Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Holmes Effect

Mike's done a lot in his career as a celebrity contractor, but despite turning the big 5-0 last month (apparently that's old to some people), retirement is not in the works anytime soon. Mike's got some big plans in years to come as he continues his mission to educate people and change the industry. In this article, Mike talks about his shows, the impact he's had on the industry, and the impact he hopes to have in the future.
From the Ottawa Citizen:

The Holmes effect

Regularly voted among the most trusted of Canadians, celebrity contractor Mike Holmes reflects on what he's accomplished and says he's not done yet


Mike Holmes says educating the public about construction quality has been the biggest reward of his TV career.

Photograph by: Handout photo, HGTV

Celebrity contractor Mike Holmes reflects on the effect he’s had on the building industry and trades in the last decade and says there’s more to come.
OTTAWA — He’s just turned 50 and has built an entire brand around his own name thanks to his popular and multiple reality television series, his newspaper columns and books, and his visibility on the speakers’ circuit.
So how does Mike Holmes, the contractor who never brooks second best, view his effect on the building industry?
Holmes, who broke into Canadian reality television in 2001 with Holmes on Homes — a Gemini-award winning show that tracked him and his crew as they re-did renovations badly done by others — is back in the media spotlight with the launch of the second season of Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV.
In the opening episode, which aired this week, Holmes and crew save the day, and a homeowner’s life savings, by salvaging a shoddy upgrade of an older home.
Watching people tear into drywall to expose hidden construction flaws sounds like a cure for insomnia. But as always on Holmes’ shows, rapid-action camera work, our natural sympathy for the ripped-off, and the host’s plain-talking blend of fury at shoddy work and his get-the-job-done attitude to repairing it make for engaging television fare.
Has such fare, which has been broadcast in several countries, actually helped discourage bad building practices?
“There’s no question,” says Holmes. “Contractors either say, ‘Oh, I love that guy’ or ‘I hate that S.O.B.’ I’ve even met contractors who hand out copies of my books to clients before signing a contract so the clients know what to look for.”
Holmes, repeatedly named the second most-trusted man in Canada in Reader’s Digest polls since 2010, says educating the public about construction quality through television and other media has been the biggest reward of his TV career over the past dozen years.
That education extends to trades training. He’s long prodded young people to enter the trades, considered a second-class career choice thanks to decades of parents urging their children to enter white-collar and high-tech jobs.
“It’s finally turned around,” says Holmes. “Now it’s cool to be in the trades.”
To foster improved trades training, he launched the Holmes Foundation. Its work includes scholarships and bursaries for those studying the trades.
Saying that 50 per cent of existing tradespeople are due to retire in the next few years, Holmes is optimistic about job prospects. “We need to fix all the crap (a favourite Holmes word when referencing the building industry) that’s been built in the last 50 years.”
That’s “nonsense,” says John Herbert, executive director of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, referring to the “crap” comment. “Building construction has become much more scientific, especially since the early 1970s and the first energy crisis. Materials used, trades training: it’s all gotten a lot better.”
Holmes, who says he gets a lot less blowback from the industry than he thought he would, was criticized for his show Holmes Inspection. The show, which played on HGTV in Canada and the United States, ran for three seasons, ending last year. It tackled homes with major problems — overloaded electrical circuits, for example — that had not been identified during home inspections.
The show, according to Holmes’ website (, was criticized in part because its host, who trained as a carpenter, lacks a background in engineering. Regardless, the show has spun off both a book (The Holmes Inspection) and an inspection service, Mike Holmes Inspections.
Holmes regularly criticizes builders for sticking to rather than exceeding the building code (Herbert also disputes that, at least in terms of Ottawa builders and especially when it comes to energy efficiency) and cutting costs wherever possible. He pushes homeowners to demand more of builders and contractors by insisting, for example, that they use better, greener products such as wood certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council.
He’d like to see that commitment to building better filter down to trades training.
“We need to be teaching more theory, to get tradespeople to build not just to code but above it.”
Holmes, raised in Toronto and an admitted workaholic — “I never thought I was ’til one of my kids told me, ‘Dad, you are.’ ” — has other projects aimed at enhancing what he still regards as a largely second-rate Canadian building industry.
The Holmes Approved Builder program, for example, is a list of new home builders approved by Holmes for their commitment to quality and energy efficiency. The program has been launched in areas of Alberta and Ontario, but not yet Ottawa.
Another program is Holmes Referred Contractors. The free service helps homeowners find contractors who have been identified by the program as providing quality service. Ottawa contractors are currently being checked out for possible inclusion when the program eventually launches here.
Holmes, who insists he’s a “nice guy” despite his avenging angel attitude toward sloppy building, says he always thought he’d retire at 50, but that is not about to happen.
Asked what the future of the Holmes brand holds, he refuses to divulge anything other than, “I believe some big things. Let’s just say I’m going to continue educating but in a new way.”
Holmes Makes It Right airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV.

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