14 May Evelynn Ratcliffe – Partner Spotlight – Forest Hill, Ontario
FROM SWIMMING WITH SHARKS AND CLIMBING THE CORPORATE LADDER IN CANADA TO SWIMMING WITH SEA TURTLES IN THE CARIBBEAN
If you were to scroll through Evelynn Ratcliffe’s personal Instagram, you would never believe she is behind a $10–million-dollar construction company in Ontario, Canada. Her Instagram looks more like she is a full-time adventure-seeker living next to an oceanic oasis. Turquoise waters and sandy beaches, champagne toasts with breathtaking sunsets in the distance, surfing and hiking and exploring, and boating and horse-riding adventures with her family are enough to make anyone envious of the life she is living.
What you find if you scroll through her two business pages on Instagram (@alairhomesforesthill and @alairhomesmarkham) is very different. You will see photos of award-winning homes and renovations that make Toronto and their clients’ lives better. You will see a team of top professionals who are all building a fast-growing business together. You will see the charitable rebuild of a local martial arts studio that helps empower youth. You will see community outreach programs, donation drives, and behind the scenes, videos showcasing some of the most notable homes in Canada.
One might wonder, how is it truly possible for her to lead two construction companies in Canada while working remotely from the beach in the south Caribbean?
BEFORE THE CARIBBEAN
With 20 plus years of marketing experience in strategic consulting with small and large corporations, Evelynn Ratcliffe took the leap to leave a life of burnout to join Alair Homes and live a life of flexibility.
Thinking back, when her now business partner, Andrew Black, of two successful Alair offices in the Greater Toronto Area, first suggested she join his team, she didn’t immediately jump at the offer he was making her.
Andrew was looking to scale up his business prior to joining Alair, and knew Evelynn would be a strong asset to the team, to complement his tenacious drive and ambition. However, she was focused on climbing the corporate ladder in Toronto, so she declined at the time.
“I was focused on growing my marketing and consulting career; I was not interested in ‘working with my hands’, which is what I assumed the home building industry would be all about,” she recalls. “Andrew would reach out from time to time to see if I had changed my mind, but I was still focused on a corporate career.”
Nearly eight years later, Evelynn found herself working on a start-up project that was coming to a close. While she had accomplished so much in her career by that point, it donned on her that her ascension up the corporate ladder did not paint a destination picture she felt truly fulfilled by. Working long hours for businesses that weren’t her own, she realized that her dreams of flexibility and freedom were at the mercy of her ambition — that the two concepts were mutually exclusive, not feeding into each other as she had once hoped and dreamed. With this epiphany, she reached out to Andrew, who had since joined Alair, to ask if his offer was still on the table to which he replied, “Yes, can you start on Monday?”
Evelynn admits she had to learn a lot about the construction industry, but her superior organizational and strategic planning skills gave her a natural head start in terms of understanding and embracing the model and process of a franchise system. “Andrew and his business had come a long way, and with the structure of Alair behind it, was growing in a direction I could really agree with.”
“The first eight months were spent dedicating myself to every aspect of our client and employee experience,” said Evelynn. “Andrew was the perfect person to learn from, since he has spent his lifetime in this industry. However, so much of his knowledge was stored in his head, and if we wanted to scale the business, we would need to extract all that knowledge, and develop systems to be able to replicate his know-how. Focusing on exceeding the standards of attention, care, and service for our clients through proven processes is where I thrive, and to come to a company where I could contribute this ultimately allowed me to work on the business; not in the business.”
Together, Evelynn and Andrew work towards the same goals. This has enabled the team to optimize their efforts, which fundamentally brought more balance to their lives. Sharing the load—together— and playing to each other’s strengths, they’ve built a healthy and sustainable business with a great culture, and strong sales.
BUILDING THE BUSINESS
While Andrew focuses on the production side of the business, Evelynn thrives in overseeing marketing, market research and development, and stakeholder engagement.
“Fundamentally, the ability to split common leadership tasks between two people both contributing to the common vision, mission and values of our business means we are able to more quickly and successfully scale up our business while giving us the freedom to spend time with our families,” she said. “Family and community both mean a lot to Andrew and me, and being part of Alair has allowed us to do things we would never have been able to do in regular business.”
BUSINESS FROM THE BEACH
Evelynn proved this in 2020 and 2021 when she moved with her family to Barbados for a six-month adventure in the sun.
“The pandemic created a rare and positive moment for us in that our kids were doing online learning, and my husband and I decided to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she says. “It was truly because of how Andrew and I are set up with Alair, as well as his support that enabled me to live a dream life with my family in the Caribbean while creating a dream business back in Canada.”
Doing Zoom calls from the beach house while staring out the window looking at a monkey while operating a business like nothing has changed is not something one might think is reality, but the reality is Alair’s franchise model led to the freedom Evelynn was searching for the majority of her career.
“I humbly, but proudly can say we have earned financial freedom and it genuinely feels so good to say ‘we’re running a $10–million–dollar business!’—but it hasn’t also been sunshine and roses, we’ve had our tough days, but have also had the support of the franchise system to help us through,” says Evelynn. “Despite some ups and downs, our top priority has been to build trust with our team and clients so that we can today, and 52 weeks a year, say it’s fun to run our company.”
“We can also say we have time—money is renewable; time is not. Not only can Andrew and I take time off and be with our families, but we can also be in an entirely different continent and know our business will be just fine! That’s true freedom to me,” says Evelynn.
With technology, the partners have identified the power and capability in collaboration and have a five-year plan where the sky is the limit.
“We aim to open a third and fourth office this year and have options that we didn’t have before thanks to Wi-Fi, video conference calling, WhatsApp and more – the freedom in our potential is priceless.
I am grateful to have the Alair network, and to never feel alone – even from my remote workspace and while my family is on the beach. I am adamant that I stay humble and curious and am as dedicated to ensure our team is finding freedom just as we have.”