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Today’s episode takes some crazy twists & turns as we talk everything from starting a business to building a team and buying a min-van.
Shane Chapman is co-owner of The Ultimate Deck Shop in Regina & Saskatoon, a dad of four boys (say what?!) and a former corporate man turned planning whiz. If you’re thinking of tackling an outdoor space, wanting to turn a tired and worn outdoor look into something spectacular, look no further. Shane and his team will help you turn your outdoor space into a backyard paradise!
Listen in now as we talk building decks and teams; and buying the dreaded mini-van….
Are you ready to make the door swing, the phone ring and the tail ding. One of the best kept secrets in any community is its network of local businesses, businesses that rely on local customers foot traffic and phone calls. Those same businesses that support kids sports teams donate to fundraising efforts and provide the expertise to create a backyard oasis. But no more secrets. From the skinned knee lessons that will make you wince to tell all the expose days. These everyday people are doing extraordinary things in their business.
Welcome to The Secret Life of local. I’m your host, Barb McGrath, Google girl and founder of the Get found for local program. Today, we’re swapping secrets with Shane Chapman who turned in the keys to his corporate career and picked up a tool belt. He’s the owner of the ultimate deck shop, but I’m gonna let you tell him his story. So Shane, take it away. Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the deck shop.
Sure, just to be clear, I never had keys at the corporate job. That’s why I left. Give me the keys
they wouldn’t give you the keys to the city okay.
Yeah, my name is Shane Chapman. I am a longtime resident of Regina, Saskatchewan. I grew up around southern Saskatchewan and came to the U of R for school in 1999. Ended up out of university in a job at SaskTel. I left that job in 2016 and started this business with a kind of lifelong friend of mine. Got a wife and four rambunctious little boys at home. And so life I’m not sure where it’s busier if it’s work or at home, but it’s busy. 24/7.
Well, and isn’t it? So if you’ve got that meant on the go, do you sleep?
I have known it at odd times. Yep. Actually, my youngest son’s only three months old. So we’re in the middle of that right now. I sleep with him every night. And he was actually on a pretty decent schedule here up until about three days ago when that got all shot to hell. So now he’s decided to not sleep again. There is little three or four months of regression here. And we’re dealing with that.
And you know what, there’s something about that three month mark, because I’ve heard that story from so many folks, usually mums, but you hit that three month mark. And it’s like they become aware of the world. I always joke that our three month old woke up one day and discovered he had a sister that we had adopted from Ethiopia, because literally she showed up overnight, and he never slept again.
Yeah, yeah, that sounds about right. He hasn’t had that much of a shock. No babies by mail truck, but he’s Something must be going on. So
Exactly. Awesome. Okay, Ultimate Deck Shop. Tell me besides the obvious, what do you guys do?
So the long and short of it is we’re a lumberyard, essentially. But we don’t operate, we kind of call ourselves the anti lumberyard, because we don’t want to be known for the same thing that traditional lumber yards are known for the best way I can describe it as you can think of us like a flooring store for the outdoors. And so we stock everything you need for building a deck or any backyard project. And our focus is on having I know it’s gonna sound super cliche, but having better selection prices and service than anybody you know, just like everybody says, but we actually try to live that.
But you actually do that. Yeah, exactly. It’s tough to Define Your Niche by something you actually do when? Yes, exactly. Okay. Like the last two years, when it comes to lumber, it’s been a little on the ugly side, what’s that been like?
Yeah, so this is our seventh season in Regina, with our regional location. And what I’ve learned is that you can never predict what the next year is gonna be like, but the last two years have been because of COVID. The reason just changes as to why you can’t predict what it’s going to be like, but certainly, certainly the last two years have been extra intriguing, I guess. Challenging will say sure. Yeah. So yeah, obviously, the lumber prices, especially last year, were just about as erratic as you could possibly have. And, you know, in our young time in the industry, we’ve never seen anything like that. I’m not sure even the old timers had. So it was certainly a bit of a bit of a roller coaster ride last year of things happening. But it didn’t seem to didn’t seem to deter people from wanting to do their projects while they were home and had the time.
