Clayton Achen (00:02):

Alright, this week on your business Unleashed in our Master Built construction series, I am super honored to have guest Tyrell DaSilva, the owner of Sonata Design Group on. Thank you so much for being with us, Tyrell.

Tyrell DaSilva (00:51):

Thank you for the invitation, Clayton. I’m excited to be here.

Clayton Achen (00:54):

Right on. It’s always good to have a client on and to chat about their experiences, and you’re one of those guys who I just want to be around. I want you in my sphere because I just like what you do. I like how you treat people and I like your company, so I’m honored that you’ve agreed to do this with me.

Tyrell DaSilva (01:15):

I feel the same way about you.

Clayton Achen (01:18):

Thanks man. Thanks. So we’re going to talk mostly about your business and your experiences on here, and with the context of hopefully giving other construction business owners some valuable insights. And frankly, this podcast is sort of a place where people come and go, oh yeah, I’m dealing with those same things too. We try and get really real on this thing and try and talk about some of the issues that we face. One of the cool things about Sonata Designs, I mean, let’s just take a pause and why don’t you tell us about the business. Give us your elevator pitch on what it is that you do.

Tyrell DaSilva (01:51):

We are an interior design products company. We started as a shading only business, and I grew up in the shading business. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. So we started doing just blinds, draperies, shutters, window films, that kind of stuff. And that today is still a really big part of our business, but over the years we’ve added a lot of auxiliary products and value add products like lighting control, home automation, wall covering, acoustic treatments, low voltage speaker data, tv, that type of thing. And in the last couple of years we’ve really started to move into a little bit more of the service work, including architectural design rendering. And right now we’re really leaning into finding creative ways to use artificial intelligence in the design space. And that’s kind of our company in a nutshell.

Clayton Achen (02:42):

You have your poker in several fires, but it’s mostly to do with interior design. Now, one of the neat things about your company that differentiates you from a lot of construction companies is inventory. You carry inventory and you have a showroom, and that’s really cool too. Tell me a little bit about that and what made you decide to go that route or have you had it the whole time?

Tyrell DaSilva (03:03):

Yeah, so I think growing up in the industry, I’ve seen several different cycles. And 10 years ago when we got started, a lot of people were moving towards shop at home or downsizing and kind of changing the way that they were presenting. People were worried about digital and online sales. And I thought, you know what? Having been doing this for so long, I know that this is the type of product that’s hard to understand. It’s hard to explain online, and you can’t really show it out of the back of a van or out of your garage. And so I always had that commitment to making sure we had a facility, a showroom, a studio where people could come and collaborate and understand and work with us and clients could come and really get the full hands-on experience. And so that’s always been part of our ethos was to create that customer experience from the start.

And as we see the winds changing and demographics changing, I think that’s actually going to be even more prevalent at the same time that online sales and e-commerce is going to be booming and continue to grow. There is still going to be that need, especially in the construction space and finishing sector for people to actually have that tactile experience.

Clayton Achen (04:25):

Yeah, yeah. And that resonates with me. We built our house 10 years ago and I can’t think of anything, and this was 10 years ago, granted, but I can’t imagine ordering a faucet online or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m old school, but I needed to go in and feel and touch it. And same with the window coverings. We went into the store and looked and pulled on the window coverings and what do they feel like? And so I think that’s super important. Kind of goes with my, this is sort of an off-ramp, but I have this theory that covid and the disconnectedness that it caused caused us to crave being more connected. And so I feel like there’s this human renaissance of human connection and tactile things that is happening right now. And so yeah, it’s neat to be on the forefront of that. How long has Sonata been around for?

Tyrell DaSilva (05:23):

So we’re in year 10. Our 10 year anniversary is coming up in one four days, actually four days from now. And so we’re going to be doing something in the new year, big party and all that. But yeah, we’re 10.

Clayton Achen (05:37):

And sorry, you’re second gen, right?

