Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Two years ago Jim Knowlton of Oakville, Ont., started his dream construction business with two partners. Now, although Master Homes is thriving, he hasn’t yet given up his consulting work.

This story is part of a Second Careers series that looks at people who are making major career changes after 50 – workers who are staying relevant and thriving in today's job market.

Nearly two years after starting his dream business with his two partners, Jim Knowlton of Oakville, Ont., considers himself a master of the house.

"We came up with a real name for our company, Master Homes," says Mr. Knowlton, 58, who was first profiled in this series two years ago, Consultant, 56, builds new career in construction.

Story continues below advertisement

Then, he was setting up a custom home design and construction company formerly called SMJ with partners Scott Campbell and Mike Swanson at the end of 2012.

"We have a logo now, too, though we still don't have business cards, a website or a lot of that kind of stuff yet."

What Master Homes does have is a viable business, with completed projects, money in the bank and a roster of more than 25 clients, Mr. Knowlton says. The dream, while still a work in progress, is unfolding – to establish a business in a field he loves that will carry him through retirement.

"We're quite a bit in the black, which is fabulous for a firm of our size," he says. "We knew that we'd have to start making money right away, so we started behaving as if we'd already existed. We started in doing projects in January, 2013."

Mr. Knowlton nevertheless continues his work as a business consultant with his other firm, Luminance Inc., where he is president. He conducted an extensive series of management classes for a Georgia firm late in 2013.

When Mr. Knowlton started his new business with his partners, he wasn't sure whether he would abandon his consulting work, or when the new business would do well enough for him to do so. Now, even though Master Homes is thriving, he doesn't want to give up consulting.

One thing he has realized in the past two years is that he likes both white collar and construction work. "I can do both – the only problem is I never stop work," he says.

Story continues below advertisement

But he believes his consulting helps him and his partners develop their company. "I like what I do as a consultant," he says, adding that he intends to continue in this line of work as well.

The Master Homes partners are constantly refining their business model, Mr. Knowlton says. Last year they developed an 11-page business strategy document, which is still evolving.

"We pretty much follow it, but some of the things we put in it just aren't true. So we're going to sit down and revise it," he says.

The partners had originally planned their company to be a construction business with a school for teaching clients and students how to do construction work and a service for people who want do-it-yourself with help – a project they can work on themselves with professionals on site to troubleshoot and provide advice.

"The school is not practical," Mr. Knowlton says. "The DIY with help is an interesting idea, but it doesn't stand alone financially. We think we'd be better to have the construction business and pair it with a maintenance business," he adds.

"What we do is really asset management [homeowners maintaining their properties]. It sounds boring but it's important."

Story continues below advertisement

While the idea of running a construction school has fallen by the wayside, the partners remain committed to helping their children and other young people learn business and workplace skills.

Mr. Knowlton's son Mathew, 25, and his son's friends, Adam Hughes and Awrey Southey, are Master Homes' employees and they have also developed their expertise by working each summer custom building a Knowlton family cabin on a remote lake in Northern Ontario.

Now the three are searching the job market for work that matches their education. "We started by hiring a bunch of kids just out of university and college, giving them a couple of years worth of work and income until they figure out what they're going to do," Mr. Knowlton says.

He is happy so far.

"If I don't like what I'm doing, then I'm responsible to change it. And if I'm ever in a situation where I don't like what I'm doing, I know who put me there," he says.

Advice for others

Story continues below advertisement

"Make deliberate, conscious decisions about your career," Mr. Knowlton says. "Even a non-decision is a decision. So pluck up your courage, choose a direction and go.

"After a while, if you don't like the decision you've made, maybe it's time to make another decision. … Own responsibility for the decisions that got you where you are and think very carefully about the next decision that will get you to that better place. Things can't help but get better."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies