Dave Veale interviews Pierre Martell, President, Martell Homes as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders, as published Thursday June 16th, 2011 in the Telegraph Journal. Photo: Cole Burston/Times & Transcript
Pierre Martell just keeps racking up the awards. With a unique blend of creativity and a relentless drive to succeed, it’s not at all surprising that this rising entrepreneur is garnering a fair bit of attention.
Martell, president and founder of Moncton-based Martell Home Builders, is the newest recipient of the Deloitte Corporate Social Responsibility Award. This was announced at the Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) 2011 Young Entrepreneur Awards ceremony in Saskatoon recently where he was also named BDC’s Young Entrepreneur Award winner for New Brunswick.
And there’s more, Martell (@martellhomes) just made Redgate’s list of New Brunswick’s “Twitter Hitters” as one of the most influential users of Twitter providing useful information for his large group of followers (he’s logged over 5,000 tweets and has nearly 13,000 followers).
There is a good reason for this large following – he is branding his company like no other in his industry. Martell Home Builders boasts 100 per cent transparency in their home building experience and are presently building homes, using a very unique process, in Moncton, Miramichi, Sussex and soon Fredericton.
I kicked off our discussion by asking Martell what he thought led to him receiving BDC’s 2011 Young Entrepreneur Award.
A: I think a lot has to do with the growth that we’ve been able to achieve with Martell Home Builders over the last four years.
Q: What are you most proud of as you think about your entrepreneurialism?
A: I started Martell Home Builders based on answering 3 pain statements that everyone who built a house told me – it was over budget, it didn’t close on time and it was the most stressful thing they’ve ever done. So, time, money and stress.
My proudest accomplishment is that we built just under 200 hundred homes in the last 4 1/2 years and we’ve never missed a closing date, we’ve never gone over budget, and every one of our customers has had a blast.
Q: What has been the secret to delivering this home building experience?
A: The secret to our success, and our ability to do a large volume of houses, is leveraging technology. All our customers have their own private online website where every one of their decisions, options and upgrades are tracked. It is essentially a roadmap with a milestone section and highlighted dates that will guide them through every single one of their selections showing deadlines. The online process keeps the schedule moving forward and sets the expectation. It is real time communication that links us as a builder to the customer.
Q: Can you give me an example of the online communication between you and your customers?
A: We do weekly photos from the exact same location inside and outside of the client’s home so that they can actually see all the decisions coming together in real time. By adding the online experience we involve the customers 24/7 without them physically being on site. We are as transparent as possible in an industry that it is really tough to be transparent in.
Q: What has been the most challenging part of growing Martell Home Builders?
A: Managing cash flow. Building homes is a very capital intensive business and two years ago we grew by almost 100%, we doubled in size in one season. We learned a lot of valuable lessons about cash flow and setting projections – it was a very, very challenging season.
Q: What would your advice be to other small business owners and entrepreneurs that run up against cash flow issues?
A: My cash flow issues were specifically around growing. Some people would say we grew too fast but I don’t believe in the idea of ‘growing too fast’. Now that I’ve gone through it, I know how to do it again. My biggest piece of advice is to find mentors who have done similar things and who can help you visualize and predict the pitfalls before they happen.
Q: I know you are a big believer in professional and personal development – how important do you think the love of learning has been to your business success?
A: It’s fundamental and I believe it’s not just business education. If you are not learning and growing you are dying. If you are not learning you’re going to start tripping backwards and your competition will just cloud over you.
Q: From a leadership perspective, what was a lesson that you learned from leading people within your organization?
A: We indirectly employee about 350 people and every single one of these people, and I can guarantee it, was older than me when I started. I learned that your age is irrelevant if you step up and you lead effectively.
Q: How do you lead effectively?
A: In terms of leadership, it really boils down to having integrity and being grounded. If you have the confidence with your product knowledge, you have integrity and you are grounded, people will follow.
Q: How would you finish the following sentence? A leader’s job is to……
Q: Who inspires you?
A: When Barack Obama gets on stage you want to listen. The first African-American to get elected as President of the United States of America, that’s inspiring. He set his goal and his vision – beginning with the end in mind. He knew 20 years ago that he would be there, he didn’t stop and he pushed hard toward his goal. That inspires me. Any leader that can see into the future, set a goal and do whatever it takes to get to that goal – and acts in spite of fear – is inspiring.
Q: What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A: Surround yourself with the best people you can possibly find in your field and in business. Also, be prepared to make sacrifices. I’m learning that the successful people are willing to sacrifice what others will not.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com.