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Building Codes

Proposed ‘Alterations to Existing Buildings’ will change the way building codes apply to renovations

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Proposed ‘Alterations to Existing Buildings’ will change the way building codes apply to renovations

In some parts of Canada, renovation work is required to follow the current building code that’s in effect. In other parts of the country, renovations only need to meet the “code of the day” – the requirements that were in effect when the house was originally built. This could all change with a new policy coming from the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes on “Alterations to Existing Buildings,” which could spell new requirements for renovations to existing homes.

Renovating for the Future

Canada has committed to significantly reducing its greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2030. The target is to achieve levels 30% lower than what we had in 2005 – a substantial undertaking. Canada has 14 million residential residences, and approximately 49% of the current housing stock was built before 1980. Most of these older buildings are far behind new homes when it comes to energy efficiency. Even if all the new homes built from now until 2030 (about 180,000 per year, or 1.8 million total) were built to “net-zero” energy efficiency, we still wouldn’t hit our target.

The only way the goal can be achieved is if we renovate the existing housing stock to make it more energy efficient. Canada has 7 million homes that were built before 1980. That’s a lot of opportunity for renovators.

The New Plan: “Alterations to Existing Buildings”

All levels of government are serious about meeting the GHG targets by 2030. To get us there, they have only two methods: they can persuade, or they can regulate.

Persuasion comes in the form of grants, low-interest loans, or tax credits. It makes the offer too enticing for a building owner to refuse. Regulation, on the other hand, removes the element of choice. It mandates minimum levels of performance and enforces it through inspections. A combination of both persuasion and regulation is considered in the draft CCBFC policy paper “Alterations to Existing Buildings” to drive improvements in the energy efficiency, accessibility, seismic resistance, structural integrity, and fire safety of existing homes.

The Roll Out

The policy paper proposes that when new requirements for renovation are adopted, they will not immediately apply to all existing buildings. In other words, homeowners will not get a notice from government to renovate their residences for energy efficiency. Instead, it is proposed that new requirements will come into play only once they have been “triggered.” What will trigger the new code requirements? First, the change to the building must be a voluntary decision by the building owner. Then, depending on the scope of the work and the changes being made, the building code will specify if the changes being made “trigger” the new requirements. If they do, the code will also specify which aspects of that building will need to be upgraded. The extent to which the home needs to be upgraded will fall somewhere between its existing state and minimums of the current code.

For example: Let’s say an owner decides to alter, upgrade, or change the function of a building. This could trigger improvements to the energy efficiency, accessibility, seismic resistance, structural integrity, or fire safety to meet the current code. That scope will obviously mean more work than the owner had originally intended, so to fund this extra work there will need to be persuasive tools such as incentives, grants, and/or tax credits.

What are the Triggers?

At this stage everything about “Alterations to Existing Buildings” is “proposed”. Nothing has been approved or decided upon. The following content is intended to provide you with information, but please note that any of this can – and likely will – change before it is finalized.

Not a trigger:

  • Cost The recommendations at this time clearly indicate that the cost of the change should not be a trigger. Costs change over time and vary across the country.
  • Involuntary changes For example, if a home is damaged by something typically covered by home insurance (for example, a hurricane), alteration requirements would not apply, because the repair is not deemed to be voluntary. Building owners will be able to repair their properties after a natural disaster without triggering requirements.
  • Normal wear and tear If a building owner is doing maintenance or repairs due to normal wear and tear, or replacing a component with something similar, they will be exempt from alteration requirements. Examples of this could include re-roofing or replacing an old furnace with a new one.

What could be a trigger:

“Alterations to Existing Buildings” proposes that the following voluntarily changes may trigger requirements:

  • A system(s) upgrade
  • Space reconfiguration
  • Change of occupancy
  • Addition, and/or
  • Other change (yet to be defined)

In these cases, the significance of the change will drive the requirements of what needs to be done. If the work is deemed to be a “minor” change, requirements will be applicable only to the area being changed. However, if the work is deemed to be a “major” change, requirements will be applicable to all directly affected systems. The criteria to differentiate between minor and major changes will be important, as well as the consistent interpretation of this criteria by building officials across the country.

“Alterations to Existing Buildings” will have a significant impact on the renovation industry in Canada. The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) is actively involved at all levels of the Association providing input to the discussions on behalf of the industry. Much of this work is being done by CHBA’s Technical Research Committee and the Canadian Renovators’ Council.

As a renovator, your expertise is both needed and welcome. If you’re not a member of CHBA, impending code requirements for alterations to existing buildings should be the “trigger” that gets you to join. If you want to be “in the know” and get involved, talk to your local home builders’ association (HBA). Find a local HBA near you by looking on our website at CHBA.ca.

Stay tuned for more on this important issue in the future.

