Matthew Smith’s Habitations Mapleridge Homes in Chelsea, Quebec, is a success story that proves contractors who think creatively and absorb all the marketing knowledge they can (in a practical sense) can do quite well, even when local market conditions can be described as challenging.
“Challenge” is the positive euphemism for “problem”. Chelsea isn’t a bad market, like, say, parts of the U.S. where conditions are acutely depressed, but any contractor working in Quebec — especially whose primary language is English — has issues to deal with that counterparts in places like South Carolina or Virginia would spit nuts to avoid.
Quebec has laws which require you to use labour associated with specific construction unions. (The exception to this rule, “small renovation” businesses, probably adds to Smith’s challenges and may create some opportunities for him.) It also has language laws meaning that every business must offer primary identification and service in its marketing in French (even if your clients are primarily English, and Chelsea is a largely English-speaking part of Quebec. In other words, the industry in Quebec is probably more regulated than it is in virtually any north American jurisdiction. Although not directly related to Smith’s business, major corruption issues have arisen in public works construction, involving the unions, organized crime, bikers, politicians and others. It is a mess.
So how is he thriving and growing? Smith has evolved his business from new home construction to renovation work, figuring out the best way to work with (to an outsider) Quebec’s arcane regulations, and has discovered that his biggest advantage is his knowledge and understanding of the local tradespeople. He has selected sub-contactors who are both competent and resourceful, and will deliver the work on time and to the quality clients expect.
These subs also provide him with great referral leads. They tell him about potential projects which require skills outside of their trade, Smith takes on the assignment, and they are (naturally) called back to perform the work. Of course clients receive real value because the work is done to the highest standard. Word of mouth and solid internet/website marketing also help.
Smith also is a sponge for knowledge. He follows Michael Stone and observes his guidelines about markup and profit — and he is getting his prices. Notably, he sat near the front of the room at a table with me and John Liptak, another successful renovation contractor. He also had not hesitation to purchase a copy of my book, on John’s recommendation.
Undoubtedly construction best practices depend on local market conditions and regulations. They also vary depending on whether you build new homes, renovations, commercial, industrial, or institutional projects. Some basic rules apply to everyone, however. Benchmark “industry norms” provide clues about where you should be — and your effective application of solid marketing practices will take you much further than simply following the pack (or doing nothing.)