Yeah, exactly. People have the time. So what do you think drove that price change? Was it demand? Everybody wanted to get into the backyard and do stuff because they were at home? Or was it tight? Like what were their supply issues? I mean, trees still grew and I don’t know we’re processing plant shut down. Like what drove that?
There was I think there was, boy, if I dig back deep enough, I think I wrote a blog article and I had about eight reasons as to why it happens. But it was certainly a collection of issues. Obviously the demand was through the roof because of people being home and tackling projects, new home construction, it’s through the roof. Then you had it combined with the fact that the mills were closed down to two COVID issues. So there were a lot of them. It was a very steady Do typical supply and demand. The supply dropped off due to COVID restrictions and reduced workforce and, you know, closures due to COVID infections and whatnot. And then combine that with, you know, an 80% overnight increase in demand for projects and you had the perfect storm for something to happen like that. And, logistics as well, you know, like through the last couple years, all sudden shipping anything, even if you had it, you’re paying top dollar to ship it anywhere. So there’s a lot of things at play for sure. Yeah,
exactly. Everything just kind of came together at the right time or the wrong time, depending on how you want to look at it. Cool. And so do you help people plan out their projects? Do most people come to you and say, you know, here’s what I want to do, and you just kind of help them pull it together? Or like, Where does your service start or your product start and where does it end?
Yeah, we frequently tell people that we’re, we’re whatever you need us to be. So we can be as hands on or hands off as you need us to be because everybody’s a little bit different. The reason why we started this store in the first place was because the shopping experience for doing a backyard project like this was not great. Before you had two options. You could go to a box store, which we all know how atrocious the service levels are when you get a box store. And even the product quality from box stores is not great. Or you can go to a lumberyard, which is fine. If you are, you know a large volume contractor home builder, that’s who they’re used to dealing with. But for the average homeowner, they’re a little bit intimidated walking into a place like that. Very much an old boys club kind of mentality, kind of. It’s not what can I do for you? What can you do for me kind of thing? Yeah.
So this wasn’t an environment that was conducive to a project that many consider to be a friendly DIY, do it on the weekend kind of thing. So that’s why we started the store. And so to that point, if somebody walks in and knows exactly what they’re doing and knows exactly what they want, then we can be just order takers. Yeah. And if you need a little bit more hand holding, and you need to know, you know what materials you need and how to do this, and what the city wanting for this, then we do our best to try to answer all the questions to make sure that your project is safe and successful at the end,
perfect. Something you said really tweaked for me, you talk about it being an old boys network. So I’ll just tell you a really short story, because this isn’t about me, this is about you. But I grew up in a house where my dad was a journeyman electrician, we built two or three houses as a family. So I was constantly on, you know, a property that was being built. And in fact, he wired houses for a ton of people. So even though I knew nothing, it just kind of gets into your head and gets into your blood. So fast forward, I don’t know, 20 years, 30 years, my husband and I are building a house. And we’ve got a series of contractors, we are actually general contractors ourselves, so we didn’t have a builder. And one of our contractors was pushing back, they provided a price they came in, they said oh, you know, we can’t do it for this price. Yada, yada. So they’re having this conversation with my husband. And he came home and said, you know, here’s what they said, This is how much more they want. And I was like to heck with that. I showed up at the house the next day and my steel toed boots on. And I said, Look, here’s how we quoted it. Here’s how it’s gonna work. Here’s where this is gonna run. And that’s gonna run. Are we good? We’re good. He says, Not what’s the end of the conversation? I actually think I saw that particular contract contractor face to face again. My husband’s like, I think you made an impression straight when you’re asking me for more money.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, there’s certainly that too, right? There’s this. I mean, in general, the word contractor kind of has, unfortunately, a bit of a negative connotation to it, because there are a lot of phone calls and fly by night. But this is a province where we don’t have requirements to become a contractor. If you have a drill in a truck, you can be a contractor, there’s no licensing required, there’s no, you know, there’s no specific hoops to jump through to become one. So unfortunately, it results in a lot of people that probably aren’t qualified to be one becoming one. And then it’s also where there’s demand, there’s an opportunity, there’s people that will jump in to fill it, whether they should or not. So absolutely. I think everybody has a bad contractor story. And so even and certainly like, you know, I was a contractor before I’m not suggesting that there aren’t good ones out there. There are absolutely really good contractors out there, but they can be tough to find. And so by having kind of us involved that has, you know, this brick and mortar location and faces that actually work there and whatever, it’s kind of a nice, I think for some people, at least it’s a nice barrier between themselves in the contractor, even if they are hiring somebody to do it. They can kind of go somewhere where they feel heard and they feel like they can learn and, and you know, we can be there Google in a way. So
Exactly. Yeah. And so having somebody in your corner, which can be a really important thing in any kind of project like that, right? Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So let’s talk a little bit about why on the corporate side, they wouldn’t give you the keys. And what was the impetus to make the leap? Like, why not just go to another Chrome Corporation? Why not take the easy way? What drove you?
