Episode 3 – “I could die at any second” with Kat Byrne

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Today on the show Tim invites his daughter to be the first ever interviewee on the podcast. Kat Byrne is the General Manager of Byrne on Demand – that’s our general contracting business for those of you out of the loop. Kat started working for the company seven years ago when she was just 17. Now at the ripe old age of 25 Kat has taken over the day-to-day management of the business.

If you had asked Kat as a kid whether she would end up working for her Dad her reply would have been an emphatic “no!” The reasons for that are simple enough – especially if you know anything about the Byrne family history.

“We don’t speak to anyone in the family anymore.” She tells Tim in the interview. “If we mix family and business we are never going to talk.”

Tim’s brothers Mike and Kevin along with his brother-in-law all work for competing businesses in the door and glass industry. Tim feels they have all tailored their businesses in order to directly compete with Stadia and Byrne on Demand.

“It’s psychological warfare.” Tim says.

Kat says that she rarely speaks with her uncles. They occasionally make awkward eye-contact at trade fairs but little else. That lack of contact doesn’t bother her.

“You don’t get to pick your family.” She says. “If the relationship was supposed to stay together it would have stayed together.”

The Byrne’s have a long history in the glass and door business stretching back to the 1950’s. Tim’s Dad Ray Byrne owned Byrne Glass and before that RayWin.

“He used to go bankrupt like I change my underwear.” Tim says.

Kat says an average day at the office is always different. It’s a noisy, busy place that you have to be a bit of a loud mouth to fit in. She says they try to be pleasant to one another – though screaming does occur from time to time. People tend to work better under pressure and in a competitive atmosphere according to Kat.

Tim plans to record 26 interviews with various staff members over the next year. Since Kat is the very first of those interviews Tim asks her what she thinks they will say. Since they’ll be answering the question in front of the owner she expects them to be very polite.

“None of them are going to tell you the truth.” She says.

That said Kat does think the company feels like a family and a second home to the vast majority of their employees.

Kat left the company for about a year and likes the place a lot more the second time around. She thinks that’s because she changed a lot in that year. Kat quickly rose through the ranks. She attributes that quick rise to the fact that she was “raised by wolf.” The fact that she is the owner’s daughter is creates some odd situations. Most of the new staff have been hired and trained by Kat. But some of the staff have known her since she was a baby. Adding to the complications is the fact that being a women in this industry can be tough.

“Job sites are sexist as shit.” Tim says.

Kat’s counterpart at Stadia is Michael Wickenden. Mike is the Director of Operations at Stadia

while Kat does a similar job at Byrne on Demand. The companies are two separate entities but operate under the same roof so the two staffs interact a lot. Kat says bluntly that she found Mike very intimidating for many years.

“Up until a year ago he scared the shit out of me.” She says.

Mike is, by all accounts, a very quiet guy and that left Kat wondering whether he hated her or not. It took a while for her to figure out that they are on the same level and ventually came to view him as a partner. That’s because she worked under Mike for several years it took a while to view him as an equal. Now they talk regularly though it’s usually just one word at a time.

Kat and Tim are preparing for the company’s very first retirement party. Rod Murray has a long history with the Byrne family. He first worked for Tim’s Dad in the 1980’s. When Tim struck out on his own Rod was the first person he hired. For a time Rod’s business card featured the initials OFW which stood for “Only Fucking Worker.”

Kat’s goal is to make sure that clients phone her before Tim. Tim’s biggest pet peeve is learning that something is wrong from the client instead of the staff.

The conversation wraps up with a maudlin discussion about how the podcast will be very valuable to Kat once Tim kicks the bucket.

“Twenty years from now you’ll be able to hear my voice. After all I could die at any second.” Tim says.


Kat Byrne is the General Manager of Byrne On Demand.  You can contact Kat at katb@byrneondemand.ca



Byrne On Demand

Stadia Glass & Door