Blaise McDonald is the owner and operations manager at MAC Renovations, one of Victoria’s leading home renovation design and construction services. They’ve been improving homes throughout Greater Victoria for over 40 years, and are renowned for their commitment to quality and service, one project at a time. They’re also a 2020 Douglas 10 To Watch Awards Sponsor.
How is MAC Renovations coping right now?
We’re taking this as an opportunity to focus on our processes and procedures, reviewing the technology we’re using and finding ways to do what we do, better. Our industry has been high-paced for a long while, so the current crisis allows us to take a moment, giving us an opportunity to look at changes we’ve wanted to make, but haven’t had the time to do.
We’re modernizing our business to better use technology and processes, so we can continue to be a leader in home renovation and construction in Victoria. We were already fairly progressive with our technology, which made it easier to switch our teams to work-from-home. We had a five-year plan to convert our accounts payable system to a completely paperless model, and we’ve accomplished that in under five weeks. We’ve recently made online consultations available to everyone — it’s something we’ve offered to clients outside of the city for years, so it made sense to open them up for our local customers, too. We’re using this time to develop and implement smart changes to improve efficiency and streamline our processes.
How has the crisis affected your business, and how do you anticipate it will continue to affect it?
Before this started, we had 29 open sites, with clients moved out of about half of them. For the projects where we were able to maintain isolation, mostly external work, we have been able to continue. For the rest, we have rescheduled until it’s safe to do so. We’re working with the BC Construction Safety Alliance to adopt additional procedures to ensure the safety of our employees and clients, such as social distancing, one trade-contractor on-site at a time, no sharing of tools or cut-stations, additional washroom and hand washing facilities, and disinfectant kits issued to all vehicles.
We have temporarily closed our showroom to the public, and all our project managers and design staff are working from home. We have regular safety meetings via Zoom, online check-ins with our clients to keep them informed about their project, and most of our site meetings are now conducted virtually. Face-to-face communications have always been a vital part of our business, so we’re finding ways to deliver our high level of service through new channels. It’s different, but our teams are flexible, creative, and driven, and we’re building processes to ensure everyone, on every project, gets the full MAC experience.
The reality is that in residential renovation, our crews deal with many hazards, from asbestos, silica, and lead exposure, to dangerous moulds, bacteria, and rodent infestations. Our crews are professionals and we are COR certified by WorkSafeBC. That means our occupational health and safety program goes beyond our legal requirements and is certified by a third party. Although COVID adds an additional level of complexity, our team is equipped to handle it safely.
Moving forward, we’ll need to continue to be innovative, finding ways to put the project together safely. Things will be heavy with project management to coordinate the crews to ensure there’s only one trade at a time on-site. It’ll take some juggling, but we’re confident we can handle it.
What advice are you giving yourself and your team for riding this out?
We have regular touch-base sessions with everyone on the team, because if you’re not seeing the people you work with it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one out there. In all things, we’re a team, so we are trying to keep those connections active.
From day one, we’ve told our teams that they’re out there and visible to the community as the face of MAC Renovations, and we have to set the standard in terms of safety for ourselves, our families, and our clients. With the potential for multiple crews on a job site, it’s critical that we keep the space safe and hygienic, because it only takes one lapse of judgement to shut down a site.
And like all things good and bad, this too shall pass.
What is the opportunity in the challenge for you and your business?
We’ve been a leader in Victoria renovations and remodels for over forty years, and with that much momentum, it can be hard to make fast changes. This crisis has given us the ability to stop and focus, using the time and our talented people to look to the future and implement changes that will help us continue to be the leading renovation team in Victoria.
What advice have you applied or are you applying from previous experiences coping through crises?
Communication is key — we broke everyone into teams: sales, marketing, project management, and safety. We have a weekly all-company Zoom meeting to set the priorities, share our wins, and discuss new leads, new jobs, and new processes, as well as to thank everyone for the extra effort they’re putting in.
What are your resources right now? Do you have a mentor supporting you, peer group, books you read?
I’m a member of a few different peer groups in Canada and the U.S., and we’re meeting once a week to share our experiences — the good and the bad — and brainstorm with other design/construction business owners across the continent. We’re all in this together, everywhere, and it’s been a powerful opportunity to lean on each other as we plan for the future.
What advice do you have for others experiencing this alongside you?
During a situation like this, the worst thing you can do is nothing. This is an opportunity to step back and take a look at your business to find opportunities to do more and do better. Winston Churchill said, “Never waste a good crisis.” You’ll probably never have the same motivation to change, especially at this pace, so get in front of things and lead your teams to the next level.