds at almost any stage of the contract—and issuing bonds can be expensive and risky, since your financial institution will freeze your operating line or ask for collateral equivalent to the amount of the bond.
EDC Service used
Business Connection Program
EDC customers can take advantage of our deep understanding of Canadian capabilities and specific needs of major international buyers through EDC’s Business Connections Program. Through this program, Canadian companies are “connected” with international buyers through formal matchmaking events and other introductions.