Gary Sharp
Gary Sharp

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Optional incentives - Want to keep your team? Offer employee share options

Optional incentives – Want to keep your team? Offer employee share options

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Optional incentives – Want to keep your team? Offer employee share options

As a businessowner, you know the value of having a solid team to help drive growth and continued success. How to retain valued employees in today’s evolving market is another matter. Offering a stake in the business is one option that is gaining popularity among construction company owners, particularly when planning for retirement.

In a recent webinar for CHBA members, CHBA CEO Kevin Lee and Eben Louw, Partner of Succession Services at national accounting firm MNP, discussed how to retain your best employees through bonuses, profit sharing, and employee ownership plans. (Visit chba.ca/webinars to watch the recorded webinar.)

In this article, MNP’s Louw delves into the critical first step of structuring such plans: being sure of your business and personal goals. With a challenging environment and a younger workforce that may be motivated in different ways than previous generations, exploring different employee incentive options is becoming critical to achieve company goals. Employee share ownership programs (ESOPs) or employee profit-sharing programs (EPSPs) increasingly are gaining popularity, for retaining or creating incentives for one or more employees, succession planning, or because it worked well for another company.

The right questions to ask, however, may be deeper ones about your goals that are not short-term but are intended for the next three years or longer. You need to be crystal clear on these goals before a plan for employee ownership or profit sharing can be created and executed successfully.

 

Begin with an end in mind

Unsuccessful bonus or ownership plans often have no criteria attached to them. They aren’t linked to the company’s goals and expected outcomes, and aren’t entirely effective in moving the company forward.

The higher the level of uncertainty regarding desired outcomes, the less the incentive to do better. It is therefore critical to start with goals. Effectively, you have to decide where you want your team to help take your company before you reward them for their hard work.

Goals are varied and unique to your company and your situation. They can be related to company growth, as in a particular product line, division, or geography, or can seek to improve areas of vulnerability such as dealing with increasing competition, employee retention, or high cost of operations, amongst others. You are looking for specific people to contribute to specific outcomes and goals.

A critical consideration while outlining goals is identifying the owner’s or leadership’s personal goals. Plans would be designed differently for owners or leaders looking to retire in three to five years, compared to those who will be operating the business longer term.

Once the objective is clearly articulated, the next step is to create a strategy to help you get to your desired outcome.

Build a strategic program

People often think an employee incentive program related to the company’s success is based on an ownership stake in the company. But there are two forms of rewards to encourage ownership behaviour in employees.

One option allows employees to share in profits, and the other enables them to share in ownership. Both work and can even be used together very effectively.

How you structure these rewards and which options you select – whether a distinct type or a combination of the two – are entirely dependent on your specific business situation and goals, and there is no one-size-fits-all program.

Certain benefits apply to all types of programs, including:

  • Creating an employee ownership mentality.
  • Boosting productivity.
  • Increasing alignment of personal and company goals.
  • Building a self-motivating company culture.

Employee Profit-Sharing Programs

EPSPs, as the name suggests, are formalized profit-sharing programs in which employee incentives are linked to sharing profits and not ownership of the company. Various approaches are possible and some structures even allow for tax benefits.

The benefits of profit-sharing plans are that they can provide immediate rewards and help build motivation, while simultaneously retaining key employees. They are also relatively easier to create and manage than ownership-sharing plans as there are less legal complexities and employee rights to manage.

Employee Share Ownership Programs

ESOPs often incorporate the profit-sharing features of EPSPs and offer an ownership stake to employees. These range from small minority stakes to a gradual transfer of controlling ownership during the management buyout of a business.

The benefits of ESOPs are often longer-term retention of key people, especially if change in ownership is being phased in due to retirement or the owner’s exit from the business. They are a good succession mechanism and can also be a selection ground for future owners.

Share-ownership plans are typically more complex to set up than profit-sharing plans due to additional valuation and legal complexities.

Select the right people

Once your goals are clearly outlined, it is a key time to identify and select the right people to help you get there through ownership or profit sharing.

It’s important to identify the people who are critical to achieving your objectives. The person, group of individuals, or teams that you select should be the ones who will stay with the company, be part of your company’s end goal, and fuel it. They should display the ability to truly believe in the objectives and be self-motivated to lead the company towards success, functioning as dynamos within the organization. The right people will make a large difference and drive growth and change.

It is worth mentioning the people you select should already be displaying ownership thinking capabilities, even before being offered the incentives. Then, when you add incentives to make key parts of the business self-motivated and pointed in the same direction, the collective effort is greater.

Often people are selected for ownership or profit sharing for reasons such as tenure or a sense more is owed to them. While these may be good reasons, they should not be the primary decision-making criteria. A forward-thinking and strategic mindset is critical while making decisions on employee ownership or profit sharing, so the program magnifies the company’s results.

Throughout the processes, two owner behaviours will drive your program’s success: engagement and education. Both the company and the employees benefit from consistent dialogue on the program. The company understands its employees’ motivations and employees understand the company’s desired outcomes and their role in achieving the outcomes. Combined, this mutual support will greatly enhance the success of your company and its people, and how they share in the results they are working for.

