As a startup entrepreneur, Rennie had no business experience, and faced many of the same challenges that many business owners face. “I knew I loved putting the deal together,” said Rennie, “I loved customer care and thought we were designing projects that were amazing.” However, he learned quickly that his passion, and love of architecture and design, could only get him so far. “I had no idea about cash flow, balance sheets, process, or structure,” he shared, “I feel like knowing more at the beginning would have been so helpful.” The construction industry in Alberta is unique in that there are very few barriers to entry, including a lack of required credentials in order to open a business. Therefore, many feel that they have the skillset to make some fast cash by opening their own business.
From the start, Rennie loved the idea of intricately thoughtful, whether deciding how to plan a space or approaching specific architecture. “I feel like some of our best projects have had inherent issues and the clever ideas that our team used to solve them is what made them awesome,” said Rennie. The Rectangle team always starts by asking clients what their pain points are, what they feel isn’t working or needs to be fixed.
A family business isn’t easy, something Rennie has first hand knowledge of. Last summer his teenage daughter worked with the team and was fired. “My wife worked here for a week and, depending on whom you talk to, she either quit or got fired,” he explained, “She says I am way too demanding.” His cousin worked for him as well, but was let go after a month. Does that make Rennie the “Steve Jobs” of architecture? Not at all! His brother helped to create their company vision of “ideas first.” And his dad is his right hand within the company and, at 62, he runs circles around the young guys on the team.
Passionate about good design, Rennie’s hometown and Rectangle’s corporate headquarters in Calgary, Alberta offers endless opportunities for daily inspiration. “I love good design. Whether it is a house, a piece of furniture, a new iPhone, or a new sign at a store,” he enthusiastically shared, “I love seeing amazing work!” Calgary is a unique entrepreneurial ecosystem, having doubled in size over the last twenty years. With unlimited opportunities for smart entrepreneurs, Rennie confides, “There must be something in the water producing Type A personalities because we are a close knit community driven to see businesses thrive within an extremely competitive environment.”
Driven to exceed even his own lofty standards, Rennie has had multiple projects featured on the cover of “Western Living Magazine” and has a collection of entrepreneur, and design, awards. As one of Calgary’s 40 under 40 honorees last year, he is dedicated to personal growth and is a dedicated member of an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) forum group to grow even further. Rubbing shoulders daily with some of Western Canada’s most elite business leaders, one of Rennie’s biggest influences has been Manny Sangra.
“Manny had a major impact on my life and how I conduct myself in a business environment,” he explained, “he was the first journeyman plumber that I apprenticed under that wasn’t my father and I hated him on day one.” Taking months to warm up to each other, Manny was the most aggressive, hardest working man Rennie had ever met. “Manny immigrated to Canada as a young man with his family and only a few thousands dollars, plumbing by day and building homes in the evenings,” Rennie tells, “He really showed me that being a blue collar worker was something to be proud of and he used that stepping stone to create an amazing lifestyle for his family.” Filled with emotion, Rennie shared his favorite story that is clearly fresh in his mind, “We were working downtown and at lunch time Manny needed to get a new suit for an upcoming wedding, so he insisted that we go to a high end department store, Holt Renfrew, in our filthy coveralls to get fitted,” he continued, “He walked in there like he owned the place, getting everyone’s attention, and strolled out with the nicest Italian suit that they had.” Today Manny is a Senior Project Manager with one of Canada’s largest construction companies, overseeing multi-billion dollar projects.
A humble visionary, Shane Rennie faces Calgary’s extremely uncertain economy driven by oil prices. “We are a boom/bust city, which has everyone pretty worried,” he explained, “I think we have finally pieced together a really great team, but I am always worried about keeping the work flowing in order to retain them all. Cash flow is a struggle no matter the size of your business.” With a five year plan that will have Rectangle moving into four major Canadian cities with five times their 2013 revenue, Rennie’s team has recently begun working in Edmonton, Alberta and has their sights set firmly on Vancouver and Toronto. “I tell everyone that we are a 100 year company,” he said, “I am not just looking to build a successful company. My dream is to one day have my children involved.” Then, with a gleam of Founder’s pride in his eyes, “I am looking to build a legacy,” he said. For this architectural and design innovator, the future certainly looks bright.
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