Style Construction Management Ltd
Excellent client service is habitually the hallmark of success in the professional world of interior design. It’s that unwavering commitment, combined with outstanding creative workmanship and genuine passion, which has guided Toronto-based Style Construction Management Ltd to the pinnacle of the industry as a full-service construction management firm for more than 35 years.
As the President of Style Construction, Chris Sloan disburses a substantial quantum of time networking with existing and potential clients in addition to attending numerous industry trade shows, conventions and symposiums, as well as luncheons and business dinners.
In associating with corporate clients from both the commercial and industrial sectors, Sloan often observes many similarities between the two entities as it relates to interior design patterns. If one were to believe many reading materials, including what’s available on websites and newsletters, it would be effortless to surmise that there is a heavy focus on the open office space concept, but Sloan believes traditional values still account for the majority of what clients ultimately want to see in their offices.
“Truthfully I find most of our clients are still quite traditional. The executives still have their offices and the workers still have cubicles and open areas,” Sloan says.
In addition to the customary, established boardrooms, Sloan has observed that there seems to be more of a cornerstone on the development of smaller breakout rooms where people can take a phone call or meet in more intimate, targeted groups.
“People still like their private offices and I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon regardless of what all the fancy designers like to put out there,” he says.
Oftentimes clients will seek out Sloan’s advice or his opinion on what direction their new design should take, but it truly comes down to the individual’s preference and the image they want to portray to the public and their employees. In designing office space for clients there always must be consistency and uniformity. In addition to offices and open space, the smaller breakout areas offer the option of having private conversations without interruption if working on a particularly challenging task that requires ancillary concentration.
Working closely with both industrial and commercial clients, Sloan says there are far more synergies than someone on the outside might imagine with few tangible core differences separating the two. From Style Construction’s perspective they follow the same procedures with a need to hire a designer, the electrical and mechanical engineers and acquire all the necessary work permits for construction.
“Whether you are working in an office building downtown with no warehouse space or an industrial building, everyone still wants a nice office space,” he remarks. “Even in a big industrial building you’ll have your warehousing and racking out back but in the front where the offices are located people want a nice environment so the look is often quite similar.”
One of the more notable fundamental challenges in working within the downtown core has far less to do with procedures and the construction design but rather it’s far more about the need to respect the workplace of others. It’s essential to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb any of the neighbouring business tenants within the confines of the building.
Each Project is Unique
During more than three decades in operation, Style Construction has taken on countless projects ranging from modernizing centuries-old buildings to providing a first identity for brand new buildings. It’s a labour of love regardless of the task at hand with each project presenting different challenges and opportunities.
“Certainly going into a brand new building means that you are starting with a clean sheet and generally with new modern systems as well. You’ve got better air conditioning and electrical systems and better layout for plumbing and that sort of thing,” Sloan says. “That makes it easier to work with because you don’t have any surprises behind any of the walls or any old rotten bits that need to be retrofitted. However, sometimes working in an older building you have more character, such as brick walls and old-fashioned doors or hardware, depending on how much money the previous tenant put into it.”
Each different edifice and the corporate offices within them have their own unique characteristics and personality traits. In addition to that are the tenants themselves, who is looking to evoke the culture of their specific enterprise and what they are trying to espouse to the public. It means the employees at Style Construction devote a tremendous amount of time in getting to know all of their clients exceptionally well before the actual design process gets under way.
“It’s one of my biggest focuses and one of my biggest selling points,” Sloan confirms. “I take the time to really get to know a client well before doing anything. I want to know what their goals are and what image they’re trying to project in their space and the environment they want to create for their employees.”
As any expert interior designer would agree, office space should be much more than the area where employees sit and do their work every day; it should be a direct reflection and extension of the company’s personality and culture. By developing a close and trusting working relationship with his clients and looking out for their best interests, Sloan is never shy about recommending changes that will enhance efficiencies and employee productivity.
“I’m trying to save them money and make their workspace more efficient, which will benefit them in the long run. Nobody gets offended. It’s more a matter of having their eyes opened and they are often very appreciative,” Sloan says.
At Style Construction there are several essential phases in dealing with the client: the predesign, the design and construction and post-maintenance. Sloan channels most of his energies towards business development; meeting clients, establishing new relationships and telling them how the process is going to unfold from start to finish.
Once the project reaches the stage where the design drawings are completed and approved is when Sloan brings in one of his project managers to handle the daily progression. It’s a slow integration by choice, with Sloan ensuring the client and project manager are comfortable with one another before handing over the reins for the construction phase.
