Real Talk with CHIA #2: This time we dive into the mind of a successful real estate developer-builder: Maxime Laporte shared with the audience the vision and method he applies to the Group's projects Quorum - one of Montreal's strongest residential developers for over 30 years! Developer, builder, promoter, what's the difference? Possible to wear several hats at the same time? A family business and its succession? A different background shapes a different corporate culture? Is new construction supply sufficient to supply consumer demand in such a hot real estate market? Condos or houses? Impact of the pandemic in the real estate sector? Diversity in the construction industry? Perseverance, entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship... Many interesting topics were covered with passion and vision in this episode of Real Talk with Chia :)
This episode aired on October 15, 2021 and is rebroadcasted on our Youtube channel, here is its english transcription:
CHIA: Hello everyone! I'm Chia, your host of the show ''Le franc-parler avec CHIA''. So today, I am very happy to have Maxime Laporte with us. Maxime, when did we meet and how? Did we meet in China?
Maxime: Yes. With... we didn't have Menés with us, I was in charge at the time. Yes, that's true. It was a trade mission, I think in 2011-2012.
CHIA: Yeah, so it's been over 10 years already...That's a lot.... that we know each other. Yeah. It doesn't make us any younger, but hey. Now, Maxime, you wear multiple hats, so please explain to us what the difference is between a promoter, a developer, a builder, a property manager, etc., please.
Maxime: Yeah, well that's a good question. And a lot of times, people don't see the differences between the three parts, and I could even say that first of all, it's the real estate industry, and then in real estate, well, there's the ownership of buildings, so the maintenance, and then the management. It's probably 90 percent of the business, it's in maintenance because the real estate already exists. Real estate is vast: commercial, residential and industrial, from cell towers, managing a building to a medical clinic, in fact it's really a vast field. Yes. In the real estate field, we have construction, which is development, promotion, construction
CHIA: Right. In the three parts, development is mostly we develop the site, the zoning, the streets, what can we do there? Promotion is the activity of selling it or renting it and construction is making it. Then in the Quorum code, we do all three steps, so: development, promotion, construction and even property management because we have several buildings in the company. Excellent. I'm curious to know about Corum, which has been in business for 30 years now. So who started this company?
Maxime: So, my father, Hilaire Pops and his partner Peter Costantini...
CHIA: OK, very good...
Maxime: ...who started the company, it's been a little over 30 years. Right. Especially in the West Island of Montreal, houses, gradually, it became condos, from time to time small shopping centers. Then, for my part, I returned to know how 10 years - 11 years and gradually, we made more and more projects of condos, we had projects in Griffintown there, the Vaudreuil, etc. As there presently, we are on one of your sites. Right, in Laval on the lake...Yeah...with a great view for a beautiful fall day. Unbelievable! Yes, that's right, we're really spoiled, thank you. Yes, we're spoiled. Yes.
And then, actually, talk to me: actually in residential developments, what are actually the qualities that you look for more? Yes. As a type of project or the people? Well, actually, both. OK, but when you're doing projects especially if you're talking to either a location real estate...Yes....but to have the right product in the right place. Yes. In fact, I told you that we have urban type projects that are on a metro project or an REM, we have projects that are more like a resort network like here on the island, on the lake, so we have the river, the golf club, a little bit of noise from trucks in the background building the REM.
That's it. I already told you about the noise. No, no, it's fine. We also have other projects that are sometimes conversions. So, it's more in downtown Montreal for smaller lots, therefore more densified. OK. But the location defines the product. That's it.
But earlier, in fact, before we started the interview, you also told me that you're going to start the 250-home development project nearby. Yes, we are. Then, there is already a waiting list of a few thousand people. So, in the mind of a real estate developer, how can you be visionary enough to go and find a piece of land and propose a product that will really meet the needs of consumers? In this case, the site is the Cardinal Golf Course in Laval Sainte-Dorothée, which is called the Meta project. It is a project with several partners, including the Golf family, the developers from the BNP team, the Trémol team and the Corombo team. When we talk about large-scale projects like this, it is often several professions, several expertises, as much in money, construction, technique, sales, programming. In this case, it's a project that is mainly house because the zoning allows it, but I don't know if there is a huge demand right now for the house, if the pandemic, but even before the pandemic or I would say even after the pandemic, the house is in great demand and few sites allow it. That's it. Because often, people do not see, but it is the zoning that is restrictive.
