By Sukanya Ray Ghosh
Partners in successCanadian Contractor 2021 canada contractor july/aug prestige custom homes
The owners of Prestige Custom Homes combine their expertise to give life to dream homes.
Located in Mississauga, Ont., Prestige Custom Homes has been creating dream homes for its clients since 1995. Karl Bach, owner of the company, is a second-generation builder and contractor. The company’s roots go back to where Jan Bach, the company’s founder, first ventured into the home renovation and construction industry more than 30 years ago. In 2004, Karl joined his father. Now together, they have over 40 years of combined building experience.
“I was doing a little bit of framing, I was helping with electrical and many other things initially. As time went on, I started managing all the projects more and more. We continued working together, all the way up until two years ago,” says Karl.
While Jan has phased out of the business, Prestige Custom Homes now has a new family member. Karl’s wife Katherine entered the picture a few years back and is now an integral part of the business.
While doing extensive home renovations is still part of their business, building custom homes will always be the primary focus of the company.
“We’ve recently transitioned more into custom homes. But over the years, we’ve done some large-scale renovation projects and additions. We’ve taken older larger homes, gutted them to the bone and overhauled them completely,” says Karl.
Being in this niche business, Karl has never brought in other foremen or other staff to oversee his projects and the business operations. Prestige Custom Homes has always been involved in all aspects of its projects. The company likes to have control. This is why they never take on too many projects at once. And this, says Karl, has helped immensely with the management of his trades. Most importantly, the clients deal directly with them and there are no misunderstandings.
“Our projects run smoothly and this method keeps our customers happy. People like this working style as we are always there and completely focussed on their project,” explains Karl.
Some may think this might be a drawback for the growth of their business because they cannot take on too many projects. However, Karl says that they have always stuck to this system so that they can remain in control and keep their reputation intact. Typically, the company takes on three to four major projects in a year. They are primarily large-scale projects, such as custom homes between 4,000 and 8,000 square feet or complete remodels. The company also takes smaller projects for existing clients.
Karl notes that although Prestige Custom Homes has not faced a single major challenging project, there have been some projects with very strict timelines. Prestige’s team completed these projects in their entirety on time, leaving the clients pleasantly surprised and happy. Karl adds that even with the rush, quality was never compromised. He attributes the success of these projects to the people who work with him on them.
“Over the years, working together with all of our trades, we have become a tight knit community. They work very well as a team and are able to do quality work quickly and efficiently,” he says.
The success of Prestige Custom Homes has been driven by the strong partnerships between the people at the helm of the affairs. It started with Jan and Karl and today it has moved on to Karl and Katherine.
Karl says that growing up in this industry has given him an advantage. “I had an advantage because it is difficult to start a business from scratch. I always had my dad guiding me at the beginning.”
However, it was not all smooth sailing for them as they clashed a lot on differences of opinion. “We got through it. And then he got older and I got older and wiser. So, that evened things out.”
Jan still shows up at the sites even though he is not actively involved any more. He’s proud of Karl and he still likes to stay connected with his projects. Over the past few years, Katherine has become a part of the operations more and more. This partnership has worked well from the get go. “Katherine handles the selection processes. She deals with clients, answers their questions, tells them where to buy
things and what questions to ask,” explains Karl.
Interestingly, Katherine designs all of the cabinetry for Prestige’s projects. People, says Karl, love the aspect of the husband-wife team working together. There is less chance of error and communication gaps.
Finding a balance
Katherine Bach is a trained teacher; she does not have a formal background in construction or a degree in a related subject. She developed a passion for interior design when she met Karl about 19 years ago. Since then, she experimented with designs and realised that she loved it. When Karl and his father worked together, Katherine would come in with ideas and inputs, help with the overall design of the homes and she also helped stage the homes.
Over the last few years, Katherine has become interested specifically in cabinetry design. She decided to pursue her interest further by taking courses and learning more about how to design kitchen millwork for custom homes.
“Over the past two years, I have been working closely together with our clients. I design their kitchens and other millwork in the home. What started out as a passion has now turned into Karl and I becoming business partners. We are offering our clients a boutique-style experience where we provide in-house design services. People do not have to bring in their own designer. Karl and I work together to bring their
vision to life,” explains Katherine.
Initially, there were some hard parts to this business partnership. Since Karl and Katherine are married, it was difficult to set boundaries about when to discuss business and when not to. That hurdle has now been overcome; both have found their groove and know when and how to work.
“I work separately from Karl, but also together. Both of us collaborate with our clients on different things. Things are a lot smoother now. We bring in our ideas, opinions and inputs,” says Katherine.
They now have a vision of how they want to see their business prosper in the future. In the meantime, Katherine has learnt a lot from Karl and his experience in the industry. The most memorable project that Karl and Katherine have worked on was creating their own home. It was an interesting collaboration for them. They complement each other at work and they were able to bring in their ideas for their shared home. It was a learning opportunity. And it was also the real solid beginning of their work partnership.
Karl has a special interest in energy efficiency. When building their home, he was able to experiment with energy efficiency, learn from mistakes and pass the experience on to his customers. Karl says that over the years he has experimented a lot with energy efficiency, including with materials and technologies. “I’ve taken many workshops, and always try to improve the efficiency of homes, understanding the whole
building science. I believe that’s how you become an expert in your field, if you know the whole science behind how the house works.”
He is able to advise and educate his clients on energy efficiency by guiding them on their choice of windows and insulation. He educated clients on how these choices impact energy bills even though they cost a bit more initially. Karl wishes to build a Passive Home someday. He diligently keeps track of all the developments in this area.
Just as Karl educates clients on energy efficiency, Katherine is able to guide them on making the right millwork choices and selecting the most suitable designs for their home. For example, being a mother has given her an insight into certain designs and materials that might not work best when there are
little children in the house. The idea is to ensure that clients love their home and find it practical as well.
The path ahead
Coming into the industry with no background knowledge was challenging for Katherine. She was afraid to ask the wrong question and look inexperienced. So, Karl was the one who had the conversations with the trades. Now, she feels empowered. Karl’s main focus remains dealing with the trades team. He supervises them and gets them on board for project execution. Katherine works strictly with clients and also enjoys a strong relationship with the kitchen company they work with.
Despite being successful at what they do, both Karl and Katherine have thoughts about the future of Prestige Custom Homes that keep them up at night. Karl is constantly thinking about the work they do and about what lies in store for the next day or the week after. There are things that could go wrong, so he likes to think ahead to prevent problems before they happen.
Katherine’s thoughts, on the other hand, go to what the next project is going to be or how to design the next kitchen. “I think about where we’re going to be in the future and how to ramp up our social media presence. And I get excited about all the new innovations taking place in our industry. I like to follow other designers on social media and learn from them and ask them questions,” she explains.