A Taste of Victory

When John Viskup and Jim Sponder established Victory Energy Operations LLC in 1999, ambitions were high—but neither expected the company to hit the milestones it has in such a short time. In less than 10 years the company has grown from 3 to 320 employees.
By Anna Austin | September 08, 2008
If being victorious in the business world requires a company to grow by leaps and bounds then Victory Energy Operations LLC is aptly named. Victory Energy began in then 29-year-old company President John Viskup's home with three employees. Less than 10 years later, the company occupies a 170,000 square foot building in Collinsville, Okla., and has 320 employees. In its first year, Victory Energy supplied 10 boilers to customers; today that number surpasses 300.

Victory Energy has become a leading boiler supplier to a variety of markets, largely within the ethanol industry. In 2007, the company realized more than $121 million in sales.

With that kind of growth it's not surprising that the company's motto is "Full steam ahead!" In May, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Victory Energy No. 15 on its 2008 Hot 100 list, a ranking of the fastest growing companies in the United States. Additionally, it was ranked No. 1 in the manufacturing sector. Nearly 21 million companies were on the magazine's preliminary list, which Entrepreneur Magazine said included new businesses that are making a major impact on the economy based on their revenue and the jobs that are created as a result of that growth. The Hot 100 are expected to employ more than 15,000 individuals by 2009, an increase from a combined total of 517 employees on their first day of business. No other boiler manufacturing company has ever been recognized for such an accomplishment. "Being ranked first in manufacturing—we were surprised and honored at being recognized outside of our specific market," Viskup says.

"The ultimate vision of our organization was to produce a higher quality steam generation system that would provide a better value to our customers," says Viskup, who is described by Victory Energy Market Manager Charles Swallow, as someone who "lives and breathes boilers." "The goal was to produce competitive products and services, execute well, and continuously improve and maintain a high level of customer satisfaction," Viskup continues. "We continue to meet—and exceed—these goals, as we diversify into new markets and develop innovative ways to meet the needs of a growing customer base."

Gaining Marketshare
In 2001, Gopher State Ethanol in St. Paul, Minn., was losing the battle with odor and emission complaints from the community—problems generated from the plant's production process. "The Victory team had an idea," Viskup says. "Why not attach a heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) to a thermal oxidizer? The oxidizer would burn off the volatile organic compounds while the HRSG would recover the heat and generate more steam in the process. The system worked, and it worked well."

That same year the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo was held in St. Paul, and the company was allowed to discuss the benefits of thermal oxidation technology to ethanol industry representatives. News of the technology spread through the industry like wildfire, Viskup says.

It was smooth sailing for awhile, but because new technology can never be rendered fool proof, the company's first major issue surfaced. There was a problem with the plant's thermal oxidizer—a structure which another company had supplied—but was attached to Victory Energy's boilers. The decision to stand by the product, regardless of that factor, was made without hesitation. "From this point on, everyone in the industry knew that Victory Energy had integrity," Viskup says. "They knew we would support the industry that had supported us."

The problem was remedied and Victory Energy remained a reputable company.

Product Pride
Victory Energy manufactures heat recovery steam generators and watertube package boilers, with a focus in the biorenewable fuels and solar energy industries. In addition to boiler systems, Victory Energy offers a range of auxiliary equipment, including ductwork, main stack assemblies, economizers, de-aerators, control systems, and feedwater systems. The company also offers in-house transportation services for all of its products, making Victory Energy a single-source supplier. "Every boiler is a custom boiler," Viskup says.

The team at Victory Energy begins the boiler construction process for a specific plant by developing the thermal design and size of the boiler, and incorporating job-specific requirements for steam capacity, temperature and pressure, fuels available, emission limitations and space limitations. When necessary, a one-eighth-scale model may be engineered in order to test the boiler pre-installation.

Victory Energy says its heat recovery boiler is one of the most flexible, cost-effective and technologically advanced units on the market. "Our fintube design allows us to manufacture our boilers with the smallest footprint in the industry, and greatly reduces radiant heat lost to contain energy costs," Viskup says. Today, U.S. EPA emissions requirements must be met for a plant to remain operational, he adds. Victory Energy's HRSG boilers are able to capture heat during processing and use that heat to supply steam to the plant for the manufacturing process. The HRSG boiler serves other industries as well, including cogeneration, municipal solid waste and other pollution control facilities.
The Voyager "O" type and Discovery "D" type boilers are also popular products.

Catering to Customers
Victory Energy's customers don't have to worry about piecing together a confusing puzzle. "You'll never receive a bucket of bolts from Victory," Viskup says. The company has developed a tag-and-crate system that clearly indentifies each part and provides step-by-step directions to enable quick construction, he adds. To ensure that ease of construction, Victory Energy offers an operator training program for employees and recurring training programs to keep veteran employees up-to-date on its technology.

A spare parts department is also open 24 hours a day, and guarantees delivery within 24 hours of ordering. What makes the process even easier for customers is that each one has a spare parts list on file, which is tailored to their plant and boiler system. If preferred, Victory Energy can also set up an online order page for each of its customers.

If a boiler requires repair time that could negatively impact a plant, a mobile rental boiler is available for temporary installation, which is another 24-hour-a-day service that Victory Energy offers. "The extra effort that we put forth each and every day helps us keep on track with the goals that we have set within our team," Viskup says. "We believe that the moment we stop moving toward accomplishing our goals, we become the obstacle."

In the future, Victory Energy wants to diversify the application of its technologies, focusing on ways that its products and services can further benefit the biorenewable industries.

Victory Energy's honest, dedicated intent to serve its customers, accompanied by a desire to find solutions to all wants and needs is something that resonates throughout the company. Viskup credits the success of the company to its employees. "It largely stems from them," he says. "We continually inspire our employees to assist in the development of new products and technologies. Together, our team has had a hand in changing the world we live in—one day at a time."

Anna Austin is an Ethanol Producer Magazine staff writer. She can be reached at aaustin@bbiinternational.com or 701-738-4968.