Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures

Founded in 2009 by Allison Grafton, Rockwood Custom Homes has grown to become one of the largest luxury custom home builders in Calgary. That success, says Grafton, is a testament to an extremely talented and loyal team with unwavering commitment and tenacity to do things better.

Driven by the vision, leadership and guidance of its founder, Rockwood’s culture is distinctly entrepreneurial. Each individual in the organization is fully empowered to direct their own career path, manage projects and budgets, problem-solve and make creative decisions that drive performance and strengthen the overall culture of the firm.

“Entrepreneurialism is critical for a company such as ours and the basis for everything we do,” says Grafton. “It means thinking outside of the box, making a commitment to success and stepping up to deliver a unique and exceptional product every time.”

Since its inception almost a decade ago, Rockwood has grown from an upstart in the luxury custom home-building arena to a powerhouse with full-time interior designers, project and construction managers as well as dozens of exclusive contractors and over 200 tradespeople, architects and strategic partners. “We are also one of the only custom home-builders that has an accounting team lead by a CFO,” adds Grafton. “This is a clear indication of our commitment to financial stewardship, accountability and transparency.”

As the company continues to grow, the vision that started it all remains the same: to provide construction excellence and superior customer care while protecting a client’s investment. “Throughout our growth there has been no dilution to the quality and care of our business or our clients. That is why we are so successful,” says Grafton.

Rockwood’s craftsmanship, thoughtfulness and attention to detail are renowned. It starts before the first shovel hits the dirt and continues through to final handover: at the end of each build every staff member, from tradesperson to founder, spends the days prior to move-in preparing the property for a ‘reveal’ on possession. From washing and steaming sheets and placing keepsakes on shelves to building a tree-house that mimics the larger house, Rockwood knows the story of each family and injects small personal elements throughout the home. It is tangible evidence that the team cares and that every homeowner is distinct.

“Clients are not only delighted with their new custom home but with the overall Rockwood experience,” notes Grafton. An exceptional client satisfaction record and testimonials are proof that the strategy is working

Recently, Rockwood expanded into high-end, multi-family developments. This is something that has not previously been offered in the Calgary area. “We had an opportunity to obtain land of exceptional quality that paired with the Rockwood brand. This gave us the chance to build legacy structures in keeping with the legacy homes we build,” says Grafton. The foray into this market has been very successful. A $40 million development, The Villas at Aspen Heights, sold out in just two years. The Residences of King Edward in the heart of southwest Calgary is part of the first exclusive master-planned arts community and cultural hub in the city. It is already 85 per cent pre-sold with framing work only recently started.

While the Rockwood team has grown significantly to accommodate diversification and an increase in clientele, maintaining a winning corporate culture has been crucial.

“To maintain a positive culture we have to create a strong team, inspire passion and provide support so that we can continue to meet our goals,” notes Grafton. “That means having the bench strength to get the job done without over-stretching any one individual. It also means the team always get what they need, and what they ask for is thoughtfully considered.”

A dynamic and vibrant culture, combined with Grafton’s reputation in the industry and her place among Canada’s top female entrepreneurs, has ensured there is no shortage of candidates seeking positions with the organization.

As with any well-functioning team, however, hiring the right people is key. At Rockwood, character and integrity are the benchmarks of a good employee. The belief is that training can compensate for lack of experience, yet attitude, work ethic and engagement must be inherent. As a result of its hiring practices, Rockwood has attracted employees from a wide range of sectors including oil and gas, finance, marketing, communications, and sales. Grafton herself spent many years in the investment banking industry prior to founding the company. Gender barriers have also been broken down at the company, with women working in non-traditional roles and accounting for 60 per cent of overall staff.

Staff is supported professionally, financially and emotionally and has direct access to Grafton 24/7 and benefit from her guidance, mentorship and care. Individuals are paired with top performers, exposed to new opportunities and inspired to do more. They are also encouraged to gain additional training and education through Rockwood’s liberal skills upgrading program.

Keeping team members on the same page means projects stay on-schedule and on-budget, which helps attain the three pillars of the Rockwood vision: quality of construction, customer care and financial integrity. This is achieved through all-staff, all-day meetings that are held every two weeks, where all aspects of every project are discussed.

In this truly entrepreneurial environment staff are able to impact strategic direction and profitability of the corporation through creativity and accountability. Annual reviews are structured with this in mind. Employees are evaluated on performance, with open and honest dialogue about how to build a stronger organization.

Annual team-building retreats help to maintain and further shape the culture at Rockwood. Architectural tours allow staff to experience building styles and methods around the world. The philosophy is that in order to better do their job, staff needs to learn, live and breathe design and construction in all its many forms.

Retreats bring the entire team together to relax, establish goals for the upcoming year and brainstorm ideas. Fully funded trips have included a beach vacation to Cabo San Lucas, a wine tour and biking excursion in the Okanagan, a sailing trip across Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands and a trip to San Diego. This year, Grafton is taking the Rockwood team to New York City to explore the architecture and get inspired by the world-class creativity and design. These trips provide team-building opportunities and allow employees to bond and embrace the Rockwood culture.

Corporate social responsibility is also embraced at Rockwood. The company’s involvement with clients, vendors and employees goes beyond building luxury homes to include philanthropic endeavours, many of which are brought forward by stakeholders. Causes of note include helping to raise over $400,000 for STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service), $50,000 toward the renovation and expansion of Calgary’s Cornerstone Youth Centre, and a generous donation to Calgary Reads to help build reading confidence in children. “Giving back to the community and helping to create places for those that lack the resources to do so raises the energy level and spirit of our entire organization,” says Grafton.

Grafton is extremely proud of the culture that has been created at Rockwood. “My team is the culmination of all the good things that a company can be. I am inspired, impressed and immensely proud of the people I work with every day,” she says. This is the team and the environment that has helped Rockwood Custom Homes achieve the title as one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures of 2017, Growth category.

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Rockwood Custom Homes

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