Ken Bergquist has always had an interest in how we work. He started as a chiropractor in 1988 and became a certified ergonomist in 1991. In the late 90s, he branched out on his own and started what would become Oobliq. The company provides a simple solution that keeps employees from getting hurt by offering preventative measures such as onsite healthcare, ergonomic consulting, and safe work training. Ken likens the company to doing essentially the same thing as a maintenance department – instead of taking care of the machinery, they take care of the people.
From Then to Now
Working for himself in three different chiropractic practices afforded Ken the ability to learn the nuts and bolts of business. He had a vision for the Oobliq program, and hired a business coach to help him understand other business people. He knew starting his own business would allow him to be academically curious, earn a bit of money, and do great good.
Everything started with one large employer in Grande Cache deciding to try the program and seeing the great success it had. From there, things grew simply through word-of-mouth. In the first 10 years, the company averaged a 78% reduction in injury rate, which is Ken’s proudest achievement. Not only do people with various injuries or ailments have to deal with that at work, but it blends into their personal lives as well. Ken has really seen the positive impact that his business has had on the community, as they are able to send more people home in a good mood.
Now 17 years into the business, Ken looks back at the challenges he had at the beginning and sees how they are still relevant now. Throughout the life of his business, word-of-mouth has been the go-to advertising method. That has worked well for them, but now Ken sees the need to give credibility to marketing, as it will help extend the service to those who need it. He has hired a salesperson, who is ready to go in February with the launch of their services in Edmonton and Portland, Oregon. Given the nature of what he does, Ken has also seen the mind-set of workplaces as a challenge. There is a hurdle to overcome when saying “spend a little bit now; we are going to take care of your people, and all of these expenses will go away”. To overcome that, they have added a calculator tool to their website so people can do the math and see the benefits for themselves.
Everyone Needs a Helping Hand
Ken recommends the following for aspiring entrepreneurs:
“If you are not a business person, but you want to be, get some help.”
When Ken was looking into the financing needed to hire a salesperson, he came to Business Link through our Small Business Services at AMA Kingsway to see how we could help. He had a great conversation with our advisor who had some ideas for him, and he appreciated that she seemed to understand his business and needs. He says the discussion helped him to feel like he was on the right track, and that his thought process was sensible.
No matter what stage of business you might be at, Ken has some great tips to help you feel like you’re on the right track:
Have a business plan that predicts and drives your execution. A good idea is nothing without execution.
If you believe in your business plan, then it makes it a lot easier for a lending agency to believe in your business plan. Work on it, get input, have somebody pick holes in it, and fill the holes.
Understand your business, and understand where the money is going to come from. Ken has five kids, all with passionate ideas, but he knows that if an idea doesn’t work, it is oftentimes because the math wasn’t done in advance.
Pay your taxes. The quickest way to lose your business is to turn away from that.
With a long history in business, Ken has also received help from business coaches over time, such as Stephen Steckly, who he highly recommends. Stephen meets with entrepreneurs for an initial period at no cost, and if he thinks he can help you succeed, then there is a fee for consulting. Ken sees it as a win-win business arrangement for himself and others.
An Injury-Free Future
The next six months hold much excitement for Ken and Oobliq. After operating a reliable, steady business, he believes marketing is a key focus. His son, a neuroscientist spinal cord researcher, has also joined the business, providing an academic background that is an engine for the work Oobliq does.
Ken also has some talks scheduled at safety conferences, where he looks forward to sharing his ideas on small changes that can keep people healthy through to retirement. He knows that there are a couple of principles in workplaces that are causing huge costs in the healthcare system and diminishing peoples’ ability to have a full life, and he looks forward to further spreading the word on how to change things for the better.
Business Link acknowledges and respects that we are on traditional land, meeting grounds, territories, gathering places, and travelling routes of Treaty 4, 6, 7, 8, and 10 and the home to many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people. In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge the lands of those who have come before us, reside here now and in the future.