Canadian Contractor

Dave Gray   

How’s business?

Renovation Contractor

Are small signs of economic uncertainty indicators that we should be concerned?

This is Jim’s Editor’s Note from the December 2018/January 2019 issue of Renovation Contractor, arriving in mailboxes in the next couple of weeks. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign up here for your free subscription. Or read the digital edition here.

Regular Renovation Contractor readers should be familiar with Will Gonell of Gonell Homes in Toronto. When the former New York City cop and U.S. marine decided to move to Canada, he got into contracting and quickly build a reputation for amazing work. He’s pictured on the cover of our Feb./March 2017 issue standing in front of an 18,000-sq.ft. home he’d built.

But in a recent conversation with our managing editor, Allan Britnell, he expressed some concerns about the current state of the industry. He’d recently had two clients pull the plug on projects – one after the permits had been pulled and the trades were all lined up and ready to go – because of uncertainty over the economy. But Will’s also well connected in the industry and has heard similar stories from many other contractors and builders that he knows.

The ongoing risk of a bigger trade war with the U.S., ever-increasing concerns about our housing bubble popping, and the recent downturn in stock markets are just a few factors that have some people concerned enough to tighten their purse strings.


Have you noticed any signs of a slowdown in your area? If so, what are you doing to adjust your business?

I’ve often wondered how some of the younger guys in the business who’ve never experienced a downturn and mass layoffs would cope with a recession hitting the renovation and homebuilding market. Back in the early 80s, getting laid off from my union job doing commercial HVAC work was what lead me to start my own business doing small renovations. It was growing when the next downturn hit in 1989 and I lost thousands on a spec home we were building that we ended up selling for what we’d paid for it.

Do you have the means to stick it out? Are you willing and able to switch gears to take on smaller projects to get by? Do you have a fallback plan? We love hearing from our readers so send your thoughts, concerns, and even the good news that you’re thriving to Allan ( so he can compile them for an article in a future issue.

In our next issue, we’ll look at how one contractor turned to a business coach to help his business grow. When we first profiled Don Vloet of Dun For You Contracting in Welland, Ont., back in our Jan./Feb. 2014 issue he was running a small, successful business, but he wasn’t exactly thriving, working mostly on small kitchen and bathroom renos. At the time he said, “I’d like to grow more. I’m trying to let go of some control, and getting more into management.”

A regular attendee of our Renovators’ Roundtable events, in 2016 he met the team from Breakthrough Academy (BTA) and signed up for the program. Long-time contributor Diane Peters will speak to Don to find out how BTAs systems have help his business grow and, hopefully, ride out whatever the economy throws at him.



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