Tyrell DaSilva (05:41):

Correct. Yeah. So I grew up in the industry, as I mentioned, the kind of short version of this is that I worked in the business doing everything, sales installations, warehouse accounting, data entry, workroom, you name it, and then went away to university. And when I came back from university, that company at the time that I had grown up and had gone into a few different products like flooring and granite, and ultimately a couple partnerships went sideways and that company closed. And so when that happened, I wasn’t sure of what direction I was going to take. I had originally studied to become a lawyer, and so I had a business degree and a philosophy degree. And after that experience I was pretty drained and I couldn’t picture myself going back to school. And I was sitting there with the old man one day and he said, here’s a leather bound Rolodex of business cars. Get on the horn, the industry really well, why don’t you take a shot at it? And here we are 10 years later, we’re in three cities with 30 people and away we go.

Clayton Achen (06:47):

Super neat. And so the 10-year-old Sonata is different than the family business, which has gone on for a long time, but you grew up doing this. And so when you started your business 10 years ago, I guess that you probably had a bit of assurance, you knew you could sell and you knew you could do relationships really well. That’s a really terrifying thing to open a business and start going. That’s a very scary cliff to jump off. So tell me what was going through, if you remember what was going through your head at the time?

Tyrell DaSilva (07:19):

I think just having gone through that kind of traumatic experience, knowing that there’s no guarantee that you’re going to be successful. And like you said, taking that leap was terrifying, but at the same time was very exciting because I knew that I understood this industry in a deeper way than a lot of my competitors. I had something that a lot of people still don’t have in this industry, which is some youth and energy. And so I had a couple Aces in the hole, if you will. So I felt pretty confident that I was going to succeed. And like you said, I’ve always known how to sell and how to create that customer experience. And we’ve always had a really big emphasis on integrity and making sure we do the right thing, but figuring it out along the way when it came to purchasing and accounting and is something that was and continues to be a challenge.

Clayton Achen (08:16):

Yeah. Yeah. I think it is for a lot of business owners, particularly in the construction space, and we’re going to get to that later, but I always say as entrepreneurs, we wear a lot of hats. And if you’re good at swinging a hammer or if you’re good at maintaining relationships, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should open a business of swinging hammers or building relationships. Business is a whole other animal, right? Yeah. Anyway, so what would you say when you got started, I mean, you’re a big company now as far as I’m concerned, and certainly one of the biggest construction companies we’ve helped. And I am blanketing you in with a construction company. I’m sorry, I’m just throwing you into that industry. I know that That’s okay. You build things.

Tyrell DaSilva (09:01):

I identify as construction.

Clayton Achen (09:04):

Okay. So what would you say was the number, the first few things that you focused on when you hit the ground?

Tyrell DaSilva (09:14):

Well, admittedly not the things that I wish I had looking back, and I would say only in the last few years and that trend of me changing my perspective of accelerates, we met, but I always was focused on the top line. And so the thing I did right out the gate was how many clients can I sign up? How many people can I sell to? How much business can I bring in the door full stop without considering how to actually process those orders. And so that was kind my number one thing. The number two thing, and I’m glad I did, is I tried to innovate a little bit in terms of our branding and marketing. A lot of people, specifically in the shading world, which is where we operate generally, always have either their name or the word sun or shade or something like a play on words attached to their company. And so I really wanted to find something that kind of embodied more than just Tyrell’s shades or blinds or sun bright or sun shades or something like that. And

Clayton Achen (10:26):

Where were you when I started Achen Henderson? Geez.

Tyrell DaSilva (10:30):

No, I think it’s good. I think Achen Henderson’s good. Achen’s pretty awesome. I haven’t met Henderson.

Clayton Achen (10:37):

Thanks, man. Well, what’s interesting though, a lot of people will be listening to this and go, yuck sales, right? Ew, you use the word sell, that’s a dirty word. And I don’t think so. We need the reason that you have, in my opinion, the reason that you are today and you’re at a great level and you’re in a great spot, I think you’re there because you focused on selling and you go, well, you didn’t obviously focus only on sales. I think that your customers are fairly happy with you and they’re fairly happy with the product, and when something goes wrong, you make it right. And I’ve seen it firsthand. You do that sometimes at great expense to the financial bottom line, but that’s important to make things right. And so coming back to this word of selling and sales, that’s not a dirty word in business and it shouldn’t be, right?