To wrap up, employee ownership programs meet more success when you clearly define your end goals and build a program that empowers your people. Once complete, see how they move your company forward in a significant way.

For more information, contact by Eben Louw, CPA, CA, Partner, Business Consulting and Assurance, at 604-853-9471 or eben.louw@mnp.ca.

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This column first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Building Excellence, the official members’ magazine of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. For more information on the benefits of being a member of the CHBA, visit CHBA.ca. To view more content from Building Excellence magazine, visit BuildingExcellence.ca.


 

 

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Repeat Business

Generating repeat business by converting a single sale into a cash cow

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Generating repeat business by converting a single sale into a cash cow

Edited by Allan Britnell

Congratulations – you just made a sale! The customer trusted you enough to give you a try. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, having conducted sales training programs for more than 25 years, I’ve observed that gaining new customers also comes with bad news. Merely providing products or services as promised does not generate customer loyalty. Customers are too focused on their own lives and businesses to get excited about a single new supplier. All that effort that went into gaining that new customer and delivering on your promise often amounts to a single blip on your revenue screen.

Fortunately, by enhancing your customers’ perceived value of what they just purchased from you, you can leverage a first-time sale into a virtual lifetime of loyalty and referrals. Here are four ways to convert a single sale into a cash cow.

Mention the next phases

Some customers may stop buying from you simply because they’re not aware of your other products and services. That’s why when you’re putting together a proposal, it’s helpful to mention that – providing they are delighted with this “phase one” – then in future they might consider phase two and three (which you mention briefly). Resist the temptation to overwhelm them with all your additional offerings. You simply want to plant the seed that there are logical next steps available after this one.

Follow-up fast

Soon after the product is installed, contact the customer to ask if they have any questions about it. Also ask their opinion – things they like best about it. That kind of feedback is priceless when you talk with other potential customers. Then, a few months later, if there is some sort of scheduled maintenance or follow-up step the customer should be doing, call them to offer to help them with it. That gesture helps customers realize you didn’t just make a sale and forget about them. Chances are they’ll thank you for your thoughtfulness. That’s a great time to ask them to pass your name along to others who they think might benefit from your services.

Put your extra value in writing

If there’s a service that will be delivered over an extended period, provide regular written progress updates. During our home renovation for example, the general contractor would give us bi-weekly reports. The simplified spreadsheet showed the project’s actual costs vs. budget, along with a timeline showing the progress. With all the disruption in our home, it came as a pleasant surprise to receive regular reminders that our contractor was in fact under budget and ahead of schedule. Without those reports during the four-month project, as a customer, I likely would have just focused on the noise, cost, and inconvenience. Those updates made us feel good about hiring him two years later when we did our next renovation.

Provide a pleasant surprise

I’m not referring to buying your customers gift baskets or giving them trinkets emblazoned with your logo. Nothing wrong with those things, but the gestures that have more impact are the extras you provide that are part of your service that the customer doesn’t expect. A body shop that fixed my car’s door dent, not only washed the whole vehicle; they detailed the interior. Plus, they took the gear that was scattered in my truck and put it in a single cardboard box. Made me want to dent my door every six months! An HVAC specialist who fixed an air conditioning unit in our living room not only vacuumed the area he was working in – he also vacuumed the entire living room. I was hoping he could find work in the rest of house. You get the idea. Surprise customers with something visible that goes above and beyond the scope of the project. That’s when they’ll notice you, remember you, and reward you with their loyalty.

Bottom line

Notice how none of the strategies I mentioned demand a lot of time or money? What they do require is upfront planning, and the realization of how much they can pay off. My clients who incorporate these approaches report significant boosts in revenues, customer reviews, and referrals. It certainly beats putting in all the work required to make a new sale, and then being forced to hunt for a different customer.

Jeff Mowatt
Jeff Mowatt

This article is based on the bestselling book, “Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month” by business speaker, Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about engaging Mowatt for your team, visit JeffMowatt.com.


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PEER Review - Introducing the Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit Methodology

PEER Review – Introducing the Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit Methodology

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PEER Review – Introducing the Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit Methodology

As Canada’s existing housing stock ages, more and more homes will need to be renovated – not only to update their looks and adapt to how people use their homes today, but for increased energy efficiency. Our country has 14 million residences, and approximately half of that stock was built before 1985. Given that a home built to code today is 47% more efficient than one from 1985, if Canadians truly want to address climate change within the housing sector, we’re going to have to get innovative.

CHBA and its leading members have been working hard to pursue energy efficiency innovations for voluntary adoption, staying ahead of the curve while advocating that regulation wait until next levels don’t reduce affordability, both for new homebuyers and Canadians who already own a home. When possible, CHBA works with government to find solutions and offer industry assistance for research and development.

