Announcing Canadian Contractor’s ORCHA winners!
Congratulations to Martin Mack, Concord Homes; Paul Gallop, Men At Work Design Build; Ben Polley and Chris Vander Hout, Evolve Builders Group; and Steve Barkhouse, Amsted Design Build
By Steve Payne
Congratulations to the winners of our inaugural OUTSTANDING RENOVATOR AND CUSTOM HOME BUILDER AWARDS.
The awards, sponsored by FESTOOL, were presented at a gala dinner in Toronto, Nov. 28th, as part of Canadian Contractor’s RenoFocus conference.
The owners of these four contracting firms are all outstanding business people who have a long track record of sensational customer service and ultra high-quality builds.
ORCHA GOLD AWARD
After attending both university and trade school, qualifying as a carpenter, Martin Mack founded Concord Homes in Amherstview, Ontario (a part of Kingston) in 1999. He was a one man show doing renos and repairs – even cutting his clients’ grass!
Martin’s firm has come a long way in 17 years. From those humble beginnings. Martin now has 21 full-time staff. He is a TARION registered home builder. These days, Martin design-builds dream homes for many of the same clients who he started out small with.
What a success story! But his past success is not what makes Martin such an outstanding contractor. It’s his desire to improve. You see, Martin has been humble and honest enough to realize that his business still hasn’t hit the level he wants to reach.
So last year Martin started to a personal mission. To reach out to other contractors who were running similar businesses. To compare notes, numbers and procedures. And he decided to seek out professional contractor coaching.
“We reviewed our business practices and methods and realized that they were lacking,” Martin says. “We decided to implement an organization and communication system where no system had existed for the past 20 years.” Martin brought in state-of-the-art construction management software.
More than ever, Martin is now free to focus on the heart of his business: Design-Build.
Design-build allows Concord Homes to view potential properties with clients ahead of purchase and plan together. And, in a natural progression, Concord Homes itself is now buying and conducting design-build projects on its own properties.
Here is just one example. Since Concord operates right in the catchment area for Queen’s University student housing in Kingston, Martin was recently able to build both a dream home AND provide multiple student bedroom units (and rental income), by severing a single lot and thinking outside the box.
So what does the future hold for Concord Homes?
Here is how Martin puts it:
“Our vision for Concord Homes is to embody the true meaning of the word Concord: peaceful and harmonious relationships. We would like to continue focusing on our clients, make the build process one of the most exciting, engaging and stress-free processes our clients could have during their home construction or renovation. We would like to hone and refine our current practices, increase our revenue, become more efficient, and develop our staff.”
ORCHA SILVER AWARD
MEN AT WORK DESIGN BUILD
It’s not exactly a “rags to riches story,” but’s it’s close. Here is how Paul Gallop, Men At Work Design Build, describes his 27-year journey in our industry:
“I entered this industry the way I think many people do, with a Grade 12 education and no formal or construction OR business training. I had a curiosity for how houses are built. And after a 12-year career as a struggling musician, I realized I was going to have to hang up my guitar and start doing something a little more concrete to make a living.”
“With 27 years now in the home renovation industry, entirely self-employed,” Paul says, “I have elevated myself from a self-taught handyman earning $20,000 a year, to building a highly-respected, multi-award-winning design-build home renovation company.”
Paul’s Etobicoke, Ontario firm did some 26 projects this past year, with gross revenues approaching $6-million, a 50 per cent increase on his previous year’s revenue.
Yes, the GTA housing and renovation market is on fire. But it’s also true that the competition in the Toronto market is brutal. And the temptation to cut regulatory costs in the usual (cash) ways has made the market a very unlevel playing field.
Paul is a contractor who makes terrific money playing by every single government rule. As he says, “I believe that my firm effectively demonstrates that a little guy can build from nothing and prosper in this business without cheating or bending the rules. We’ve been audited by WSIB twice, by CRA twice, and had numerous visits to our sites by MOL inspectors. We have never been fined or charged a single dollar. We hold this forth proudly as a testament to our diligent and honest business practices, record keeping and respect for proper government compliance.”