Tyrell DaSilva (11:29):

No, I agree. And I think the reason that it has that stigma is because the gurus that were sales leaders for many years were focused on tactics and deception, and the technical business language around selling from 1950 until 2005 was very different the new age. And I think that in some sense, all selling even back then was really still just problem solving. And as long as you are coming at it from that angle, I think you can always find that win-win where the company can be profitable and more importantly, your customer can have an awesome experience and you’re providing something of value to them. That’s really what true selling is, is solving problems.

Clayton Achen (12:20):

Yeah. Yeah. My financial planner, great guy. And when I use the term, he doesn’t like the word sales and he says, I don’t sell, I help people buy. And it’s true. He’s extremely helpful, dude. And I get that with your team too. You really take that approach and helping people make an informed buying decision and sticking with them through the decision and all that. Well done on that. Okay. Walk me through the growth you started in same year we started and look at that. You’re way bigger than us. Congratulations. You go. Okay. You started with how many people?

Tyrell DaSilva (13:03):


Clayton Achen (13:04):

Two. Alright. And so walk me through the growth curve. We don’t have to use dollars and cents here, but just tell me about the major milestones that you hit as you were growing the big light bulbs that turn on and what gave you the courage to go from two to 30 and what were those big milestones?

Tyrell DaSilva (13:19):

I think that one of the big things that I realized early, and I’m rere realizing now and I’m being reminded, is that nobody can go it alone. And so for the first few months I thought that I had to do this on my own. I had to figure this out on my own. And I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a strategic partner in the first six months from our inception that really also acted as a mentor for me for many years. And being able to kind of understand that we could grow this business and scale this business hand in hand with somebody that had a deeper level of experience in entrepreneurship, that had deeper pockets, that had bigger relationships and more relationships than I did. That was one of my big aha moments was I didn’t need to be pounding the pavement as hard as I was and I didn’t need to be on the phone as much as I was trying to drum up work.

If I could find a strategic partner that could open doors for me and then service the shit out of those clients and make sure that everybody was happy at the end of the day. So that was probably one of the things that took us from a two person to a five person operation in the first, let’s say 18 months. And then from 18 months to five years, I think the thing that really pushed our growth was being courageous and taking risks with the products that we were offering. A lot of people in this space will have one or two alternatives. We carry 15 brands. The level of complexity of being able to deliver on those brands and understand how they’re put together and what fits in each situation is tough. But it helped separate us from the herd because a lot of our clients or potential clients were being offered an apple or an orange, and we were the first one to say, why don’t we get an apple and an orange smoothie and we’ll throw in a banana and we’ve got raspberries over here.

And just showing them that there was more solutions than they even knew existed. That was a really big part of what pushed us forward for the next few years until we were five and then we were at about 10 people, and then it was about expanding markets. And so Alberta is Alberta strong. We had relationships throughout the province and we have some builders and clients that we work with that operated in Edmonton already. And so that was the next natural progression for us. And when we took that leap, we also opened a new facility in even bigger showroom. And that was probably the biggest risk because that was at a time again in the industry where everybody was saying to me, no, it’s not going to work. Everyone’s downsizing showrooms aren’t important. That was five years ago. And that’s the one-off Deerfoot that we’re talking about.

Yeah, you bet. And when we opened that facility, the response from our current clients and the response from many of our now clients that weren’t at the time was overwhelming. And so being able to just believe in the process that was, and our vision was something else that kind of helped galvanize us for the future. And the thing that I would say really is helping us catapult to the next level now is recognizing and capitalizing on some of those changing wins that I talked about earlier. So I think we probably talked about this, you and I off camera and at some point or another, but I was just on a call with BDC last week in their entrepreneurship webinar series and the age of the working population in Canada is, the rate’s pretty crazy. So it’s 25% of all people in the working that are working in our economy are 55 years or older.

And the numbers in the construction space are even higher than that. And so what we’re seeing happening is a lot of people that are in the construction world in trades are retiring and there’s nobody there to fill that gap. So people that were specifically in my niche or in my space, a lot of their parents are leaving the industry and looking to sell their business or do some type of succession planning. The kids aren’t interested, they’re lawyers, doctors, they’re in tech, they’re in finance, they’re doing whatever, and there’s a massive opportunity. And so just being able to recognize the markets and the types of clients where those gaps are showing up and making sure that we’re there to essentially fill that void.

