Ed Evanson has lived his entire life in Watford City, N.D. Located near the western state border, his town is about 45 miles southeast of Williston, the closest “big” city. Over the decades, Evanson, who is 53, has witnessed many changes in this little town and, by extension, to his home remodeling and repair business, Evanson Construction.
Right now, Evanson’s hometown is undergoing what might be its biggest change ever.
Turns out, Watford City is situated within the Bakken formation, a 200,000-square-mile area spanning North Dakota, Montana and Canada. Oil was discovered there in the 1950s but was previously difficult to get to. Thanks to new technologies and methodologies, such as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” the oil boom hit Watford City in earnest in 2009 and hasn’t stopped.
McKenzie County, where Watford City is located, experienced a 92 percent population increase between 2005 and 2013, according to county statistics. Projections peg the county’s annual population growth rate between 1.1 percent and 3.5 percent from 2016 to 2040, depending on oil prices.
For Evanson, the population explosion has meant a huge new demand for his services. After all, many of the houses in Watford City were constructed in the late 1970s and 1980s, he says. Those properties have been in need of serious upgrades.
Here are three ways a solopreneur like Evanson has capitalized on the local boom.
1. Maintain the highest standards.
The population surge hasn’t only brought more residents to the greater Watford City area, Evanson says. There’s more competition these days, too.
Something he learned early on from his father, Elmer, who also was a professional carpenter: Keep customers coming by maintaining the highest standards for his work. “Other carpenters have come in, but they don’t get done when they say they will, and their quality isn’t the same,” Evanson says. “I try to help people as much as I can. That’s reflected in my work.”
One satisfied customer can turn into many. Evanson knows this well.
2. Always be ready for work.
No matter the work or the weather outside, Evanson can always depend on his pair of Chevy Silverado trucks – a 1500 pickup and a 3500 Chassis Cab with a service body – to get the job done. Silverados are built for work, he says, and strong.
“They’re dependable and easy to work out of,” Evanson says. “I’ve never had any major trouble or downtime.”
If your work truck sits in the shop, that’s valuable time lost. “I’ve never had to skip a day of work,” Evanson says. For any entrepreneur, that’s crucial.
3. Seize new opportunities.
Even a solopreneur like Evanson can find new opportunities. Over the last four winters, he started offering snow-plowing services from November through March – months during which his remodeling business was typically slow. The Silverado’s towing capacity comes in handy when hauling his skidsteer plow around town. And with technology like StabiliTrak® with traction control, Silverados have no problem handling the snow.
With the population surge, Evanson says snow removal makes up about a quarter of his annual revenues. Not bad for a town that until only a few years ago didn’t even have a traffic light, he says.