Construction Distribution & Supply Company Inc. (CDS) has long been a recognized mainstay in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with over fifty years of experience. From its origins as Toronto’s ‘one-stop sealant shop,’ the company has greatly expanded its inventory and service areas to supply any contracting need. It is now under new management and plans a radical change for both the company and Toronto’s construction industry.
From humble beginnings in a single facility in North York, Construction Distribution & Supply Company now operates seven locations in southern Ontario and two in northwestern New York, providing convenient locations so contractors can be easily stocked and supplied with top-quality materials from leading vendors.
The company’s products and excellent customer service help a variety of construction disciplines. “When you look at our categorizations, we serve over ten different types of key categories that help contractors seal water and wind from penetrating building envelopes,” says new Owner and Chief Executive Officer Gino DiGioacchino, who acquired CDS in October 2017.
This established provider to Toronto’s construction and restoration industry has long been a proud member of the Toronto Construction Association (TCA). “We’ve been members for a very long time,” DiGioacchino asserts, noting that the company gladly participates in “being part of the network and the group, and we will continue to do so.” The organization has helped the company find vendors and contacts and ensure that Torontonians receive the highest quality construction.
DiGioacchino started as a salesman for The Home Depot, selling caulking products to CDS and gained a deep understanding of its structure and the construction industry as a whole. While at The Home Depot, he met Vince Cecala, who would become a close friend and business partner. Both men further worked together at Wal-Mart Canada, learning e-commerce and business trends. This led DiGioacchino to bring in Cecala to lead CDS’ purchasing department. “When I bought the company, I knew I needed someone who understood me and could help me grow this business in a significant way.”
DiGioacchino envisions a new direction for the company and, perhaps, the entire construction industry. “Businesses have evolved significantly, particularly in the last ten years, with the onset of the digital revolution, but the construction industry actually has not,” he says. He elaborates that many products now being introduced into commercial buildings use leading-edge technology, while those involved in construction are outdated.
He relates finding eight immense file cabinets in his office the day he assumed control of CDS, a relic of the company’s reliance on outdated paper recordkeeping. As a result, he says, there was “a massive gap between the product manufacturers and the product installers.”
The goal, while simple, is daunting in scope: to bring Construction Distribution & Supply Company and many of its vendors and contracting customers into the digital era. Businesses like this play a critical role beyond supplying products. They also teach contractors how to install and work effectively with new products.
“My passion is really on the knowledge that exists within this industry,” says DiGioacchino, “and an opportunity to update, upgrade, and digitize the construction industry.” Thanks to its established name and well-earned reputation, the company is fortunate to know many contractors in the GTA, and DiGioacchino intends to employ this to the fullest. “What an opportunity to really begin to shift an industry into the new era of how business is being done,” he remarks.
To bring about this ambitious change, the company is launching a learning tool: CDS University. The concept is a brainchild of Vince Cecala, who calls it “a game-changer for the industry.” Since many employees boast decades of construction experience, Cecala intends to spread the knowledge to both frontline employees and customers with the goal of improving general knowledge across the industry. This would include not only construction disciplines such as restoration, roofing, waterproofing, water barrier systems, sealants and caulking, but more importantly, the tools and techniques necessary for each construction discipline. Further, all classes will be offered completely free.
This ability to teach contractors about materials and techniques, Cecala states, is what makes Construction Distribution & Supply Company perfect for this opportunity. He says that CDS University will have the capability to teach in-class courses as well as “hands-on application to teach a lot of these customers what they’re really working with and how to work with it properly.” The company’s extensive roster of vendors will also be involved, providing expert advisors on product installation and handling.
CDS University was launched in March 2019 and currently occupies three thousand square feet at the company’s new, state-of-the-art Vaughan, Ontario headquarters. DiGioacchino, who describes the project as a “key milestone,” envisions the headquarters as a nexus for contractors, vendors, and staff, “to really focus in on teaching and learning around products, materials, and applications. When you look at our brand, service, solutions, and excellence, this is really what ‘solutions’ means. CDS University is what we mean by providing services to this industry.”
But before the company can bring its knowledge to its customers, it will need teachers. DiGioacchino foresees training between fifty and sixty instructors, with fifty additional contractors also using the facility during this early time. However, its many locations allow instructors to reach contractors on their own worksites easily.
“It’s not just here [in Vaughan],” DiGioacchino says. “It’s also us going to our customers, whether it’s on-site or in their facilities and teaching and training as well.” By teaching classes in its own buildings, remotely, or on contractors’ own worksites, Construction Distribution & Supply Company can share its long expertise with customers all over the GTA.
While he is eager to get started, DiGioacchino admits the timing is not exactly optimal. “The reality is, the busy season is upon us, so contractors are on-site,” he says. “So a lot of the start will be on a remote basis, but when we get into the fall and winter months, this place will be popping with people, I can guarantee that.” Fortunately, its wide service area across the GTA and flexibility will allow the company to begin classes even during the busy spring and summer months.
Yet behind these exciting changes, the transition has not exactly been the smoothest. Although Construction Distribution & Supply Company has a long track record and established presence, changing decades-long procedures to more updated trends “is, quite frankly, difficult,” DiGioacchino admits. Fortunately, both DiGioacchino and Cecala operate with the mindset of “everyone’s here to help,” encouraging employee communication.
“Together as a team, in a collaborative way,” DiGioacchino says, “we’ll figure it out.” Despite fears of staff losses following the changeover in leadership, Cecala reports many employees are focused on the company’s new vision. “CDS has been a great place to work for a lot of people for fifty years,” he relates, “and we’ve retained pretty much eighty-five percent of the staff when Gino bought the place.”
A more pressing issue is the chronic shortage of skilled labour, an alarming trend DiGioacchino says was a contributing factor in the creation of CDS University. The university’s goals are not merely to educate contractors but also “to try to create a place where we can train available labour to be competent and capable of doing a job in the proper way.” It also wants to “develop competency and develop capability within the trades, so that people will want to join the trades and feel like they can be successful.”
With this bold new effort poised to revolutionize construction in the GTA, DiGioacchino remarks that CDS may be in the right place at the right time. “There are phenomenal construction companies here, but they’re all in the midst of transition and succession,” he says.
The new generation of construction leaders is “creating a really different type of relationship than historically we’ve seen with our customers.” He believes that CDS can continue its mission of providing quality products while helping businesses into this new era. “To me, that’s the exciting part, is helping businesses continue their long, tenured success, but moving them into a new place.”
DiGioacchino hopes to develop even deeper relationships with CDS’ customers and that the company will lead the charge in this push toward digitalization in construction with new tools like CDS University providing deeper interaction. “The more we get out there and really understand beyond just the product what our customers’ challenges are, we’re going to be starting a new trend in how business is done.”