Um, I always knew I wanted to do something on my own. I just didn’t, it took me a long time to figure out what that was. I don’t think that’s rare. That’s probably a pretty common story that people know they want to chart their own path, but how to do it, or what to do is the tricky part. Yeah. So I was always dabbling in something through university. Like, since high school, basically, I was always dabbling in something that could be my own that was kind of building on the side, whatever. But at some point, I kind of fell into building decks and I did not grow up with a knowledge of carpentry. My dad was handy. He never shared that with me, probably because I had no interest in it, likely at the time it wasn’t his fault.
But at some point along the way, I did pick up an interest in it as I gained experience and the tools decided to start building decks inside. So I was doing that on the evenings and weekends, and it kind of became my hobby slash passion. On the side of the day job, I was enjoying my day job as well, at the time. Yeah. And I was looking to potentially kind of move up through it, but I always knew I didn’t want to be there forever. It was kind of my current thing I was doing. But so it was, it was born from a passion, like the desire to leave. And I think just hitting a few roadblocks within this. And sorry for anybody who’s listening, and that’s pro Union, but I was in this environment that just was not where I wanted to be. That’s not my thing. I didn’t, I didn’t enjoy being in the union and kind of following the typical path chartered by that bureaucracy. So I, the morning needed to get away from that,
And if you don’t fit, then yeah, round pegs were Oh,
yeah. My answer that you just need to be here longer than somebody else’s, your way of progression anywhere is not, does not sit well with me. So I needed to get away from that. But eventually, it was just kind of a convergence of passion and opportunity. I guess I had the passion. Finally, I’d figured that out. I was doing it on the evenings and weekends.
And I kind of had said to my wife that if a big enough opportunity presented itself in the deckbuilding world that I would, I would leave my job for that. Okay, and so it was kind of two things that happened, one a very, very, very large job that I would never be able to do as a part time contractor, which had an association with the Paula France design, which had all the HGTV shows back in the day. Okay, so I had told her about two weeks before this happened. And I was like, boy, you know if, like, if, if I could do it, Paula France does it like that’d be enough. I’d quit my day job and just go do this full time. Yeah.
And for whatever reason, the universe is like, you know what that should happen. And Paula Francis’ team phoned me completely randomly out of the blue two weeks later, this project, they wanted me to work on that they had designed. So that was cool. Bit of a sign from the universe there was like, well, maybe now’s the time. So that job ended up happening. And that kind of forced my hand was like, Okay, well, I have to do this now. I can’t. Yeah, because Parkman.
At the same time, a good high school friend of mine, we didn’t know each other for a long time. He was a contractor doing interior renovations, whatnot. He was looking to get away from doing that as well, we’d always kind of thought, well, maybe someday we’d do some sort of business together. And so you know, my path was growing with opportunity. I was seeing some, some lack of service and some opportunity within the supply side, for my own personal experience. And he is a contractor who saw those same things and might not have been with deck boards, but with his own stuff. And it was kind of like, you know what we should do? Yep, we should start our own store and do this like the way we think it should be done. Yeah. So that was kind of the start of it. We kind of agreed that we were going to go into business together. I had this massive project. It was like, You know what, now’s the time and, and I think I had recently made it to the final two and a promotion at SaskTel, and was not the chosen one. So I don’t know what that’s the final straw there. All these things are aligning, now’s the time.
