12 Oct CHBA NS 2018 Renovator of the Year!
Monk Renovations may have won the coveted title of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Nova Scotia Renovator of the Year, however company owner, Dan Monk, is quick to assert there is nothing special about the business.
If this seems like a strange way of promoting one’s life’s work, it quickly becomes clear what the renovation professional means.
“We are constantly complimented on our clear communications and quick response times,” explains Monk. Recently, for instance, a potential client emailed Monk to say the company had already impressed them simply by getting back to them in response to a query.
That’s right, they were complimented for emailing someone back.
“At one point, we did an unofficial survey, asking our past clients why they hired us and what they liked about us,” says Monk. “The answers were simply that we showed up, we did what we said we were going to do and we charged them what we said we were going to charge them. There is nothing special about this — it’s just about being professional.”
“It shows how darn easy business can be if you are interested in what you do and are organized. There is no secret sauce, it’s not magic. We show up early and give our clients a full day — that’s how easy having a successful business can be.”
Currently, Monk Renovations is booking jobs up to three months in advance, but the wait isn’t deterring anyone from having the company do the job they need. And Dan Monk makes it a point to be fully honest about how long customers may have to wait in the queue.
“There is always a negative return in fudging the truth when it comes to business,” says Monk. “The key to our success is to always maintain trust with our client with professional and honest communication.”
“High-quality work and skilled employees should be a given…”
Monk himself began working in construction at the age of 16, lugging and learning in the trenches. His interest in the field led him to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering from Dalhousie. After graduating in 1993, he worked with Atlantic Industries Limited, a national bridge and infrastructure company, eventually taking on the role of Regional Manager for Alberta. But his strong roots in Nova Scotia called him back home, where he took a position as project manager and estimator with Dexter Construction.
And then, in 2009, he incorporated Monk Renovations. But he wasn’t finished learning. Six years after establishing the business, Monk obtained his Interprovincial Red Seal Certification in carpentry and is also a Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) Renovator. Further, Monk Renovations holds a RenoMark Certification through the Canadian Home Builders’ Association- Nova Scotia. This means Monk works only with licensed professionals, obtains all applicable building permits and is bound to a national code of ethics and conduct.
Although Monk has over 25 years of construction experience, is a Civil Engineer, holds a Red Seal and has won several awards and distinctions, including this years’ Renovator of the Year, none of this makes Monk Renovations exceptional, the professional claims. Instead, it appears that what makes Monk Renovations stand apart from some of the others is what should be the most simple aspects of business.
“I honestly believe it is my ability to organize time and materials,” explains Monk. “That and honest, straight-forward communication, has been the reason for our success. The rest, including high-quality work and reliable, skilled employees should be just a given in this profession.”
“I question why it is that some companies need to boast that their work is of high quality or that their workers are skilled. That should go without saying!”
“It’s true that a few bad apples in a large industry have given construction and renovation companies a bad rap. But it does not take a lot to show people this is not the case — simply by placing an emphasis on clear communication and honest work.”
This work includes doing what’s right for the job and for the client. As an engineer and as a carpenter, Monk leads his team in finding the right solutions to increase both the functionality and the look of your home.
“Each job is of equal value to us as a business, whether it is a small bathroom renovation or a complete overhaul of a house,” say Monk. Repeat customers and word of mouth referrals make up a huge part of our clientele.”
Monk Renovations can assist with everything from kitchen renovations to bathrooms and ensuites, to basements, home additions and exterior renovations and decks. Every job, large and small, takes the atheistic of the whole home into consideration. And Monk always — always — provides the most accurate quote possible.
“People have been provided quotes but then they put the renovation on the back burner for a while because life happens,” says Monk. They are always shocked when they do contact us, even a year or two later and find that our price is the same. Barring any substantial changes in the price of the material, our prices are consistent — we don’t change in accordance with time of year, size of job or how busy we are.”
Sometimes it is unavoidable that a job runs over budget, due to unforeseen circumstances or a change in customer request. In this case the client is made aware of it immediately and asked to approve of the new cost. The company’s A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau speaks to their strong customer service ethic.
“A professional problem-solver”
“The fact that we provide quality work and employ skilled workers is not something to brag about — it should go without saying. We are a good company, but there is nothing magic about us. We are successful simply because we show up, are honest and are consistent.”
In fact, Monk considers his company to have a long way to go.
“If I didn’t think we could get better, I’d get out of the business. But as it stands, I think I still have some work to do.”
“I like to think of myself as professional problem-solver, consistently adjusting schedules to meet the client’s needs, the delivery of materials and my employee’s availability. Added to this is the details of the construction job itself as well as making sure it all falls within the agreed upon budget.”
“I’m not only responsible to myself and the clients. I have ten professional construction employees who rely on me for a pay cheque. In turn, I know that they have families who rely on them. It’s a responsibility I do not take lightly.”
Part of that responsibility is to maintain transparency with the client. Customers of Monk Renovations are quick to express their appreciation of the detail of their estimate.
“Again, it’s all about simplicity and straight-forward communication. The estimate becomes the work order and eventually, that becomes the invoice. It’s not rocket science.”
Quotes provided by Monk include all the project specifics, as well as all terms and conditions, spelled out in clear language. The detailed quote is then signed by both Monk Renovations and the client — and is considered a contract.
“Good paperwork maintains good relationships,” says Monk. “No one likes surprises. If there is a change that occurs during the construction process the client is made aware of it immediately. There’s no smoke and mirrors, people simply don’t want to and will not, put up with that. And as professionals, neither do we.”
‘My association is my voice in the industry’
“I’m a professional civil engineer and a Red Seal carpenter. I’ve worked in construction since I was 16 years old. I am a professional. As such, it is imperative that I belong to and participate in my professional association, just like any other professional in their respective industries.”
“Belonging to a professional association, carrying liability, collecting taxes, paying taxes, paying my employees properly — it’s all part of being a professional. The CHBA NS is my voice in the industry. It is my voice with government, with other professional organizations and a great way to associate with like-minded professionals and other entrepreneurs.”
“The Canadian Home Builders’ Association Nova Scotia puts me in touch with other great professionals, all with good moral compasses and great skills.”
“CHBA NS speaks for the residential construction industry here in Nova Scotia,” says an CHBA NS spokesperson.
The Association plays a lead role in promoting quality in construction and represents over 300 members — a variety of organizations comprised of professional builders, renovators, developers and others in the residential construction industry.
“Monk Renovations embodies the philosophy of CHBA NS,” an CHBA NS spokesperson. “Awards such as the Renovator of the Year is an official opportunity to recognize our members’ excellence and success in representing the pinnacle of ethical conduct, quality work and integrity in business practices.”
“Residential construction professionals in our province such as Monk Renovations contribute greatly to our society in so many ways, from striving for affordable housing choices for Nova Scotians, to employment opportunities, to exciting innovation in new products and methods. We are proud to have such a roster of exceptional professionals who are constantly raising the bar in terms of residential construction.”
Steady wins the race…
It’s been more than a few years since Dan Monk was a teenager picking up whatever work he could find on a construction site. Today, 25 years later, it is not unusual for him to be managing projects that have two million dollar budgets. But for him, the differences are not in the details. The small powder room booked to be renovated next week is as carefully planned as the full house renovation also in the books in the next month. The details of each job are equally important to the success of Monk Renovations.
We often assume the key to business success is complicated. Or that perhaps the owner has been ‘lucky’. For award-winning Monk Renovations neither of these assumptions are true. The truth is that Dan Monk came from humble Maritime beginnings, holds himself to professional standards and has built his company the way he builds on site — by steadily plugging away, doing good work and being honest.
It’s just that simple.