The bright side of business: Lifelong friends lead Polat Construction to new heights

Polat Construction
Polat Construction project manager Dmitrii Dubrovinskii, left, and director Ahmet Kanbul. (Photo by Mark Holleron)
Editor's Note

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The Bright Side of Business bimonthly column is presented by Star Motors.

Ottawa-based Polat Construction went from being a one-person operation to a $2 million construction company – all with a little help from some friends.

Founded by president Canpolat Sahin, the general contracting company specializes in commercial and residential buildings. Today, it boasts major clients such as CLV Group, Timbercreek and Marlin Springs – a far different scope from Sahin’s start with small contracting and painting jobs.

With support from director Ahmet Kanbul and project manager Dmitrii Dubrovinskii, Polat Construction quickly scaled. As Sahin’s neighbour and Dubrovinskii’s classmate, Kanbul was the link between the three friends.

At school, Kanbul and Dubrovinskii met at the age of nine. They had both moved to Canada with their parents – Dubrovinskii from Belarus and Kanbul from Turkey.

“We became very good friends considering neither of us spoke each other's languages – nor did we speak English!” Dubrovinskii says.

Hard lessons learned

With no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit, Dubrovinskii and Kanbul opened a restaurant together at the age of 22.

“Honestly, it was the worst time of my life,” Kanbul recalls. “I remember the days when me and Dmitrii went into a Costco to eat the free samples because we couldn't buy lunch. I couldn't pay the rent for my house.”

The restaurant shut down after six months. Shortly thereafter, in 2012, Kanbul moved to Saskatchewan, helping his brother with his small construction company. Kanbul learned the trade, but within the year, found he was missing Ottawa. He moved back and reached out to Sahin, who was taking general contracting jobs here and there.

“We started (to think about) how to make a bigger company,” Kanbul says. “I told him, before we have the clientele, we need to be able to act like a bigger company. We developed a business plan. Over two or three years, it took us from a $70,000-to-$100,000 a-year business to a $2 million company.” 

In 2013, Polat Construction won a tender from Ottawa Community Housing, valued at almost a quarter of a million dollars. It’s a client that continues to call on Polat for cabinet work, flooring and drywall repairs.

Throughout this time, Dubrovinskii was working at a multinational electrical supplier, and would call his two friends to share business advice. Finally, in 2020, he made the move to Polat Construction.

“What really made me say, ‘I have to fully commit to Polat’, is when my girlfriend became pregnant,” Dubrovinskii says. “I want to build something for myself, I want to build something for my child.”

Diversity leads to innovation

Dubrovinskii loves the team at Polat Construction.

“We have so much cultural diversity,” he says, mentioning colleagues from Iraq, Jamaica and Mexico. “Whenever we look at a project and ask for (our team’s) opinions on it, we're always going to get such new and fascinating ideas.”

Kanbul shares a story about his colleague, Mehmet Aktas, who also came to Canada from Turkey. The company was renovating a kitchen, and Kanbul saw the client had an image of the tughra hanging on their cabinet – an imperial signature used by officials during the Ottoman Empire. Aktas was able to handcraft the symbol into the new cabinets.

“Mehmet has a lot of knowledge from his country, where they do this by hand,” Kanbul says. “He was able to deliver it specifically for the customer.”

“This is why I love Canada,” adds Dubrovinskii. “I love getting to know different cultures because everybody has a different way of looking at any type of obstacle.”

Kanbul says the next steps for Polat Construction is to get a license to work in Quebec. Looking even further ahead, Dubrovinskii says, “In our field of unit renovation and general contracting, we're one of the top three in Ottawa. We want to be one of the biggest companies in Canada.”

The Bright Side of Business is a new editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.

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