Elyse Kowtecky, Chief Operating Officer at Fusion Homes, is a focused, results-driven senior executive that oversees approximately 80% of the company. In her role, she handles the company’s daily operations and works closely with all Directors and Managers for operational development. Continuously driving business growth and transformation, Elyse feels most passionate about people management, and acts as an integrator within Fusion Homes by taking the vision of the company and integrating it into execution through organizational design and strategic planning.

Performance Marketer Magazine had the pleasure of interviewing Elyse to get her perspective on growing the business and top trends within the home development industry, the role of marketing, amongst other related topics. Read the interview to learn more:

What has drawn you to the home development industry?

I started working at Fusion Homes because I was moving to the area and loved that Fusion Homes was a customer driven organization with deeply embedded values that aligned with my personal value set. I was already passionate about architecture and interior design, but it wasn’t until I started at Fusion that I became obsessed with the home building industry. 

During my Marketing Degree, a big focus area for me was deepening my knowledge of human psychology and understanding human behaviour on a different level. The success of marketing efforts can be largely attributed to understanding consumer needs and motivations and then implementing a strategy that aligns with these. When looking at the service that we provide to our customers, I see it as not only one of the biggest purchases of their lives, but also as an extremely important milestone that’s deeply personal. There is a lot of emotion involved in buying a home, which can make it a daunting process, but it’s also such a significant achievement in someone’s life. We are a key contributor in building people’s dream home, and I look at Fusion as not just a home building organization, but a customer experience organization. We have the opportunity to be apart of these significant milestones with our customers and I love that.

How is the industry evolving over the next 3 years?

Since I began my time at Fusion Homes 9 years ago, the home building industry has seen drastic changes. From a provincial standpoint, Ontario is changing the planning process and is setting municipal targets to build more homes. The overarching goal of the Province is to build more homes in a way that is more efficient. We will also see a continued shift to denser products (stacked towns, mid rise, high rise) and less large single-family homes given the challenges with housing affordability and sprawl.  I think we will also see the growth of innovation in product type and smart technology both on the individual home level and the community level. 

Elyse at Fusion Homes

What have been some of your biggest career achievements and challenges? 

My biggest career achievement is starting at Fusion as an individual contributor 9-years ago and growing to overseeing approximately 80% of the organization today. 

Becoming COO wasn’t what I pictured myself being when I started at Fusion, as the role didn’t even exist. But Fusion encourages you to own your growth and put your hand up to learn new areas of the business, which I think is truly amazing.  Having a manager that believes in me and supports my growth as well as an amazing team around me has allowed me to achieve things I couldn’t even imagine. 

An aspect of my career that I consider both an achievement and challenge was navigating the company through COVID. I became COO right before COVID hit. Learning a new role is already challenging, but then I also had to learn my role as a COO during a time of great uncertainty. We had to rethink our business strategy to remain resilient. The need to react quickly and effectively, while facing staffing shortages and economic uncertainty required behaviours and expectations to shift. We had to be focused on agility over everything else – our priority was to flex as we needed to ensure we would mitigate as much risk as possible for the downturn so we could thrive. The senior management team collaborated every single day to ensure we remained stable during those challenging times. 

Despite navigating through a pandemic being a challenge, it was also a great achievement for me and for Fusion. I am so proud of how we navigated through this because we actually came out of the pandemic as a stronger business. Our level of engagement increased throughout the pandemic as well. Fusion Homes was even certified a Best Employer in Canada this year and is also part of a small and elite group of organizations across North America who scored in the Top Quartile for employee engagement in a time when many companies struggle to maintain this standing.

Elyse Kowtecky, Chief Operating Officer at Fusion Homes

How has your experience and education in marketing helped you over the years?

At an early age, I tried to engage in a variety of different experiences to discover where my passion was. I worked at companies ranging from a 5-person operation, to those acting on a global scale. I wanted to gain exposure to all different types of organizations and businesses and different functions within business, like marketing, people and culture and finance. 

Due to all the exposure, I knew marketing was a passion for me because I was so interested in deepening my knowledge of human psychology while challenging myself in a more creative way. Marketing was extremely beneficial for my career because it gave me a solid foundation to understand the people side of business, mixed with category brand management and data analysis. To me, business is all about understanding people (whether its an employee or client) and mixing that with strong discernment for decision making, thus allowing a business to thrive and strengthen its bottom line. Having a deep understanding of people that was strengthened from my Marketing Degree has allowed me to look at business more holistically and see the bigger picture when making challenging business decisions.  

As a female leader in the executive C-Suite, what advice do you have for other women looking to advance their career in the industry? 

For women in business, it has been crucial to have trailblazers—women who aren’t afraid to take risks to pave the way for others. So, don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes that you can then learn and grow from. It’s hard to be what you can’t see. With that in mind, I want to focus on creating space for other women in this industry to elevate them in their careers.

The best advice that I can give is to be yourself and not to worry about the stereotypical male roles in the C-Suite and don’t lose who you are while growing your career. I thought you had to be a specific way to achieve a role in the C-Suite and that I would have to change who I was. Working at Fusion allowed me to realize that I should just be myself and who I am as a leader. Being yourself and staying true to what makes you unique allows you to connect more authentically with your team and build deeper connections. Believe in yourself and your potential, care about what you are doing and persevere. Put your hand up for anything so you can learn everything. Owning your growth and persevering through challenging times only means you’ll come out stronger on the other side. 

Elyse at the town hall meeting

To stay up to date on current trends, two main publications I rely on are the Wallstreet Journal and Harvard Business Review. When reading articles, I generally focus on publications that relate to business processes, business structure, or professional management. Social media is also an amazing tool to stay informed. I follow a lot of news outlets and industry experts on a variety of social media platforms. 

Someone that I admire and utilize to stay informed is Boris Groysberg, who is a Professor of Business Administration in the Organizational Behavior unit at the Harvard Business School. I have been fortunate to be apart of seminars by Professor Groysberg at Harvard. His work is amazing and is focused on how businesses can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage by engaging employees in the implementation of business strategy. I look to a lot of his ideologies and work to develop people and learn more about organizational design and behavior. I highly recommend reading his work! 

What are some of the top performance metrics you look at when evaluating business growth or success? 

Employee engagement is so critical to a successful business, and being a culture and values fit is a major part of the hiring process we have at Fusion. Our values are not just placed on a plaque on the wall…they are intricately woven throughout our everyday work balance and are a large part of our performance management system. The top performance metrics I look at when evaluating business growth are employee engagement and customer satisfaction. If you focus on these while balancing financials, I believe you will have a much greater chance at being successful. As a business, you have to treat people right, whether it be employees or customers. Happy employees who feel engaged at work inevitably lead to happier clients. 

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