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What’s a day in the life look like for the president of Royal Homes? “A bit of everything,” says Pieter Venema.
One day, you’ll find him working with sales staff at one of the five Royal Homes design centres across Ontario. The next, he’s busy coordinating schedules and making sure deadlines are met. And occasionally — despite his best efforts — he’ll get caught up in a meeting or two.
Whether he’s working in the field or back home in Wingham, ON, Pieter Venema is always on his feet. He always makes a point of being available to support his employees and help resolve day-to-day problems. This hands-on approach has helped shape Royal Homes into an industry leader in custom prefab homes.
Pieter’s experience in the prefabricated building business goes back even before his time with Royal Homes. After studying business at McMaster University, he spent ten years in the prefabricated steel building industry, working in finance and sales. Opportunity struck in 1989, when the son of the founder of Royal Homes was looking for a partner with Pieter’s expertise.
Shortly after he came on board, Pieter saw the need for a change in the prefabricated home industry. The Canadian housing market took a blow from the economic recession of the early 1990s, and many builders in Ontario were having a hard time selling homes.
In response, Pieter looked to what he saw as a constraint in the prefabricated home building business.
“The industry in Canada at that point was pretty all modelled on the U.S. model: try and get the lowest cost with the longest production run and the most similar type of product,” he explains. “We many times told clients we couldn’t provide them what we wanted to, couldn’t provide the customization, because the factory had its limitations.”
Pieter set out to change that. “I looked at it and said, rather than being constrained by the factory, we are going to open up all of our software development and our entire operating structure to accommodate custom home building.”
Royal Homes would still build with prefabricated components, but in multiple configurations and with on-site work where required. This marked a bold shift from a production-focussed business to one that put the client first — something no other prefabricated home builder was doing in Canada. “We were definitely a market leader,” says Pieter.
Today, at least 75 to 80 per cent of a Royal Homes house is factory-built. But when the job calls for components that cannot be built in the factory, such as a high-pitched roof with multiple peaks and valleys, Royal Homes builds it on-site.
“We’re a client-oriented custom home builder first. We love building prefab, we’re good at it, and whenever it makes sense to do so, we build prefab.”
Royal Homes still produces the most customized prefabricated homes available in Canada. The company is built on this client-first philosophy from the ground up, starting with production through to marketing and client care.
“Our biggest marketing strength that keeps coming back over and over is referrals. Word of mouth,” Pieter says. “We do what we say we’re going to do. We do it at a fair price. We value the services we provide.”
Pieter’s commitment to fairness and honesty is reflected in the business’s ranks as well. He always makes time to communicate with his employees, and the company culture is a point of pride for him.
“One of the biggest satisfactions I have within the company is when I see people come in and be able to grow,” he explains. “We have so many people who started on the shop floor and are in various positions right up to senior management.”
As a result, Royal Homes benefits from low employee turnover and has long-serving employees who know the business inside and out. “It’s great for the company and our clients benefit from all that experience,” says Pieter.