One promising approach that is currently being explored is using modular construction technology in renovations. The Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit (PEER) methodology is being championed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and was recently presented during a meeting of CHBA’s Canadian Renovators Council.

Before
Before

After
After

Using PEER technology in renovations

Applying the PEER technology involves four key steps:

  1. The building is accurately measured.
  2. Large exterior, airtight, super-insulated cladding panels are designed.
  3. The panels are manufactured offsite.
  4. The panels are delivered to the site and installed.

Utilizing PEER methodology will bring Canadian-manufactured housing companies together with renovators to create a market for prefabricated, energy efficient façades which can be retrofitted onto existing buildings.

The pictures (on the facing page) illustrate the potential of the process on a simple construction trailer which NRCan presented as a PEER “Proof of Concept” pilot. This gave the researchers a first-hand opportunity to study the construction retrofit process, assess the opportunities for energy performance potential, and determine the practical implications for construction.

This approach to renovation has several advantages:

  • Speed. Once the industry has experience, PEER has the potential to significantly reduce the time it takes to renovate homes and buildings to an improved level of energy performance.
  • Enhanced Performance. The PEER panels can be designed to add significant levels of insulation and improve the overall airtightness of a building. This improves occupant comfort, reduces utility costs, and protects the owner from future escalation of energy fuel costs.
  • Occupant Convenience. Since the renovation is completed largely from the outside, disruption to occupants is minimized. In many cases the occupants are not displaced by the renovation work.
  • Improved Curb Appeal. The renovation provides a complete facelift for the building. With appropriate material selection, the exterior will remain beautiful and maintenance-free for years.
  • No Loss of Floor Area. Many of Canada’s older homes have limited floor space. Occupants will appreciate the fact that the renovation is exterior and does not affect the useable interior floor space.

A Brief Overview of the Process

Measuring the Building

All seasoned renovators understand the importance of accurate measuring. So how close do the measurements need to be? For the position of windows, the window openings (height and width), and the overall building width, each has to be within ¼” (6 mm). Building height from the top of the foundation to the soffit, the average grade to the top of the foundation, and the centerline of building penetrations (including utility meters and service entrances) need to be within 1″ (25 mm).

The options for taking the measurements include:

  • Measuring by hand – This is the lowest cost, but least accurate.
  • Total Station Theodolite – While many of us have never employed this technology, equipment and operators are widely available. It is extremely accurate but does not capture as many points and as much detail as laser scanning. The data is easily imported into CAD drawings.
  • 3D Laser Scanning – This produces detailed datasets but they may be so large they are hard to work with. This approach has a high degree of accuracy. Special software is required to use the data. The scanner has difficulty capturing data from very dark or reflective surfaces.
  • 3D Photogrammetry – This technology uses a high-resolution camera to take pictures of the building, then uses software to calculate the measurements. The accuracy is lower than the theodolite and the laser. This technology is commonly used today for estimating roofing projects using aerial photos taken from planes or drones.

Designing the Panels

The panels include a “squishy” layer for plumbing the panel where it meets the existing building. Panels need to address the insulation requirements as well as airtightness.

PEER Panel Manufacturing

Panels can be constructed up to 24′ (7.4 m) in length. Ideally, panels will be manufactured offsite in a climate-controlled facility.

PEER Panel Delivery and Installation

Completed panels are transported to the site where they are moved into position with a crane. The panel’s weight is supported on brackets attached to the foundation. The panel is then secured to the framing of the existing walls. Panels are supplied as completed insulated wall assemblies including claddings, with windows and doors installed. The old windows and doors in the existing building wall will be removed prior to the PEER panel being installed.

Pilot Projects

The Butterwick Group, a CHBA member company based in Edmonton, is leading a 59-unit pilot project using wood-framed PEER panels to achieve Net Zero Ready. Ottawa Community Housing will also undertake a pilot to retrofit four townhomes to Net Zero Energy using structural insulated panels (SIP) in 2020.

The Time is Right

To address climate change, future renovations will need to involve deep energy retrofits. CHBA members get a leading advantage on new technologies and ways of doing business. And the Association advocates for factors that will hopefully contribute to homeowners’ interest in renovating for energy efficiency, including home renovation tax credits. With the help of government research and development, methodologies like PEER should allow projects to be completed faster, allowing renovators to help more Canadians each year improve their home’s efficiency. It can also help renovators take on larger residential projects that they might otherwise not consider, since PEER is equally applicable to large homes and buildings. All in all, the future looks bright (and energy efficient) for Canadian renovators.

Mark Carver is a Project Leader with the Housing Team at CanmetENERGY, Natural Resources Canada.
Gary Sharp is the Director of Renovator Services at CHBA.

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Payment Processing: Collect your cash quicker by giving clients various options

Collect your cash quicker by giving clients various options

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Collect your cash quicker by giving clients various options

Every home renovator wants to find more time in the day and money in the bank. Working closely with home renovators across Canada, I’ve come to realize they are often so consumed by day-to-day projects and getting the job done, that they aren’t able to step back and consider other ways they could be operating their business to help them save a significant amount of both time and money.

