An innovative approach to renovation presentation centres finds neighborhood acceptance
“We become an integral part of the fabric of the community”
By John Bleasby
Steve Barkhouse’s Ottawa-based company, Amsted Design-Build, has grown to become one of the largest and most successful high-end renovation contractors in the country. John Bleasby spoke with Steve about a particularly unique element to his company’s sales approach — presentation centres located right in the heart of his target neighborhoods. He calls them “Living Rooms.”
What exactly are these model showrooms which you call “Living Rooms”. I understand you have four, strategically located around Ottawa.
They are our presentation centers. Ottawa is growing and these centers are located in our key target markets.
What was the reason for opening distinct and separate showrooms like this?
It was born out of necessity, like most things are. We have our main office, which includes our warehouse. However, it’s out in the middle of nowhere and not convenient for our customers. We wanted to do something better for our clientele. Renovations are very personal, and demand much a lot of personal attention. So we got away from the big box central location idea and moved right onto the neighborhoods we want to serve. It’s more convenient for clients to meet there rather than driving out to our office. It’s also more professional — much better than meeting at their home with the kids running around.
So rather than having one central location for all your staff, you’ve spread them out across the City?
We do have a main office that could potentially house everyone in workstations, but not if everyone showed up at once.
Why do you call them “Living Rooms”?
They are like show homes. They’re not in an industrial park and they’re not commercial spaces. Each is a house with a unique design and style, like a model home. The clients see them as they drive by, and see our quality right from the curb.
How do they work?
There’s a design office in each one, which also acts as the full-time office for one of our project designers. There’s also an area for team construction meetings, and a small board room for client meetings. Each living room has about five workstations where people work in different capacities. This encourages collaboration between our sales, construction and design team, something we think is so important. In fact, that collaboration is what we sell. This way, we have everything under one roof. It’s about getting those teams collaborating all the time. But they are also presentation sets for showing potential clients the standard of our work.
How does the local neighborhood react to a sales office located on their street?
We become part of the neighborhood. We understand the neighborhood, and we interact with the neighborhood. For example, we’re there on garbage clean-up day, we know what the issues are in the neighborhood. We go to the meetings. We become an integral part of the fabric of the community. In other words, we are a true neighbor. They like that because they’re dealing with someone they know. Given so much choice in the industry this really differentiates us from the competition. But it’s not a gimmick. It shows who we are, and it shows what are values are. We’re part of the community, part of the transformation, and part of making the community better.