Saint Augustine once explained that will is to grace what the horse is to the rider. His point being, the ability to impart pleasing qualities of form, function and movement is directly influenced, if not delivered, by the sheer power and intentional force from that, on which efforts are saddled. The analogy may apply to riders, but it also resonates with a Canada-based real estate development operation whose rigorous resolve to understand their market, drive economic growth and provide quality housing in areas where it is often desperately needed, has helped it achieve recognition beyond terms of grace, but greatness. With success, it is said the skies are the limit, yet for a SkyRider, the potential is boundless.
As a former professional hockey player, Derek Prue was known to play in the center position and shoot left. Today, though he coaches youth hockey and reportedly maintains an “elite” level of athletic capability, he can more likely be observed at the center of Canada’s real estate development industry where his aims are loftier, yet he’s already scoring impressive goals.
Prue says his affinity for playing hockey was a natural and normal aspect of being raised in Canada, but from very early-on in life, ideas for different businesses would also skate among his contemplations. So, over the years, when he wasn’t on the ice, he kept busy at various enterprises which have included a karaoke endeavor, as well as real estate sales and home construction projects. He was equally determined to build a family. After marrying his wife, Shanel, the couple’s marital bliss would soon be complemented by a composite of what currently stands as five children. Prue’s first two sons are respectively named Skyler and Rider. As his family healthily grew, so too did recognition of Prue’s efficiencies in real estate development and marketing. When he decided, in 2005, to consolidate all of his industry efforts under the auspices of a singular corporate identity, the proud husband and father had no problem determining a name. SkyRider Holding Ltd (which does business as SkyRider Developments) has since emerged as one of the most dynamic real estate development operations in Canada.
SkyRider was the development force behind projects which have included apartment complexes of Edmonton’s Manning Crossing, development of Morin Manor, Amberwynd, and Tomahawk Park, as well as the prestigious properties of Stone Ridge Estates. Present projects include developments in East Windermere, Whitemud Heights and Graminia Estates, to name a few.
While his company has garnered acclaim among such trade publications as “Alberta Venture Magazine,” Prue himself has captured recognition as a Top Entrepreneur from authorities on business that include Ernst & Young.
“We grew large quickly and went from two employees to ten,” acknowledges Prue. “We went from developing smaller housing projects to managing and developing $60 to $70 million condominium complexes… and there wasn’t a lot of time to think how we would look, how we would operate and what we would do to distinguish ourselves from other companies.”
Yet, SkyRider has been very distinctive in their approach. Prue (who is almost modest to a fault) concedes after some prodding that his corporate operations have benefitted from a particular quality which is arguably inherent within the best of hockey players – flexibility. “We are flexible in the way we do business … and no two deals are ever approached the same way,” he says. “In some developments we have whole ownership, we’re the sole owner and we sell the properties ourselves. Other times, we’re managing the development and sell of the units for other owners.”
There are nuances to developing in Canada, and certainly not the least of which is the fact that each respective community (or province) has variable guidelines governing the process. Part of Prue’s success has been in depth analysis and awareness of the provisions in each area, and adapting processes to more efficiently respond to the requirements. This has not only required him to undertake extensive research, but effectively build on relationships with people that are often as diverse as the community customs.
It is in this capacity that Prue has again outperformed and garnered recognition as a pioneer in his industry.
Among the varied jurisdictions of Canada are select settlements traditionally populated by aboriginal tribes whose history and culture was tied to the nation long centuries before the play of professional hockey. Again, the guidelines for development in these areas can be complicated, arising in variances involving recognition of land titles and the oversight of tribal councils. These areas are not normally the first alternative for developers, who are often more drawn to real estate opportunities along coastal areas which are not only perceived as more lucrative, but less problematic. So, over time, the lack of affordable housing in the aboriginal settlements has led to problems of crowding and forced many to move from their native community.
Prue first became aware of the housing issues from his interaction with other hockey players, but his understanding was more fully enriched as a student of Athabasca University. Though he has already earned an MBA and Advanced Graduate Degree in Management, he is currently pursuing a doctorate in Business Administration and his dissertation focuses on aboriginal housing. In time, he anticipates completing a comprehensive guide that will offer all developers insight of the challenges and opportunities existing within these communities. But pursuant to that, he has already negotiated deals which will finally result in much needed affordable housing.
Prue recently made history by working with Habitat for Humanity in Edmonton to build duplexes in what is known as the Elizabeth Métis Settlement. The agreement was a first of its kind in Canada, but SkyRider is now looking to expand on the service in other settlements. Prue says he has long recognized that developing is vital to the people and economy in any area where he is engaged, but his work with aboriginal communities offers very meaningful appreciation of the direct and beneficial impact that can be made on people’s lives. “Projects like this hit close to home for me, and there are more personal than professional benefits to see a positive impact made on lives,” says Prue. “My goal now is to figure out how to structure a business model which can be used as a template throughout Canada… in places where it is most needed.”
SkyRider is also busy investing in other areas where housing is needed. Among the communities in which the company is presently heavily invested is the Prince Albert community in Saskatchewan and the area of Cold Lake in Alberta. Prue says he is typically attracted to communities that he believes will experience mid to long term growth, and have a need for housing. He says since Cold Lake benefits from a strong oil and gas-based economy, there are several billion dollars worth of infrastructural enhancements being made, which is therefore driving economic growth, jobs and the need for accommodations. Meanwhile, Prince Albert, has a population of more than 100,000 which is anticipated to double in size over the next few year, drawing largely on its distinction as “The Gateway to the North.” Additionally, the opening of a new diamond mine and reopening of a mill will draw more people, and again, the need for housing. Prue says his goal is to “become a developer of choice” for these communities.
Though he is fully engaged in business in Canada, Prue says he does not rule out operational expansion into other country. “Our ability is to be flexible, and you never know what is coming through the door on a daily basis. There’s a lot of opportunities we can absorb… and when you have the support and ability to operate differently as each need demands, I think we can do any business anywhere in world. I’m not actively looking at international opportunities, but I’ll take it as it comes. If there are strategic partnerships that would help us grow, we’ll not rule it out.”
Partnerships have been as important to SkyRider’s past success as it will be to the company’s future. Prue credits the work of his marital partner, Shanel, as a major component of SkyRider’s achievements. As a licensed real estate broker with expertise in marketing and sales, Prue says Shanel has auspiciously augmented company capabilities. Otherwise, as someone who fully embraces a “team” mindset, Prue has been both a coach and team leader in amassing a talented professional team of industry experts. Their work isn’t hockey related, even if it sounds that way when Prue says, “We work in a very competitive, fast-paced environment, and it’s not for everyone. But for the people that thrive on it, it can be very rewarding. We had to have a few tryouts and made some cuts along the way, but our team has a good work ethic, is dedicated to their jobs, and our corporate culture is very healthy.”