Ryan Bazant was raised on a construction site on the knee of his father, Phil. In 1976, Phil Bazant left his position with a major Canadian construction company to form his own, Lear Construction, and Ryan saw what went into creating a successful business first hand. It started out as a small Calgary construction company, but it steadily grew as it added loyal longtime clients and attracted skilled professionals to its ranks.
Ryan Bazant grew up learning the business and joined the company at an early age. He then earned a B.Sc. in engineering followed by an MBA. In 2002, Phil stepped back and turned the title of president over to his son while continuing to assist with special projects and mentorship. Having his father around has made all the difference to Ryan as he set out to grow the company.
“I was very fortunate to have him as I grew into the industry. I was lucky to have such an important mentor in my life who I could count on all the time,” says Ryan Bazant, president of Lear Construction. Lear as well as Ryan and Phil were able to complete a seamless generational succession within a family business, which they recognize is not an easy task.
The guidance and support has paid off. Now, as the company celebrates its 40th year, Lear Construction Management has become a leader in the industry, employing around 100 dedicated professionals and continuing to provide clients in British Columbia and Alberta with the highest quality service and products. Over the years Lear Construction has been a major player in shaping the area, and its thousands of projects have changed the landscape of Calgary and the West, one building at a time.
“Looking back 40 years, the industry has changed a lot, and we’ve been able to change and adapt with it,” says Bazant.
In fact, that adaptability has greatly contributed to the company’s impressive longevity. In the early years a large number of projects were shopping centres, retail and office buildings. Later they expanded into public buildings including schools, recreational facilities and other institutional projects. Lear Construction also identified an opportunity to branch out into the multi-family arena, creating a separate division. The diversity of this expansion has helped the company considerably in weathering economic downturns in other segments of the industry.
“It’s been quite successful. It also kept people employed through what otherwise could have been a very slow period,” says Shawn Hammer, operations manager.
As one segment of the economy slows down, the other inevitably picks up, reducing the need to downsize. In the face of the current economic downturn in Alberta, many companies are laying off staff and struggling to stay solvent, but Lear has remained busy.
In fact, the company is thriving and adding quality personnel to the team. For the past year, Lear has focused on bringing in great new employees with experience in the industry as well as young upstarts who can learn and build their careers with Lear.
The company adapts to what is happening in the economy and industry but it also adapts to the needs of individual clients. It tailors its services to the specific requirements of customers, offering expertise in all areas including project management, construction management, design assistance, general contracting services, and pre-construction services like budgeting, planning, scheduling and value engineering. From small renovation projects to massive multimillion-dollar builds, Lear Construction does whatever it takes to ensure clients are satisfied every time.
Lear has maintained its small-company mentality despite its success and growth, and this prevents it from getting mired in complicated processes and paperwork. As a result, the management, staff and various contractors work together as a cohesive unit to ensure they efficiently and effectively deal with challenges. The end result is not only providing just what the client hoped for but also doing so on time and on budget. The company is heavily focused on schedule and completion, and they always keep the families who are set to move into their new home, the kids entering their new school, companies needing the office space, or seniors moving into their facilities in mind when pushing to adhere to the deadlines.
“Our approach sets us apart,” says Chris Grant, vice president construction. “We are upfront and transparent as we drive the projects forward. We are the ones pulling the wagon versus just riding along.”
Open communication with its consultants, suppliers, trades and clients is important at Lear. The team presents various construction methodologies to clients and contractors while offering suggestions about how and where they can save clients money. This transparency and dedication to clients has led to the network of solid relationships that have supported Lear Construction Management since it opened its doors in 1976.
Creating Relationships, In-house and Out
Many of these relationships have lasted through the decades too and Bazant credits the amazing people who have worked for Lear and that Lear has worked with over the years for its success.
“We’d like to thank our staff, clients, consultants, subcontractors and suppliers for helping us achieve success in our 40 years, because we couldn’t do it without them,” he says.
Many staff members have been with the company for decades. One employee recently celebrated 36 years with the company while a few employees just retired after working for Lear since the very beginning. In some cases, generations of employees have joined the Lear family – fathers and sons, brothers and cousins have worked together. Lear is a family-oriented company that treats employees with respect and values their contributions. The result: a group of engaged, proactive, motivated people working toward a common goal.
It also results in an investment in those employees and their futures. Being mid-sized, employees enjoy more opportunity to move up in the company.
“There are definitely lots of opportunities to grow compared to larger companies that have rigid roles and where things don’t change very quickly,” says Hammer. “It’s a great place to work for somebody who isn’t looking to do the same thing over and over again, and who wants to take on extra responsibilities.”
Bazant and the management team want employees to enjoy working there as much as they do, and they strive to create a great atmosphere that fosters those feelings. The fact that so many employees stay for decades just proves that the company’s dedication to its people is appreciated.
Lear also values its network of external team members who work closely with them on projects. The company has earned a reputation for being trustworthy, delivering quality work and displaying a high standard of professionalism and service. They attract similarly minded consultants and contractors, creating a formidable team. As a result, new clients are eager to align themselves with Lear while established clients routinely come back year after year to work with the company on their current construction projects. These strong long-term relationships that Lear Construction has cultivated in the industry also generate leads for new business opportunities.
“Our relationships with architects, developers and subcontractors create invitations for new project business development opportunities,” says Jason Elvy, business development manager.
Lear Construction’s success isn’t limited to one area or economic sector and it was garnered through completion of a variety of projects over the years. From shopping centres to schools, hospitals to nursing homes, jails to multi-family developments, office buildings to warehouses, Lear Construction has done it all.