Paul’s business success is mirrored in the honours he has received from our industry. For example:
- He has more than a thousand satisfied customers.
- Flawless ratings on Homestars and Houzz.com.
- Winner of the 2012 BILD Renovator of the Year and a finalist the last two years.
- Winner of the Ontario Home Builders Association best renovation awards the last two years.
- Silver and bronze medallist the last two years in the Qualified Remodeler Master Design Awards for North America.
ORCHA BRONZE AWARD (1 of 2)
BEN POLLEY & CHRIS VANDER HOUT
EVOLVE BUILDERS GROUP
Canadian Contractor wrote its first story about Ben Polley 15 years ago. Ben’s then-business, Harvest Homes, was a constructor of straw-bale homes. Though these were ULTRA “green,” many people – including us at the magazine – wondered if Ben could actually sustain a real business with such an fringe-of-the-market product.
Fast forward another dozen years. We at Canadian Contractor ran another incredible story. Ben had not only succeeded in the straw-bale HOMES business, he was now successfully selling straw-bale school portables (brand name: MoBEE). Many people wondered if that could succeed, too. Maybe they needed to meet Ben Polley.
Ben starts with a deep faith in the vital importance of green building. And he challenges us: Do we want our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to have a planet that is habitable? Green building is difficult. At first glance, it seems it raises costs through the roof. But as Ben argues, these costs are paid back in reduced energy bills. And in countless even more important ways.
Over 15 years, Ben’s company has vastly increased its service offerings to the extent of becoming a full service builder. A new parent company – Evolve Builders Group Inc. – was established in 2006.
Harvest continued as a straw bale wall system specialist. Evolve was fashioned as brand that would deploy construction methods of any type – not limited to straw bale – so long as the projects included elements of environmental friendliness, human health or energy efficiency.
Now, with Ben’s business partner Chris Vander Hout, Evolve is enjoying record sales and a growing reputation – not only within Canada – but globally. Ben has represented Canada’s residential green building sector at international conferences.
Evolve’s team of 19 full-time staff has been built carefully. The majority of their senior managers have owned their own construction businesses – oftentimes in competition with Evolve. They further leverage their field staff’s abilities through a non-traditional site supervision system called “Even Flow Management.”
“Our targeted hires and the Even Flow system deliver extraordinary flexibility and scalability to our operation,” Ben says. “At times of peak work, we can quickly add new skilled or semi-skilled staff to be overseen by our wealth of supervisory capacity.”
ORCHA BRONZE AWARD (2 of 2)
AMSTED DESIGN BUILD
Founded in 1989 by Steve Barkhouse, Amsted Design Build in Stittsville, Ontario has grown from a single-person operation to a multiple award-winning contracting firm that employs over 30 people while completing more than 30 projects a year.
Last year, Amsted completed 43 projects with revenues in excess of $5-million. It is one of the 550 largest renovation firms in North America as measured by Remodelling magazine.
And there’s more: Amsted’s sister company, Restore-All Corporation, operates in the booming insurance restoration market.
Steve Barkhouse is a marketing – as well as a building – expert. It has brilliantly developed three offices across Ottawa it calls its “Living Rooms.” These locations showcase Amsted’s work and provide a convenient client meeting location. They gain significant walk-in traffic and build community awareness for the Amsted brand.
Steve’s firm’s mission reads: “Our mission MUST be to exceed the expectations of our customers – whom WE define as clients, partners AND fellow employees.”
Imagine that, treating employees as customers!
If you think this is “out there,” well, it’s true. Consider this, Steve has the names of those employees who have achieved five years of service engraved on paving stones lining the walkway to its head office!
“We will accomplish [our mission] by committing to our shared values and by achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction. In this way we will ensure that our profit, quality and growth goals are met.”
Steve starts with values and how people should be treated and from there proceeds to profit and growth. Because Steve believes that profit and growth are side-effects of other behaviours, not abstract things that appear out of thin air.
Steve has one overriding philosophy for Amsted Design Build: “We do what we say we are going to do.”
THANK YOU TO FESTOOL FOR SPONSORING THESE INAUGURAL AWARDS!