XtraPower Batteries Inc. has been in the business of regenerating industrial batteries for over a decade, but the past three years have been about regenerating itself and finding resilience along the way. When Frederik Gustavsson founded XtraPower in Montreal in 2002, it was essentially a one-man show. But the first five years were a time of drastic structural change and growth. By 2007, the XtraPower crew had grown into an 18-man workforce operating in five times the original workspace. It wasn’t long before recession and regulation launched XtraPower Batteries into its next phase of transformation and revitalization. General manager, Murrey Brady said the recession of 2008 forced the company to grow at a healthier pace. “XtraPower felt the effects of the economic crisis immediately,” Brady said. “It became clear that changes had to be made. It was time to either adapt, or else face the reality of a bleak future, so we took a step back and looked at the business model from an outside
It was a daunting task with no guarantees, he said. The first step was to re-evaluate the human resources and production departments, which proved to be among the most difficult, yet pivotal, aspects of the entire transformation. “We immediately discovered a number of procedural redundancies,” he said. The most valuable employees were offered pay raises with the understanding that with the higher wage would come longer hours and harder work. Everyone they approached was on-board, including Gustavvson, who was among the first to be reassigned. “No one knows the clients, business and products like he does. He was being underutilized, so we made him the head and president of sales,” Brady said. And with that, the company’s staff went from 19 employees to only six, and the seven-day-a-week work schedule was replaced with a five-day production schedule.
Today, XtraPower Batteries does much more with much less. Last year, they handled three times as many batteries with only about half of their peak workforce. 2011 and 2012 have been the best two years the company has ever seen. “We recognized that we had been so focused on growth that we had not taken the imperative step of self-evaluation,” Brady said. Three of the employees who were laid off initially have since been rehired. “Now, with nine of us, we’re doing three times as much, and we’re a much more team-oriented company.” They will hire more people when they need them, but the process will be more measured because, now, they know exactly which positions to fill and when, based on projected sales and revenue. “We’re not being cautious, just calculated,” Brady explains, “Unfortunately, it is very easy to get into a routine and focus on one direction only, especially when business is good.” Just as they were rebounding from the economic crisis, another threat loomed. Batteries, which are classified as a hazardous material, were previously allowed to move freely across North American borders, but the rules about at which point an old battery should be deemed ‘scrap’ suddenly became ambiguous. Each shipper and carrier would need to apply for the proper transport permits, which could mean hours of arduous paperwork and a waiting period of up to eight weeks. “This,” Brady said, “could have destroyed the business.”
They decided that the best option was to find one shipper and one carrier whose permits require yearly renewal. They settled on a New Jersey warehouse as their North American hub. They negotiated intra-U.S. rates, which they did not have before, and this allowed them to offer a higher price for old batteries. “It was a real win for us. Our reach was made bigger, and we were able to handle almost three times as much product than the year before.” “We want everyone’s dead batteries. We love them,” Brady said, “We have so much faith in our technology and our team; we can do some pretty amazing things.” Battery regeneration requires the use of a patented technology that desulfates the internal lead plates of an old battery. A brand new battery has a lifespan of around eight years, and according to Brady, “ReGen technology allows us to bring an old battery back to 85 percent of its capacity when it was brand new. It works on approximately four out of 10 batteries, but it all depends on how the battery was maintained during its lifetime.” The warranty return rate on XtraPower batteries, each of which comes with a one-year warranty, is less than 1 percent.