Force Civil Solutions
Adapting and Thriving Amid Canada’s Volatile Construction Landscape
Confronting rising costs and shifting markets, Force Civil Solutions Ltd are experts at keeping the dream of homeownership alive.
In the heart of Edmonton, a residential construction company has been steadily scaling the heights. Force Civil Solutions Ltd doesn’t just dip its toes into the vast ocean of civil solutions but immerses itself fully. The company’s repertoire is extensive – from excavation and utility installations to landscape grading, these masters of the terrain touch almost every aspect of the residential foundation process.
Scott Hayes, Partner and General Manager, reports. “Our scope of work is comprehensive,” he begins. “Beyond the excavation, we handle the installation of utilities like water, sewer, power, gas, and communications. We also tackle demolition, dirt and site management, grading, landscaping, and construction fencing.”
However, it’s not just about the diversity of services; the sheer volume of their work is staggering. Last year alone, the team completed foundation work for over 1800 homes in the Edmonton greater area. “If I had to guess from the permit reports,” Hayes adds, “that’s almost a third of the Edmonton market.”
But Force Civil Solutions isn’t just about numbers; it’s about forging relationships. From production builders to custom builders, their clientele is vast and varied. “We collaborate with anyone we build a rapport with,” he notes. As reflected on their website, the company’s ethos is built around five pivotal pillars – safety, accountability, respect, customer service, and quality. These principles guide its operations and sets it apart in the industry.
Industry Recognition, Safety, and Expanding Horizons
Discussing Force Civil Solutions’ achievements, Hayes lights up with pride and accomplishment.
“We’ve recently been recognized with the CHBA (Canadian Home Builders’ Association) Edmonton Region Awards of Excellence,” he states, conveying nostalgia. The accolade isn’t just any recognition; it’s reserved for trades that supply and install tangible products. Winning in 2021, 2022, and again in 2023, Hayes remarks, “It’s a three-peat, a rarity. It’s not just about the award but the significance it carries – we are nominated and then voted on by the homebuilder members of the association. They evaluate us on quality, service, performance, and reliability.”
Hayes’ demeanor shifts as he emphasizes the importance of safety in their line of work. “From the get-go, we’ve held the Alberta Construction Safety Association’s Certificate of Recognition, audited every year, consistently scoring in the 80s and 90s,” he shares. He explains the nuances of safety, detailing the company’s meticulous adherence to industry standards and builder expectations. From site-specific sign-ins to ensuring employees arrive with the correct personal protective equipment, Force Civil Solutions leaves no stone unturned in safety and professionalism.
As the business grows, Calgary is the new frontier the company is pursuing, driven by builder relationships and a keen eye on market dynamics. “A couple of years ago, we considered the Calgary market with a significant builder, Morrison Homes,” Hayes recalls. A slow start to the year in Edmonton provided the perfect opportunity to set sights on Calgary. “With some of our spare equipment and key personnel on board, we made the move,” he elucidates, with the company now nearing its fourth month in the city and aiming for 30 to 40 digs a month. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with builders particularly appreciative of the company’s reliability and schedule adherence.
Harnessing Tech for Efficiency
Like every other sector where technology steers the course of business, Force Civil Solutions is no exception. The company’s integration of a Construction Operations Software system (COS) is a strategic decision that has reaped immense benefits. “Our shared calendar,” Hayes begins, “is available to everyone in the company – from the foreman and the office staff to my partner Jon and myself.” This calendar, simple as it sounds, acts as a placeholder, keeping track of the company’s scheduling intricacies.
Hayes proceeds, “Our day-to-day operations hinge on our COS software called Assignar.” Sharing a bit about its inception, he recalls how he and his partner, Jon, sought a solution to a longstanding issue. The challenge was documenting potential site damages, especially with the sheer number of homes they managed. “Imagine having 1800 homes a year and multiple site visits. Capturing pre-existing damages through old-school Polaroids or even digital cameras was tedious,” he admits.
Assignar offered a way out. With the COS, Force Civil Solutions’ on-site teams could easily document, both before and after photographs, detailing any damage or anomalies. Hayes elaborates, “This real-time documentation is so detailed that you can even identify if a fence was damaged or the sidewalk was impaired before we began our work.”
Assignar’s software provides more than just site documentation for Force Civil Solutions. Hayes mentions the immediate billing process once a job is marked as complete and emphasizes its role in guaranteeing precise quality control/assurance and job costing. The software also aids equipment management by flagging any machinery issues daily, aligning with industry standards.
He highlights their ability to monitor safety credentials, ensuring up-to-date certifications for all employees. The software provides a digital edge and has become an essential tool for accountability and trust, especially when addressing potential site damages. He reveals that this system has bolstered their reputation and efficiency, estimating an annual saving to Builders & Trade of around $100,000.
