Pass­ing on his ex­per­tise

The Daily Courier - - BUSINESS - BY STEVE MacNAULL

Mark Kre­hel knew he was too young to re­tire at 45. But that’s the age he was when he sold Camco Cut­ting Tools, the Kelowna busi­ness he’d built for 18 years, to in­ter­na­tional player Ken­nametal of Pitts­burgh.

“With Camco, we made, sold and dis­trib­uted cut­ting tools used for metal and wood in­ter­na­tion­ally,” said Kre­hel, who is now 56.

“I’m a type-A per­son­al­ity, quite of­ten dou­ble-A or triple-A, so I couldn’t do noth­ing for long,” he added with a laugh.

So, Kre­hel got heav­ily in­volved in Kelowna United soc­cer, coach­ing his daugh­ters’ teams and sit­ting on the Kelowna United board, in­clud­ing eight years as pres­i­dent.

“I couldn’t help but ap­ply busi­ness mod­els to Kelowna United,” said Kre­hel. “We took it from a small town youth sports club to a more busi­ness-like or­ga­ni­za­tion. That was nec­es­sary be­cause we wanted to build a fa­cil­ity.”

That fa­cil­ity is the white bub­ble that goes up ev­ery win­ter be­side the H2O pool to cre­ate tem­po­rary soc­cer fields for year-round train­ing and games.

Con­cur­rently, be­cause of his busi­ness savvy, Kre­hel was in de­mand as an ad­viser, men­tor and con­sul­tant to help friends and as­so­ci­ates launch and grow busi­nesses.

And then, a year ago, Ac­cel­er­ate Okana­gan, the agency that helps tech com­pa­nies start and grow, asked Kre­hel if he wanted to come on board as an ex­ec­u­tive in res­i­dence.

Kre­hel had a cou­ple of friends who were al­ready work­ing with Ac­cel­er­ate as ex­ec­u­tives in res­i­dence and hav­ing a great time help­ing oth­ers, so he said yes.

“Ac­cel­er­ate was get­ting more and more calls for help from com­pa­nies that weren’t pure tech busi­nesses, but man­u­fac­tur­ers that wanted to use tech­nol­ogy in man­u­fac­tur­ing and other tra­di­tional sec­tors,” said Kre­hel.

“That’s where my ex­per­tise lies.”

Kre­hel is par­tic­u­larly proud of the men­tor­ing he’s been able to give three growth com­pa­nies in the South­ern In­te­rior.

Axis Forestry of Kam­loops makes and ser­vices parts for log­ging and mill equip­ment.

Piscine En­er­get­ics of Kelowna makes fish food from my­sis shrimp har­vested from Okana­gan Lake.

And Aqua Air 247 of Kelowna makes ma­chines that pulls mois­ture from the air to turn into drink­ing wa­ter.

“Th­ese com­pa­nies come to Ac­cel­er­ate for help be­cause they are us­ing tech­nol­ogy,” said Kre­hel.

“But they still need to know all the busi­ness fun­da­men­tals from cor­po­rate struc­ture and hu­man re­sources to man­age­ment and fi­nan­cials. And that’s where I come in.”

Kre­hel is paid for his work as a men­tor, and com­pa­nies that use Ac­cel­er­ate’s ser­vices do pay a fee.

But the ar­range­ment is de­signed to be low cost so small com­pa­nies on a bud­get can get the help they need to launch, grow and hire.

Ac­cel­er­ate Okana­gan has funky new space on the sec­ond floor of the new seven-storey Okana­gan Cen­tre for In­no­va­tion at the cor­ner of Doyle Av­enue and El­lis Street down­town.

Quite of­ten, that’s where Kre­hel will meet with the peo­ple he is men­tor­ing in Ac­cel­er­ate’s open-plan flex spa­ces.

“The con­cept is all about creative col­li­sions as you come across peo­ple that you can help or that can help you, or both,” he said.

“But, as a true men­tor, I’m also avail­able to meet any­where else or be in touch by phone, email or text.”

STEVE MacNAULL/ The Daily Courier

Mark Kre­hel, 56, an ex­ec­u­tive in res­i­dence at Ac­cel­er­ate Okana­gan, is the 36th nom­i­nee for Kelowna Top Forty Over 40. He’s pic­tured here in the atrium of the new Okana­gan Cen­tre for In­no­va­tion, where Ac­cel­er­ate has space.

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