Clayton Achen (18:10):

Interesting. And is that making it, I mean, I’ve always thought who the hell’s going to build stuff for us going forward? We’ve got a big, I don’t know what it is, it just feels like we’ve got a big shortage in trades and our other construction customers that we’ve talked to certainly are saying it’s tricky to find people. Are you experiencing that too?

Tyrell DaSilva (18:30):

Yeah, I think we’ve been really lucky where our hiring process and our recruitment process, if you could call it that, and that’s why I say we’ve been really lucky has worked out for us, but there is definitely a shortage of trades. There’s going to continue to be a shortage of trades. We’ve been blessed, the people that we’ve trained up in the organization and the people that we’ve been able to connect with over the last five years have set us up for success for the future. But that’s not the case as a whole in the industry. And the answer to who’s going to build this stuff and who’s going to fill that gap is immigration. And there’s going to be a learning curve. And holding onto quality trades right now is imperative.

Clayton Achen (19:20):

Yeah. I love how modest you are, how you chalk up your hiring success to luck. If I could offer an alternative theory, if I may, I was at the Banff CPA forum last year was, and one of the old school CPAs there, we were having a chat and saying, it’s impossible for me to find people. There’s nobody out there to work. How are you finding people? And I said, well, we’re not having trouble finding people. First of all, I’m lucky because I don’t need somebody local to swing our hammers, our metaphorical hammers. We can take people from all over the world and all over Canada. But the other thing I said to him is, it’s not that there’s no people out there to work, it’s just that they don’t want to work for you anymore. And a couple of the things that you said really resonated with me while you were talking about the labor shortage here in Calgary and how we’re going to solve it and how your team has had success with hiring.

I didn’t hear you use the word once. It was always we, and that’s really your mindset and your culture really shines through and through your hiring process. And I think the companies with a solid culture are going to be able to get through this a lot easier than the old guard who, like my industrial age accounting firm owner friend, they’re going to have trouble hiring people. People don’t want to work at those places anymore. People want to be involved in adult decision-making, and people are smart and capable and they want to have a say at the table, and they believe that this sense of self-worth has come back. We’re all entrepreneurs at heart for the last 2000 years we’ve been entrepreneurs. It’s only this brief window in history when everybody’s been an employee somewhere here. And I think that you really get that at Sonata. I think that your culture really reflects that. So yeah, I think your modest, when you’re saying you’re being lucky.

Tyrell DaSilva (21:25):

Yeah, thank you, Clayton. I think you’re bang on. And those are two things that are near and dear to me from a cultural perspective. There’s a lot of things we do here that not just other construction or finishing trades or people in our niche do, but just in general that most SMBs don’t do. And one of them is vacation time. So yeah, we have an employment contract that states X number of days and weeks and we trip, but we have never turned down extra days. We’ve never penalized someone for going over that. There’s no cap on sick days or time off or mental health breaks. And I think that’s really important is people feeling supported in their personal lives. We operate the business, we call ourselves a family when not whether we get to 300 people instead of 30, that’s still going to be something that’s really important to us as a company, is having that kind of familial flat culture where, like you said, people are involved in decision making, they’re heard, they’re able to voice concerns.

And then the third thing that you said, and that really hits home with me is that we were all entrepreneurs at some point in history. And so I try to foster a culture of entrepreneurship here where, hey guys, I can bring ideas to the table and say, Hey guys, this is what I’m thinking. This is the direction I want to go. What do you guys think? And some of my best ideas and some of our best ideas of a group have come from that collaboration. And I think those are always going to be things that are key to our culture, like you said, that’s really going to separate the people that are able to attract and retain talent in the shortage. And as that happens in the marketplace, is great places to work and great people to work for.

Clayton Achen (23:10):

Yeah. So I mean, we’ve done a really good job of pumping your tires here, and I see you’re blushing For anybody who’s watching this podcast on YouTube, Tyrell’s blushing, but what are some challenges that you’ve faced through the years? Let’s get real here for a minute. I like to talk. It’s funny, I said this on, I probably said this on the last, so the listeners are probably getting bored of this, but when I’m talking to a group of people, I’m careful to always mention that, listen, we can talk about how great things are and how our businesses can be and all that. But I think it’s important to talk about the tough stuff too and be open and honest and transparent with that. Because if you go to a trade show and you see the window covering owner of your dreams up on stage talking about how great everything is that person has suffered, and they maybe don’t talk about their suffering, but I think it’s important because that’s how we relate to people, right?

