Be more productive because you own every task that is assigned.
Kevin Gray is a leader in the facilities management industry. His experience in project management, operations management, and expertise in sourcing contract staffing has provided him with the opportunity to work with one of Canada’s fastest growing companies.
Kevin hales from an area adjacent to the Detroit/Windsor border. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from St. Clair College in Windsor, Canada. He began his career as a Facilities Manager. He worked for a Manufacturer that supplied several large big box stores in the U.S. and Canada. Kevin was able to cut his teeth on the art of slashing costs and managing very tight budgets. The companies that he worked for were owned and operated by a private organization who specialized in the restructuring of bankrupt companies.
Kevin moved on to Natural Markets Food Group. This organization integrated four companies under one umbrella. In Canada, they had Planet Organic Food Markets and Richtree Restaurants, and in the U.S., they had Fresh and Greens and Mrs. Greens. They had 31 locations on both sides of the border. Kevin managed Facilities and Security for their Canadian locations and Facilities Management for locations in the U.S. The company was very fluid in structure with stores opening and closing on a consistent basis.
Kevin Gray joined a major Canadian clothing manufacturer, prior to the influx of financial resources from a private company in the U.S., and the company going public. After it went public, the company experienced exponential growth. Kevin spends most of his time managing the operations on construction projects for the company that is continually bursting at the seams.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
My interest stemmed from my own personal experiences. My grandfather built his own homes and then sold them. I did a lot of home renovations early on. I’ve always liked working with my hands, and the sense of pride and accomplishment of a job well done.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
No two days are the same for me. I can come into the office with a full day of work and meetings scheduled and something happens, and it totally changes my day. For example, one morning I got a call from one of our plant locations in Toronto that there was water on the floor. The plant is almost 200,000 square foot. By the time I got back to the head office, we had two inches of water across the entire ground floor. My day quickly changed to speaking with insurance adjusters and real estate agents. We had to find quick short-term Office rentals for all the staff who were located on the ground floor. We had them up and running in three days in a downtown Toronto office building. The next three months was spent working with flood restoration companies, insurance adjustors, and the general contractor. Every day is different and subject to change at any moment. It is very unpredictable.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Most of my work right now deals with construction. We are steadily taking over the building that we are in. So, most of the work is coming up with plans for construction. We interact with architects, designers, and skilled trades to create a final project that makes the best use of space and is a place our staff want to come to work in.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me is the popularity of home renovations going on now. I was doing renovations before it became trendy Now everyone is running out to Home Depot or Lowes to renovate their bathrooms or kitchens. It has become such an industry now. You just must look at the quantity and selection of products that are being offered now, compared to what was offered twenty years ago. There are many more high-quality finishing products. In the past, I had to search and source products from smaller more exclusive type vendors. Now you can go to Lowes or Home Depot and get everything that you need or want in one shop.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am more productive because I own every task that is assigned to me. Any task that is part of my job description or a special request will be done. No questions asked. The task weighs on me until it is properly completed. If anyone has a problem and they come to me I take it to heart, and it becomes my problem until I get it done. I get it done quickly, efficiently, and properly.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to “think it but don’t say it”. Many times, I am the voice of reason, especially with project management. I deal with many businesspeople or office workers who may not quite comprehend how a project comes to light. In my younger days, I sometimes had less patience with them. Now I acknowledge that people are different and we each bring something to the table.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
In the construction industry, you would like to be able to take people at their word, however this isn’t always the case. The expectation if for them to be honest and give you good quality work for a price that is fair to both parties. For example, some time ago a senior level executive was going to have his offices area renovated. He had his executive assistant call a contractor that he was familiar with to come in and give them a quote. The contractor delivered a $500,000 quote. Thankfully, the assistant questioned them about the price, and asked for them to check their numbers. I heard of the planned work and asked one of my contractors to provide a quote based upon the same quality and exact criteria. My contractor quoted $78k. Needless to say, he got the job and he was happy with the profit that he made for the job.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would tell everyone to go in with your eyes open and your mind open. Don’t be of the mindset that you know it all. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I deal with specific special trades. That is what they do, that is what they are licensed for, and they specialize in and that is what they know. I don’t have any qualms about asking questions. It avoids making errors.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that I use always is that I say what I think. I don’t sugar-coat anything. If something must be said to either a vendor or a staff member, they hear it from me. But they also hear the good. I am very direct but firm.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I once trusted a person who broke that trust. Several years ago, a senior executive was caught breaching company trust. This matter was taken to the appropriate manager however nothing happened, as the manager felt complicit because he had not discovered what had been happening
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In the Toronto area, if a person can open a business within the data cabling industry and run it properly, it would be a goldmine. There are some large businesses in the area however they are not customer service oriented. They are slow to provide quotes and do not adhere to schedules which becomes quite an issue when they are part of the overall build and can cause delays. If there were anyone in or geared to the industry, they could absolutely make a killing in the Toronto area.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent was taking my wife out to dinner without our cell phones. We just sat and talked with no interruptions or distractions.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I live off my notebook calendar. It is my own executive assistant.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
James Comey, A Higher Loyalty
What is your favorite quote?
People don’t leave bad companies; they leave bad bosses.
● Be more productive because you own every task that is assigned.
● If anyone has a problem and they come to me I take it to heart. I get it done
● Don’t be of the mindset that you know it all. Learn from others
● Say what you think, be direct but firm.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.