WE SPOKE WITH SHANE ABOUT HIS JOURNEY FROM SUMMER JOB TO PRESIDENCY WITH SHANE HOMES
By Fraser Tripp
Shane Wenzel joined Shane Homes at a young age and learned the new home building industry from the ground up, first working in the field on job sites, then joining the Sales and Marketing department. Today, he leads the Shane Homes Group of Companies as President, is a social media creative, a mentor, podcaster, speaker, and is an active member of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
You might think that Shane Wenzel was destined from the start to become the president of Shane Homes. After all, Shane’s father Cal named the company after him. But for Shane, receiving that title was never a given.
“I had to be the most capable person for the role. Cal had a few other people he could have entertained for the presidency,” says Shane.
Fortunately, Cal, Shane Homes’ CEO and former president built a strong work ethic into his son from an early age. “I’ve been involved in the company since I was 14 years old,” says Shane. “My father didn’t believe that sitting on my butt during the summer and playing around like the other kids was as important as me learning about work and having a strong work ethic.”
Shane earned the mantle of president of the business — one of Calgary’s largest home builders — in 2010 after climbing the ranks. “I’m about past my life expectancy, apparently,” he says of his 10 years as president. “I’m a big believer in not being in the same role for far too long. You can get very stale. So if I’m falling behind, if I can’t accept change anymore, then I’m going to have to step out of the way.”
In his 31 years with the company, Shane has navigated Calgary’s evolving landscape. He says the city has become steadily more diverse, changing demands for single- versus multi-family homes. Density has increased dramatically, and, of course, costs and pricing has increased significantly as well. But one of the most significant shifts Shane has seen involves consumers’ must-haves when building their home. “We used to see people buying for resale. So they needed that traditional living room, dining room, family room plan,” he says. “Nowadays, and especially over the past year, people are purchasing homes and making them more of their own. They’re starting to live in their homes rather than thinking about resale.”
He says early on in the pandemic, people learned what they liked and didn’t like about their home and what they needed more of, whether that’s more space, a home office, larger outdoor space, or more room for the kids.
Not only did consumers change what they are looking to purchase, but also how they go about sealing the deal. Like most businesses, Shane says the start of the pandemic was filled with unknowns. “As a home builder, you rely on a lot of foot traffic. A lot of people plan out their show home tours online, and they might go through an entire show home row,” he says. “They couldn’t do that; they were scared to, so they reverted to online.” During the first three months, he says he had to face the possibility he might not make a profit that year. “I’ve got 87 people relying on me for their job. So it was a bit nerve-wracking.” Fortunately, like everything else in 2020, the pandemic ushered a first-time shift in the spring market into the summer, and that carried into the fall. “So it turned out to be a relatively good year. We didn’t have to lay anybody off.”
He says the process shifted almost entirely online with extended virtual tours and digital contracts. “In a couple of cases, we’ve had people buy from us strictly online. For example, two customers have made $450,000 purchases over Zoom and virtual viewings.”
While it’s still too early to tell what impact reopenings will have on business, Shane is confident many of these practices will remain in some way or another. “We’ve seen a lot of things that were destined to change; it just might have taken two or three years longer.”
On a personal level, a big change Shane has seen in his time working in the home building market is the makeup of the industry, including his own part in representing the LGBTQ2S+ community. “Coming out at such a late age was tough, and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” he says. “Coming from a right-leaning, more conservative family, that’s uncomfortable. But even more uncomfortable is having this role and being in one of the most old-fashioned industries.” Eventually, he says, there were several of “the old guard” who reached out and congratulated him, often sharing that a member of their family was a part of the community, too. “That kind of acceptance certainly helped. Of course, there’s probably been a few people who still raise an eyebrow, but that’s their problem to deal with.”
True to his thoughts on nothing getting stale, Shane says he hopes to see Shane Homes continue to evolve over the next decade as the company progresses towards 50 years in business. “We’ve taken some great leaps and bounds in a short, short period, but you still want to create a legacy that lasts another 20 or 30 years. Lucky for me, I have a great team who can help make that happen.” And speaking of legacies: “With any luck, maybe possibly, my son will be ready for [the presidency] one day and might want to take that on himself. It’s obviously something a father would like to see.”