Danatec Educational Services passes the test – and then some
The company has found a way to make chemical safety training fun
by Melissa Manzone
Danatec Educational Services
#33 on the Fast Growth 50
Head office: Calgary
Industry: Wholesale & Retail Trade
2011 gross annual sales: $4,867,527
2010 gross annual sales: $3,833,079
Photograph Shaun Robinson
They say you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, but don’t tell that to the people at Danatec Educational Services, a company that offers occupational health and safety training products. After all, their business is built around one simple goal: to make learning fun.
That’s a particularly challenging objective, given that they’re helping to educate people on a subject that many find less than riveting. So how does Danatec make chemical safety training fun? With interactive course materials that keep students engaged.
“We’re very technology-driven and we talk a lot about where the future of the business is going,” says Danatec CEO Alina Martin. Danatec’s own future couldn’t look much rosier. Since taking over as CEO in 2007, Martin has seen Danatec’s revenue increase by 50 per cent. The company’s e-learning business, which was created in 1999, broke the $1-million mark in sales in 2009, and has more than doubled since. With the release of five hazard communication products for the American market and a Danatec USA branch to follow, there’s still plenty of growth to come.
Danatec is a family affair, too. The late Ronald Martin purchased 50 per cent of Danatec (which was founded in 1985) from an acquaintance in 1991 after he was laid off from Greyhound Lines. “He cashed in his retirement and took a leap of faith,” Martin says of her father. Four years later, he tested chance again and bought the remainder of the company. In its early years, Danatec printed handbooks and training materials for companies that needed to meet federal regulations on the transportation of dangerous goods. Since then, the company’s expertise has grown to include radioactive dangerous goods training, lift truck safety training and a certification program on Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). And while its two primary product lines on WHMIS and the transportation of dangerous goods have received nine national and international awards since 2007, the company remains determined to stay an industry leader. That’s why Martin and the rest of the company constantly reassess the business model to build training materials that are easier to use, more accessible and more reasonably priced than previous products. “I’m not interested in following anybody,” Martin says.
“I’m only interested in leading. We’re building some really cool stuff which will give our competitors a run for their money.”
Competing companies will have to sprint to catch up. In 2010, DanatecTV and training products for were added to the company’s mix. A year later, Danatec became the first company to launch mobile apps on WHMIS and dangerous-goods transportation, and the thousands of downloads they received exceeded expectations. But despite the company’s success, Martin remains modest. “Every day you think the phone isn’t going to ring. Growth is hard. It’s about building layers and not being afraid to fail a bit.”
Martin didn’t always aspire to take over her father’s company. After a startup she helped build went under, she joined Danatec to gain experience. Things didn’t go smoothly, so she ended up leaving a year later. “I had a bit of an entitlement attitude,” she says. “Because I had been running my own show, I had a ‘you are doing this wrong, my idea is right’ attitude; I disrupted the chemistry of the place.” A few months later Martin returned to Danatec, but this time she approached the company humbled and ready to learn the business. “And then something funny happened,” she says. “I fell in love with Danatec.”
Under her leadership, Danatec has experienced the fastest growth in its 28-year history. And of all the awards the company has received– including landing 483rd on Profit magazine’s list of Canada’s 500 fastest-growing companies– Martin says that placing on Alberta Venture’s Fast Growth 50 means the most. She received the news the same week her father passed away in November of last year. “It was one of the only things I got to tell him before he died.”