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Feb 08, 2019

Lessons Earned: Always Be Prepared to Evolve

Connie Chow and her management team use their collective wealth of knowledge to create beautiful residential, commercial and mixed-use zone projects.

Chances are if you’ve seen a new development built in Western Canada in the last 25 years, Pollyco Group of Companies was likely involved at some point. Founded in 1993, the company has expanded with offices in Vancouver, Prince George, Prince Rupert and Calgary. Pollyco’s president, Connie Chow, and her management team have over 260 years of combined experience in commercial, development, zoning and mixed-use projects. 

Jack of all trades, master of construction

Connie and her group at Pollyco have steadily grown from a small Vancouver company to a multifaceted buyer and developer today. Beginning with land development, Connie recognized the opportunity for income generation quickly. “We would buy a large trace of land, develop plans, rezone the area and then construct the services (roads, sewers, water, utilities, etc) and subdivide them into single family lots, townhouse sites, apartment sites and commercial sites after we received approval,” she says. Operating strictly as a land developer used to be a very profitable business, but now as land prices increase in both Alberta and British Columbia, Pollyco Group has diversified within the last 10 years to begin building on their own sites as well.

“After we service the site, we’re now starting to build our own projects,” explains Connie. “This is pretty unique. Most builders just know how to buy serviced lots and build houses on them. To turn a plot of land from farm land that is not zoned into a residential community with different types of housing and commercial uses is where we excel.” 

And Pollyco and Connie leave no stone unturned. “We can put in whatever is required,” she says. “Any public necessities, like park sites, ponds and school sites — all of it.”

Connie’s best tip for evaluating which land to invest further efforts and due diligence in comes down to a gut feel. “You have to look at the location of the land and if it feels good, if you can put yourself in the home buyer’s shoes and decide ‘Yes, I’d like to live here,’ then that’s a good one to spend the time to evaluate.”

Lessons learned along the way

Through some tricky economic times and challenging business environments, Connie and Pollyco have picked up some valuable lessons through their growth and evolution. Connie has three key pieces of advice to pass on to other real estate entrepreneurs who may be looking for insight on how to succeed:

“Number one: Seek quality projects located in livable or emerging neighbourhoods,” Connie says. This will help ensure you have a marketable project at the end, and provides a great foundation throughout the process.

“Secondly, perform extensive due diligence on all prospects — find the diamonds in the rough!” Putting in additional work at the beginning of a project can help you find some great “fixer-upper” projects, and avoid the pitfalls of investing into ideas that may not be as amazing as they appear. It’s heavy lifting up front, but the sweat equity pays off in the end.

And lastly, Connie suggests you

“surround yourself with an insightful, resourceful and talented team.”

Success doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Building a strong and talented team around you can elevate your business to places you once could only imagine. And this includes strong partnerships, like the relationship between Pollyco and Canadian Western Bank (CWB). Puneet Agrawal, Senior AVP, Real Estate Lending at the Vancouver Lower Mainland Real Estate Group of CWB, has been a financial knowledge base helping Pollyco navigate their real estate loans to continue growth in Vancouver and beyond.

Building for future generations

The future looks bright for Pollyco Group of Companies, and especially for Connie’s family. “As I’m getting older, I’d like to build up a commercial portfolio so I can leave it for my kids.”

CWB has supported this goal and growth over the years. From an initial construction loan, Pollyco was able to generate returns on projects that helped them invest in future assets with cash — just as they did with the land in Alberta. “They know what they’re doing,” says Connie. “They’re really helpful.” 

CWB is here to support companies throughout every stage of their business. Speak to a CWB advisor today to see how they can help your business grow. We can also provide support in the area of commercial real estate lending, such as through our Greater Vancouver Real Estate Group in the BC region.