Chris Lee used to think he’d never want to be in sales. But when he was offered a job marketing building envelope systems, Lee took a risk – and now he’s all wrapped up in his work.
Lee has spent the past seven years as Western Territory Manager for Henry Company Canada, which supplies air and vapour barrier, roofing and waterproofing products for residential and commercial buildings, such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights opening this fall in Winnipeg. The sales and marketing job came to him unexpectedly.
“It was kind of a fluke,” says Lee, whose aversion to sales was based on the pushy, quota-driven world he witnessed while working in an auto dealership’s service department several years ago.
“I was working for a golf course in Winnipeg and my brother was living in Toronto. A guy he played hockey with told him he needed to hire someone out west. It was fall and the golf course was getting ready to close, so my brother called me up. I had no background in the building industry whatsoever, but I researched the company and their products, and discovered that they were well-known and respected within the industry.”
He took the job, that hockey buddy became his boss, and Lee hasn’t looked back. He now handles sales and marketing for Henry Company Canada’s residential construction side, covering a vast territory from Thunder Bay, Ont., all the way west to Vancouver Island. During the busy spring and summer building season, he spends about half his time on the road, selling building envelope systems to stores including Home Hardware, TruServ Canada and McMunn & Yates.
While he worked in a few different industries after graduating from Red River College’s Business Administration program in 1998 – including accounting in Winnipeg and in oil and gas and tourism in Alberta – Lee credits the skills he learned at RRC with helping get him where he is today.
“It [provides] a lot of practical experience and a wide variety of business knowledge, and you can go into specialized fields right away, whether it’s law, sales, human resources, or operations. You can see the area you want to focus on by whether it got you excited to go to that class – for me, it was the marketing stuff.”
The topic of international marketing is one specific area covered in class that has helped Lee in his work travels.
“For example when I’m out in Vancouver, there are a lot of different cultures out there, so it gave me some good background information on different marketing segments and how you approach them differently,” he says. “It also helped with how to look at customers – whether it’s a big retailer or a home builder, you just need to be prepared and figure out what drives them before you meet them.”
Lee is proud of his involvement in the recent launch of Henry Company Canada’s newest product, Blueskin VP100, which he describes as a “fully adhered Building Envelope System that functions not only as a water resistant barrier and rain barrier, but also stops uncontrolled air leakage to improve building comfort, safety and energy efficiencies.” He has worked to secure advertising and promotion for the new product, which was featured on three episodes of the TV show Holmes Makes it Right (starring Canadian home renovation guru Mike Holmes), and will be on three more episodes this year.
Like Holmes, Lee enjoys showing builders how to do things right the first time. When he was younger, Lee actually thought he would be a school teacher, which makes sense considering the area of his job he finds most exciting.
“I love getting in front of contractors or store staff and doing the face-to-face training, getting to know the people that will be using or selling the product and making sure they’re all knowledgeable about how and when to use it.”
Lee, who is expecting a baby with his fiancée in June, combines the experience he has gained and his love of training to mentor and educate others who aspire to work in the building industry. He volunteers for the Western Retail Lumber Association helping young people establish building contacts and relationships, and conducts seminars for tradespeople and students in RRC’s Carpentry program.
“I’d like to do more of helping people reach their potential. That’s what I like about teaching,” Lee says. “It’s great to be able to pass on my education and knowledge of how to sell or use a product.”
Profile by Sherry Kaniuga (Creative Communications, 1998)