Exactly. Yeah, that was the final sign you needed. So when you took on that big project, did you start the store at the same time? Or did you do the project and then the store became a physical thing?
No, it was happening around the same time. I did continue to keep building with my previous company that was called Fresh jacks for two years after we started the store and that was primarily because I had the work that I had to do. And also because to be quite frank, we had no idea if this store was going to work or who would buy material through it.
exactly. And that’s what I was thinking is you kind of had that that safety net that security of here’s the the job stuff and let’s give the store some time to you know, get on until in two feet so really smart strategy really.
I knew for sure that I would buy material from my store. Yes
One guaranteed customer.
me got me so I did that and then it was actually gave us Like you said, the little bit of leeway, I suppose, financial leeway that I could go and make money as a contractor on the side, basically share that with my business partner ways that we could support ourselves while we waited for the store to kind of grow or to take off and be self sufficient. Knowing that I would always at some point, stop building and join the store once it needed me once it needed full time people there. And that did eventually happen. So the plan worked out, I guess.
And the same thing with your partner. Is he full time in the business? Or does he just still do some contract work as well?
No, he quit before we even opened the door. So he was the one that kind of ran the store for the first two years while I was still building. He was smoking them right away.
Yeah. So how many people are in the store now?
Oh, boy. It’s not an astronomical number.
You should know that?
Yeah, it’s split between two two stores. Now I believe we have around 30 people between the two stores.
Yeah. So I don’t want to jump right back to the store. But one question that I think on almost every small business owner’s mind right now is how are you finding people.
So it’s kind of the tale of two stores for us, really. We were lucky. A couple of years ago, the year before a year of the pandemic hitting, I guess, that we were able to hire a general manager in Regina that actually has really, really helped out with the people situation because he’s brought a lot of people from his past life and his past experience as a manager of the places and brought them to us. And he’s kind of compiled this team of really good solid people that return year after year. And so it’s given us this great consistency in Regina with very little turnover. Really running smoothly. Saskatoon, on the other hand, a little bit nervous about some people’s issues, has started to gain some footing there this year. We’ve got some good people in there now that that was, we’ll have around for a while. So last year was an absolute disaster up there. We liked it when people would come and go before I even had a chance to meet them. Like it was just Oh, wow. Crazy. So yeah. We’re starting to find some stability. It is tricky right now to find people that are willing to kind of come in and do what you’re asking them to do. But I’ll knock on wood, because we haven’t. It hasn’t been an emergency for us at this point.
Exactly. So are you finding that most of the people working at this store? They have, you know, some carpentry experience, they have some building experience? Or, like, where are they coming from?
I would say most of them do not. That was one thing that earlier on when Wade and I were looking to scale this thing that we thought we really, really needed was more people just like us, we thought well, we have to find people that have a background in building decks and they know what they’re doing so that they can provide that level of service and everything else. Yeah. Turns out, there’s just like, that’s not a lot of people. It’s not a lot of that’s why I asked the question. There’s not a lot of retired deck builders at age 40 that are looking for something to do so you had to kind of break down those barriers a little bit. But we have found some people that have experienced the right thing and we’ve grown to learn that it’s more important to find people than it is to find any specific skill set that can be taught and learned and earned. Yeah, but what we need is good people that want to kind of align with our core values and are here for a reason and we can teach them how to build a deck and provide that level of service. So that’s kind of the angle we’ve taken and it’s it’s working Yeah,
so how many stores now two or three
too we have Regina and Saskatoon and then we do sell online as well as a separate channel.
Okay. Oh, so you do have online sales so that’s kind of cool. And like again all the decking products because do you guys do the guy should know the name because like it’s out my back window here. What lumber helped me help me Shane. I’m stuck no longer that maintenance free. Oh my god. That was terrible.
Yeah. Yeah, the composite or trex Yeah, we carry more of that than anywhere. And one of the one of the driving reasons for that was when I was a contractor, I was often showing up to people’s homes to quote their project and they had spent their entire weekend driving around to different lumber yards, like in town out of town wherever to collect all these different samples of the different brands because every Lumberyard only carries one brand.
