By Jim Barber
Jonathon and Isaac Van Huizen are proof that not only can brothers work together, contrary to what conventional wisdom might say, but they can create a thriving and successful business enterprise together.
For the past seven years the dynamic Stirling duo has elevated Van Huizen Homes Ltd. into a client-centred company that is building some of the most unique homes in the Bay of Quinte Region.
Although they now work as a committed team, the Van Huizen siblings actually had charted different individual career paths before fate intervened to bring them into this partnership.
“My brother had his Masters in Pathology and was pursuing a career in medicine, but he didn’t end up getting into med school. So he came to a point where he needed to decide what he was going to do next with his life. I was actually headed to law school but took a right turn and got into labour relations … and eventually ended up being elected secretary of a national union. But I got tired of being on the road all the time, so at the same time as he was rethinking his path I was also looking for a new career and we put our heads together and decided to build homes,” said Jonathan Van Huizen.
“Growing up we had worked in various trades for summer jobs and we knew a lot of families in the local Dutch community that worked in construction. So we had experienced a fair bit of that when we were younger.”
A clear-cut division of labour has allowed Jonathan and Isaac to maintain excellent personal and working relationships over the years.
“My background is more in business – I have a degree in business. What my brother did was he went and learned all the hands-on stuff. He ended up working for framers in the summers when he was going to university. After school, when we changed directions and decided to form our own company, he actually got a job working for [Belleville’s] Hilden Homes as a supervisor for a number of years. So he gained the practical experience whereas I got the business experience and that’s why we blend so well,” he said.
“Our roles are different enough and our personalities are different enough that it works really well. We know of a lot of partnerships in this industry, including many that aren’t between family members, that didn’t work out after just a few years. But ours is strong and healthy.”
From the outset of the company’s founding, what the Van Huizens have agreed to steadfastly is that customization and customer input would be integral to the way they operate. It has become the hallmark of their business philosophy as a builder in the Bay of Quinte region.
“Because we are a smaller company, we bring a lot of attention and a really personal touch to our customers and we also pride ourselves on the quality of what we build. That doesn’t mean we are just building million dollar homes. It does mean we are doing custom-type work for people who are building homes for, say, $300,000. We offer a lot more of an involved process for the clients that we build for, regardless of the size of the project,” Van Huizen said.
“People want to be more selective in this market. People moving here or who are already living here get more informed about builders and take time in making their choice. They want to have a more hands-on experience in the process. And we have always operated that way and will continue to operate that way.
Van Huizen believes the business environment in the Bay of Quinte region is a refreshingly open and quite collegial, even within the highly-competitive home building sector.
“Within the Quinte Home Builders Association we offer up a good group of people. And we work together rather than against each other. There is always the odd person who goes against the grain, but in general I have a very good relationship with all the other builders,” he said.
“And I have lived and worked in the GTA as well and here you have the opportunity to stand apart and let your gifts shine in whatever line of work you are in. That is important to be because in many other centres it’s really hard to stand out, especially as a builder, unless you have a really large pile of money from which to start. In the Bay of Quinte region, you can get people to buy into your dream a lot more and it can help you overcome the hurdles a little better.”
As a market, Van Huizen said the Bay of Quinte region is poised for continued steady growth, offering the kind of balance that works well for home builders, developers, real estate professionals and most importantly, consumers.
“I think my outlook for the area is quite positive. I think we have a lot to offer in the Bay of Quinte area, and that there are a lot of good things happening here. There are so many great reasons for people to move here that I think it will continue to grow pretty steadily over the next little while.”
For more information, visit www.vanhuizenhomes.com.
– Jim Barber is an award-winning veteran journalist and author based in Napanee. Contact him at [email protected]