It may have been a circuitous route that ultimately led to the creation of Norseman Construction & Development, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Since beginning operations in 2005, Norseman has established itself as one of Toronto’s leading custom home design builders and is recognized for its heritage home renovations. For founder and owner, Kris Potts, much of the company’s success can be attributed to Potts’ previous work experience.
“Before starting up Norseman Construction, I served as a private military contractor,” explained Potts. “My trade was underwater engineering and demolition and, as you can imagine, the training was intense and the job was, by its very nature, stressful. To ensure mission success, I quickly learned the importance of planning and having adequate controls in place to support each operation.”
After returning from overseas in 2005, Potts focused his efforts on launching and growing a new deficiency repairs company that specialized in providing warranty repairs for large development projects in the Toronto area. The company covered an extensive area and as the number of development sites the company served increased, Potts relied on the organizational lessons he learned working with various military units to manage the sizable workload.
His investment in building the critical processes to guide the company’s growth certainly paid off and the company continued to advance at an accelerated pace. Despite this success, Potts was already thinking of how he could take the company beyond just doing repair work and how he could have greater control over the company’s future; it was at this point that he decided the time was right to make the move to residential renovations and construction.
Determined to bring the same disciplined approach to custom building as he did with warranty repairs, Potts’ first step was to develop the corporate framework that he knew would be necessary to support his ambitious growth plans.
“Customers might be a little surprised to discover the number of construction firms that continue to manage their businesses using spreadsheets and other self-made workarounds,” noted Potts. “In our case, we chose to go with a computer program designed specifically for our industry that provides core project and resource management tools, and we insisted that all team members – including our trades contractors – use the program.”
By having everyone managing their tasks in the program, specific project updates are always accessible in real time. Other features, including automated scheduling and inventory tracking, improve overall efficiency and because the program also runs on mobile devices, no matter where the job site may be located, everyone can easily keep in touch.
But it was Potts’ next move that truly demonstrated how carefully he had thought the process through. Because many of the tradespeople contributing to Norseman projects are independent workers, Potts settled on an innovative concept of creating annual contracts to help make relationships with tradespeople more of a partnership than simply that of a hired vendor.
“We wanted to make sure that our tradespeople felt that their personal and professional interests were aligned with Norseman’s, and we’ve tried to encourage this by creating a contact that sets the terms of our relationship with them for a full year. This includes more than just guaranteeing prices; it also provides for training opportunities to help each person build their skills. In addition, we ask our tradespeople to attend regular project meetings where, as a group, we discuss current projects as well as upcoming work and raise any other operational concerns.”
Potts adheres to the idea that to be successful, you need to have specific objectives and while it may sound like the slogan from a recruiting poster, he firmly believes that without a clear goal, individuals can never reach their full potential. The fact that more than one junior tradesperson has gone on to become a Norseman supervisor demonstrates the effectiveness of these contracts.
“Developing an infrastructure to support and manage operations and ensuring that everyone on the team understands how they contribute, has been key to how we’ve leveraged the skills of our people. This has made it possible for us to continue to grow Norseman but another critical component fell into place several years ago when a mortgage broker with whom we’d been working suggested we speak with Home Trust.”
For his part, Senior Director, Mortgage Lending at Home Trust, Brendon Callender couldn’t help but be impressed by Potts’ conviction and energy.
“I work with many construction firms,” said Callender, “but Kris and the entire team at Norseman definitely approach the business with a fresh perspective and this has proven remarkably effective in supporting the company’s expansion. We’re always excited to see our business partners achieve great success and we’re very pleased to be part of the Norseman story.”
“Having the backing of a lender with Home Trust’s experience is critical for any construction firm and out association with Home Trust has ensured stable funding for our projects,” added Potts. “Brendon and his people have taken the time to get to know our business and we could not be more pleased with the support we have received from our main lending partner.”