Building a Family Legacy that Lasts
100 years in business is a remarkable achievement, particularly in the construction industry, a fact that family-owned Ball Construction knows well.
Ball Construction proudly celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2023 after decades of success in Ontario. The company has built a sterling reputation for high-quality facilities and comprehensive, skilled, and consistent service. Dedicated to excellence, the firm is actively involved in all aspects of business development to guarantee every project is delivered to the highest standards and client satisfaction. The firm’s five principals continue to build on a long and impressive family history of quality craftsmanship.
Ball Brothers General Contractors was officially established as a firm in 1923 by Frank and Harold Ball. Not long after, the firm became Ball Brothers Limited in 1930. Following the Second World War, Harold’s three sons Jack, Jim, and Thom, and Frank’s son, Bill, joined the family business.
It was then in 1997 that current President, Jason Ball, and current Vice President, Cameron Ball, represented the third generation of family members (cousins) leading the Ball Construction Limited team. Eight years later, Ball Construction Ltd. was established, and during that same year, current Vice President and Estimating Manager Gary Hauck joined as the third partner. In 2016, Rod Aitken became the fourth partner as the Vice President and Preconstruction Manager. Recently, in 2022, Brent Cochrane, the Small Contracts Manager for Ball, joined the partnership as the fifth partner.
The Ball team is proud of the company’s history and is thrilled to see the lineage continue so successfully.
“For our 90th celebration we had a huge customer and partner party, with 350 to 400 people at a large function,” shares President Jason Ball, adding he hopes the upcoming 100th will enjoy the same large attendance, unhampered by COVID’s lingering effects. The company will be hosting several functions throughout 2023 with partners and clients, along with fundraising for a charity still to be determined. In the meantime, the hard work continues.
Offering multiple services for design-build projects, Ball Construction works directly with clients, acting as a one-stop shop for all facets of the design and construction process. Ball has been perfecting this service for decades, allowing clients to trust the company and have peace of mind while the team turns their vision into a reality.
“We look back to the core values that we inherited from our previous generations of honesty, integrity, and quality, something we learned as we were raised in this industry,” says Gary Hauck. He goes on to add that, “The previous generation laid the groundwork for us, and that’s certainly a key contributor to our success.”
To be sure, the company has weathered several economic upheavals over its long tenure but has remained steadfastly upright throughout.
“We’ve gone through many recessions, as you can imagine,” says Jason. Naming off previous challenges, Jason mentions that, “We got through the recessions of the ‘80s and the ‘90s, and we met those challenges because of our core values.”
Ball focuses on looking at specific projects that fit the team’s skill set, knowing they can complete a quality project while creating a relationship with the client. Jason proudly adds that, “We’re not volume hunters; we promote client satisfaction, so we don’t bid every job out there.”
This mindset means, in part, focusing on repeat business during recession periods, and building on the team’s strong relationships and reputation.
“We’re still working for those repeat customers and we have a lot of repeat customers and a lot of referrals. That helps during tough times,” says Jason. For those clients, that means increased value and efficiency, reduced waste, personalized service, and top-notch workmanship to accomplish the project to complete satisfaction.
“We’re basically of a size where we can adjust fairly quickly with our staff,” explains Gary. He goes on to say that, “Through one of those recessions, there weren’t a lot of big institutional projects on the go. We ended up doing a series of Home Depots for quite a few years, and we’re known in the industry for doing recreation centers and ice hockey arenas. We specialize in certain areas and become experts in them.”
Indeed, the recreational facilities built by Ball Construction are unparalleled and publicly showcased throughout Ontario communities. The company has constructed more than 45 ice surfaces—many of them multi-pad—and several multipurpose facilities. These facilities boast aquatic features, ice pads, fitness centres, gymnasiums, spectator areas, entertainment spots, and libraries. A number of these facilities had additions constructed, all while Ball was able to maintain facility access.
Along with big box stores like Home Depot, Ball also constructs complex projects such as the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy. The ability to pivot is a skill that the company has acquired during its longevity. Currently, Ball has started construction for York University, where a new Neuroscience building is coming to campus. The Ball Construction team is confident that they will be able to complete this complex project leaving York impressed.
“Over the years we’ve built the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, a very high-end building,” says Gary, “and right now we’re also constructing a huge warehouse, so we’re very adaptable. At certain times certain projects are more prevalent than others and we focus on those and just get good at them. We can be very competitive on those repeat projects.”
Cameron Ball is impressed with how Ball and the entire construction industry have been able to adapt; “When you’re talking about adapting and adjusting to the times, I’m thinking about all the technological adaptations that our industry has embraced over the years. It’s taken us from the 1920s horse and buggy days to where we are today with our computer technology.”
