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An unprecedented pandemic; a difficult economic outlook; global uncertainty — these overwhelming challenges call for innovation and insight. They also call for conversation, discussion and debate — for gaining personal perspectives from people on the frontlines.
LINK magazine reached out to eight past recipients of SAIT’s Alumni Awards, asking their advice on meeting the future, head-on. This story is one of seven in the series Into the Wind.
Staying ahead of the curve has long been central to Ryan Scott’s (BA ’01) entrepreneurial vision. In 2004, after taking over as president of his family’s construction business, Avalon Master Builder, Scott looked for innovative new ways to keep an already stable business moving forward in a competitive industry. After hosting two days of brainstorming sessions with Avalon staff, he and his sister, Christine, landed on prioritizing a more environmentally sustainable approach to home building.
“It wasn’t the direction the company had gone in the past,” says Scott, who was named a SAIT Distinguished Alumnus in 2018. “But win or lose, right decision or wrong, this was clearly our decision for moving forward.”
From there, Scott got to work setting an audacious but attainable goal of building net zero homes (homes that produce the same amount of energy they use annually) at no extra cost to customers. Now nearing the goal he credits sustainability as an essential pillar of the company’s continued success, and a vital component for the building industry as a whole.
Crucial to Scott’s strategies are adapting to consumer demand and finding ways of using technology to stay on the cutting edge. Today, Scott notes that much of his business can be done remotely and digitally, from contracts signed on iPads to plans and scheduling all taking place on digital platforms. Virtual reality (VR) is already being used in commercial construction, and Scott says he expects it to enter residential work soon — he’s excited to embrace it, and to see how it helps to improve project planning and create a more efficient workflow on-site.
While anticipating and adapting to business-related trends can be both rewarding and exciting, sometimes it’s the unforeseen challenges that end up prompting dramatic change. The COVID-19 pandemic saw Avalon shifting quickly to online outreach and sales. Scott notes the move has been overwhelmingly successful, with almost all new contacts coming through various social media platforms over the first few months of the pandemic.
“Strangely, the biggest thing I realized through COVID is the importance of communication. Communicating with everybody — and communicating the good and the bad forthrightly.”
Adjustments have also been made on Avalon construction sites to ensure worker safety, with measures that include scheduling one trade on-site at a time, installing handwashing stations, and moving meetings to digital platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams whenever possible.
Scott says his leadership was also tested through the shift to working from home. Difficulties around general contractor projects in which other companies were unable to deliver due to COVID, along with the slowdown of everyday processes due to most staff working from home, have added complications to the way Avalon operates. Through it all, however, Scott says Avalon has been able to push through the challenges, with one particular attribute serving him and the rest of the team well.
“Strangely, the biggest thing I realized through COVID is the importance of communication. Communicating with everybody — and communicating the good and the bad forthrightly,” says Scott. “Just be straight with people, and you can work through a lot.”