The Leading Lady Lobbying for Better Builds
When we think about what it takes to propel an industry forward, instinctively we recognize the roles that insight, innovation, and humans need play in the process.
But rarely do we stop to consider who is moving the industry forward: the leaders. Behind the scenes, they are tuning in to possibility and tuning out the nay-sayers. They are not only the driving force behind change, but they are also encouraging others to welcome it with open arms. They demand more but are there to provide the tools necessary to make “more” a reasonable request. They set their sights (and standards) high because they know what we can achieve when we rise to the occasion.
When we think about Canada’s net zero emission goals for the housing industry, our first instincts will be to praise the future-ready builders who will help get us there, their contributions enormous, unmissable. And rightly so.
But before we turn the spotlight to them, it’s crucial we take a moment to acknowledge the leaders like our very own Sherry Claybourn, Provincial President of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick (CHBA-NB), whose daily efforts have played such an important role in moving the industry forward.
Sherry’s journey in the industry began over 20 years ago when a great networking opportunity quickly shifted into what would become a dedicated career path.
“Once I saw the great work that the Association was doing – the passion and dedication the members all have to the consumer and to each other – I was excited to be a part of it all.”
Over the years, Sherry rose through the ranks of the CHBA-NB, starting out as Director of the local Fredericton chapter and working her way up to the role of Provincial President, an assignment that would have been considered an anomaly in the not so distant past.
“Construction is still a male-dominated industry, but we’re starting to see a shift. Once upon a time, it wasn’t uncommon to be the only woman in a room with twenty men. Back then as a female leader you could feel the atmosphere change when you came into a meeting. That’s changing. In fact, now I walk into a room with business leaders and managers, and almost half of them are female.”
Sherry then pointed out that female representation is also changing at the business level.
“A lot of construction companies are family-owned businesses, so we see more spouses getting involved and taking on more prominent roles than before, when traditionally, women were mostly assistants or administrators.”
So, what does a day in the life of the CHBA-NB’s president look like?
“As President, it’s my job to promote the industry, represent and promote CHBA-NB, attend functions, conduct interviews, meet with government officials, and lobby for changes in the industry on behalf of our members,” Sherry explained. The biggest change she hopes to see in New Brunswick in the near future? The implementation of a contractor registry.
Contractor registry is a big focus for us right now. Like the Canadian Dental Association or Canadian Real Estate Association, we’re asking for it to be mandatory that all contractors be registered officially. This would help eliminate the underground economy and multitude of issues that come from builders not being properly designated.”
Sherry went on to detail the benefits further.
“It will help the builders perform their jobs better, make fewer mistakes, and help bring the number of consumer complaints down. Plus, there’s more of an assurance for the homeowner that their home is being constructed or renovated by a skilled professional; one who provides proof of insurance, proof of workers’ compensation, proof of payroll, and gets mandatory training.”
While chatting about complaints, Sherry couldn’t stress enough how valuable a registry would be when it comes to managing homeowner recourse for unsatisfactory work.
“We get a number of calls from homeowners with complaints about how their work was done and the first thing we’ll ask them is if their contractor is a CHBA-NB member. The majority of the time the answer is “No” which means there’s not much we can do. We hold our members to a high standard and take action if we receive complaints against them, but for homeowners who hire builders who are not members or don’t have the proper certifications, there’s not much that can be done. Their only option becomes small claims court, which is time consuming and costly.”
Sherry also discussed the potential long-term consequences that can come from hiring an unqualified contractor, specifically what comes of insurance claims should something go wrong down the road.
“If the insurance company can prove that a builder or renovator didn’t do a job properly or have the proper credentials, they can refuse to pay for any damage that occurred as a result. And where does that leave the homeowner?”
A registry would clearly solve a lot of problems for homeowners and help builders improve their skills and protect their business. Yet despite the benefits, Sherry noted there’s still push-back on the matter.
“Cost is always a factor. We understand there are money and time investments that come with training, and that there’s a certain level of intimidation that comes with training itself. We also know that hiring a more skilled contractor means paying more upfront. That's the reality though: There’s a cost to doing things the right way. But with it comes a sense of security,” Sherry stated.
In addition to lobbying for a contractor registry, the CHBA-NB is currently focused on getting builders the necessary energy efficiency training required to meet the government’s upcoming net zero emissions goals through their Registered Energy Efficient Builder Program. While New Brunswick is making strides in this area, Sherry acknowledged that there’s still some work to be done.
“Energy efficiency is only going to become more and more important. New Brunswick is middle-of-the-road in terms of where we are on the path to moving the industry forward and meeting those net zero emissions goals.”
Sherry was quick to credit the CHBA-NB members as the driving force behind the province’s current progress, saying how instrumental their contributions have been in getting to where we are today.
“Our members are terrific. They are always teaching each other things and sharing knowledge and stories to help our industry get better.”
It’s in statements such as that one, and many others made throughout this conversation, that Sherry’s strengths as a leader shine through.
From her focus on helping others succeed to inspiring action and doing what’s right – these are the ways that leaders like Sherry help to propel an industry forward. And while those efforts may not be seen at the end of the day as one would a finished house, it’s undeniable how much they are felt by those they impact the most. And that deserves a dose of recognition every now and then. Hats off to you, Sherry, for moving our industry forward, and pushing for better builds that benefit us all.
Sherry Claybourn is the Provincial President of the Canadian Home Builder’s Association – New Brunswick, as well as the Sales Manager for Artiza Stone by Stone Clad Exteriors located in Fredericton, New Brunswick.