Right, but it's actually the role of a developer to convince the various authorities to accede to their vision, right? Yes. Right? And I would say at this time, we also see it in the media, several cities are starting to want to redo their houses because there is a tendency to do a lot of condos, but there is a great demand for the house and zoning should increasingly allow also to lower the price tension. Yes, indeed, yes. People often say that prices are exorbitant, but it's true that they are quite expensive, but if we don't offer more, we won't be able to control our prices, we have to do more. We need to build more, dezone, rezone, requalify, whatever the term is, we need to offer more. Great, thank you. Finally, I'm also very fascinated because you haven't always been a developer-builder, you've done lots and lots of different things, so tell us about how these different assets in your background have shaped your approach and today, how you lead the team. Yes, as I mentioned, Corum is a family business, you know it's the next generation, but that wasn't the original game plan. OK. When I was in college, I did my bachelor's in marketing and especially, I did my master's in engineering, so it's pretty rare that you go from marketing to engineering. So there you go.
What did I love about these two fields of study? It's that it's learning how to sell, and then learning how to build. And then, it brought me to a climate at my company in the field soudier that the invention I made for the army, then Canada Post. With our mutual friend, Daniel. Yes, the Scarpa Design. Yes. And then after that I worked in the aeronautical field, then in the oil field, cosmetics, distribution, different fields. And then, just before I joined Corum, I was working in the field, the family business was growing. I did a road trip with my father from California to Montreal... OK, great!... I think it's 7 days, sitting in the car talking together. OK. And then at the end of the trip, because he was reading in a BlackBerry, he was reading his emails. OKAY. He was reading his emails, we talked together, we exchanged, and then he said to me what are your... he said I saw you as my guy, but you're a sweet manager, he said you've acquired a lot of knowledge, and then he said your company has grown, and that's what we need. Are you interested in getting on board? It took a while, we talked about it with his partner at the time, we talked about it, and then finally I was interested, but much later in my life. Okay. I could say that all these different areas helped me, the number is an employee in family businesses. Yes. So now that we're in a family business, it leaves its own existence, sometimes it's special. Indeed, yes. But being a part of our family business teams, but at times how for our teams, it can be, how we can take our decisions together, collaborate.
The marketing side also helps, my degree in marketing, then the experience to develop the right product that people want and not just guess it on a whim as we say sometimes because it is still projects of 100, 200 to 300 units. You have to have a methodology to define the right product. Absolutely. So, different learnings that make it possible to do better, I hope. Yeah. And sometimes, I also do participation for the next generation, so I get involved in entrepreneurship in Quebec for young companies. And sometimes, what do I mention to them? It's if you're doing the succession, you buy a little land one day, do your own thing for a while and then go back into the family business. It's just going to position you better, create your own personality, your own background, your own opinion, it's just going to solidify you better to serve. Yeah, I think that's really, really, really, really good advice, because like I've already talked to my daughter: are you going to be the successor, so immediate, but in marketing agency where we met too? She said: no, I would like to like explore other things. And then I think that's totally valid, it's very relevant. It's a joy to have her back for the right reason, because she's passionate about it, and she's interested in it. Indeed.
I know that you're very, very involved in the causes of school perseverance, how to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs, so tell us about that, among other things, I think that there are the uncles... Well, there are different organizations in the past, there were many... I was involved, the young entrepreneurs club of Quebec. Okay. OK, the Association des Clubs Entrepreneurs du Québec, ACE; myself when I was in university, I was in one of those clubs, and it promotes entrepreneurship. OK. And then I was on the board of directors. I asked [Inaudible 09: 30] with that area because it's an important cause. I also have paradox which is to teach the trades in the arts, in the theater. In fact, it's a theater that is a Marc Bellemare boulevard and that too, it's a really important cause because it's either young people who have to help them have a trade, but sometimes, it's a trade there, it's also a little bit entrepreneurial, it's to undertake one's life, to undertake... Oh yes, absolutely... in that industry. In fact, I would say that entrepreneurship is... there is entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship, as I was saying, and then entrepreneurship is having your own company and entrepreneurship is being in a company, but having the... taking it on, as if it were your own, having the same sense of energy, of initiative. I think that for all of Quebec, this is a wave that is important to see in young people.
So to take the initiative, to want to contribute, to want to do better no matter what our role is, right? Yeah. Actually, speaking of entrepreneurship, I'm curious how it is on construction sites, is there enough diversity right now? I bring this up because actually, two weeks ago, I was in the construction wings, and then there was a testimonial from a girl who is a steel erector there, which is quite unusual. She would like to see a Quebec that is very diverse, that can accept the coexistence of everything and really create a culture of collaboration, regardless of our gender, our beliefs or our country of origin. Well, it's a topic, yet then, I find it a little bit special as a topic because it's a topic that I see, but I don't realize much because back home, we're already 50/50. IT'S OKAY. And it's "not wanted or not wanted", it happens naturally.
