05 Jan Justin Thompson – Partner Spotlight – Alair Homes Greater Toronto Area
Successful Home Builder Embraces the “F” Word
Custom Home Builder Justin Thompson builds more than just houses. A new Franchise approach allowed him to build scaled sustainability.
“Prior to joining Alair, we had a successful business, but when we tried to scale, it just never worked.”
One Head – Too Many Hats
Justin Thompson is not the type to dwell on the past. He lives in the present, but is always focused on the future. This is why in 2015 he made a bold business move to secure the ideal future he imagined for himself, his family, and his business.
“Six years ago, my partner at Bowerbird Custom Design and Build, and I were wearing all the hats and working constantly,” says Thompson. “We wore toolbelts all day, did our bookkeeping at night, and in the evenings, we did sales. We both had young children and knew we were missing out on important time with them.”
Focused on the future, the partners wanted to scale their business, but when they tried to implement all the typical processes for success while trying to keep clients happy, they fell flat. Thompson admits they just did not have the systems, tools, processes, or support needed to reach their vision, and they simply burned out.
All Head, but No Heart
Thompson and his partner eventually hired consultants to help them grow, scale, and be more sustainable, but no one had the right answer other than purchasing expensive, high-end software, and building processes around that software.
While quality construction software is nice, it was a tactical component that was missing the human element to the business; the heart and soul needed to truly take their brand to the next level.
Thompson knew no software could single-handedly solve their problems. It wasn’t until he was introduced to Joel McDaniel, Regional Partner of Alair for Ontario, through one of his trade partners that he heard something that resonated with him.
McDaniel introduced Thompson to Alair, the first-of-its-kind franchise system with the largest footprint of any custom home building and large-scale renovation brand in the world.
Thompson was struck by Alair’s ability to focus on the human experience and bring together a client-focused construction experience while using a proven and process-driven system.
He was also surprised to learn a franchise-based model in the construction industry existed and could be exactly what he needed to see scalable success.
Dropping the “F” Word
While Thompson was surprised to see a franchise construction model, he didn’t shy away from the often dreaded “F” word because he understood what it truly means. After all, he grew up understanding the benefits of franchise-based businesses from his mother, father and grandfather who were in the Coca-Cola® Bottle Distribution world.
“For those that think that franchising is negative, I would say that they don’t know enough about the benefits of what a franchise offers,” he says. “I knew that franchises were successful for a reason because they have systems and processes in place. There is a common mission and a huge benefit to the high brand standards that successful franchises have. When I was introduced to Alair, and found out they were a franchise, I understood that all their homes were truly custom, unlike the “Big Box” Builders out there. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more, but it was when I learned that their product was their people, I knew Alair was unlike anything else out there, and I wanted to be part of their innovative approach to growing a business.”
Never Looking Back
Thompson says his only regret is that he didn’t make the change sooner.
Today, his business is more profitable than ever before, has experienced consistent year-over-year growth, all while allowing him to step almost completely away from day-to-day operations.
In fact, Thompson has found a new passion with all the free time he has now, and he has enthusiastically jumped into a support and coaching role within his Ontario region for more than 25 Alair offices.
“My biggest recommendation would be not to wait,” he says. “Alair awards single partnerships multi-unit partnerships, and in selected regions, Regional Partnerships, which means there is huge opportunity depending on where you want to tie your passions and interest. For me, I thrive on positively impacting people’s lives, and so I have been able to do just that by being in the position I am today.”
Poised for Potential
Justin acknowledges that Alair is protective of their brand, and for good reason.
“They (Alair) understand if one partnership fails, it reflects poorly on the entire company. Alair, therefore, is very careful with who they bring into their partnerships. They look for like-minded people who have proven success in their existing construction business, whose values align, and who are motivated for more,” Thompson says. “Alair isn’t a substitute for hard work, but they provide the training, support, experience, and processes to make sure that each partnership succeeds.”
Putting the right people on the bus
“Getting involved with Alair, allowed us to bring the right people on the bus, we had the support to build projects the right way, and now had a proven system to mitigate risks. We also had a whole network of trade partners who wanted to work with us, and they quickly figured out that Alair’s successes were also their successes. It was a community that was really working in unison,” Thompson says.
Justin feels that Alair’s strong culture, clarity, and growth potential is very appealing to new hires. He says, “We are attracting a totally different caliber of people. Project Managers can focus on managing projects as they should be. They have the tools and support to do an exceptional job, which is what our clients deserve. When Project Managers realize that they can someday have their own partnership, it changes everything. In fact, our first PM, Elliot Sheaves, is now a successful partner of two Alair offices in Ontario. He saw the opportunity, and he is really killing it.”
Life is better!
Justin is 100% certain that his life is better now. He gets to be with his family more, and has the freedom he could only dream of before. However, an unexpected outcome in all this change is that some of his closest friends are now from team Alair.
“Our children are even friends with our partner’s children. We have something special here, and it spans across two countries. Putting it plainly, it is a cool opportunity to be part of a group of like-minded, incredible people who not only want to scale their own business and have an impact on their team and their community, but to have an impact on the industry. Honestly, I’m just really grateful, and I’m focused on the future” he says.
Justin Thompson started his first construction company in 2004 and started Bowerbird Custom Design and Build in 2010 where he and his business partner specialized in building custom timber-frame homes and renovations. He has been an Alair partner since 2015 and is now a regional partner for Ontario, Canada, and Ohio, U.S. He is married with two young boys.