Tyrell DaSilva (24:09):

Yeah. And I think that for me, some of those pain points have almost always been tied to, they’re a relationship that I relationship was holding onto either with a client or with a team member because of a personal relationship there when they weren’t good for the business and they weren’t good for Sonata and they weren’t aligned with us and they weren’t aligned with where I was. That’s something that I’ve always struggled with and to this day, continue to find a challenge. And then one of the biggest things, and probably the biggest issue for me personally was, and we’ve talked about this adnauseum, is growing the business without scaling the business. That’s something that has caused me a lot of pain, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of headache. And I think that had I been exposed to some of the resources like yourself, some of the books that I read and some of the podcasts and different media that I now consume on a daily basis, five years ago, I would’ve been able to avoid a lot of those pitfalls.

But there was points where I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to do this or if I was going to be able to persevere, especially in the construction space because as you know, for the trades especially, it’s difficult. Most clients are going to be 60 to 90 days until you’re seeing payment. And so while you may be profitable, your cashflow is not so awesome, and you’re incurring other liabilities, payroll, purchasing, overhead costs while you’re waiting to be paid. And so if you can’t sell at a rate and collect cash at a rate that can support the business, then you’re in trouble. And so there’s been times where I wasn’t sure what the next quarter was going to look like or the next year was going to look like, or if I was willing to continue to push through some of those challenging spots.

The other thing that I would say has been a really big lesson to be taught is the importance of putting systems in place before you turn the thing on. So it’s really not easy, but you can go out and if you provide value in the marketplace and you have a great product and you operate with integrity and you market well and you’re a good person with good people around you, you can build a thing and you can create revenue and you can get customers. But if you haven’t thought about the small intricacies of product delivery and customer experience and cashflow management and quality control and all of those nuances that are part of running a business, you’re going to be in for a world of pain. So we’re only now starting to backfill those systems and processes the last couple of years. And we were able to kind of bootstrap this thing because of how awesome our people are and how diligent and hardworking the people that I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by are. But we could be way bigger and we could be moving at a much faster pace had we put some of the things in place we’ve done in the last 18 to 24 months, six years ago.

Clayton Achen (27:47):

Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s a really common tale in your industry because first of all, you’re a relationship industry, and we should talk about that for a minute. This industry is totally about relationships. It would be hard, for example, for someone to maybe it would be harder for someone to move to Calgary, for example, slap up a website and hope for good things. This is a relationships based industry, and you work hard on that. Tell me some of the things that you do around relationships, and we’re going to come back to this idea of a construction company growing without building its systems underneath it, because I don’t want to, but let’s touch on relationships first.

Tyrell DaSilva (28:29):

Yeah, I think you’re right. The construction space in general, but especially in Western Canada, and that’s not just Calgary, that’s Vancouver, that’s Edmonton, that’s everywhere that we operate and everywhere that I’ve ever seen things being built, it is all about relationships. And it’s very much the who, the answer I think, to how do you develop those relationships? How do you maintain those relationships, as cheesy as it sounds, and you’ll hear about it all over the internet, if you look up any sales or business guru or coach is in providing value first. And so we try to do that as to the best of our abilities. We provide free consultations, free information, opinions, options, opportunities within our scope and without. So I’ll give you a real life example. If I’m going to sit down for lunch or coffee with a home builder and interior designer that we work with, and as much as I’m going to be talking about this new brand that we’re bringing on or this new line, or we want to make sure have all of your projects next year, Mr.

