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Francoise horizontal A typical Canadian HVAC business lasts for around four to five years. A short shelf life, akin to a restaurant’s. Yet Françoise Jean-Denis found a way to buck that trend, and with the help of her husband, has been running her successful home improvement and HVAC business since 1989, thanks partly to knowing how to use renovation financing. The home renovations industry veteran shares some insights into what has helped her business, Le Groupe Réno Habitat Inc., thrive and some of the important lessons she has learned along the way.

Your business has been around for a while. What changes have you seen in the industry in that time and how have you navigated them?

The market has certainly changed a lot in the 25 years we’ve been around. More than anything consumers these days want to do business with professionals. This has worked well for us because we have always strived to offer our customers a high level of service.
I think over the years we have stood out, thanks to our professional technical team, which is proactive and always available. They are our strength. As is a commitment to ensuring we provide 100% guaranteed service.

How did you start your business?

We started in 1989 as Canada was emerging from a deep recession that affected everyone. Millions of workers, especially young people, had lost their jobs and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) were particularly hard hit with many forced to close their doors. The federal government had developed a number of programs to revive the economy, including the Ministry of Natural Resources introducing incentives for households to change their electric heating to dual-energy systems (powered by oil and electric).

My husband and I saw an opportunity and created Le Groupe Réno Habitat Inc. Our idea was to meet people’s new energy efficiency needs and help with the general re-vamp of the system.

Were there any important lessons you learned in the early days of running Réno Habitat that you can share?

From the very beginning we understood that success and sustainability in business is based on one fundamental principle: providing customers an unparalleled fast and professional service. This has always remained our guiding principle.

How have you ensured your business stayed profitable in the very competitive HVAC environment?

The Réno Habitat team is actively committed to its customers and their referrals. We offer a simple, efficient and friendly service that people know they can trust. Our customers always know they can count on us to act quickly, correctly and in their best interests.

How important is it to offer affordable consumer financing options on typically expensive ticket items such as home renovations and HVAC work?

Very important. Today, about 70% of our work is financed through our consumer financing partner. An average sale for us is about $15,000, meaning without financing we’d be missing out on as much as $3 million a year in business.

When I started working with our main consumer financing partner in 2006, everything changed. We offer sustainable and efficient products, including installation of equipment with optimal energy efficiency. This means our customers’ initial investment can become quite expensive. This sometimes becomes a major obstacle for a project, making a reliable and effective consumer financing partnership an imperative.

What advice would you give to a HVAC business looking for a financing partner?

Given the complexity of our business and the HVAC sector in general, we knew we needed a reliable and committed partner. This goes for any HVAC company. Make sure you chose a partner that is a leader when it comes to financing home renovations.

On top of our excellent customer service commitment, we owe them our success over the past 8 years for effectively meeting the financial needs of our many different customers. We could not have done this without the help of our financing partner. It has been vital for us that our financing partner understands the home renovations industry we work within.

How will you ensure your business remains relevant in the future?

Each year, hundreds of Quebec families trust me and my business to look after them. My role is to ensure I preserve and maintain this trust. I also believe in helping protect the environment by offering the best, most energy-efficient products available.

To achieve this, I rely on my staff to provide outstanding service, my manufacturers to provide quality products and my retail financing partner to meet the borrowing needs of my customers in a timely, courteous and competitive way.

What would be your key piece of advice to someone else starting their own home improvement and HVAC business?

HVAC contractors need to ensure they are not only providing the best possible technical support but also meeting the various financial requirements of their customers. This has been one of the keys of our success.

• Case Study: How Financing Helped Rénovations Sans Limite