“I’m always available to talk and correspond with the clients but in terms of running the project I typically hand that off once we have the drawings completed,” he says.
Nothing speaks to a company’s success more than a solid portfolio and well-written referral endorsements from satisfied clients. With business becoming more competitive each and every day, Sloan recognizes he must always develop innovative ways to promote the company’s services to remain at the forefront. To that end, Style Construction has just rebranded its corporate website with a wonderful new aesthetic look and navigation, where visitors to the site can read many of those referrals along with viewing numerous high-resolution photographs that outline the amazing creative craftsmanship in some of Style Construction’s completed office projects.
“We’ve redone our marketing materials and have some new brochures and have updated the look and feel. The new website has lots of great pictures and quotes from satisfied clients,” Sloan proudly mentions. “We’re breathing a lot of colour and life into the new site. It was just time for a fresh look.”
Through word of mouth from their many satisfied clients – as well as their expansive proven portfolio – Style Construction receives requests for their professional services from far beyond the Greater Toronto Area, oftentimes from Toronto-area companies that also have a presence in other parts of Canada. However, Sloan makes it abundantly clear that he genuinely prefers to keep his client base confined to the GTA for one simple, albeit very poignant reason: he wants to be nearby to ensure the project is being properly managed first-hand from start to finish.
“We pretty much stick to any job that is within a reasonable drive, which would be Burlington to the west and Oshawa to the east and Newmarket to the north,” he says.
As the company continues to expand, Sloan felt it was the right time to hire a new site supervisor this year.
“He’s our on-site eyes and ears which saves me and my project managers a lot of time on the road,” he says.
Previously the project manager would have to visit the site on a daily basis, which meant Sloan and his project managers were spending a lot of hours in the car while the office workload continued to pile up. The addition of the site supervisor has freed up others’ time, allowing them to take care of the important administrative tasks in the office.
As with any industry there are always rules and regulations to follow, but Sloan doesn’t find any of them particularly onerous to deal with when it comes to interior design. Although government directives tend to be rather cumbersome, the intent is good, and that is the important prevailing factor, including improvements to workplace safety.
With each passing day there is a more pressing mandate for companies to adhere to stricter guidelines to ensure that the impact on the environment is always kept front of mind. Manufacturers have been ahead of the curve for quite some time, which means the ability to purchase top-quality sustainable products such as carpets, paints, drywall and doors is never an obstacle.
LEED certification is still not widely embraced by many companies due to the prohibitive associated costs, but Sloan says many still want to build to that standard and be as sustainable as possible without going for the actual certification, which is where all the costs come in with the proper documentation and consultants filling out all the paperwork, verifying certification standards have been met.
Within the past year, Style Construction has worked on a number of interesting projects.
“We did an IT company out in Burlington last year and took it from what used to be an industrial space where they were manufacturing food additive products. It was a dirty old warehouse full of machinery. We cleaned it all up and created about 7,000 to 8,000 square feet of beautiful office space with lots of glass and fancy sliding doors with this new aluminum framing system with nice carpeting and ceiling tile finishes and new lighting. They went with all LED lighting, which looks really great. We have lots of pictures from that project on our new website,” Sloan says.
Another recently completed project that Sloan and his team are exceptionally happy with is Radiation Solutions, a company that makes radiation detectors that you’d see at shipping depots and airports. This was a repeat client for Style Construction, which had previously spearheaded the interior design of their offices about six years earlier.
“We just built out about 20,000 square-feet of office space for them including a big research and development area and a testing area with anti-static epoxy floors and all new LED lighting. It was a great project,” Sloan says. “We had a client who knew what they wanted and had the money to spend on great office space for their staff and manufacturing space for their product. It’s one of those jobs where everything worked really well. The client was happy and we were happy.”
The success at Style Construction is evident in the work they have done and the work they continue to do. It is Sloan’s hope that his company will add one or two more employees within the next year or two while also securing a few more of the larger projects they’ve occasionally undertaken to date.
“Our bread and butter is in the 2,000 to 15,000-square foot range. Occasionally we get a couple of nice marquee projects each year that are bigger and fancier, and I would like to have a few more of those each year and do more work for landlords. Traditionally I’ve always gotten my business from real estate brokers but over the past year I’ve really been working hard at developing relationships with some of the larger landlords and it’s starting to bear fruit.”