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▶ You have mentioned sub-trades. Does Cobalt do any of the work ‘in-house’ or is all work done by sub-trades?
Since this is the first blog post in our newly created blog, I figured what better place to start than at the beginning. Who doesn’t like a story about how it all began? I can’t promise that it will be edge-of-your seat type stuff, but I have to think that at least a few are wondering how Keith and I got started and how Cobalt was born. So here goes…
Keith and I first became acquainted as we both worked for what I would call a medium sized home builder in Calgary. When we worked together, we always found that we got along and shared a lot of common interests. We were both family men, loved the outdoors, and shared a common faith. The more we got to know each other, the better friends that we became.
When you work at a home building company, and you have a solid background in the construction trades, pretty much everyone you know wants you to do a project for them now and then. Decks, fences, built-ins, painting, and just about any other home renovation job you can think of. And Keith and I did them all. It’s hard to say no to friends and family and who doesn’t like to have a little bit of extra vacation $$$ to play with?
Pretty soon Keith and I were teaming up on projects. We found that our individual strengths complimented each other quite well. Where I would be fast and efficient in the carpentry related parts of the job, Keith was expert in the paint and drywall aspects. The stuff in between, we taught ourselves.
My motto was, “the dummy isn’t the guy that doesn’t know, it’s the guy that doesn’t ask.” Keith’s motto was, “If that guy over there with 6″ of butt crack showing can do it, I sure as hell can figure it out!” One thing we did know for sure, is that there is always a right way to do something, and a multitude of wrong ways, you just had to be willing to do the homework and not be too proud to ask for a bit of guidance and advice from the real pro’s. Luckily, due to the nature of our day jobs, there was never a shortage of those at our disposal, although some of them probably got tired of the random questions about things like how to install a two-phase breaker in an electrical panel.
But while quality was never an issue, timeframes were far from ideal. Working hours were also constantly begging the forgiveness of our gracious clientele. Keith and I both knew that there was a better way.
It was just after completing a partial basement in Cranston, that a friend of mine approached me and asked if we would be willing to do their basement in Evergreen. I was a bit burnt out after 5 months of evenings and weekends in Cranston and so I graciously declined my friends petition. They proceeded to hire a contractor to take on their basement development project.
As their job progressed I began receiving fairly regular updates on how things were going. Occasionally my friends would ask my opinion on things and run technical questions by me. I frequently heard things like “It’s been 2 weeks since we have seen or heard from anyone”, “The trades people are asking us for direction”, “If Mike (my friend – the client) hadn’t asked, such and such would have been missed all together”.
And so it dragged on. At one point my friends went on vacation for 3 weeks, leaving the home accessible while they were gone and when they returned not a thing had changed.
But an out of control timeframe was only half the story… the budget had grown legs. At first they were quoted “about” $50,000. By the time it was all said and done it had gone North of $70,000 and taken nearly 7 months.
None of this was really all that eye-opening for me, I’d heard lots of stories like it before. I think we all have. But the epiphany came when I found out that my friends actually referred this contractor to one of their friends who subsequently had the same experience. In the end, they were both happy with the finished product and I guess they just accepted that usually home renovation and hiring a general contractor is a painful process. What I really came to understand is that most people just think this type of experience is just ‘normal’ when it comes to having a contractor work for you. The more people that I talked to about their home renovation experiences, the more stories I heard that were not too far off what my friends had gone through.
That is when Keith and I decided to start Cobalt. A company founded in the idea that the quality of the finished product is not the only thing that counts. The quality of the experience is equally important, perhaps more so in fact. What is more is that Keith and I knew that it was possible to provide an experience that goes against all the norms in the home renovation world. It started with a few simple absolutes.
On time. On budget. Open communication. The are things that we do not compromise on, no matter the situation. It’s what you can count on when hiring Cobalt for your basement development.