Avant Garde Construction Management – Building the future, restoring the past
Based in Riverview, this company has left its’ mark upon various buildings throughout the province. Patrick Sohy, co-founder, spoke with Excellence about where he finds inspiration and what ultimately keeps him in NB.
How did you get into the construction business?
I started at the age of 12, working with my father doing surveying in Montreal. From there, I studied engineering and subsequently began working in construction at the age of 23.
I was swayed away from construction for approximately one year, but otherwise there was never any argument from me about being in construction. From a young age, I had a passion for building things, starting with Lego blocks when I was a child.
What is it about your work that inspires you?
Our inspiration comes from doing things differently, but also helping bring our clients’ vision to life. We’ve always taken an open, trustworthy approach with our work. That’s what draws clients to us.
What was a challenge you faced when starting your company?
I originally came to New Brunswick in 2002, when I was building Shell stations in the province. It was through the course of that project that I just fell in love with the region. I worked for a general contractor for the first 18 months I was here, and then, together with my business partner, we decided to branch out on our own approximately 15 years ago.
One of the biggest challenges in getting the business up and running was building relationships with suppliers and clients. Also, the financial stakes are different, especially in the construction industry, because earning people’s trust takes time, and rightfully so. Once that trust is established and business starts coming in, it’s a little easier.
What are your thoughts on supporting local NB companies?
We’re always mindful to buy local when undertaking projects, employing local sub-contractors from the area first. If we can’t find what we’re looking for in a specific area, we branch out to the rest of New Brunswick next, and then to the remainder of the Maritimes if needed.
The difference in buying local, or employing local companies, is responsible for a bigger chunk of the economy than people might think. Spending an extra $3 to buy from a mom and pop shop can make a world of difference to that family.
Do you have any advice for others looking to start a business?
It’s important to talk with local business people, find a mentor and solicit advice. Having a person local to the community where you’re setting up will be able to help you determine how the community is going to react. It’s invaluable business knowledge from a local perspective.
As an entrepreneur, what would you say to others asking why you choose to live and operate a business in NB?
On the personal side of things, it’s tough to beat ocean living and the fact you’re not dealing with endless traffic every day. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere, even in construction. From a business perspective, it’s different doing business here.
There is a greater sense of community and a lot more trust between people, but you’re also only as good as your word. You have to follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Buying and supporting local means a lot to everyone. Other parts of the country have more opportunities in terms of the volume of business they can take on, but business is actually more cut-throat in those major urban centres than it is here.