Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

Part 3 of What Steve Said! Everything starts with a business plan

"It’s important to have a personal plan first, because it tells you where you want to be personally, who you want to be, and where you want to go."

Steve Barkhouse is the third generation of his family to make a living in the construction business. Today, Steve’s Ottawa-based company, Amsted Design-Build, is a multiple award winner that completes up to 30 projects each year.

Many contractors set out to be as successful as Steve Barkhouse, yet fall by the wayside. Canadian Contractor asked Steve to tell us why he thinks he has succeeded. This interview was first published in Canadian Contractor’s print edition, May/June 2019. To subscribe to Canadian Contractor magazine, go to

Some people say it is now impossible to develop a five- or ten-year business plan because of the fast-changing nature of the industry. What do you say to that?

I say, bull****! The best thing that my partner and I ever did was to write down our vision and core values a long time ago.  We check them every year to make sure they’re still accurate and represent us properly, and we ask our staff to confirm it. We make every decision, especially the major ones, based on those visions and core values. We always ask ourselves if they are taking us where we want to go, and if they making us who we want to be.

Can you describe how that planning process works?

It’s important to have a personal plan first, because it tells you where you want to be personally, who you want to be, and where you want to go. To me, a business is a part of your life. It needs to mesh with your personal plan. My business partner Kirk and I each have one. We’ve probably had them for 20 years, and we look at them three or four times a year. Then we created our business plan to support our personal plan. We have what we call a ten-year target. It’s bullet points, generalizations. It’s pretty clear: we project what the revenue is going to be, where it’s going to come from, and what the team will look like. Then we have a three-year picture. That tells us where we have to be in three years in order to be where we need to be in ten years — that’s a little more detailed. Then we say, “If that’s where we need to be in three years what do we need to do this year to get there?” That is even more detailed. We adjust that annually, move everything out one year, and reset. It’s a vision, it’s a budget, it’s a plan.

NEXT: Part 4: Hiring people better than you


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