Entrepreneur of the Year Hard-Line Solutions

The success or failure of a business can be determined by the people who work for it.

Walter Siggelkow established Hard- Line Solutions in 1996. Since then it has become a leading supplier in heavy equipment remote control. They use years of experience in mining, electronics, electrical design and mechanical design to build equipment from the ground up to configure any piece of mining equipment.

The foundation of their strength lies in being able to customize their products and services to meet customers’ needs. And the best way to meet that need, according to Siggelkow, is a pragmatic approach: hire people that are like-minded and trustworthy.

“It’s perseverance. It’s staying with it,” he said. “Many entrepreneurs find something and they like it.

“The second reason is they can’t find a job, so they create one, do something on their own. Very rarely does an entrepreneur consider making money. The difference between entrepreneurs making a sustainable business out of it and the ones who struggle and maybe go under is the point in time where they realize they have to make money. Part of that is you can’t be all things to all people.”

You have to start surrounding yourself with good people. “It’s easy to make money, but hard to hang on to it, whether that is from a bad employee, associate, or stealing. You need people to look after your interests because you are too focused.”

As of 2016, the company employs 70 people in the Sudbury area, 85 total globally, and Siggelkow has been instrumental in cultivating that environment of good work and dedication. Around one third of his staff are dedicated to research and product development, which has kept the business growing despite the current economic climate. The business’s revenue stream has doubled over the past five years.

The idea to create remote-operated machinery stemmed from many reasons. One was to make mining safer. Some pieces of machinery and even some environments, he said, are hazardous to operate in and around, so making machines remote-controlled saves lives.

The company has its headquarters in Canada, with offices in Peru and Chile, and a global network of distributors.

Hard-Line Solutions supports the community through several endeavours. It sponsors many exhibits at Dynamic Earth featuring its technology. Siggelkow also supports several events backed by the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation in promoting the city as a mining technology hub. He also helps to train and prepare the next generation by providing placements to co-op students, employing apprentices, and sponsoring local robotics competition teams at the high school level. As well, he has been instrumental in developing many projects at the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT), donating equipment to their research mine and offering mentorship support, as well as lecturing and sitting on many panels for the innovation mill’s educational programs.

Historically, he said, the company had little to do with the community. Now Siggelkow said they want to give back and hopefully inspire more entrepreneurs like him.