This adaptability is reflected in the company’s long-term business outlook, which includes a focus on long-term training and mentoring young staff as opposed to simply recruiting. As Cameron says, “A lot of our senior people now have been here a long time. It’s served us well over the years. We look at training and mentoring our young staff as one of our keys to success.”
Another big change over the years is the advent of social media, which Ball Construction uses avidly, particularly LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
“We have a full-time person who works on [social media],” says Jason. The Ball team will highlight interesting projects with short videos or drone footage from the site. Jason believes it is essential that, “We try to throw little teasers out there every day on active project sites. We also feature employees, superintendents, and office staff every week.”
Jason adds that, “It’s not because we’re using social media to get new work; it’s more so awareness to the community, as perhaps we’re going to be able to recruit young professionals out of the community to join Ball. Social media can be seen as a recruiting tool.”
There are no headhunting services used at Ball construction, as the company prefers to hire out of colleges and universities, bring potential employees into the company, make them part of the team, and then mentor them through their careers. This is especially important in the wake of a recent wave of retirees who have spent an impressive 40 to 50 years with the company. Finding new employees can be challenging after careers like that come to an end and when facing an ongoing labour shortage.
In regards to hiring new individuals, Jason believes that “some of the social media helps with that, as we try to make people aware of the construction industry and how fun it is and how rewarding it is to be part of that industry.” He adds that it would be nice to reach more people while still in high school so they can make more informed career decisions.
“There’s nothing more exciting and dynamic than the construction industry,” Jason says. “It’s the greatest industry in Canada by far. Every day is a challenge. You step up to the challenge, and it’s changing every day, too. It’s dynamic, it’s both rewarding and enriching.”
Recent challenges in the industry include supply chain issues with both materials and availability. This accompanies a significant price escalation of material costs, which are expected to continue into 2023. The team at Ball Construction plans to persevere through these challenging times, as they have done previously in the past.
Cameron suspects that it is “the family-owned aspect that has influenced our success. We do try to foster a family atmosphere here as opposed to a punch-the-clock, nine-to-five attitude. We do a lot of team-building initiatives between golf tournaments and Christmas parties and various other social get-togethers.”
Trade shows are popular tools for education, outreach, and team-building initiatives as well, another factor that contributes to Ball Construction’s success. This is reflected in the company’s numerous awards of excellence won over the years. Along with awards, the company is extremely proud of its dedication to safety, something Ball takes very seriously. The firm recently achieved its milestone of one million hours worked without a lost time injury.
“We were one of the early adopters of COR™,” adds Jason. “When COR was brought into Ontario, we were one of the first dozen general contractors to become COR™ certified, which is a higher safety standard for certification, now required throughout the province.”
Of course, keeping up with the latest technological advancements is vital as well. “You won’t be successful as a contractor, or in any industry, if you lose sight of technology,” Jason says. “You’ll fall behind and you won’t be competitive. We’ve always prided ourselves on being able to keep up with the latest technology.” Whether from a safety, operational or software standpoint, Ball Construction has continuously embraced the technology needed to do the job effectively and competitively.
“Something else a little different than the typical contractor of our size, is 100 years ago there wasn’t a whole group of sub-trades,” adds Gary. “A general contractor had to self-perform a lot of the different trades—drywall, masonry, even building windows out of wood and buying the glass. There weren’t specific sub-trades, and we hung on to that in the concrete and carpentry areas. We’re able to self-perform our concrete work and rough carpentry.”
“A lot of similar contractors these days are in an office building without a yard full of equipment and carpenters and labourers on staff,” Gary adds. This is one significant aspect Ball Construction has hung on to, and an important part of what’s helped the company achieve its success through the years.
“We’re more of a traditional contractor as opposed to a broker contractor,” says Jason. “We still have 100 carpenters and labourers on our direct payroll, so we can self-perform the key components of the job, move it along and control the schedule better. There are only a handful of general contractors like that. It’s very rare to find someone like ourselves that has that type of equipment and those types of resources and expertise to self-perform that work.”
Ball Constructions plans to be in business for another 100 years, passing the torch to the next generation, including Ethan Ball, the family’s fourth generation.
Ball Construction is also proud of its strong community roots in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, making time to give back whenever possible, including to minor sports teams and local firefighters. “We’re very local and community-minded, as there are a lot of initiatives we get involved with to support our community,” says Cameron.
That mindset and awareness of community spirit have become an integral part of Ball Construction’s identity; they are proud and fond of the community they have grown in for the past century.
“To be around 100 years doesn’t happen by accident,” says Jason. “You have to have a good reputation. You have to be known for your integrity and your honesty and your ability to deliver the product as you committed to. Without that you won’t last.”