Mike makes it right
Soft-spoken but bursting with charisma and masculine drive, Canada’s superstar home contractor Mike Holmes has launched a new show, Holmes Makes It Right, that he says combines the best of his previous projects.
In today’s world, earning trust requires a complete toolbox of traits: knowledge; patience; passion; and honesty. These are the four building blocks of the Mike Holmes dynasty, anchored by his television show, Holmes On Homes, the number one show on HGTV Canada since 2004.
This October, HGTV debuts Holmes’ new venture, Holmes Makes It Right. The 49-year-old Toronto-born jack-of-all-trades, known as Canada’s most trusted contractor, picks up right where he left off with his myriad of previous projects, including Holmes On Holmes and its spinoffs. The Holmes modus operandi has him donning his general contractor’s hat and riding to the aid of homeowners in need of help, mostly due to unsatisfactory home renovations performed by incompetent contractors.
The Holmes shows have aired across the globe and has earned Holmes millions of fans. Women love him. Men want to be him. But according to Holmes, he’s just doing what comes naturally.
“I am from the Broadview and Queen area (of Toronto), a very tough area when I was a kid. It’s probably what brought me to be what I am today,” said Holmes, who at age six was already helping his father on construction projects. While other kids were building tree forts and go-carts – and he built those, too – Holmes was finishing a basement at age 12. By age 19, he was operating a contracting company.
Today, the resident of rural Halton Hills, northwest of Toronto, has built his own construction empire under The Holmes Group. A licensed contractor with more than 30 years experience, Holmes has formed an international brand with operations in independent media production, new-home building and inspection divisions, and product development. HOLMES Homes, MIKE HOLMES Inspections, HOLMES Workwear, Make It Right Releasing Inc. and The Holmes Foundation – and now his latest show, Holmes Makes It Right – all fall under The Holmes Group umbrella.
“The new show is simple. Put Holmes On Homes, Holmes Inspection and Holmes In New Orleans all together and what you have is Holmes Makes It Right. It’s a bigger opportunity for me to help others – a fire station, a school – and actually makes for one hell of a show,” he said.
“Holmes On Homes and Holmes Inspection were like a smoking gun: who did what, what did they leave, and how did they screw someone?” explained Holmes. “With Holmes Makes It Right, I can go in for any reason. Not to say there may not be a smoking gun, though,” he added.
As passionate during our recent interview as he is helping someone in need at a renovation-gone-bad, Holmes points to one Holmes On Holmes episode in particular when offering an example of a renovation disaster. A two-hour episode, Lien On Me, featured a couple whose “friend” built an addition to their home for an original estimate of $200,000. The “friend” later put a lien on the house for more than $500,000 and took the homeowners to court.
Holmes and a trusted crew took the house down, brick by brick, stud by stud, and later designed an eco-friendly home and built it on site.
“When I walked in, I knew within 10 minutes that the house had to be taken down. I knew it was impossible to fix – and I can fix anything! It would have cost more to fix it than to take it down and build a new one,” said Holmes.
A master of many trades, Holmes said he has “no time for BS. It’s a waste of time.” He agreed that part of his appeal is his no-nonsense attitude. And he said he is passionate about each and every project – “I actually give a sh-t,” said the soft-spoken Holmes.
This August, Forbes named Holmes its Third Most Trustworthy Celebrity, behind Morgan Freeman and Ron Howard. Forbes compiled its list using data from E-Poll Market Research, whose E-Score Celebrity service ranks more than 7,000 celebrities on awareness, appeal and 46 different personality attributes.
“One of my friends told me about it, and I thought, is this a joke? What am I doing on this list? Then phone calls came in. It was ridiculous,” said Holmes. “I thought, I am just an honest guy on television trying to help people, and trying to teach people. It knocked me off my feet for a minute, but for me it is a huge honour.”
It’s hardly the only accolade Holmes has received. The national spokesperson for Skills Canada, Holmes was recognized in the House of Commons in 2006 as an “extraordinary craftsperson” and “an accomplished master builder with a social conscience.” In 2008, Holmes was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Technology from the British Columbia Institute of Technology for his outstanding and sustained achievements in his field.
More than just a contractor, and beyond his Canadian television Gemini Awards, his six books and his sexy persona, Holmes is often on the leading age of movements promoting sustainable building practices. In 2009, Holmes spoke at GreenBuild, the U.S. Green Building Council conference on sustainable housing. That year, he also attended COP15 in Copenhagen (the United Nation’s conference on climate change) as Eminent Advisor to the Canadian Government. And in 2010, Holmes announced a pilot project with the Assembly of First Nations to renovate existing housing and build a sustainable community.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, Holmes travelled south to fight one of the biggest battles of his career in helping one family rebuild their home – and their life. Brad Pitt, who had launched his own Make It Right project in New Orleans, was a partner in Holmes’s goodwill project. They built the first energy-efficient home in the devastated Lower 9th Ward region.
Holmes has also established The Holmes Foundation, whose mission is to ensure that all residential renovation and construction in Canada is done right – the first time. The charitable foundation supports the training of youth in the skilled trades, through apprenticeships, scholarships and bursaries, partnering with schools, businesses and governments to raise the profile and reputation of all skilled trades in Canada.
Nothing gets done in any of his business divisions without Holmes getting his hands dirty. “I’m a Leo,” said Holmes. “Nothing gets done without my okay. Everything we do is about what I believe in. It’s all intertwined.”
Living with his long-time partner (he was divorced years ago), Holmes puts all three of his children – Amanda, Sherry and Mike Jr. – to work on various projects. “My kids are not spoiled. They work as hard as or even harder than many people in my company,” he said.
When it’s time to put away the ladder and take off his hard hat, Holmes enjoys his Sea-Doo, snowmobile and boat. He says he wants to purchase 1,200 acres of land to help escape “the crazy world I live in every day.” But he assures us that success will never go to his head.
“I work so much that I forget about (success). I never noticed it until I spoke in Kansas City at Skills USA to 25,000 kids. They spent 10 minutes talking about my accomplishments. I came on stage and went, wow, did I really do that?”
As long as people live in homes, you can bet Mike Holmes will continue to make it right.
Mike Holmes: Did You Know?
• The International Code Council Foundation (ICCF) named Holmes its first Honorary Code Leader for bringing the message of “Make it Right” to the construction industry.
• Holmes receives about 100,000 e-mails a year from homeowners wanting help through the Holmes On Holmes television series
• The Holmes On Holmes idea was Holmes’s. An executive producer at HGTV asked him to build a custom home, and Holmes suggested his idea for a show.
• Holmes started The Holmes Foundation after seeing a renovation that was so poorly done that he felt it was necessary to tear the house down and start from scratch.