NANAIMO – Women are thriving in key leadership positions at Alair Homes. This year, project manager Laura Quilty became the company’s first female Project Manager of the Year at an annual retreat in Austin, Texas.
Women like Laura are able to thrive in Alair Homes franchise locations, thanks in part to the company’s unique approach to residential construction management.
According to COO Stu Hopewell, the company implements a system that erases many of the headaches associated with home building and renovation.
“For decades, the construction industry has done things the same way: take a deposit, start the project, finish the project,” Hopewell remarks. “Our focus, however, is on getting the consulting side of the project done before we even start. This means that a lot of the challenges and surprises that emerge during a typical construction process are dealt with ahead of time.”
This process means that delays are kept at a minimum. With all materials selected at the beginning, Alair is able to coordinate trades schedules ahead of time, which is typically one of the main causes of delays on a project.
“When things do go wrong, we manage the issues,” says Hopewell. “If something goes sideways, we hold a debrief and change the process so that it never happens again. This way, we don’t repeat the same errors year after year and decade after decade.”
Due to the unique focus of an Alair Homes project, the work of a project manager requires multitasking and organizational skills. Over the years, Hopewell has noticed that an experienced builder is not always the best fit for a project management position at Alair.
“Because our model is so unique, it’s not as important to get a project manager with a lot of past construction experience,” he says. “If you have personality, work ethic, and a commitment to follow the process, you can be very successful very quickly.”
One of Alair’s Nanaimo-based project managers is Chiara Sulyok. Sulyok has a varied education that includes training in Environmental Sciences, Horticulture, and Carpentry. Before joining Alair 4 years ago, she was working in landscaping.
“She came aboard around 2015, and was able to use her personality and people skills to communicate with clients and trades, keeping them educated and informed throughout the process,” says Hopewell. “She was able to do these things at a high level, keeping the budget and schedule in line. She has worked on award-winning jobs, and her client reviews are out of the park. She didn’t come in with a massive amount of experience. She was able to follow the process and do a good job, so she quickly moved into a project manager position.”
Laura Quilty, named Project Manager of the Year, represents a similar success story. Hopewell praises her for her ability to manage and mitigate tense situations, clearly communicating with both clients and tradespeople.
“Laura is an incredible communicator, which is crucial in this business,” he says. “Since the DIY trend started, most clients know a portion of what they want done, but don’t know the whole picture. They want us to educate them, and when they’re educated, they’re making better decisions. The project manager role is all about communication and educated, and Laura excels at both.”
Women are thriving at Alair thanks to a combination of the unique female touch and the company’s innovative process. Company-wide, roughly 15 per cent of employees are female, but women make up a much higher percentage of Alair’s project managers.
Alair’s head office staff is comprised of roughly 60 per cent female employees. With the trends in demographic changes in this traditionally male-dominated workforce, Alair Homes stands as a shining example of the capabilities and strengths of women in construction.
Founded in Nanaimo in 2007, Alair quickly expanded across North America, growing to 120 locations.
“Our head office is here in Nanaimo, where we house almost 50 staff,” says Hopewell. “We deal with all the backend support for each location, such as accounting, payroll, marketing, legal, and more. This allows each location to focus on what they’re best at: building a beautiful home or renovation.”