Co-Founders of Mississauga based Construction Firm “BUILD IT by Design”, Simon Shahin and Alburt Lefebvre specialize in full-service general contracting for restaurants, retail, commercial and healthcare spaces within the Greater Toronto Area.
Over the past decade, they have helped hundreds of world-class brands and businesses build iconic destinations to achieve their missions. Here is their story:
Both: BUILD IT by Design started back in 2008 with two best friends operating out of a pickup truck. Today, we have completed over 600+ projects with a team of over 70 in-house specialists. We have always seen properties as an opportunity to capture the public’s imagination. Storefronts that beg customers to come inside. Workplaces that inspire professionals to perform.
And cultural destinations that truly stand apart. Over the last decade, we’ve grown and established a culture of accountability and dedication, where everyone is encouraged to think like entrepreneurs and challenge us with newer, better ways of doing things.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture? How did the idea for your business come about?
Simon: I was very fortunate to gain a lot of inspiration and motivation from my father. After studying Commerce and working with him at our family business (a company that specializes in custom mill working), I found there was a lack of construction partners in the industry catering to general contracting for restaurants. BUILD IT was created to centralize all facets of the construction process from beginning to end.
Alburt: Simon and I are best friends and seeing people’s dreams become a reality has always really inspired us. Being able to help our team and clients fulfill their mission and find purpose is the thing that really drove us from the start. The more time, passion and planning we put into it, the more it just felt right.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Simon: Learning adaptability was a big deal for me. Being willing to change and improve to tackle the challenges of a growing company was a learning process, but also a huge step for my personal and professional growth.
Alburt: For me, learning the art of delegation was difficult at the beginning. Every person has their strengths and their weaknesses – and part of being a great business owner is learning how to weaponize these characteristics within a team. A lot of people in management roles tend to target weaknesses to build them into strengths, but I feel like the best types of business owners learn how to celebrate people’s strengths and fill in the gaps between. Brands are built on details, and everyone needs space to grow.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read? Simon: I’ve been reading “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. I’ve been really interested in the finer details that make successful companies stand apart from the crowd, and what practices they engage in. I strongly recommend it to anyone who’s looking to form some effective new habits.
Alburt: My latest read is “Let’s Not Screw It, Let’s Just Do It” by Richard Branson. The book talks extensively about how our actions as business owners have lasting impact on the environment, and what we can do to improve for the future. The book also talks a lot about best practices for effective and long-term success, which I’m all about.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Simon: Thankfully not. When you’re raised by a family of entrepreneurs, becoming an entrepreneur yourself is actually encouraged and celebrated. Having Alburt as a business partner has also been a huge personal and professional support for me.
Alburt: I haven’t dealt with much push-back myself, either. If we’re being honest, Simon has been a huge inspiration to me. We are best friends and working with him is tons of fun. Having built this company together is extremely rewarding, and there really isn’t anything that I would do differently.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Both: Building trust. Transparency is the thing that we hold as one of our most core values. Being able to be open and honest with our clients no matter what the situation is what (they say) sets up apart from our competition. We want everyone to be on the same page, which means constant communication as well as a unified vision. This helps our clients trust that every piece of their project is moving in unison, towards their greater goals.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Simon: That ‘fear of missing out’ is just a thing you’ll have to deal with. In order to run a successful business, you must make sacrifices. However, missing out on personal enjoyment now just means that you will gain more from that sacrifice in the long run.
Alburt: Staying relevant will take a lot of planning and dedication, but it will turn out to be a driving force that pushes you towards success. If you keep focused and believe in yourself, that little bit of pressure will become fuel to your hustle.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Simon: Be prepared to develop thick skin & resiliency. Challenges might make you feel powerless at times but remaining positive will get you through it. More importantly, get into business with something that you’re passionate about, as your success will be measured by your overall happiness. Alburt: Dive in and don’t second-guess it. If you have dreams, you should chase them. If you’re willing to put the work in, anything is possible. While over-analyzing things can result in a failure-to-launch, be prepared to go with the flow, focus on what you love, and have fun!