Glen Veenstra

Our building company is a second-generation company in Manitoba, Canada. My brother and I took it over from our uncle and our dad, so we’ve been the owners now for about seven years, but we’ve been part of the company just about our whole lives.

Running A Business Isn’t What It Used To Be

The biggest issue was that you see a lot of things online that are business growth tools and showing how to market your business better, but none of it’s really directed at builders.

Ninety percent of what’s out there is aimed at online companies and people who are trying to build online stay-at-home businesses. They’re not directed at brick and mortar businesses like a home building company. For a home building company, especially in custom builds, it’s such a specific type of business and there’s so many unique challenges to it.

So, we were looking for some guidance on the direction to go that is specific for a custom building company. Even being a second generation builder, the way that we do business now is not something that could be taught to me by my dad and my uncle who owned the business before, because it’s just not the same anymore.

There wasn’t Internet when they started the company, so no clients found you that way. It was word-of-mouth through people that you know; they would talk to their friend and their friend would say, “Oh go see these guys.” They would phone you up, come and meet you and every new customer you had, you got the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with. That was the first time you’d ever meet them – either on the phone or face-to-face. And now it just doesn’t work that way; everything is so different in the business world in general.

We Didn’t Like The One-Size-Fits-All Approach

For us, the big issue was just to try to find something that was a type of coaching program directed at custom home builders specifically, not just a generic ‘grow your business’ that apparently works for everybody. 

At first, when we were looking for some business coaching, it seemed like we were constantly bombarded by offers. There’s always someone out there who wants to help you with your business and they all have the magic solution. But when I got to talk to APB in an online call, I was able to do some screen sharing with them and I could actually look through the type of courses that APB had. That’s when I could tell that they were all really, really applicable to what we were doing. What I liked most was APB’s philosophy on how they do things, even their marketing messaging was in line with a lot of other stuff that I’ve learned from different areas in the past, that I agree with. Once I was able to see that and see all the different areas that APB covers, that was what sold me on joining up.

We Can Completely Tailor Our Learning

Since joining APB, we make sure we do a course that will help us with whatever task we’ve got coming up. If, for example, I have a handover coming up, I’m able to think, “Well I’d better do that handover course before I do the handover, so I’ll do that one this coming week.” That will enable me to be ready for that handover meeting. Or if I had another pressing issue, such as if I’m trying to get marketing out, then I’ll do a marketing course and do something that I can apply right away.

When I wanted to get my Instagram up and going properly, I did an Instagram course, I did all the things available through APB on that and once that’s rolling then I look at what other courses are available and see what’s the next most important thing that I can put to use.

Our Leads Have Actually Increased During A Downturn

It’s difficult to find just one take away, because we’ve jumped into all the courses that APB has to offer!

We’ve done stuff with the marketing courses, with the pricing courses and with the content courses. We’ve only been members for four months now, and we’ve probably done almost a third of the courses already.

The most convenient thing about APB is that because there’s so much to learn, it’s almost overwhelming to look at all the stuff that you can do, but what’s nice is that we’ve been able to do the courses that are applicable to our company.

In a company in residential construction, like ours, the turnaround time in our sales cycle is so long. So, everything that we’ve ever done in our business just takes so much time to figure out what’s happening and often you don’t know where the leads are coming from. All of a sudden you just start to have this influx of leads. Despite this being a difficult time for a lot of people, being that we’re in the middle of COVID-19, we haven’t slowed down at all.

We have more leads coming in today than we did before COVID started. So, we haven’t noticed any drop down. We’ve actually had our leads continue to increase and on the specific stuff that we’ve done, like Instagram for example, we’ve just been getting that much more engagement on our Instagram; that much more engagement with our social media since we started applying what we’ve learnt in the APB courses.

In each individual area where we’re applying the courses, we’re getting some really good results in the efficiency of our company and getting more engagement from people.

Keeping in mind that we’ve only been APB members for four months, it’s a pretty short time for our sales cycle length to see what comes out of that. But so far, everything we’ve done that’s been related to it has been really well accepted by our customers.

We Can See The Holes In Our Business Now

It was interesting when I started to do the pricing courses on APB, it took me down a whole other rabbit hole. When you do one thing, you start to find all the other things that need to be fixed. I got halfway through the first course and then realised, “Oh man, I’ve got weeks of work to do ahead of me, just to get it to the point where I can even start to apply this course better.” 

Once you start to get into the courses, there’s the face value of a course, which is all valuable, but then it often turns up some other issues and weaknesses or holes that you need to fill that you never realised until you started to go down that road. So, our plan for the future is to continue to do the courses that help us with issues as they come up and then to fill all those holes that we find along the way.

We Can Collaborate With Other Builders Without Fear Of Competition

I don’t think there’s another course out there or another set of courses that is so directly applicable to custom home builders.

Because there’s not tonnes of home builders out there, many people who are making courses and business models for different companies don’t make courses for businesses like ours. Custom home building isn’t the first thing that jumps out at them, so they don’t think, “Wow, I should make a course for that.”

APB, as far as I can tell, is one of the only businesses that actually has courses for custom home builders. For us, it’s nice, because it’s hard to navigate it on your own.

What’s also great is all the Facebook groups and other opportunities to go in there and see what other people are doing, because in any given area, there’s not necessarily a lot of custom home builders around, compared to other businesses. Realistically, it’s not like you want to be sitting down every day with all your competition and giving them all your good ideas, so it’s great that there are all these builders across the world who are not in competition with you and you can see what they’re doing and get extra ideas from them, how they’re dealing with certain things.

Since joining APB, we’re just constantly, through the Facebook groups and other areas, getting just new information and good stuff to help us along.

-Glen Veenstra
Partner, Pine Creek Homes