And they bring them all home and try to compare them all and I was like well this is silly like flooring stores would carry seven brands of flooring. Why does every Lumberyard carry one brand of decking and I think the reason is because decking in it of itself is a side business for most lumber yards it’s not you know it’s not a big driver so they don’t have the capacity to carry more than one brand but we kind of thought well if we can put all these options in one place it really gives nobody a reason to have to drive around and waste their whole day this should be something that takes them an hour to figure out not a whole weekend.
And so yeah, we know we carry more composite decks and add more colors than anywhere else in the province. And it’s not really even that close. Like we carry a lot more because that’s all we do. Right? We’re not carrying doors and windows and insulation, we just do. Decking fences, outdoor projects.
Exactly. Yeah. So there’s a ton of lessons that you’ve learned in the last seven years since you opened the first door. If you think back now, can you think of a couple of things that oh, God, I wish we hadn’t done that? Anything that jumps to mind?
Um, oh, god that we wish we wouldn’t have done that. Hey. I don’t know that I had, like, I can’t think of anything major off the top of my head. Like that does not mean there hasn’t been hiccups along the way, a lot of learning experiences. But I don’t think there’s not been something that was that was ever stupid that we did.
And you know, you know what I love about that answer, though. So lots of us look back. We’re like, Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that. I wish I hadn’t hadn’t done that. You can change the past, the past is what it is. And as long as it didn’t work, oh, well, you move on. You’re a small business, you’re nimble. And like, you can change on the fly overnight, I can change our website, I can change our marketing, I can change the message. I can change the services for whatever reason, right? Yeah. And that’s what I’m hearing from you is you can change on a dime when you need to, because that’s what we all do to survive.
Yeah, there’s no point dwelling on things in the past, like if we dug into it. Sure. Do. I wish I would have not booked as much inventory of that one color? Okay. Sure. That one’s I don’t know, all my all of my intuition. And my stats and data said that I should at the time, and it didn’t work out. So yeah, what’s the opportunity here? I was actually just in a meeting this afternoon just before this. This interview started here with our leadership team. And I believe I witnessed growth in our general manager because he does some things, in his past tended to kind of take a negative view upon things at one point, and we had recently done a full inventory count here and some things didn’t go as smoothly, whatever.
And, just his wording today, in the middle of that meeting I think there’s a lot of opportunity here around how we do these inventory accounts. And in my mind, it was such a change in how we were thinking at that moment. Yeah, it wasn’t too. It wasn’t to dwell on what went wrong about that. It was like, What can we do to be better at this? What can we improve in this? I think that generally is my attitude and Wade’s attitude. We don’t ever look at a problem without thinking of a solution. First, if I’m coming to you to talk about a problem, it’s probably because I’ve been thinking about it for a bit first. Yeah, so Exactly. I don’t dwell on things we’ve done wrong in the past. We just think about how we can fix it and do better, I guess?
Yes, exactly. It’s funny. I had that almost same conversation with someone yesterday, where I said, when you’re building a team, you’re looking for people who give you your time back versus take your time. So yeah, when my team shows up and says, Oh, we have this problem. I like literally, I’ll sit there and wait, because I’m waiting for the solution. Right? I didn’t identify the problem. I wasn’t working directly with the client, like I’m waiting. And you know, it usually takes two or three times where they go, oh, yeah, I guess we don’t talk about this stuff until there’s a solution. It’s like, Yeah, I’m not like this magic Google wand. And everything just changes because I say so. Yeah, exactly. Right. It’s just not how things work. So how do you make all the pieces come together? Now? You got four kids from three months, up to 15 years? How in the heck do you make all these pieces come together? Where do you find time?
you buy a minivan?
Remember, when you’re in your 20s and you swore you weren’t buying the minivan?
Are you kidding me? 20 days ago, I swore I wasn’t gonna buy a minivan. It was awesome. So like, I’ve got a truck that seats six. So we can get around with my truck. But my wife’s car is too small. We can’t get everything in her little SUV. So but she was one who was like there I will not. I’m not buying a minivan. And I was like, I support you, honey. I don’t think we should. So we tried to avoid it for the longest time here. But the vehicle we really want to buy isn’t super available. So we thought you know what? Maybe we just need to buy a minivan for now until what we want is available.