And Mrs. Builder, Mr. And Mrs. Designer, I’ll make sure that at least a quarter of that meeting, I’m qualifying how I can help outside of my scope. So if you need a drywall or Mr. Builder or you need a great painter, Mrs. Builder or whatever, I’ll literally just end the last 25% of any of those meetings with how can I help you outside of what I do for you already? And you give me money to do, because like you said, it’s a relationship business. And so it’s a small industry, it’s a big industry, but it is really a small community, and being able to connect other people in the industry and in the space, I think is one really paramount way to continue to develop those relationships. And then I would say that one of the other things that sets us apart or why we’ve been able to build and maintain relationships and be referred and grow the business without a lot of outbound marketing is just having that unwavering commitment to customer service. You said it earlier on the call, we’ll lose money on a job to make sure that that customer ultimately had a good experience, even though if it was a bad experience, we’ll make sure it’s done right in the end because not every job’s going to go perfectly, but it’s how you handle those challenges and how do you rise to the occasion when things don’t go well?

Clayton Achen (31:13):

Yeah, you do provide a lot of value. You pay us a lot of money for the various things that we do with you and you still give to this relationship. I’m just so impressed by you as a human. And when you say, I look for ways to provide value, I mean, I try and provide some value to you, but it’s like you’re looking for ways to provide value to me, and you’re technically my customer here, right? So it’s just like, yeah, there’s such a lesson in that, and I can tell why you get along with Scott. Another guest that we’ve had on this podcast on our Master Built construction series, he’s the same way. He’s that kind of person too. So as soon as I met you, it was like, I got to sync you two up because you’re peas in a pod and there’s something we could all learn from that, right? Yeah.

It’s almost old school, but it’s just a fundamental, it’s like a fundamental that most of us, myself included, a lot of the time, we don’t get it right. You’re consistently knocking that out of the park, and I appreciate that about you. Anyways, let’s talk a bit about why this is so pervasive in the construction industry, how you can go, it’s copy page repeat over and over and over again. We get companies through here that have gotten to 10 million in sales, and their mom’s still doing their bookkeeping, and it’s like they haven’t built the systems to support the business. And then by and large, they’re shocked when you start going, well, this is what it takes to support the business the size of the company that you have. And it’s is shocking to most people because they haven’t valued the support or the systems beneath growing the company because they’ve been so fixated on sales and selling and relationships the whole time, and all of a sudden this thing’s gotten away from them, and all of a sudden there’s no cash flow because you’ve got sales coming in the door and you’re going out and servicing people and paying your payroll and grinding through your inventory and not receiving a paycheck for, as you said, 90.

Some of the big builders are 120 days, despite the new legislation that’s come out in Alberta. I think everybody just pretty much ignores that because you don’t want to lose the client, right? And there’s this fear that, yeah, sure, I could put a lien on the property, but I’ll never work with that person again. And that fear is palpable. So tell me about that. Why does that happen? Why does that happen in construction so much, particularly in construction?

Tyrell DaSilva (33:47):

Yeah, that’s a really great question. I would say that my opinion, and is there probably a couple of things there, and I don’t mean to sound this disparagingly in any way, even to myself, but I think there’s generally, again, generally a lack of sophistication in business acumen with people in the trades mostly where a lot of people may not have gotten post-secondary education and training and grew up, like you said, swinging the hammer, doing the thing, building the stuff and inherited the business or went out on their own after working for somebody. And they’re really good at doing the thing but don’t really understand the intricacies of business. I think that’s one part of it. And then I think there’s people who like me, who have been humbled over the years, but I would say I had a lot bigger of an ego even five years ago where, and I don’t think that’s specific to construction, I think that’s an entrepreneurial trait, but I think you can do it better.

You’re the smartest, you work harder, I can figure this out, and you’re afraid or hesitant to ask for help and support. You don’t seek it out and by the time you do, it can be too late or you’ve suffered greatly for a lot longer than you needed to because resources and community are out there. So I think it’s a lack of sophistication and business acumen with a lot of principals in the construction space. I think those that do have the training like myself, chose or choose to turn a blind eye because they think they’re smarter than everybody else. And then I think the third problem, and the reason that it’s so prevalent in construction is that there is not the same level of targeting for consultancy companies like there are in medical professional services, finance, et cetera. So if you talk about how many marketing or business consultancy or business enrichment or business coaches are focused on solely the construction niche and inside that niche, finishing trades and trades,

Clayton Achen (36:11):

Sorry, I got to stop you there, Tyrell, because you’re giving away my secret. Okay. We don’t need all my listeners to, but you’re right. I’m sorry to interrupt you. Yeah, you’re right. There isn’t a whole bunch of targeted services.