When it comes to money, I often have conversations with home renovators around payment because, oddly, it seems to be one of the most challenging parts to nail of any home renovation job. Or perhaps it’s one of the most elusive. To best navigate payment challenges, business owners need to ask themselves the question, “How do my customers actually want to pay?” Too often, contractors make the mistake of focusing on how they want to be paid, and not how their customers want to pay them, which leads to waiting weeks or months for payment. After all, no one wants to chase customers to collect money owed to them.

Of all the different types of businesses I work with, home renovators most routinely need to consider giving their customers more ways to pay. To avoid money headaches, there are three easy steps that contractors can take. The first is sending digital invoices that make it easy for customers to enter their card information. Automatic payment reminders can be built into the invoices so that you don’t have to spend your own time following up. Another consideration could be arming members of your team with a card reader to accept card payments on the spot, settling the payment right away. You can also have your back office save customer card information securely to a digital customer directory. This allows you to automatically charge a card that’s on file at various agreed-upon stages of a project.

Take Trevor Bouchard, founder and CEO of Quick Contractors — one of Canada’s largest networks of independent contractors — based in Guelph, Ont., as an example. He now relies heavily on technology to operate his business. He’s found that by adding Square tools into the mix, he’s been able to better manage his finances. His field teams were often collecting additional charges from customers in their homes. They would do this is through a call centre for credit card approvals or the antiquated way of writing a credit card number on a tri-copy invoice and mailing it to the head office. Bouchard knew there had to be a better way. Now his team of contractors has card readers to complete transactions on the spot. Bouchard believes that saves an average of 10 to 20 minutes per customer. For Bouchard, the savings means he can reallocate internal head count to more value-add functions. That’s not to mention all of the extra jobs they can complete in a day because contractors aren’t spending as much time in clients’ homes.

The next most common area I work on with contractors is to better organize the operations of their business. Contractors often stitch together different systems and processes to handle basic business operations, like saving customer information, managing their employees, and dealing with accounting matters. The problem is, these systems aren’t connected. In making each of these aspects digital and by selecting a provider where all of these tools are built to work together, you can track sales, employee performance, and customer activity from one dashboard, in real time. For example, Bouchard has found he now has more visibility into his staff and individual sales, and he can easily ensure that each field worker receives his or her profit from individual sales. It also means better customer relations for his business because he’s able to access the customer directory and address feedback around projects shared easily through their digital receipt if anyone might not be happy.

Home renovators perhaps know better than anyone else what can get done easily with the right tools in place. The same very much applies to having the right tools in place for the operations of your business.

Karisa Marra is a business expert at payments and point-of-sale company Square.


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Five unwritten rules of customer confidentiality

Five unwritten rules of customer confidentiality

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Five unwritten rules of customer confidentiality

Did you ever have a potential customer who should have been excited about doing business with you but seemed reserved? It happened in a weird way for me. The senior managers seated around the boardroom table were excited that their new technology would disrupt their market and separate them from every competitor. They had brought me in to help craft their sales message and to eventually train their reps on how to introduce it to their customers. Along with their excitement, though, I sensed some tension. So after I was introduced, my first remark was: “I know this goes without saying. I just want it known for the record that everything we discuss here will be treated by me as confidential.” I immediately noticed this huge look of relief on the face of the CEO. From that point on, things went just fine.

Customers may not feel comfortable asking you for discretion, but they always appreciate it. Unfortunately, in today’s world of social media, coffee shops used as offices and cellphones that record anything anywhere, confidentiality seems to be backsliding into a state of dangerous decline. That’s why you can gain tremendous trust with customers by simply following these five unwritten rules of customer confidentiality. Ignore them at your peril.

Rule #1: Know that you are in a position of trust: We’ve all heard of doctor/patient confidentiality and lawyer/client privilege. Doctors and lawyers are sworn to secrecy about their customers’ affairs for good reason. Your customers deserve the same discretion from you. When you talk to others about your customers, assume that the customer is in the room with you, or will read everything you post or write about them. If what you’re sharing isn’t complimentary and publically known, then keep it to yourself.

Rule #2: Remember Starbucks isn’t a confession booth: I once hired a consultant who was based in another city to do some work on our website. We scheduled a conversation about my brand and target market. To my dismay, he logs into the call from a coffee shop. Throughout our conversation, I’m seeing customers come and go in the background. Not only was it distracting, it felt like a violation of my privacy as a client. There are good reasons why lawyers and accountants won’t host you in their office. Instead, meetings are held in a private room. One reason is that you shouldn’t see confidential files lying on their desk from other clients. Another reason is so your meeting will not be seen or overheard by others. Coffee shops are for casual coffee, not for doing business.