So you got three car seats. Like that’s why the car doesn’t work. Yeah, they just won’t meet.
They don’t fit in a Kia Sportage. I can tell you that right now. Exactly. So that’s pretty fresh. That helps the family part of it work. But no, I mean, how does it all work? I mean, for me, it’s having a good team here at the store and it’s having a good team at home. Like my wife is very supportive of things I need to do right now. We have some people issues up in our store in Saskatoon that’s drawing me physically away from home and spending more time up in Saskatoon lately.
And, you know, she’s trying to be as supportive of that as she can. There’s four kids at home and one of them’s like three months old. So that’s a lot to ask right now. But at least for now, I’ve got her grace to do that. And then the other part is like we’ve finally gotten to a place now where I don’t need to be here for this store to run. Um, that’s super important. So the regional location is where we started. That’s the story that we had. And I kind of, we’re running for the longest time. We’ve gotten to the point now where we’re off doing other things, the actual day to day business of the retail side is covered, and I’m not, I don’t have to worry about it. So if I need to be in Saskatoon, that’s fine. If I need to spend a day home with the help of the kids extra, that fine place is gonna run itself.
Yeah, no, that’s awesome. We are getting close to being at a time. So if I was going to Google you, what am I going to search for and find you?
Well, if you want to find the store, just google anything deck related in Saskatchewan, we should pop up pretty much at the top. But the Ultimate Deck Shop is the name of all of our social channels, no matter which one you’re on. So it’s pretty easy to find us that way. For me, personally, Shane Chapman on Facebook or LinkedIn or wherever you prefer your platform there as well. Okay, perfect.
And you have a podcast as well. So let’s give it a shout out.
Yeah, we’ve got one that’s kind of on hold. And then we do one for the industry, the Ultimate Deck Podcast. So that’s something we started a couple years ago that we, when we started thought, like, does anybody want to listen to a podcast about decks? It turns out, enough people do. So we’ve been doing that for a couple years, too. So certainly, you can tune into that.
Yeah. You know, here’s a funny story about Your Podcast shortly after you started it. I got a phone call. And the person said to me, how do we do that? And I was like, What are you talking about? Because I hadn’t seen the podcast. And, you know, no offense, but I wouldn’t go looking for a deck podcast because I have one. So yeah. Oh, how do I do that? I’m like, can you send this to me? Like, what are you talking about a deck podcast? Like, it just made no sense to me? Till I got the link and saw everything. I’m like, Oh, okay. So here you put the pieces together. No idea if that person ever went ahead and created a podcast, but like, so I’ve known about your podcasts from really the early days, the first few episodes, because I want to say it was like the third episode or something when my phone rang. So yeah,
yeah, it made an impact within our industry pretty quickly. So I know even when I pitched the idea to wait or said, Wait, I think we’re gonna start a podcast. He didn’t get it either. He’s like, for what? Why? And I’m like, I don’t know. I just, I just feel like it’s somewhere we need to be. So it’s actually done amazing things for us. Oh,
you know what, and it scratches the other side of your brain. It lets you talk to people that otherwise you and I would have never sat and talked for 25 minutes. So yeah, exactly. Anything, right? Exactly. Yep. All right. Well, thank you very much Shane. It was fantastic to hear about the corporate keys and the deck shop and the minivan. I did not see that part of the conversation. And I would like to say my kids are teens we made it to the whole thing without a minivan
Good for you. That’s what everyone told me like you’re gonna cave. I was like we’re not gonna cave and then when we bought I’d sent a picture to a few people like we caved!
Yeah, exactly. We had the extended SUV with like three rows and like I we spent a fortune on gas, but we avoided it. Yeah, yeah. All right. On that note, if you want to sell your story, you have to tell your story. And there’s no better place to start than being a guest on The Secret Life of local.
If you’d like to be a guest email me at Barb@abovethefold.live or reach out on Facebook and Instagram at Abovethefold.ca.
I’m your host Barb McGrath, GoogleGirl and local business cheerleader. Remember, you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.