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“Economic downturns have been good for us”: Ron Schram on how to leverage the boom-bust cycle


This month, we’re talking with Ron Schram of Schram Crane. Ron founded the company in 1997, which means it’s coming up 20 years in business! That doesn’t happen by accident, friends.

Schram Crane provides training courses in crane and rigging safety. Ron started the company after nearly 30 years of experience in the industry, including working in lift planning and senior management. When Schram Crane first started, Ron envisioned it as a consulting company.

“I started out overseeing critical lifts for my former clients that I had when I was in the crane industry,” he says. “So they knew me, knew the deliverable, and didn’t hesitate to hire us to come in and oversee a lift for them.”

But that only lasted about a year before an opportunity arose that changed the course of the business.

From Consulting to Training

In 1998, an oil sands company that Schram Crane was overseeing lifts for asked them to train their engineers in heavy lifting. Ron told the company that Schram Crane didn’t offer training, but the client wasn’t deterred for long: “They came back a month later and said, ‘There is not an engineering school on this continent that teaches any of this—we know because we’ve checked. Can we build something?’ I said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ So that’s where it started,” Ron shares. (And they’ve been the preferred training vendor for that client since!)

Today, Schram Crane offers 27 courses in crane and rigging activities of all levels, from basic to engineering, to clients like utility and oil sands companies. Schram also provides engineering and lift device design and critical lift reviews. Their top-of-the-line course is Crane and Rigging Best Practice, a two- or three-day in-person course that’s been given to major players in the industry, including OHS.

And despite the big work they’re doing, Schram Crane has stayed a small family company. Ron’s wife does the accounting, his daughter manages the office, and his sons (who both work in the industry) still come back to help out when they’re needed.

 Schram and Boreal

Schram Crane sometimes does engineering and design for lift devices, and that’s where Boreal comes in. Ron and Dean have been working “hand in glove,” as Ron put it, on a lift review project together at a site for one of Schram Crane’s oil sands clients. “We soon discovered that there were a lot of areas of common thinking with Dean and I,” Ron told us. “We haven’t seen the last of each other; this will continue long after this project is over.”

Embracing Economic Downturns

Schram Crane has flourished during 20 years’ worth of Alberta’s economic ups and downs. In fact, Ron embraces the downs, seeing them as a chance to try new things and expand into a wider market. “We’re not really big and not really rich, but we’ve always done well during those times,” he said.

During the bust parts of a boom-bust cycle, clients are more picky about how they spend their money. They’re looking for value, not just someone who can do the job. “You have an opportunity to show your clients how you’re better, and have an opportunity then to take a larger share of the market,” Ron said. “So every time that we’ve had an economic downturn, it’s actually been a good thing for us.”

Ron has spent his career trying to spot opportunities as they arise. “Keeping your mind open is a key,” he said.

And one last important piece of business advice from Ron: “Keep a positive attitude. You wind up then being somebody that people want to be around, somebody that people want to have back.”

We’re always glad to have you back, Ron!


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