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Surviving in small business

Delta entrepreneur now employs 20

Lynn Lau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Aug 05/02) - For Bob Gully, business is all about grabbing opportunities as they arise.

The 60-something owner of Bob's Welding in Inuvik, Gully built his business from a three-person family enterprise to a diversified general contracting company with more than 20 staff.

NNSL Photo

Bob Gully - Lynn Lau/NNSL photo

Born in Aklavik the eldest of seven children, Gully attended residential school until Grade 4. But he wasn't much interested in school as a youngster. His Gwich'in father and Metis mother raised him on the land, and he was more interested in hunting, trapping and working.

At the age of 13, he took his first summer job as a cook's helper, and by the time he was 15, he had dropped out of school and was working on the DEW Line sites, lying about his age to get hired.

In the late 1950s, he came across the opportunity to do a welding course in Leduc, Alta., and he took it. After completing basic training, he moved back to the Delta to apprentice on the boats around Inuvik and on the coast.

"I had no plans of going into business at that time," Gully says today. "I was just too young."

Ups and downs of oil and gas industry

Gully spent the '60s working in and around the new community of Inuvik for various companies. By the late '70s, Gully opened Bob's Welding to take advantage of the oil and gas development in the region. When he started, his company consisted of himself, his wife and their son, Lyle.

With the Berger Inquiry and resulting moratorium on oil and gas development, oil companies moved out of the Delta in the early '80s. Bob's Welding had to turn to other avenues for income.

"I managed to survive by spreading out into different categories of work," Gully says. "I would have never survived just on welding."

In the mid-'80s, Bob's Welding branched out into rock crushing, road construction, and trucking freight. Within the last 10 years, Gully has expanded further into household water delivery and sewage pump-outs and, six years ago, he bought two tugboats and opened a marine division to barge freight down the Mackenzie.

"Opportunities kept coming along," Gully says.

With the recent return of oil and gas companies to the Delta, Bob's Welding has been in an ideal position to take advantage of opportunities.

Looking back on his career in business, Gully says he often wishes he had focused more on school work when he was young because he's had to do much of his upgrading on his own, out of books.

"Young people don't like school, but in the work world they find they need schooling," he says. "I'd like to see the younger people start trying to get into business. I'd advise them that there's good opportunities yet.

"You have to plan everyday. When you're in business, your work is 24 hours."