Rule #3: There’s a difference between small talk and prying: Ever have this happen to you in a restaurant while you’re paying for the meal: the server is standing by your table waiting for you to input your credit card PIN on the portable device and asks, “So what are your plans for the rest of the day (evening, weekend, whatever)?” Pardon? When did our relationship as patron/server evolve to the intimacy of me needing to share my weekend plans? The key to making small talk sound natural and appropriate is context and relevance. Unless you’ve been chatting about weekend plans with that person, better to stick to safe topics like the weather as in, “So you’re heading outside…. Have you heard a forecast?”.

Rule #4: Yes, your cellphone conversation is annoying: People who talk at length on cellphones around other people sound like jackasses. Seriously. It reflects a total lack of self-awareness and distain for basic civility. It also tells people around them they don’t respect the privacy of the person on the other end of the phone. They’re damaging their own reputation and are too oblivious to realize it. Don’t be one of them. Move to a quiet area and lower your voice.

Rule #5: Strong feelings don’t necessitate expressing them: This is perhaps the most important confidentiality lesson at work and in life. We can’t unsay, unpost, or unTweet our opinions and observations. No doubt you can think of numerous examples at work and in the news where a little discretion and self-restraint would have saved significant fallout. While it’s tempting to be drawn into adding our two cents to a discussion, perhaps the greatest contribution we can make to the relationship is remaining silent. We hope in turn that when we say or do something less than brilliant, others won’t share it with the world. Ironically, kindness and maturity are often best reflected — and trust is sometimes most strongly earned — by simply shutting up.

This article is based on the bestselling book, Influence with Ease, by business speaker, Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team, visit his website.

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Buy Not

Buy Not – Renting equipment can be a cost-effective way to access the latest technology

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Buy Not – Renting equipment can be a cost-effective way to access the latest technology

An unpredictable market, rising costs, and steep competition have all contributed to the growth of equipment rentals across multiple industries. More and more, builders, contractors, and construction companies are relying on rental equipment to meet short-term project demands, manage costs, and stay on schedule. From residential to commercial projects, the industry is responding to this change by giving contractors more options to access the right equipment for the job – from ownership to rental, lease, and variations in between.

The industry is changing

Rental was once viewed as a quick fix for unexpected needs, but renting equipment versus buying is fast becoming an appealing alternative, providing companies confidence they can get the equipment they need, when they need it. This allows landscaping companies, particularly those with a seasonal operation, access to the right equipment at the right time, using rentals to respond to variable demands while managing overall costs. Working with an equipment provider who can ensure you get the most out of your equipment is a key factor in making your business successful over the long-term.

The cost of doing business

The decision to buy or rent equipment comes down to costs and availability. New equipment and the post purchase expenses associated with ownership – transporting, maintaining, repairing, and storing – is a major expense for most landscaping companies, especially those just starting out who may have limited cash flow. The ability to take on a new project at a moment’s notice is crucial to maintaining a competitive advantage. It can mean the difference between winning or losing a job. Having access to the right piece of equipment at a reasonable cost could easily put you ahead of the competition. Poorly managed expenses can cut into both profitability and productivity, which is why balancing equipment availability and costs is key. When you consider the impact of large down payments and financing, and then add in varying project demands and workload, having flexible options to manage equipment availability and cost becomes not just a choice, but a necessity to keeping businesses afloat.

Taking advantage of technology

Every job comes with unique project demands and deadlines, which require equipment and resources to get the job done. The challenge is always the same – how do we make the most of our equipment while keeping costs low and productivity high? Renting can offer contractors new technology on equipment they may not otherwise have access to. Gone are the days of making do with whatever machines are available – many rental companies are now offering low-hour machines with the latest technology to help businesses operate more efficiently.

The right equipment rental partner works closely with contractors to help understand their needs, and provide the right equipment, technology, and training, ensuring operators can quickly learn to operate the equipment effectively. And with the power of connected machines comes the ability to access and analyze data from a maintenance and performance perspective, helping businesses make better decisions on determining the right equipment for the job.

Great Canadian Landscaping Company turns to Finning to stay on track

Chris O’Donohue always knew he would have a career in landscaping, even from a young age. He founded The Great Canadian Landscaping Company 19 years ago with a pickup truck, some landscaping tools and 15 weekly lawn maintenance customers.

He now operates a thriving year-round landscaping business on Vancouver’s North Shore with more than 55 employees servicing 350-plus clients throughout the area. He is well on his way to achieving his goal of becoming one of the leading landscaping companies in the lower mainland. O’Donohue knows, having a successful landscaping business means having the right tools and equipment for the job – and knowing that equipment is performing well. When talking about his partnership with Finning he says, “What set Finning apart from the competition was the all-in maintenance package and one monthly payment – it’s much easier to run a business day-in and day-out if we know the reliability and service is always going to be there for us if something happens to the equipment.”