Tyrell DaSilva (36:26):

That’s it. And I don’t know why that is, because it’s been my experience that people who are in those two buckets, whether they were just swinging hammers and then decided to swing hammers for themselves or went to school and decided to start a business and take everything they learned in school, which does not compare to the harshness of running in the real world in the construction space, though most people that I know in this industry, regardless of what path they came from, are super hardworking, loyal people who have integrity. And so I don’t know why there isn’t more focus on trying to attract clients like that from professional services companies and people that can help them out. I dunno. I don’t know why.

Clayton Achen (37:16):

Yeah, I wonder how much of it on both sides has to do with fear, fear, ego on the one side of going, I don’t need help. I’m going to go and do this on my own. I’m a big tough whatever. And then fear on the other end. We are in guru, we’ve been through it. We’ve failed a few construction companies as we were learning how to play the game in that industry. And it’s very complicated. Construction is a complicated business on the books. If you want to understand how you’re doing on a job, that’s a simple thing to say, I want to understand how I’m doing on a job. How am I doing compared to budget? Getting to that data is super complicated, especially when you’re at scale and you’ve got 34 projects on the go. And what I find a lot of people doing is going, okay, well, I’m just going to hire a bookkeeper to do that.

And we made that mistake. We’ve made that mistake at Achen Henderson where we would take a business that was too big for us who had a bookkeeper before and it wasn’t doing a good job, that was a competent, reasonable bookkeeper, and then we replaced it with another bookkeeper. We said, okay, yeah. Well, let’s get rid of that bookkeeper. Or you’re calling me to replace your bookkeeper. We’re going to replace ’em with another bookkeeper when what we should have said is, you need a fractional CFO. You need a complete analysis of your control systems. And once that’s all sorted out, we’ll talk about replacing your bookkeeper, which by the way is what we say now when we are approached by construction companies to help them. And so that’s the fear thing of going, you know what? I like the word bookkeeper. I don’t understand the finance end of my business, and they’re 25 bucks an hour on Kijiji, and so that’s what I’m going to do.

And that’s really common. That’s really, really common. And I think that that is a lack of education, not you didn’t go to school for long enough or whatever. I think that us as an industry, as the accounting industry have failed in delivering the education about what the differences are between and the levels of competency that you need in your finance department at different levels of your business. We have failed there. And so I, a hundred percent I’ve committed. Yeah, I’ve sort of committed the last whatever year, year and a half to providing, trying to get that education out there, right? Yeah. Anyway, super interesting conversation. Would you mind if we could just talk a little bit about our work together and how it has impacted you, where you were at when we found each other, how we found each other? And then I think we came together from, I think we came together from a bookkeeper that we had interviewed, and then we were ready to put an off route, and she picked up a job with you and told us to take a hike, I think is what happened back in the day. And we didn’t know it at the time, but that came around full circle in a year when she called me up and referred you to us. So tell what you want to tell. But I think you and I are on a really neat journey together, and I’m humbled by how great your company is, and I’m in awe of what you’ve been able to do with some of the resources. So let’s talk about that for a minute.

Tyrell DaSilva (40:25):

Yeah, and I think, like I said, Clayton, and I’ve said this to you off camera, I wish we’d met a lot sooner. And so the only way I could describe it was the last few years, especially through COVID and the growth and dealing with some of the challenges of growing a business without scaling your systems. It was a mess. Our finance department was a mess. We’re still working through that with your help and with some of the resources you’ve put in place, and it’s been amazing. But the short version is we had tried different fractional CFOs. I’m not going to say any names for a lot of money and very little result. And I had been asking for specific reports month in and month out across all the cities and all kinds of different data that I needed to make decisions and to plan, and I could never get it for years and years and years.

