Danny Ritchie, co-founder and president of Ultimate Renovations, took some time to explore what drives the Ritchie family business. Ultimate Renovations, now a 62-time award-winning home renovator, is out to make your vision a reality. Speaking to Danny a bit about what homeowners can expect from our service line and what makes us a home renovation company of choice for Calgary and Edmonton proved to be both interesting and insightful.
“There are two main types of renovations: cosmetic and major (structural) renovations. In general, a major renovation is when you’re looking to gut an entire floor or house, maybe even putting an addition on it. The space is usually completely reimagined and reconfigured. And then there’s the cosmetic renovation, which is all about flooring, painting, millwork and other jobs [of that sort] that give the same space a new look. At Ultimate, we typically tackle a bit of both in the same project, say, redesigning the kitchen and opening up the main floor while installing new floors and a fresh finishing package throughout.”
Ultimate Renovations, which is focused on large-scale, stunning projects that transform your home, typically works with homeowners who have a broad vision for their space rather than those looking to fix smaller, isolated rooms. Either way, it’s rare to find a family-owned and operated company in the renovation business, making it an interesting subject to explore with Danny. While many companies describe their corporate culture as “a family,” few are actually related by blood or marriage. Ultimate, who has both, has found a way to make it all work.
Who's in the Ritchie Family Business & Who Helps with Ultimate Renovations?
“The Ritchie family business, [Ultimate Renovations], started back on July 16, 1979, nearly 44 years ago. We’ve been doing it for generations. My father, though not in the same company, was a window and siding installer, and he taught me a lot. When I first started Ultimate, it was just me and my wife Barbara Ritchie; she’s been with me since day one managing our receivables. While I’ve always looked after the renovations – the vision and know-how on the projects – my brother Terry, who’s a CMA, joined me in 1988 to look after the financials as we began to grow.
Then, we have my son Paul. He’s basically been working for the company since he was 15 – coming and going over the following 15 or so years – starting with demo when he was a teenager and finding his stride in sales many years later. A natural-born salesman if you ask me, he’s now our Sales & Marketing Manager and will ultimately be taking my place and filling my shoes.
We all get along great and respect each other’s talents. It’s what’s led us to so much success over the last four or so decades as we’ve navigated the ups and downs of a small business together.”
What Are the Challenges of Working with Family, Especially in Renovations?
“There’s really no con. Everyone has a different role, and everybody respects everybody else’s role in the business. Sure, we may have our differences at times, and we get our say, but we always come to respect each other’s decisions trusting in the fact that we’re all the best at what we do in our given areas.”
How Do You All Foster an Environment of Respect and Collaboration?
“We have a lot of trust between us, which makes it easy to respect each other’s decisions; if it’s an accounting question, you have to let my brother deal with it, and if it’s construction, let me deal with it. Understanding our customers, it’s mainly my son who deals with that – and if it’s about collecting money, my wife deals with it. We respect each other’s ideas on how to get something done and are always open to input or feedback when or where it’s needed.”
How Would You Describe Your Competitive Advantage In the Complete Home Renovations Game?
“We have so much to offer our clients compared to many of our competitors: we have homes for people to live in while we renovate theirs, a fully renovated showhome so people can experience our work firsthand, a design centre for meetings and selections, our own custom cabinetry shop, and of course, our in-house staff and trades. We have great talent here at Ultimate, and working with our staff in-house means more accountability and consistency compared to other companies that are constantly outsourcing work and changing hands mid-project. Then, of course, there’s our track record of awards, which speak for themselves about our long-term dedication to delivering a quality renovation.”
Being Awarded "Renovator of the Year" 12 times Must Have Been A Challenge. But was It Easier to Win the First Handful Or The Last Handful?
“I’ll have to say it was easier winning the first handful. The first time we entered the BILD awards was in 1998; we swept the awards, and we won every renovation category. There were 5 of them. So we won that, but of course, staying on top is harder because everyone is pushing the envelope of what’s possible. There have been lots of what we call “flashes in the pan” that have come along, whereas we’re very consistent. Every couple of years, somebody else comes along and gives us a run for our money, but they just don’t seem to last for more than a few years. We’re fortunate to have maintained our success over the years, but it’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication to stay at the top of our industry.”
The Ultimate Legacy
What’s Keeps You All Motivated?
“What keeps us motivated, the way we like to call it is the ‘final look’ when we complete a project. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing the ‘after’ transformation [of the space] and how happy our customers are with our work. At the end of the day, that’s what keeps us motivated. We love to think outside the box and explore a vision for each space. If you go to a kitchen renovation specialist, they might say, ‘Oh, you want to knock down a wall? We have to bump the house out? [Build] an island?’ Well, a lot of our competitors aren’t into that. They just want to do a kitchen [their way], whereas we prefer to explore what’s really possible in a space, the best design if you will. We often ask our customers if they’re open to exploring our vision of their space. Quite often, they’ve never even thought about what’s possible outside the status quo, and they get quite excited when we can help them reimagine their space. Sometimes they just shake their heads and say, ‘never thought of that!'”
How Has Your Business Maintained Its Success Over the Years?
“There’s always room for improvement, you know? You don’t make the same mistakes twice. We have a saying after 44 years. ‘We don’t practice anymore; everybody else is still learning.’ If you take [a look at] the renovation world, and you look at how long somebody has been in business, well, I don’t think you’re going to find anybody that’s been in business even half the length of time that we’ve been around. We’re on the forefront. We don’t practice our skills on our projects, they’re already mastered, but we do still find room for improvement. We are always looking for ways to maximize our efficiency and productivity, but we’re not in the learning phase of renovations that so many of our competitors are.”
So what comes next for a company that’s about to embark on its 44th year of business? Ultimate Renovations is all about constant improvement, and with decades of experience backed by generations of expertise, you can expect home renovation results that will reflect just that. From the designs we create to the service we deliver, Ultimate Renovations is committed to delivering a quality renovation experience to help their clients fall in love with their homes again.
Ultimate Homes & Renovations is Calgary’s only 12-time “Renovator of the Year.” Our mission is to bring your home to life. For over 43 years, we have established ourselves as the industry’s elite team of contractors for complete home renovations in Calgary and Edmonton. Our quality craftsmanship, superior customer service and our ability to exceed expectations are how we have established ourselves as the renovator of choice for homeowners. Contact us at (403)-287-3122 (Calgary) or (780)-430-6441 (Edmonton).