Another deciding factor for him was the safety of his operators, the people who would be running the equipment every day and knowing they are operating safe equipment was key. “One of the things our employees really like with the Cat equipment is the backup camera, being able to see what they are doing when they are reversing is very important when it comes to our safety on site,” says O’Donohue.

Climate-controlled cabs also means his operators stay comfortable all day long and come back to the job the next day rested and ready to work. Working with Finning has allowed his team to have peace of mind knowing whatever happens on a site will be dealt with by a service technician who can repair the equipment and do any warranty work at a moment’s notice.

Kim Carlson, GM Rental and Used Operations, Finning Canada


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Urban Heat Islands

Hot town summer in the city

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Hot town summer in the city

Edited by Allan Britnell

For the last 100 years, scientists have been exploring the reason why temperatures are so much warmer in the city compared to the rural areas surrounding them. This phenomenon, called an urban heat island, is a direct result of our activities.

Unfortunately, with global warming, this increased heat continues to go up in areas with lots of stone and concrete like parking lots and even in our own backyards. Even though more cities are investing in green spaces and promoting green roof technology, several online sources state that more than 70 percent of all of the surfaces that we are currently installing in our landscaped spaces are concrete, pavement, stone, or pavers. We are turning our own backyards into mini urban heat islands! Now if you have a client who wants a patio or if you specialize in stone masonry and installation, then there is good news. There are simple ways to reduce the heat in the backyard and still have a beautiful space that will not only last for years it will help increase the home’s value.

Help your clients choose lighter stone colours. Dark stones using black or dark grey pigments have been very popular for the last decade. Like wearing black clothes on a sunny day, dark stone choices heat up way more than the lighter options. White paving stones have become very popular for designers because of the modern aesthetic. Unfortunately, while going with a white paver might be better to displace heat, the idea of the sun bouncing off of the surface already makes my eyes hurt just thinking about it. Instead, I try and move my clients towards lighter colours that have flecks or speckles of darker material in them.

Throwing shade: Cantilevered umbrellas keep the sun off of guests, while rugs help prevent stonework from absorbing too much heat.
Throwing shade: Cantilevered umbrellas keep the sun off of guests, while rugs help prevent stonework from absorbing too much heat.

Incorporate shade into the design

By increasing the amount of permanent shade on the patio, you reduce the amount of sunlight and heat that the stones actually absorb. I’m a big fan of a pergola with large fabric panels that can be installed every spring and removed before the snow. This is such an important add-on to any project. Make sure to ask your clients if they have planned on adding shade. If a pergola is not for them, suggest using a large umbrella. I’ve been impressed with a lot of the new technology in umbrellas lately. Solar-powered models that are cantilevered with a good heavy base not only allows you to create shady all day long, they also charge in the sun, creating free light wherever you need it at night!

Simply adding an outdoor rug is also an effective way of displacing the heat. While stone may absorb and hold the warmth of the sun, the synthetic fibres of outdoor rugs don’t. Even the darkest rugs hold significantly less heat than a dark patio stone. They also act as a barrier between the sun and your patio, preventing it from heating up in the first place.

This summer is going to be a hot one across the country. Lets educate our clients so that we all work towards managing the urban heat islands that we are creating in our backyard.

Carson Arthur is a landscape designer and television personality.


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Exterior Finishing Options

Thinking outside the box – Five exterior trends that your clients will fall in love with

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Thinking outside the box – Five exterior trends that your clients will fall in love with

An exterior facelift can dramatically transform the feeling of the entire home. The days of the cookie cutter subdivision homes are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Exteriors present an opportunity for builders to highlight their creativity through textures, colours, and materials. The designs of tomorrow are anything but boring. Delight your clients by showcasing these trends that are ramping up curb appeal and creating spaces that are uniquely their own.

The new neutral

Does the word neutral have you stifling a yawn? Don’t worry. The world has finally woken up and said a huge goodbye to boring beige. Today’s neutrals are far from subdued. Instead, they are about creating an emotional and aesthetically pleasing experience. Once seen as accent colours, greys and blues are moving to the forefront. These colours beautifully complement a natural landscape, while also evoking a feeling of warmth and comfort. Classic white is also having a comeback. But this time, it is enhanced with an eye-catching, dramatic black trim. This expanded colour scheme makes it easy for homeowners to create a place that is uniquely their own without being overly dramatic or garish. However; they are looking for the builder’s eye and expertise to help determine the colour scheme that is the right fit for their home.

Add depth to your exterior through textures

Changing the façade of the home is one of the easiest ways to create a complete transformation. Whether it’s using contrasting gloss levels of the same material or self-patterned siding, the textured look is on trend. Builders can aid clients with their decision by highlighting the variety of materials that are available and each of their benefits. At the same time, they can showcase their own originality by creating depth with contrasting materials or using textures to ramp up the eye-catching appeal. Materials, like aluminium, are an extremely versatile, durable product that can be used either as an accent or for the complete exterior.

