My wife Judy and I arrived in Meaford in the fall of 2009 and in January of 2010 I launched Homebuttons in this region. But Homebuttons had been in existence since 1998, when I first had the idea that electronics would be an important part of the future home. I had been working in the insurance industry for almost twenty years at that time, restoring homes that had been damaged by fires, floods and other perils. It had been an interesting job and I had learned a lot about residential construction from all eras, and about providing service to people. I had also come to appreciate that the home is a very important element of most peoples’ lives and we have a strong emotional bond to it. I was beginning to tire of work that was starting to become repetitive and so I was looking for a new direction, something that would allow me to combine my knowledge of construction and of service in a new way. When I learned about smart homes, it became my focus, convinced as I was that eventually all homes would be outfitted with electronics to control the home’s functions, “home buttons” as I conceived them. I started a new company, Homebuttons, designed a distinctive logo, and set about to learn what I needed to succeed in this area.
There were no schools to learn about “smart homes” and if there had been I would not have been able to stop working to attend school anyway. I realized that the technologies of a smart home were already being offered by a variety of trades and what was new was the ability to integrate all of them in a centralized control. Having established my own company with Homebuttons, I was able to contract my services out to various companies to fill their needs as required, invoicing them as a sub-contractor. This gave me the flexibility I needed to move easily from one employer to another so that I could learn all aspects of home electronics. In the next ten years, I did work for companies that specialized in CCTV and security systems, consumer entertainment electronics, door entry systems, telephone systems, lighting controls, and everything else I needed to learn. I started pulling cables, working with and learning from more experienced hands, and eventually worked my way up to designing and installing complete control systems, working for the top companies in Toronto, on sites that included high end residences, luxury condos, and luxury commercial projects like The Liberty Grand and the Hazelton Hotel. I studied electronics on my own with a CD-ROM from George Brown College, attended seminars sponsored by manufacturers and learned from manuals I would bring home from the job.
The next part of my plan was to find a town well outside of the GTA to set up my business. All of my family on both sides had come from the Owen Sound area, where I had been born, and I knew the area fairly well. Having been sent by an employer to work on some high end homes in Collingwood, I gathered that there is a market in this area for these skills and one weekend my wife Judy and I looked around for a place to live. We fell in love with Meaford the moment we saw it, and decided that was where we wanted to live.
It took almost two years to make that happen and once we settled in Meaford we found it a very vibrant place to live in contrast to the sleepy abandoned appearance of the main street on a weekend. I was intent on being an active part of the community and, through volunteering, I was able to meet very interesting people, and participate in interesting projects. I joined the Meaford Rotary Club, and the boards of the Home and Community Support Services for Grey Bruce, and the North-East Grey Health Centres. I helped the Handivan Association through the process of purchasing a new van and I was able to pursue my lifelong hobby of singing and writing songs, finding people to play with and places to perform. The more I volunteered, the more I was asked to do and the more people I was able to get to know.
To keep my company going, I had to offer more than just smart home systems in million dollar residences, particularly in light of the economic slump that coincided with my arrival in Meaford. I found that there is a significant demand for personal home services, particularly in setting up TV’s and home theatre. I also learned, both through the service calls and through my volunteering, that this area is facing a crisis with an aging population. There is a shortage of long term care facilities, and many people having retired here to their dream home, would rather stay in it anyway as long as they possibly could. That sent me in the direction of thinking about how electronics could help. As I began to offer devices that would aid in independent living, I also began to appreciate the extent to which elderly people living on their own represent a constant worry for their loved ones. Whether they are close by or far away, they are always concerned about how mom and dad are doing. I specifically searched for technologies that would address this problem and was pleased to find the CareLink Advantage system, developed and provided by a company based in Sudbury. After becoming a dealer for CareLink, I shifted the focus of my company to put more emphasis on this aspect of it, while still continuing to offer at-home installation of all electronics, a wide variety of cutting edge products for custom applications, and a complete system design and installation service.
Now Homebuttons has a loyal customer base that returns for new services every time the technologies evolve, which is often. My customers have become my friends and I’ll always go the extra mile to make sure they get value when they hire me. The Municipality of Meaford has come to seem more like home than anywhere has before, it’s problems and challenges becoming personal for me. I happily travel throughout the region to offer my services from Tobermory to Wasaga Beach, and down the shore as far as Port Elgin and continue to make new friends who have expressed their relief at finding someone who does what I do, and does it well.
Now I expect that Homebuttons will develop alongside the inevitable development of our region, and I will be able eventually to bring along young people to carry on after me.