Projects fall under one of three umbrellas: commercial and institutional, retail or multi-family. On the commercial and institutional side, schools are driving business and Lear is currently working on 11 sites across Calgary and area, totalling $150 million in contracts. Catholic elementary schools in Cranston and New Brighton are almost completed, with the schools slated to open in the fall ahead of schedule. They are also involved with three new CBE schools (Marshall Springs, Saddle Ridge and Royal Oak) plus two public school boards (Palliser and Rocky View) outside Calgary. In addition to the greenfield projects, they are at construction phase on three renovations for Our Lady Queen of Peace, Balmoral and Noble Central that will breathe new life into those institutions.
“We’re excited to be building schools and providing the foundation for kids to learn, excited to be part of the process, to provide the facility that exceeds expectations,” says Bazant.
The company is also involved in some innovative projects on the multi-family side. The flagship is the Axess development in Currie Barracks, which features high-end modern condominiums. This $50-million development consists of 164 upscale signature condos, 19 executive town homes and 19 studios, with phase one completing this fall.
“Our client is recognized for producing high-end developments so we’re going above and beyond to ensure this is delivered. We pride ourselves on good-quality products for the developers,” says Greg Landry, multi-family construction manager.
Lear is also working on projects in Edmonton’s former military forces base, Griesbach. The company is involved in three different developments in the area; two are town-home projects and the other is a four-storey walk-up mixed-use development that merges commercial with multi-family condos. Adding to their success are the recently completed developments in Chestermere, Airdrie, Cochrane, High River and Lethbridge.
“We’ve been very lucky with relationships that we’ve had that has brought us success in our town-house and condo developments throughout Calgary, Edmonton and the surrounding areas. We’re looking forward to a very busy year coming up,” says Bazant.
Lear is breaking ground on a town-home development in St. Albert and is in the design stage of several large-scale multi-family projects in Calgary, Airdrie, Edmonton and B.C. over the next few years.
Despite the company’s success, the management team is always looking at ways in which it can improve and grow. In the past year, Lear introduced new technologies to help streamline its operations and increase efficiency. It rolled out a new project management software that connects management activities directly with the accounting software to better track projects.
It also revamped its safety procedures. Rather than filling out and filing paper reports, the newly implemented software system relocates the company’s safety program online in real time. Management can now monitor projects from the office and if an incident occurs, they know about it immediately.
“It’s really bringing the sites online,” says Bazant, and Lear is taking advantage of the latest technology to be more efficient. “And it’s the quickness that we can communicate with each other and with our clients that helps the pace of the project.”
Quick communication means quick responses, and this helps Lear address any issues that arise and to stay on top of the schedule, budget and safety. These tech innovations improve efficiency, which in turn better serves clients while freeing the team up to take on more projects.
No matter how many projects Lear Construction has on the go, safety is the company’s first priority. The company’s proactive approach spans the entire operation, from the management team through to the contractors, trades and employees. It aims at keeping all employees and contractors engaged in their safety and aware of protocols. Safety considerations are worked into all procedures and aspects of the business.
“We have a very rigorous safety program, and we are continually developing that,” says Landry. “It’s a very important part of our business. We need to make sure everyone gets home safely.”
Lear is committed to protecting its most valuable assets – its people. To help achieve this, the company is a member of the Alberta Construction Safety Association and is involved with the Partnership in Injury Reduction program.
Being green is becoming increasingly important in business, and Lear Construction is dedicated to the effort. It strives to build facilities that embrace sustainable design while reducing environmental impacts. Because it is awarded many institutional and government projects, employing trusted LEED-designated professionals is critical. Lear has experience building facilities that meet LEED standards and has generated a solid portfolio of projects that support its proficiency in the area.
Lear has taken its green initiatives to another level by using solar light towers on some sites in order to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. These fully automated towers not only light the area but allow crews to power their tools. These light towers reduce the cost of fuel as well as reduce noise associated with conventional generators.
The company’s environmental policies are wide reaching and incorporate everything from erosion and sediment control to preventing debris from blowing off job sites to preventing pollutants from being released into the environment.
Investing in the Industry
As invested as Lear is in the environment, it is equally invested in the construction industry itself. It is involved with the Alberta Construction Association, the Edmonton Construction Association and the Calgary Construction Association, attending committee meetings and participating in roundtable discussions on important issues. In addition, Lear is also engaging high school students who may be interested in a career in construction by introducing them to the business and providing information about qualifications needed to work in different areas of it.
“The construction industry provides an exceptional and diverse range of career opportunities and we are promoting this to the next generation. You can start your career as a site labourer then progress to owning a multinational construction firm,” says Elvy.
The Lear team is showing teens that construction is an industry in which they can start off working on job sites, learn the business, and one day run a successful firm doing anything from architecture to development, design to trades.
The company continues to hire recent university and college graduates plus provides a platform for apprentice carpenters who then progress to site supervision. These recruits hit the ground running and Lear is happy to support them as they grow with the company.
“We can start the next round of Lear employees who will be here for the next 40 years,” says Hammer.
Ryan Bazant and the management team at Lear Construction Management are proud of reaching this 40-year milestone and are grateful to all those who have worked with them to make it happen. But for these humble leaders, it’s business as usual. While they briefly pause to appreciate how amazing 40 years in the construction business is, they are already looking ahead at what the next 40 years will bring.
“We have been building on a solid foundation for the last 40 years using what we’ve learned over time and continuing to evolve and grow. We are fortunate and thankful that we’ve had such a long history,” says Bazant.
And as did his father before him, Bazant continues to live up to the company’s tag line “building quality and trust since 1976” with every repeat client, every completed project and every relationship. Lear is very thankful for its current relationships and is always looking to develop new opportunities.