The Holmes Group
'Building from Strength, Steadily'
Mike Holmes is “sick of fixing other people’s crap” and is moving on to help people enjoy their homes in other ways. Best known for the internationally successful TV series Holmes on Homes™, Mike has become a powerful global brand. For seven seasons, Holmes on Homes™ featured Mike repairing the havoc created by other contractors. The program is still broadcast in seven countries—the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, and in Canada on HGTV. However, except for re-runs and syndication, that show is now finished. But not Mike and his team at the Holmes Group.
COMING TO A CROSSROADSToday, his company is branching out into other areas, with the same energy and enthusiasm that infused Holmes on Homes™. And that’s how Bay Consulting Group got involved. “We’re a tiny television production company that grew really fast,” says Michael Quast, vice-president of development at the Holmes Group. “We came to a crossroads—we were growing rapidly without a master plan that would help us focus. We needed help in choosing the best path.”
As well as starring in his TV show, Mike had developed two books, a clothing line and was considering endorsement opportunities. He also wanted to build “green” homes and take on the unregulated home inspection industry.
Under the leadership of finance director Martha Mason in early 2008, the Holmes Group senior officers embarked on developing a strategic plan. “We were a TV company getting into different businesses,” says Mason. “We now have 17 companies.”
She adds: “We used to suffer from corporate ADD. We reacted to opportunities without examining what it is we really wanted to do. Someone would come in with an idea, and we would say, ‘That sounds great, let’s do it,’ without considering the consequences. But we didn’t always have the right people and resources in place to realize our new ambitions.”
Quast’s characterizes the turning point this way: “We used to run on gut instinct. We still value that, but it can get you into situations that you might not be best-prepared to handle. We realized we needed to better analyze why it is that we were doing something.”
STRATEGY AS THE TURNING POINTMason’s strategic-plan sessions continued off and on for about six months when she realized, “This is as far as I can take it.” She then went looking for a management consultant to move the process to the next level. “We needed greater expertise and an unbiased view,” she says. “Someone who could ask us the difficult questions.”
Three companies were asked to bid. Quast says Bay Consulting became the unanimous choice “when they (Vince Fearon and Hans Jansen) looked at us and said, ‘You know who you are and where you want to go. The challenge is how to get there—and we can help you.’ ”
Quast explains: “We didn’t want to spend any time discussing our brand and building consensus. What we needed was strategic thinking. They understood that right away and shared our passion for the brand.”
Once the process began, Quast says Vince and Hans “did an excellent job of listening and asking pointed questions. They fed back to us their understanding of the brand, which helped us to focus our thinking and planning.”
DEVELOPING A 'HANDS-ON' STRATEGYFor his part, Vince describes the Holmes Group as “hands-on people needing hands-on solutions.” With some market research, Bay Consulting demonstrated that Mike’s brand power was even greater than the group had imagined. How to leverage it most efficiently was the question. The danger was potentially tarnishing the brand by taking it in the wrong direction.
Says Vince: “Holmes is moving from being a media-driven company based on a single television show to a brand-driven company where television is only one of several business entities. They just needed some help in how to prepare themselves to choose the directions that offered the most opportunities.”
Bay Consulting’s help came over a series of four informal sessions during a six-month period. “They were easy to work with,” says Mason. “They were always relaxed and very generous with their time.” She adds: “They opened our eyes to strategic thinking. We knew what we wanted, but they really knew.”
By the end of the sessions, Quast says Vince, Hans and Bay Consulting had delivered on their promise. “We’re now much more aware of the process required to be successful,” he says. “They have given us a road map to choose which options we should pursue.”
A FIVE-YEAR GROWTH PLANThat map includes a five-year growth plan with several signposts. One of the most critical markers involves building the infrastructure, or the internal support, required to maximize the power of the Holmes brand. Explains Vince: “The core group knows how to create, produce and market a successful television program. But they aren’t experts, say, on selling clothes, shoes and books. They need to hire the right people and establish the right structures so that any new business line is as successful as it can be.”
Thanks to Bay Consulting, Quast says the Holmes Group is looking to the future with much more confidence. “They helped us develop a strategic template that we can apply to any new situation. Today, we have better structures, better planning and better accountability. Now, we feel we can move ahead with more assurance.”
Work has begun on a new TV series for the fall of 2009, “Holmes Inspection”. Likely future projects include more books, a syndicated radio program and expanded clothes and shoe lines. And there is talk of building more sustainable communities such as the 400-home, Holmes Homes development in Okotoks, Alta., 18 kilometres south of Calgary.
Endorsements are another possibility. In April 2008, Holmes signed a deal promising to use WALLTITE, a BASF spray polyurethane insulation product, in his projects, and more such endorsations are expected in the future.