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Ready for anything — the business advantage of military experience: Don Pittis

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Maybe Jay McArthur would never have had a chance to start his Brighton, Ont., home inspection business had he not stopped on the way to the shower in 2007 to use the phone at his military base in Afghanistan.

As it turns out his call home went unanswered, and McArthur, who would later retire with the rank of master corporal, left a voicemail message. But that short delay was just enough.

When the enemy rocket hit the shower stalls, killing one person and injuring another, McArthur was a first responder instead of being on the casualty list.

Military business advantage

While still suffering from the delayed effects of his time in the service, McArthur is convinced that his ready-for-anything military experience has given him a business advantage.

“Absolutely,” says McArthur, on the phone between appointments. “One of the biggest things with the military is attention to detail.”

One of the biggest things with the military is attention to detail.– Jay McArthur, veteran and owner of Rest Easy Home Inspections 

That is paying off in the business he started called Rest Easy Home Inspections.

McArthur’s venture is just one of hundreds listed as part of a service of the Prince’s Trust, called Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE), a scheme to assist and publicize the efforts of veterans who are trying to start their own businesses.

Each veteran I contacted through the POE directory of business services, searchable by location and by industry sector, credited the military with a big part of their own business success. A lot go into security, but if anything, the surprising thing is the variety.

Canadian Forces door gunner Sgt. Chad Zopf in Afghanistan’s Kandahar district in 2011. Entrepreneurs credit their military experience with giving them an advantage in business. (Matthew McGregor/Department of National Defence via Reuters)

New Brunswick archeologist Jason Jeandron credits his military experience with preparing him for working outdoors in cold, mucky or buggy conditions. Business coach Peter Lepinsky credits the military with teaching him leadership skills, which he says are sorely lacking in modern business.  

“For most of us when we come out, it comes down to, well, we’re taught a lot of leadership and taking initiative,” says Chantale Lefebvre, who served for 16 years, leaving as an avionics technician with a rank of master corporal.

Working from her Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., home so that she could look after her family, Lefebvre set up business as an online sales contractor to make a few hundred bucks a month, “and it just ended up exploding from there.”

The tough conditions in military operations mean service personnel often retire relatively young, but Lefebvre says having a pension — even a relatively small one — is a big advantage for an aspiring entrepreneur, something she thinks contributes to the success of veteran-owned new businesses.

“It definitely helps because it takes away that financial strain, so you can actually put the focus you need on it without having to worry so much about the financial side,” she says.

Founder, janitor, bookkeeper, receptionist

Having a pension has certainly helped Kevin Moore, founder, and, according to his website, “janitor, bookkeeper, repairman, receptionist , etc.,” at Two Sergeants Brewing, an already successful Alberta craft brewer just about to open — “within the week” — a new bar and restaurant in Edmonton’s entertainment district under the same name.

Two Sergeants Brewing founder Kevin Moore samples the product at the business’s new Edmonton restaurant and brewpub expected to open this month. (Two Sergeants Brewing)

“Myself and my business partner are both retired so we have pensions and medical pensions, so we don’t have to take a salary from the business,” says Moore, one of the two sergeants in the company’s name.

Moore says his favourite military quote is from the 19th century Prussian general Helmuth von Moltke that, “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” And that has been repeatedly proven to be true in his business career.

The military ethic of resourcefulness and drive drilled into the two partners during their service careers has really made the difference in overcoming business obstacles, but sometimes, he says, it has put them into conflict with civilian business “that goes at its own pace.”

Jay McArthur, a grad of the Prince’s Trust entrepreneurial bootcamp runs his own home inspection agency and credits the program with improving his health and his business. (Prince’s Trust)

Moore and his partner have learned from trial and error. With good management and good luck, the two sergeants have been selling their award-winning brews around the province, each container telling a tale from Canadian military history.

But veterans just starting out often struggle with the business basics.

Business bootcamp

That’s why as well as setting up a business directory, the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur also runs training programs, including a one-day kick-the-tires sessions at military bases across the country and a seven-day business bootcamp run at one of four universities.

The programs, free to veterans, are intended to help them brush up their entrepreneurial skills says Janet McCausland, head of programs at Prince’s Trust Canada. And she says they have been proven to work.

“Sixty per cent of the people who go to the bootcamp start their own business,” says McCausland and, according to their followup program, between eight and nine per cent of those businesses don’t succeed. That beats the national average where the majority of businesses fail after two years.

Two Sergeants Brewing, Edmonton (Two Sergeants Brewing, Edmonton)

McCausland says people suffering from PTSD and other post-military symptoms of stress are better off working for themselves where they can control their hours and environment.

“Almost 70 per cent of the people who come to our bootcamp are medically released. They have physical and mental-health issues,” she says. “And so entrepreneurship can be an especially good fit because it can accommodate any issues they have.”

Almost 70 per cent of the people who come to our bootcamp are medically released. They have physical and mental-health issues. And so entrepreneurship can be an especially good fit because it can accommodate any issues they have.– Janet McCausland, head of programs at Prince’s Trust Canada

McArthur, who has suffered from PTSD since his harrowing experience in what he thought was the safety of his base camp, is a graduate of the bootcamp program in 2016. He said it made a huge difference, for his health and for his business.

“It was phenomenal, like drinking through a fire hose,” says McArthur, of the weeklong course. 

And he says the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur training worked for him.

“My business since POE? I’ve had a 30-per-cent increase every year.”

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis 

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Real Estate

The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021

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Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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