Serving the picturesque market of Georgian Bay, Ontario, Justin Thompson and Mike Ribout’s Alair Homes franchise exudes the high-quality standards the franchise is known for across its nearly 100 locations throughout North America. The Alair Homes motto, “Living better starts here,” is as true for the entire company as it is for each franchise location and, indeed, each franchisee. Of himself and his co-owner in the business, Thompson says, “We chose this franchise because it aligned with exactly what our intentions were – living better starts here, not just for our clients, but for each person who works for or with us, such as tradespeople and suppliers, as well as their families.”
Thompson has been with the franchise for two-and-a-half years now, and is as excited today as he was when he first started. The Alair philosophy was totally in line with his own: “To provide a service to our clients while doing what we love.”Alair Homes provides custom home building and home and commercial renovation services. To scroll through the galleries on the franchise’s polished interactive client-facing website is to see a gorgeous array of its successful projects – clear testaments to the strength of this franchise.
Alair Homes projects are typically high-end undertakings with large budgets, and these luxury services mean that an incredible amount of trust is needed between franchise and client. “The franchise model eliminates a lot of the stress and risk, which construction has a bad track record for,” Thompson says, noting how much he values the support system that’s built right into the franchise model.
A typical day
As a father of two young boys, Thompson’s day starts early, at 5:30 a.m., with himself and his wife getting their kids ready for school and daycare. After dropping his youngest off at daycare, he tries to be at his desk at 7:45. “I like to be the first in the office, to set the tone for the day for everybody.” A positive start to everyone’s day makes for a more productive day, and that’s exactly what Thompson wants – to make the most out of each working hour so that everyone can also benefit from a fulfilling work-life balance.
As with many jobs these days, going through email comes first – sorting out tasks into order of importance and urgency, flagging things for follow up, and then building a calendar for the day. Thompson tries to keep his client meetings to the mornings so that he and his team can prepare for the next day’s meetings in the afternoons – sales meetings, meetings about new projects, estimates, meetings with real estate developers, etc. Thompson’s goal, “to be at home for dinner every day,” means he tries to limit evening meetings – usually trying to lump them into one or two evenings a week. It’s not always possible to eliminate all evening or weekend work, since meetings with home-building clients typically have to be done during clients’ leisure time, but overall work-life balance is incredibly important to the company’s ethos, and it’s encouraged at every level.
Before joining Alair Homes, Thompson says his work days never really ended, but now, with this franchise model, he’s able to structure his day in a way that allows him to be less reactionary to things that crop up unexpectedly – to figure out the most efficient way forward with his team, and to make sure that no matter what, “every person who comes through our door (or email inbox!) is getting the same attention, even as the franchise grows.”
On top of the daily meetings with clients and external partners, the in-house team has a weekly meeting every Friday where it looks at the week ahead and discusses what it will need to move the current and upcoming projects forward. Throughout the week, Thompson and his partner will consult with the various project managers, “supporting them in day-to-day things that arise, and ensuring that we manage growth well.”
Indeed, one of Thompson’s favourite parts of the job is supporting the project managers with front-end challenges, like client care. Any of the back-end operational challenges are fairly standard to any business – making sure that office services are up and running. All the work that goes into a successful front-end business is what drives Thompson and his teams.
It starts with the mindset
When Thompson got into the franchise, he had some background in construction and renovation, which certainly helped him at the outset. But, he notes, “First and foremost, you have to have the mindset that you truly care about people and that you want to help people.” Success in the business always comes down to this, which he admits is hard to teach – it’s really something that people drawn to the Alair Homes franchise have in common when they walk in the door.
Since Alair Homes is a luxury brand and there are high expectations from clients, franchisees must be confident in their work. The model is set up so that you don’t need to be an expert in every aspect of the business – it’s structured so that everyone can play to their strengths and know that someone equally strong is taking care of the other areas with each project.
As well, Alair Homes has a strong support network. With its nearly 100 offices across North America, Thompson knows he could call any one of them and get advice about plans, day-to-day operations, etc. “They are all running the exact same process model, and are all like-minded – it’s incredibly unique to have that support network.”
“Reflecting on yourself, what your strengths are, and where you can excel will ensure that you build a really good team of people who have different strengths that complement you, and vice versa,” Thompson says. “This is how you create a really strong, winning team.”
The macro network of support behind the franchise is there to guide franchisees through each process and to encourage them to be the best that they can be. “It really struck a chord with me – this is super unique to any franchise model, but especially in construction. This is the global stuff that sets us apart.”
On the micro end, all of the company’s tools have been developed and honed over the years, and are at the ready for new franchisees – from interactive software and a comprehensive and stylish website to branding and print material. “Everything that goes along with a successful franchise,” Thompson notes, is already part of the Alair Homes infrastructure.
Since the franchise has such a strong foundation and such strong resources both on the books and in its people, one of the best things a new franchisee can do, Thompson says, is “to be really open-minded and listen to people who have already been involved. Really listen to their advice and what they’ve learned from their mistakes and challenges – really take that all in.”
With such a positive overall company philosophy, it’s clear why Thompson and his associates are excited about the future of the franchise, and why they all work to build on its success every day.
By Jessica Burgess