Meet Erik Toews, Co-Owner of Alderidge Construction. Erik graduated from Columbia in 2006 with his BA in Biblical Studies. He and his wife Jamie live in Abbotsford with their four kids: Micah (11), Keziah (9), Silas (7) and Miriam (3).
Tell us about your current role.
My business partner Mark and I own and operate Alderidge Construction. Our focus is home renovation projects, especially custom kitchens and bathrooms. Mark acts as business manager of the company, and I work on the ground, managing our projects and crew. The two of us started Alderidge in 2011 and we’re now a team of 13 people, with approximately forty jobs scheduled over the next six months.
What additional training did you pursue after your time at Columbia?
When I was 13 years old, I spent 3 weeks in Winnipeg working with my uncle, framing houses. The following year, I spent the whole summer working for him. Over the years, I learned all my skills on the job. With home renovation projects, as opposed to new builds, you need a lot of wisdom and a wide range of skills. It feels like you need to know 30 trades/skill sets and not specialize in just one. After my time at CBC, I worked for a father and son team who were amazing. We built new houses and they taught me many new skills.
How did you find your way into your current role?
I always loved tools, drinking coffee, and being on the job site. I always knew construction would be a part of my life. At the same time, my dad was in front-line ministry and I felt called in the same direction. So I enrolled in Biblical Studies at Bethany College in Saskatchewan, and then transferred to Columbia in 2004.
In my second-to-last year at Columbia, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I was in and out of the hospital and I wasn’t able to complete that year. I was struggling with direction, and my dad asked me a question: “What fires you up more, a bag of books, or a bag of tools?”
My answer: “A bag of tools!”
The next day, I met a man who worked for Irwin Tools. He invited me to his place, and when I walked in, he handed me a bag of tools! It was a huge moment of confirmation for me.
Alderidge started out of that passion for working with my hands, but still being able to meet and fellowship with people. I started as a framer, and it went from there.
What are some ways your time at Columbia equipped you for what you’re doing now?
I have never once regretted attending Bible College. It was completely foundational, not only for my relationship with God but for life in general. Living in a dorm room setting, playing on sports teams, helping with worship – it was foundational for developing life skills, for knowing how to treat people, how I want to lead and to get that confidence going. I appreciated having professors and mentors at school who could speak into my life.
How does your work connect with your sense of calling?
My dad has often called me “a pastor with a tool-belt.” When I started my first year of Bible college, people spoke into my life and said that I was an encourager and a team-builder. Basically, that’s how I live my life now, wearing a tool belt.
I show up to the job site with guys that love Jesus. We talk often about our faith as we go through different seasons together. There’s a lot of pain in people’s lives, people go through really hard times. We work it out together, living life.
Ever since we started this company, we have a Monday-morning Bible study and prayer time with our guys. We never miss it. It’s a time for us to get in the Word, to pray for each other and pray for our week. That is very special to us.
The best part of my job is the people. I love getting to know new clients, the names of their pets, their kids, something about them. We truly care for people, and that comes through. We’ve even experienced major losses with some of our customers. We’ve seen it all in our profession.
We’ve had people giving us amazing feedback over the years – positive comments. There’s trust in the work that we do. We don’t cut corners, or encourage clients to spend money unnecessarily. It comes from who we are as men of integrity.
What’s challenging about your job?
Being a leader and having to make hard decisions that affect our crew and their families.
Recent rewarding moment?
Travelling to Guatemala with my brother Doug has changed my life. We represented Alderidge on an 11-day vision trip with Food for the Hungry this past April. The majority of our guys have done missions work in the past and we have a desire to serve. We’ve done pro bono projects before and been involved with some local not-for-profit organizations.
But being a part of something greater and global with Guatemala has caused my soul to come alive. We’ve pledged $30,000 a year from our company for the next 10 years. We’ve been asked to champion a village in the Ixil region of Nebaj. We’re now starting to sponsor kids from that region. It’s rewarding and gives me great perspective. We are still looking for people to partner with us to help achieve this goal.
For more info: http://www.fhcanada.org/GetInvolved/Alderidge/
How can someone tell if construction is a good fit for them?
The best way to figure out if you’re a good fit for construction is to try it for a summer. It might mean just pushing a broom or moving material (there’s always jobs to do at a site), but it will expose you to the different stages of a job and how the trades work together.
What do you look for when you’re hiring?
We hire people based not only on their skill level, but on their character. We have also started giving applicants a personality style indicator test to see if they are the right fit for the position. We’ve hired Columbia alumni over the years and it has been a really positive experience.