Kari Yuers championed innovation in the construction industry 20 years ago and continues to seek out new ways of doing things as she looks to the future
Growing up in the Lower Mainland, Kari Yuers’ father was always a big supporter of women and instilled into her that she could do anything she put her mind to.
Her mother imparted the same values, having come from a Chinese family with five brothers where women weren’t as highly valued as men.
Both were aligned in their philosophy that both their children – a boy and a girl – be raised equal, and encouraged to achieve their goals.
Throughout her childhood Yuers worked in the plant at her father’s concrete waterproofing business, Kryton International Inc., doing various odd jobs, including sweeping the floors.
“I got a background, and it was a motivation for me and my brother to get an education so that we could do anything but work in the family business,” said Yuers.
She recalled thinking it would be “the worst thing in the world to work for your mother and father.”
Kari pursued a psychology degree at the University of British Columbia because she enjoyed studying human behaviour.
“I think from a business perspective this has always served me well, always trying to have insight into what other people’s views are and what makes people tick.”
However, Yuers never completed her degree and for a number of years found work in construction, renovations, at a golf course and in a smoked salmon company.
In 1991, Yuers conceded Kryton had come a long ways and had had some success, but still believed she couldn’t possibly work for her father as they had always butted heads when she wasgrowing up.
But she decided to meet with him and pitch him on what she might be able to do to help if she joined the company.
Being aware of his daughter’s lifelong hesitancy to work for him, Yuers’ father was wary of bringing his daughter into the family business.
The two agreed to work together, but Yuers’ father made her make a commitment that she would stick with it, and not quit.
Yuers stuck with it and became the general manager of the company’s Canadian operations.
As Yuers leveraged her previous experience in the building industry she saw a lot of success happening with the company’s Australian distributor using a crystal admixture that Kryton had invented.
Although the proprietary technology had been used by clients, including Boeing, since the 1980’s, it wasn’t mainstream as a process yet in Canada.
So Yuers took it upon herself to rename the product, remarket it and get out there and get specifications and talk to contractors in ready-mix.
Kari led the charge in legitimizing Kryton’s Krystol Internal Membrane (KIM) technology and saw the product’s inclusion in definitive documentation from the American Concrete Institute (ACI), the authority responsible for writing the building code in the U.S.
This proved a building block through the 1990’s and as the economy got better Kryton began doing bigger projects with bigger players like Dominion Construction, PCL and others.
“When I look back twenty years ago to when I was trying to implement KIM, I had a lot of people say the industry is never going to change, engineering is conservative, they’ll never go for this, just give up.
“I was really young and naive at the time, so I just thought they were wrong and kept going. I’m not sure if I had the same experience now, with what I know now, that I wouldn’t just listen to them and give up.”
Now president and CEO of the family business, Yuers has helped grow the company from six employees and a handful of distributors when she began in 1991 to over 80 staff worldwide with eight remote offices around the globe and distributors in 50 countries.
Throughout her time at Kryton, she has consistently dedicated her time to volunteerism, mentoring women in the business and having a direct impact on worldwide construction codes and practices.
In March, she will become the chair of the international activities committee of the ACI.
As for the future of the business, Yuers said, “it’s continuously reinventing itself; we are looking at both developing and aligning ourselves with new products and opportunities for new channels.
“Unless you are going to change dramatically and adapt to trends in the future, you are probably going to be on the downhill slide.” •
Also see 5 Questions with Kari Yuers
By Jennifer Harrison
full interview online at www.biv.com