Local Focus Drives First Response Restoration Founder
“It’s all about reputation here on the Coast,” says First Response Restoration founder Marek Ahlsten. “Your business relies on doing a good job because word of mouth is the number one way to build your client base. News spreads fast. And if you do a bad job on the Coast, it spreads even faster,” he laughs.
Hard work and customer service were the foundations when Ahlsten began First Response Restoration in 1999 as a solo-preneur, or, one-man show, as he calls it. He’d worked across many of the trades but none of them fueled his passion until he began taking courses in restoration. From there he identified a need for a locally focused restoration company and went at it alone for five years until made his first hire. From there, the business has continued to grow but the small business, service-focused mindset stayed the same.
“One night we were working over on Keats Island we were on a barge coming back at midnight when we got a call saying another tree had come down on a house and there was water coming in,” he shares. “We turned the barge around in the middle of the night and headed back, beached the barge and hauled our equipment in. Being an independently-run outfit we have flexibility. We can make calls on the fly as we have to.”
First Response Restoration has now grown to over 20 employees and recently moved to a new space on Keith Road in Gibsons. The 7,200 sqft office and warehouse is a far cry from Ahlsten’s parent’s garage where he started out. The company does as much as possible in-house and is 100% local for the sub trades they bring in. With growth, keeping business coast-based and the focus on customer service remains paramount, especially as restoration work can often be sensitive.
“You’re in someone’s space at a bad and generally unexpected time. You start off as the hero but as the insurance process goes on things often become complicated and it’s important for my team to remain optimistic. It’s all about keeping the customer happy under the worst circumstances,” he explains. “Often they never even see their insurance adjuster so we’re the face of the job. We have to be accommodating and keep their life moving while they’re going through a disaster.”
Ahlsten’s business model seems to be working. His goal for the next five years is to increase the locally based services that aren’t currently available on the Coast. As the Sunshine Coast grows he knows he has to grow with it.
“I love toys so I always have the latest and greatest on the restoration market,” he laughs. “We have the same or better technology in our warehouse than they do in Vancouver. It’s a passion of mine to stay up to date with industry best practices and standards and put them into action. We can handle a large fire or multi-level flood. We can provide these services and we can provide them better because we’re here, we’re local.”
Local and available 24 hours, 7 days a week, Ahlsten and his team are on it.
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April 16, 2018