Karl Gannon and Nik Grgic of FourQuest Energy Inc. (Photo: Ania & Tyler Stalman) Karl Gannon and Nik Grgic of FourQuest Energy Inc. (Photo: Ania & Tyler Stalman)

It didn’t even occur to Nik Grgic to be scared. He’d had plenty of time to think about his decision; he’d done his research. The deeper he got into it, the more convinced he became that he was making the right call.

So when Grgic walked into the office of his boss at a respected multinational energy firm and said he was quitting to launch his own venture, he felt none of the fear you’d expect of a married father of two abandoning a steady paycheque. Instead, he was positively buoyant. “I had a great feeling,” he says. “I just felt the business had such a great probability of success. I couldn’t see any potential for failure if we could just get it started.”

Grgic had been experiencing the classic entrepreneurial impulse for years—the nagging, undeniable feeling of, “I can do this better.” His ex-colleague and soon–to–be–business partner Karl Gannon—who had quit a few months earlier to lay the groundwork for the new company—felt it, too.

Grgic and Gannon first met in the early 2000s as co-workers tasked with running the facility-services division of their multinational employer’s empire. While their arm represented only 3% or 4% of the overall business, both felt that, with a bit of attention, it could be much more. Time and again, they pitched the bosses their ideas—a process improvement here, an untapped new service offering there—always to be rebuffed. “We got very little attention from management,” explains Grgic. “They’d say, ‘it’s too risky’ or ‘it’s not our core business.’ The attitude was very much, ‘just go away and do what you’ve been doing.’”

This maddening cycle continued until 2007—the point at which the pair decided to follow their impulses instead of someone else’s lead. “We were working in a space that didn’t appreciate what we could do, so we decided we should do it ourselves,” Gannon says. He pauses. “I’m sure most entrepreneurs can tell the same story.”

Few entrepreneurs have channelled their frustrations quite so effectively—by building a business that has become Canada’s Fastest-Growing Company. Grgic and Gannon jointly helm FourQuest Energy Inc., a firm whose incredible 7,308% revenue growth between 2008 and 2013 has earned it the No. 1 spot on the 2014 PROFIT 500. Today, the Edmonton-headquartered company, which provides mechanical precommissioning, shutdown and maintenance services for oil-and-gas facilities, is a bona fide player in the lucrative global business of keeping energy giants ticking along. FourQuest employs more than 200 people full time, runs 12 offices worldwide and does upwards of $50 million in annual sales.

And Grgic and Gannon are just getting started. Since quitting their jobs, they’ve had one goal: to become a $500-million company within 10 years. “We always wanted to be big,” says Grgic. Of course, there’s a difference between ambition and achievement. And that’s what makes the FourQuest story so remarkable. At the outset, Grgic and Gannon developed a plan for their growth—and the pain that would come with it. If the co-founders are unsurprised by their success so far, it’s because it was all planned and prepared for. It may not be as sexy as leaving things to fate, but it’s a heck of a lot more useful. Would-be entrepreneurs, take note: this is how you turn an idea into an empire.

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