Contractor Mark Brooks on Why He Uses an Answering Service

Answering for Heartwood Construction & Renovations Inc.

What’s the name of your business?heartwood-alliance-wireless-communications

Heartwood Construction & Renovations Inc. 

How long have you had Heartwood Construction?

We’re just starting our 20th year, so a little over 19 years.

How long have you been working in construction?

29 and a half years.

What do you like about working in construction?

Most people let me do what I want to do. I design and I work with engineers and architects. 9 times out of 10 people are asking my opinion and let me do the things I know how to do. It’s a nice feeling when someone phones you up and thanks you for the job, appreciates the job. It’s a good feeling and it makes all the more difficult ones easier to handle. So it’s pretty good. I’ve always thought I’ve had a really good job because I’ve been doing this for so long – and estimating and managing and all that kind of stuff – I come and go as I please. I do what I want when I want. It’s pretty straight forward. There’s no time clock.

What sorts of things motivate you?

Helping people out I guess. In our world, there’s a lot of – I hate to say this – not so great contractors and not so great people and a lot of dishonesty and many things like that. I like helping people out, I like being there. I always tell my customers I’m a home owner’s contractor. I’m not going to screw them over; I’ve got to sleep at night. I just want to do a good job. I like giving people jobs, I give a lot of people a lot of jobs both on my staff and sub-trades and suppliers and that’s a nice feeling. It’s a nice feeling when we get the job done. Those are my motivational things that keep me going.

What are some of the challenges that you face with your job?

The internet is one. People that have a lot of spare time on their hands, that have time to go on the internet and shows like Mike Holmes, those are all things that make our job more difficult and challenging. People that don’t let me do my job, those kinds of things. That’s primarily it.

So you mean people taking it into their own hands, thinking that they have more expertise?

Yeah that’s it. They come in and they have their ideas and we have to go by code and proper etiquette and things like that. It’s just, there’s a lot of people out there that just make it harder for us.

You can see that in shows like “Canada’s Worst Handyman”.

To be honest it’s something you have to see. What we see in the projects and like what I talk about with my staff every morning, the things that we see, the homes that are built both old and new what they’re like. You know, there are some really good builders out there, there’s some really good renovators out there but there’s a lot of guys that shouldn’t be doing it and they shouldn’t be allowed to do it. Listen, we’re not perfect in any stretch of the imagination but we’re here after 19 years and you know, when we make a mistake we go back and fix it and that’s just what it is. And then you get the home owner’s that just don’t want to pay their bills, that have some sort of excuse and you’ve got to fight and courts are involved and everything else. That’s the down side of what we do. And I hear it every day not just from our end, from the home owner’s end, from the suppliers end; people not paying their bills, people going under with their businesses because people aren’t paying their bills. Sometimes we as contractors are our own worst enemy not doing the right paperwork and not following up and things like that. You wouldn’t believe it.

What were some of the challenges you faced before hiring an answering service?

To be honest, I’ve always had access to that. I’m a believer in it. It’s an expense, it’s not a big expense in my eyes. But I’ve always been a believer that the bigger your company, you tend to lose focus and you tend to lose the identity of the home owner. You’re so big that you lose all that. It’s one of the things I’ve always hated, you need to talk to a person. You phone up other companies in Kingston and you get a recording and you’ve got to press this button and that button to get to people. My sister’s worked for me since January 1998 and I had part-time help before that. I want someone answering the phones and when I use Alliance Wireless for example and I get this all the time, my customers always think it’s my secretary who is my sister. It’s nice that the personnel on the Alliance end is so good that they think it’s my own personal staff; very, very helpful. I get no complaints from people from Alliance. They take the information and it’s ideal and it makes it good for us. So I’ve been a firm believer in that. When I worked for Dacon and the other companies, we always had answering services and pagers and all that kind of stuff. I’ve always had that and I’m a believer in it.

I’m glad we’ve been able to – on our end – represent your business the way it should be because you definitely have a good reputation in this community for what you do. And you’re working on Brad French’s (Owner of Alliance Wireless) house too aren’t you?

Oh yeah. And it’s great, they let me do my job. They phone and ask my opinion, they let me do my job; this will be smooth. Yeah there’ll be hiccups. His house isn’t overly well put together by any stretch of the imagination, that’s a challenge but that makes us stronger. When we get into something difficult that makes us better, makes us stronger contractors and we’ll know that for the next project we get into because every problem and every house adds a different element to our work every day. So it just makes you better and that’s what you want.

I teach my guys to be well rounded. You know, if I get whacked by a truck someday they can leave here knowing that people are going to hire them because they worked for me which is not that easy. They’re going to be well rounded, they’re going to be able to do a lot of everything. Whether you’re a carpenter or whether you’re one of my kids or whoever; you want to go out into the world being well rounded. All these projects that we do make us that way.      

That’s good that you’re investing that time in your employees and thinking about the future.

Every morning we go over stuff. Every single morning that they’re at my table we go over something; a problem, an issue, how to do financing, banking stuff, there’s always something I can throw out based on my – I’m 51 – so based on my 51 years that I’ve learned. A lot of that, which I’ve learned by myself, and if I can extend that information to some of my guys it makes them better people.

Well that’s great! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

It’s just about being people and doing our best which is what we do. We do our best, not without mistakes, not without issues. We do it honestly and that’s why we’ve been around for as long as we have. We’re one of the more versatile companies in town (Kingston) that do what we do. There’s bigger guys that do what we do but in commercial and stuff like that but we’re probably one of the bigger home renovators around. Us and Joe from KB who’s a good guy. It’s just nice we’ve been around for over 19 years. You know, 19 years ago when I had my first vehicle and I never thought for one second we’d have offices and we’d be doing what we do in a year and I’d have 13 employees and 7 trucks and all that kind of stuff, never thought for one second. So it’s quite a difference, we’ll see how much longer I can do this.

It’s great you can do what you love and be successful at it.

It’s been pretty good, it’s been fun. I’ve made my mistakes along the way, learned a crap-load and it’s alright you know. I’m a better person for it, I’m a better person because of the people that I hire and the people that I work for. It makes me a better person and I’ve learned a lot, absolutely a ton.

That’s the key to success; being open to learning new things.

Oh yeah. We have to. There’s always changes in our world. Dealing with all the building inspectors you learn a bunch from those guys and girls. Everybody has a job to do so we just kind of keep our mouths shut and do our job and listen and keep our eyes open and hopefully at the end of each project you make some money.

Heartwood Construction & Renovations Inc. has been serving the Greater Kingston Area since 1995. From simple renovations to complete residential and commercial projects Heartwood has the skill set, manpower. equipment and processes to see your project through from start to completion. Call them at (613) 386-5000 or visit their website at www.heartwoodconstruction.ca

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