In fact, I think we're already 50 percent women and men on the job sites. Great! OK. On a tendency to tender, construction, estimation, project manager. And then, when we get the resumes, we hire or we have people growing internally in the company, we don't have a discussion about whether it's a woman or a man. Yes. It's the person. Yes. That makes it already, I think it's a good symbol when you don't even realize, is that already, it's gradual. That's it. And you have to give the market time too because it's new, it's a new generation, it's new, it's happening. Yes, there are a few less women on the sites, but more and more, we see them, it's happening, and it's happening in a comfortable and respectful way. Very good.
For ethnicity, I would say: I see fewer immigrants in the construction industry which I find quite interesting. Why? Because at the time, the construction industry was a lot of Italians, Indians, Irish, immigration went into the construction trades, because they are often trades that require few elements, skills cards or training or language or other, that is to say difficult trades. In fact, we often used to enter this field, whereas today, I believe, but this is my opinion, that the people who often work in the construction trades in other countries are at the bottom of the ladder. When we are, for example, in China or in Mexico or in other countries in the Middle East, either construction is less well paid, it is not safe, it is work, undervalued trades, while here in Quebec with the standards, safety, training, wages that we have, the quality of the works that we create, it is work very well paid, very well respected.
And I would say that there is a clash of expectations, which means that when you arrive in another country, perhaps if you tell them: do you want a construction trade? No, that's not a good trade. Okay. Maybe there's better communication in doing that. Yes, I think so, I think so. Do you think that in our schools in Quebec, we talk enough about the promotion of the builder's trade? It's done better than before. Yes, I do. But I know, I've been in two schools where I've intervened with groups of young people, and the people were already very motivated in construction, we were preaching a little bit for our parish here. But yes, there is better that can be done because at the moment, what do I observe? People are going to college, a little bit of college, stop school, go work elsewhere and finally arrive in construction as if by chance. Yes. Because there are finally other trades, they are less passionate or less well paid at age 13. That's why sometimes we have people who enter construction much later, when the path could be more continuous, gradual and continuous. But there is a great need for manpower. Absolutely. But honestly, I think that now, all industries have a large workforce. So sometimes we decide what we're going to do because we have all the industries, the industrial, the construction, we buy ramps, ... Yes... but the ramps are made in a factory, in fact it's manufactured, the glass is made in a glass factory, so it's all interconnected. So if the labor is missing, if they're missing the labor and we're missing the labor to install, it's a new content. But ah yes, that's why...there's a lack of manpower. We're missing the labor and we're missing the materials, then right now I'm working with a lot of developers, then alright because the 40 percent more challenge. Yeah, construction costs...Construction costs...are exploding. We don't know when we're getting the materials. OK.
Our teams are supposed to show up one day, then too many people miss, show up the next week. But weeks is huge in construction, skipping weeks is huge! Yes, yes, it's huge. We didn't do that, we skipped a day, we didn't skip weeks. Yes. We have a construction site for a month, we didn't have enough cement, concrete. We didn't have enough cement or concrete. So we practically closed the site for a month and then, there was another site, there was a lack of steel for 4 months that we stopped the operations. Well, in front of the audience, if you have a solution to solve the labor problem, then contact Maxime. And to conclude, I would like you to share with perhaps a younger audience because I believe that many people are inspired by your journey. So, what would you say to a young person, how, where that person should start to become a real estate developer? That's a great question, actually first of all, for sure in my case, I'm a family succession. I had the opportunity that my father was already in the field, in fact it's sure that it facilitates and it facilitates the introduction, but it also facilitates to see the trade because I could see it all my life, even very young, I was going to ride my bike on my father's construction sites and in the construction trailers. OK.
To get into development, there's no diploma plate in there, there's more and more online courses that I see on real estate development that's interesting. Oh yeah, okay. And then development is done through two paths: either the technical path to become an appraiser, surveyor, you're a banker, financial lender, architect, so the professional path that takes you through the professional way of eventually doing development. Absolutely. Then, there is the other way: construction, so technical, for example: start by doing renovation, transforming triplexes, siplexes, then a trainplex. Then, gradually, you become a developer through construction. So there is not really one way to become a developer, there are many ways to do it. Great! Thank you very much for being with us today, Maxime Laporte. So I invite you to ask us your questions, it's my pleasure to answer them, see you soon, see you next time, thanks again. Thank you again.