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Renovating the Renovator Brand

An interview with CHBA's first Director, Renovator Services, Gary Sharp

By Judy Penz Sheluk

Recently, CHBA created a new position, that of Director, Renovator Services. The first individual to hold that position is Gary Sharp, an original member of the CHBA Renovators' Council and the son of a small town general contractor. We managed to sit down with Gary and find out more about this very important role, as well as CHBA's vision for renovating the renovator brand, within the Association, and across the country.

Peter Briand, past chair of the Canadian Renovators' Council (L) with Gary Sharp.

Home BUILDER: Why has CHBA created your new position?
Gary Sharp: The residential construction industry is responsible for over $120 billion in economic activity in Canada and $65 billion of that is now in renovation-renovation makes a huge contribution to our industry. Having a Director at the national office dedicated to supporting renovators reflects CHBA's commitment to renovators.

HB: In the big picture, what is your job?
GS: CHBA's Strategic Directions 2014 set out guiding principles for the Association. One aspect of this plan was to build the Association's renovator membership base, ensuring that CHBA delivers services that renovators value. My efforts reflect this goal to help our Renovator members succeed and prosper.

HB: What does that mean to the renovator in the field?
GS: In 2014, our CHBA Canadian Renovators' Council formed a Working Group to ask our renovator members what specifically they wanted us to do that would most help them. What we heard back was focused in two areas: help them increase their business success, and, help them increase their professionalism.
The Working Group recommended that CHBA achieve these two goals by focusing on three areas. The first was to more effectively "brand" CHBA renovators as the professionals they are, and to communicate this brand to consumers. The second was to support renovator members with the technical and business training they are looking for. And the third was to combat the underground economy.

HB: Each one of those action items is a major undertaking. How is CHBA going to do this?
GS: Luckily, we have a lot of people working together to achieve these goals. For example, thanks to CHBA's increased and extensive efforts in government relations over the past couple of years, our advocacy with government has already resulted in some recent wins specifically for renovators. In particular, the announcement in the last budget of the Home Accessibility Tax Credit, and the recent agreement with the federal government to support CHBA's renewed Get it in Writing! campaign. This campaign will educate consumers about the risks associated with using "cash only" operators and help differentiate CHBA renovators as professionals.
In addition, the RenoMark program does a great job at distinguishing CHBA members as professionals, and CHBA is working with BILD to strengthen RenoMark as the common brand for identifying Association renovators across the country. I am also engaging with the local and provincial HBAs to provide them with assistance, including delivering Get It In Writing! workshops to their members, and to see where I can help them build their renovator membership.

HB: Do we need more Renovator members in CHBA?
GS: Absolutely, given that renovation activity now accounts for more than 50% of the total residential construction activity. While the renovators who are already CHBA members represent the "cream of the crop" professionally, there are certainly many more who should be members. We see a real opportunity to grow the Association's renovator membership by delivering greater and greater value to renovators. There are solid, experienced professional renovators in every town across this country; they should all be members, because the Association has a lot to offer them.
Our Association exists because we can make a difference when we work together-the more members we have, the more each one benefits. That holds true for renovators just as much as it does for home builders, developers or any other members. CHBA's advocacy efforts give a direct voice to our members, and those efforts are producing results. I encourage renovators to join their local HBA and take an active role. You can be part of setting the agenda for what the CHBA "asks" of the government. But if you are not a member, you have no say.

HB: I have heard renovators say that CHBA is focused on builder needs. What do you say to them?
GS: I encourage those folks to have another look. CHBA is working hard to give renovators the recognition, the role within the Association, and the support that they are seeking and deserve. We are building a strong brand for professional renovators. We are creating a strong community and network of the best renovators from coast to coast, and providing them with effective tools and information to help them succeed. And uniquely, only CHBA offers renovator members a direct voice into governments at the local, provincial and national levels. CHBA members don't have to wait and deal with whatever governments decide-they have a strong voice in informing those decisions. CHBA is bringing results to members that help their businesses succeed every day, and with more and more member benefits coming online all the time, there has never been a better time to join CHBA as a renovator member.

HB: And what about you? What is your renovation experience?
GS: I grew up in small town Ontario and my father was a general contractor doing both new homes and renovations. I've worked in residential construction my whole career. I have renovated houses where we couldn't find a straight line anywhere. I have seen buildings where my renovation tool of choice should have been a D9 CAT. And sometimes I've gotten the opportunity to work on a house or a church that should be preserved forever. And I know that most of the housing stock that will exist in 50 years is already built-and waiting to be renovated. There is a huge opportunity for our professional renovators, and CHBA is going to help them grab it.


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