A conscious choice

Colour is not the only way that homeowners are making their mark on their space. They are actively seeking products constructed in a way that they can feel good about. An increasing number of homeowners are recognizing the value in aluminium siding – both from an environmental standpoint and an aesthetic one. When offering materials to your clients, seek out companies who have a strong waste management program and integrate sustainability as part of their values. This includes showcasing companies that use recycled and reused materials and are actively implementing strategies to reduce their overall environmental impact. Products such as high-tensile aluminium siding, offer strength, durability, and the sustainability values that today’s homeowners are seeking.

Making their own mark

Once restricted to home interiors, clients are awakening to the possibilities in exterior customization. Homeowners are using these spaces to showcase their personality and tell the story of their families. Help your customers make an amazing first impression by designing a home that is uniquely theirs. The beauty of personalization is that there truly are no rules. Integrate products such as modern aluminium siding into a home to highlight focal points with an updated, clean look. Amp up the wow factor with dark on dark colour schemes or bring in the look of wood for the client that wants that cabin getaway without the upkeep of natural wood. The beauty of this trend is that it allows builders to exercise their creativity; crafting exteriors that will truly wow and delight your customer.

Thinking outside the home

Homeowners are increasingly excited about the possibilities of exterior design. Workshops, she sheds, man caves, and garages are no longer an afterthought. Homeowners are actively integrating these structures into their exterior design to create a seamless look. On the flip side, their smaller footprint provides an opportunity to explore new design elements and higher price point items. Builders can spark the homeowner’s creativity by showcasing ways to elevate these exteriors spaces. This serves as an opportunity to bring forward high-end design pieces, dramatic colours and variances in texture to truly bring these spaces to life. Whether it’s giving an entire home a facelift or enhancing a home through accent pieces, homeowners are paying attention to exterior designs. Builders can easily elevate the curb appeal of the home by varying materials, playing with colour schemes, or using innovative materials to draw focus to unique elements of the home. The current trends present an opportunity for builders to bring the personality of the homeowner forward. The end result: exterior spaces that are creative, innovative, and enhance the overall homeowner experience.

Diana Sousa is the product consultant and marketing director for Kaycan Exterior Siding Solutions.


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How to move customers past price

How to move customers past price

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How to move customers past price

Edited by Allan Britnell

Do your team members ever give you this excuse when your company loses a customer, “Our competitors are hammering us on price. That’s why we’re losing business.” It’s a convenient excuse that puts the blame on those nasty competitors. But the truth is, most customers don’t buy based on price alone. If that were true we’d all live in the cheapest homes, buy the cheapest vehicles, and every time we went out to eat, we’d always eat fast food. As you know, customers buy based on overall perceived value. The question becomes, what do today’s customers value – to such a degree they will willingly pay a premium? The answers may surprise you.

What Customers Really Want

Having worked with more 400 client organizations and conducted surveys of 11,000 of their customers, we discovered there are some 35 factors that customers consider (often subconsciously) when they decide to pay a premium. Here are two that I talk about in my training seminars and speeches.

Selection is Overrated

Today’s customers suffer from decision fatigue. It begins first thing in the morning when they decide what to wear, which lane to drive in, and which of the hundreds of emails or posts on their portable devices are worth their attention. So when it comes to buying something, the last thing customers want is a large selection that makes choosing complicated.

What customers really want in today’s world of too much clutter is what I call A.I.D. – Analysis, Interpretation, and Direction. Customers want you to analyze the various options available for them, interpret those options based on the customer’s individual needs, and direct the customer to a maximum of three choices. In other words, for complex purchases customers don’t want to work with an order taker. What they value is a trusted advisor.

Don’t Be Better, Be Different

When it comes to discussing your offerings with potential customers, claiming your product or service is better than the competition won’t likely motivate them to switch to you. Chances are your established competitors are not selling junk. In customers’ minds, if what they’re currently buying is reasonably good, then it’s not worth the risk and hassle of switching over to you for a slight improvement in quality. Unless you’re offering something that provides a different – as opposed to better – way to achieve an outcome, customers often stick with the devil they know.

That brings us to how you communicate your uniqueness. After listening to the customers’ specific needs, describe to them the conventional solutions to their particular problem. Then explain that given the customer’s unique needs, conventional approaches won’t achieve the desired outcome, and how they may instead create unintended negative consequences. Then reveal how you are bringing a different type of solution; one that addresses their unique needs while avoiding undesirable consequences. Now the customer sees you as significantly different and price becomes less relevant.

Bottom Line

Trying to beat your competitors’ prices is rarely a profitable strategy; especially if you’re not a huge organization with massive economies of scale. Instead, remember that what customers really want is greater overall value. Often getting your customers to move beyond price simply means training your team members to change the way they talk with customers. To boost your profits and market share, could it be time for a tune-up of your team’s customer communications skills?

This article is based on the bestselling book, Influence with Ease, by motivational speaker, Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team, visit his website.

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