And that was whether we were trying to make that a function of a finance department in our bookkeeping in-house, or we were working with a fractional CFO or a firm. And I think the problem is that a lot of people were happy to take on the work and basically just placate and say, yeah, we’re going to get there. We have some cleanup to do. We’re going to get there to have some cleanup to do. And you were the first one to stop dead in the tracks and say, you’re completely screwed if you don’t do A, B and C right now. And everybody else had kind of said, we’ll, keep plugging away and we’ll get this data cleaned up. And nobody had a reality check for me until Aiken Henderson. That was a year ago, I think. Now,

Clayton Achen (42:16):

The first person we introduced you to was not an accountant at all.

Tyrell DaSilva (42:20):

Exactly. I think that for us to go from a place where I was losing faith in myself in the business, in the stress, in this massive vision that I have for where this company can go across Canada and the United States that was dying, and you were the first CPA to say, I don’t think you actually need to give me any money as an accountant, you, Mr. Entrepreneur, need to start investing in learning more about systems and process and what true entrepreneurship means and freedom mapping and masterminding and networking on top of all that you actually need to get a fractional CEO inside your organization. And then we’re going to figure out what you need from a finance perspective. So to go from a place a year ago where I was lost to having a crystal clear vision in the future today, I owe that to you, and that’s why

Clayton Achen (43:30):

The team has done a lot for you. The team has done really well.

Tyrell DaSilva (43:33):

For you to Achen Henderson, to Scott, to everybody that’s involved by virtue of our relationship. I mean that in you as in the big you, but that’s been transformational for us.

Clayton Achen (43:50):

It’s interesting because you came to us for a bookkeeper and I just said, no, you’re not. You’re not getting a bookkeeper from us. Let me introduce you to a fractional CEO who’s going to help you sort out some. And then I think it took six months or something, and then we put a fractional CFO in with you, and you still have your same finance team, and so we’re still not ready to look at your bookkeeping because it’s not what you need. You have a reasonably functioning bookkeeping team. What you needed was more than bookkeeping. And I’m super happy that we’ve taken that approach with you because we haven’t with others and it hasn’t worked. And that’s usually what business owners like you need is some really good high level business advice. So yeah,

Tyrell DaSilva (44:38):

The proof’s in the pudding, right? That being a CPA firm that isn’t just CPAs. That’s how I look at Dick Henderson.

Clayton Achen (44:48):

Yeah. Right on. I think we’ve touched on customer relationships, the history, your business. We’ve talked about some of the pain that you’ve been through your growth stages. I think the only thing we’re really missing is what are the big picture? Now, if I’m, I’m swinging a hammer and I’m thinking of starting a business, what are you telling me? What are the top three?

Tyrell DaSilva (45:09):

So the three biggest things that I had to pick for somebody who’s just starting out is do the boring, stressful, terrible work of building out your workflows and the actual documentation, standard operating procedures. Write down and click chart. Visualize your entire business before you take a sale. How am I going to manage this situation? How is collections going to work? How is quality control going to work? Document everything. You don’t have to sign up for a CRM system or an ERP or incur a ton of costs. You can do this with Asana and Google Sheets, but in click charts or whatever, document the entire process as you see it in your mind, how you’re going to improve over what’s being done in the industry, how you’re going to innovate your marketing plan, your business plan, do all that terrible work before you take a dollar.

If you’re really serious about starting a business planning, that would be my number one. Number two is get in bed or team up with a really great CPA accountant bookkeeping firm. Call Clayton would be number two. And same for your lawyer. Find a really, really great lawyer. Find a really, really great CPA, and don’t do anything until you’ve done that. Map it out. Find the people that can help you with the technical execution like a CPA and a lawyer. And then learn some of the skills that you know don’t have today. And so if you’re a really great salesperson, pick up a book about operations process. If you’re really good at operations, you know how the business is going to work. Pick up a book about selling and marketing and get that taste of the things that you’re going to eventually need to hire for so that when the time comes that you need to hire for that position, you know what you’re looking for in that team. Those would be my three pieces of advice.

Clayton Achen (47:31):

Really great advice. Two and three are all about outside eyes on your business and not going it alone. I love that. Tyrell DaSilva it’s so great to have you on the podcast. Thanks for sharing everything. Thank you so much for your humbling comments about how we’ve worked together, and I’m really looking forward to seeing you continue to explode, man and your team.

Tyrell DaSilva (47:53):

We love working with you, Clayton, and I really appreciate you having me on and for your time today, my friend.