“I was like a kid in a candy store,” says Mattamy Homes founder and President Peter Gilgan about starting his own company. “I had always been interested in design and art, and creating something new. It gave me the opportunity to work with carpenters and designers and new home owners. It was so much fun to learn and build.”
Gilgan obtained his CA designation in the early '70s while working for Hilborn Ellis Grant LLP in Toronto. As it turned out, his job at the firm would be the foundation for what is now the largest home-building business in Canada with offices in four states, including Florida. “I got to work with real estate developers, general contractors and home builders there,” he explains. “I learned how dynamic the industry could be.”
In 1978, Gilgan “jumped in” with two lots and two custom-built houses. “That was the start of Mattamy Homes, named after my first two children, Matt and Amy,” says the dad of eight and grandfather of two. “I bought a few more lots and, suddenly it seemed, I was a custom-home builder doing big projects in Burlington and Oakville.”
As the business took off, he grew his market to include first-time home buyers. Then, by the late '80s, Mattamy had completed the upscale community of Glen Abbey in Oakville with its million-dollar properties, bike trails, golf course and modern infrastructure.
Now at his Oakville office, Gilgan oversees the company’s strategic direction and growth, manages and motivates his team, looks for real estate opportunities, and keeps on top of trends.
He believes his CA education set him apart from the start. “I had a solid understanding of predicting cash flow and cost accounting, and all of the crucial financial details,” he says. And it certainly gave him a leg up at the bank. “When I asked for big bucks to buy land, they knew I’d done my homework and was thorough in my analysis.”
He attributes continued success − 50,000 homes to date − largely to being at the forefront of making affordable homes more attractive and better designed.
His expertise has not gone unrecognized. In 2007, he was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and last year, received the Outstanding Business Leader of the Year Award from Laurier’s School of Business. In 2009, he was elected an FCA of the ICAO.
The only aspect of the job that grates a little is politics. “The politics of growing a business; road blocks. I just want to get it done and get the best to do it!”
When Gilgan isn’t working, or at home in Mississauga, cycling, at the gym, on the occasional adventure race or ski trip, he’s putting time and money into his community. Mattamy Homes annually sponsors Tour de Bleu, a bike ride that has raised $2.5 million for different charities since its inception three years ago. Last fall, Gilgan donated $10 million to the Oakville Hospital Foundation for a new facility to be built during the next four years. “I had been on the Oakville Hospital board and I knew the existing hospital couldn’t handle the growing population. I’m proud of the work that gave me the opportunity to help.”
After all this time, he still gets a kick out of creating communities. “I love walking through a land development and envisioning how it will take shape… the parks, schools, roads. I picture how the homes will look. Seeing a family who just bought a home playing in a park we fought so hard to create − that does it for me!”
~ Lorie Murdoch