Introducing The CHBA-NS 2017 Builder of the Year

Scott Smith just might have the happiest homeowners in Halifax, but —surprisingly—he didn’t achieve that by focusing all of his attention on customer service. That’s not his top priority.

The owner of Rooftight Construction admits his approach is “markedly diff erent” from what many other developers might do, and it’s to put his employees fi rst—yes, even before his customers.

“My No. 1 customers are my staff . They’re my family. They’re the people I spend the most time with during the week—more time than I spend with my family,” says Smith. “I go out of my way to treat my staff well because they are so important to me. I will literally do anything for them.”

In return, Smith says his team delivers “a tremendous amount of loyalty” and everyone has an unfl agging work ethic. This means his customers are getting fi ve-star treatment from people who feel happy and appreciated.

“I can’t be in front of all my customers all of the time,” explains Smith. “My staff are my front-line, so I want them to love their jobs and work hard to make our customers just as happy.”

It must be working, because Rooftight employees regularly hear subcontractors comment that it’s “such an awesome place to work” or that they wish they were customers themselves. Homeowners have even asked Smith if they could come work for him after he builds their house!

87-Abbington-6877He still employs the very first person he hired 22 years ago thanks to what he calls his “secret sauce.” By purposely over-staffi ng his business, his employees are able to off er a superior customer experience. He knows a satisfied customer might tell 10 friends, but an angry or disappointed customer will rant to 100.

“All of our clients become our brand ambassadors because they tell their friends how happy they are with us,” says Smith.

Rooftight Construction recently won the Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Nova Scotia (CHBA-NS) 2017 Peter Kohler Peak Award winner for Builder of the Year—an award they also won back in 2012.

CHBA-NS CEO Sherry Donovan says Builder of the Year is one of the most coveted awards because it shows you’ve stepped up from normal business practices.

This was the first year the Peak Award winners were determined by out-ofprovince judges, and she says they clearly identified Smith’s devotion to the homebuilding industry as well as his leadership skills.


 


“He’s always been one to share his knowledge and passion, and he’s a great mentor for many in the industry,” says Donovan. “Rooftight is doing a great job creating a brand for themselves, and it’s nice to see the judges recognize them for the work they’ve done.”

Since their first win, five years ago, Smith believes they’ve really grown as a company. They’ve worked hard to meet the criteria of the prestigious award—which encompasses a builder’s community involvement, company philosophy, and the way they do business.

Rooftight experienced significant growth—102 per cent year over year, in fact—which Smith feels is “pretty remarkable” in the current climate. Expanding into The Parks of West Bedford was a huge milestone, since he says it’s “the hottest, fastest-growing area in HRM.”

“It’s where the action is, and we’re the action people,” says Smith, who credits their solid partnership with Clayton Developments for helping their homes flourish in The Parks of West Bedford. “We feel it’s where our ideal clients are, and it’s where we belong.”

Rooftight Construction’s estate lot community, St. Andrews West in Fall River, has sprawling lots for families who are craving more space. They’re also doing well in Rockingham South, where they’re developing single-family and multi-family homes with beautiful Basin views.

So what’s drawing so many people to Rooftight’s homes? While many homeowners are still loving the modern look, Smith says he doesn’t believe in taking it—or any trend, for that matter—to the extreme.

87-Abbington-6939“I find the best trends in home construction are the ones that morph slowly over time,” says Smith. “Someone shouldn’t go from a traditional homebuilder to a modern home-builder overnight just to try to capture a segment of the market they think they’re missing.” While they may not change their home designs overnight, change is a critical part of Rooftight’s success—especially when it comes to staying current. Their in-house interior designer, Michelle Reid, finds inspiration in other cities and countries, and even continents, in order to bring a distinctive style to every Rooftight home.

Reid says they’re constantly looking at new ideas and processes so they don’t fall into a rut. In fact, she just returned from an architectural design show in New York City.

“We’re always on the cutting edge, that’s how you stay ahead,” says Reid. “Scott’s a big believer in training, so we’re always learning and seeing what’s new.”

BFP_0071EBefore anyone offi cially becomes a Rooftight client, they sit down with Smith and Reid to discuss how they live in their home and what they’d like in a new home. This allows Smith and Reid to suggest features or confi gurations the client may not have considered, and then the process rolls smoothly from throwing around ideas to putting together a plan.

“We’ve never done exactly the same plan twice. There are always changes, even if it’s the same house,” says Reid. “We work with the clients to make it theirs.”

Rooftight is the only builder in HRM with a full-time interior designer on staff , and Reid’s professional design consultations are included in the price of a Rooftight home. She walks homeowners through every step, from selecting paint colours to rounding up light fi xtures.

87-Abbington-7098w“We’re not sending them into the scary unknown of the home improvement store,” explains Reid. “They get to sit down in our comfortable design studio—with a coffee— and pick everything out with me.”

With some other builders, she says homeowners are often left to choose colours and finishes on their own, which could leave them fearful they’ve made the wrong selection. But she has examples of the most sought-after products in the Welcome Centre, and regularly brings in different examples from her suppliers.


 


“It’s much easier to choose lighting when you’re looking at the cabinets and flooring sample, so everything is clearer this way,” says Reid. “We make it easy for them because we want it to be an enjoyable experience.

While clients appreciate the energyefficiency of their new Rooftight homes— which often have far lower power bills than the smaller homes the owners had previously—Reid says they also want “a bit of glam.”

512-Heddas3720“They’re exposed to the finer things in life online and on TV, and they want it,  more than ever,” says Reid. “But those half hour design shows are not realistic, so in the design community we’re always fighting against what people think is easy, costs very little, and can be done in an afternoon.”

Since homeowners are busier than ever—with most actually working the jobs of 1.5 people, according to Reid—it’s important that our homes make life easier and more enjoyable. Sometimes this means adding to a space, and other times it means scaling back or changing things up.

“Open concept is still popular but people also want walls to make them feel cozier and have a little separation so they can ‘cocoon,’” says Reid. “They might think they want a formal dining room, but then I show them another way to make their home work for Christmas dinner for 15.”

But their homes are about more than solid construction and sharp decorating. Reid says they’re especially proud of the customer service they offer once a homeowner is settled into their new space—because that’s when a lot of builders disappear, never to be heard from again.

“We have a full-time project manager who works with clients after closing, because we still want to stay in touch,” says Reid. “Our homeowners are part of the Rooftight family, so our services extend long after the day you get your key.”

87-Abbington-7378wThere’s a little bit of magic in every one of their homes, and Smith says that’s because they always focus on “doing things no one else does”, resulting in unique spaces that are anything but builder-basic.

“If you’re buying clothes, are you going to buy the same clothes all of your friends have? Or are you going to look for something more interesting? Something with personality?” says Smith.

He sees people flock to their open houses, cameras in hand, eager to see the features and trends they’re showcasing— like all solid surfaces, no carpet, and moving away from the grey colour schemes that have dominated home decor for so long.

“There’s never any one thing about our homes that people can pinpoint. They just say ‘It’s got a diff erent feeling from the other six houses for sale on this street,’” says Smith. “They can’t always explain why, but they know they want one of our homes.”


 


Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist whose work regularly appears in many Atlantic Canadian newspapers and magazines, including The Chronicle Herald, Metro, Hub Now, Business Voice, Dugger's, Progress, East Coast Living, Bedford Magazine, and Southender Magazine. She also has several corporate clients.