Addressing Macroeconomic Challenges
Every industry feels the tremor when macroeconomic issues arise, and Force Civil Solutions Ltd. is no exception. These external pressures necessitate a quick thinking and adaptive mindset, and Hayes is up for the challenge.
The workforce forms the bedrock of any company, and Hayes is acutely aware of its significance. “Starting with the workforce,” Hayes begins, “we’ve been fortunate. Many of our operators are longstanding employees.” He attributes this loyalty to the company’s ethos. “We probably stand out in the industry for our benefits program, competitive wages and year round work flow. The core idea here is an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”
But Hayes is candid about the challenges, too. Hiring for entry-level labor positions, especially those requiring a valid driver’s license, has posed hurdles. Having licensed personnel is crucial with heavy machinery and equipment in constant motion. “But we’ve adapted,” Hayes asserts. “Sometimes, crews will have a non-driver as a helper, and they work their way up, eventually obtaining their license.”
Hayes emphasizes the importance of promoting from within Force Civil Solutions, even amid competition from lucrative oil and gas sectors. He believes people nowadays prioritize their weekends and family time. Drawing from his own life, he points out the value of balancing work with personal life. Their company offers this balance by providing consistent year-round employment, ensuring most weekends are free.
A unique initiative, the ‘Flex Friday’, stands out. Hayes explains that office staff work an extra 30 minutes daily from May to September, granting them a four-day summer time long weekend plan. These weekends are inaugurated with a safety breakfast barbecue, fostering employee camaraderie. Positive feedback from employee surveys reflects the company’s successful effort to value work and personal time for its staff.
Navigating Rising Rates and Material Costs
The complexity of global economics is unquestionable – a matrix of fluctuating factors often influenced by each other in unpredictable ways. For Force Civil Solutions, understanding these conditions and adapting is crucial to business strategy. Hayes’ insight into this landscape offers a glimpse into how successful enterprises deftly navigate these waters.
“Interest rates started climbing almost two years ago,” he observes, illustrating the long-term trend. By the latter part of last year, builder sales had a noticeable drop. He speculates, “People became apprehensive about the rising rates.” The real pinch was felt during the early months of 2023. “We experienced 3 or 4 of our worst months from a budget perspective.” Despite these setbacks, Hayes and the team remained resilient, a quality that defines their approach. “We knew things would turn.Jon and I decided not to sell equipment, valuing our investments, especially in our trained personnel.”
Hayes discusses the recent financial challenges faced by Force Civil Solutions, particularly in material costs. He recalls anticipating a 22% increase in costs post-Covid but ended up meeting a 33% hike in 2022. Fuel costs are another concern. Hayes mentions the unprecedented move of introducing fuel surcharges, adjusting them weekly due to market volatility. He further broadens the conversation to encompass industry-wide repercussions,noting other trade influences such as lumber prices alone added $50,000 to house-building costs. Through all these shifts, Hayes portrays their company as ever-adaptive, navigating each change with informed decisions.
Strategic Alliances and A Glimpse into the Future
No business exists in a vacuum. Hayes acknowledges the essential relationships and collaborations that have shaped the journey of Force Civil Solutions. “Being part of the CHBA (Canadian Home Builders’ Association) and BILD Alberta has been pivotal for us,” he shares. These associations provide a robust network and an opportunity to work on initiatives that benefit the broader community.
Hayes elaborates, “Jon and I have participated in working groups and committees, contributing to various industry initiatives. Through these platforms, we’ve strengthened our relationships with main construction managers and VPs from the builders we work with.” For Hayes, these associations are about networking and making tangible impacts. He appreciates the inclusive platform of the CHBA, stressing that it serves both general and builder members, fostering a sense of community.
Looking ahead, Hayes remains hopeful for Force Civil Solutions despite the setbacks. He aspires to achieve a stable budget by the year’s end and emphasizes the importance of maintaining their standard of service. “While the year began sluggishly, it’s time to accelerate,” he asserts.
Hayes is cautiously optimistic about 2024, suggesting that favorable interest rates and material costs might pave the way for a dynamic year. However, he’s wary of evolving housing loan qualifications, which might deter potential homeowners. Nonetheless, he strongly believes in the intrinsic value of homeownership, highlighting its foundational role in an individual’s life journey.
Closing on a hopeful note, he reiterates, “If things stabilize, 2024 could be a big year.” It’s clear that the journey ahead for the Force Civil Solutions team will continue relying on strategy and optimism, a twofold strategy that has already served the company exceptionally well.
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AT A GLANCE
Force Civil Solutions Ltd.
What: Civil engineering and construction solutions provider.
Where: Alberta, Canada
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