Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
2008 Avid Awards: Lakewood Homes
Lakewood Homes received an Avid Award in the 500-plus Closings category at the 2008 Avid Awards.
Unlike many other home builders, Lakewood Homes has retained a company spirit that translates into a genuine sense of caring for its customers during the housing downturn.
“It's all about attitude,” says Buz Hoffman, founder and president of Lakewood Homes. “As a builder, you can do all of the processes and procedures and systems you want, but if you aren't out there everyday with the right attitude, it don't mean squat. No matter how many people you have, if they don't have a great attitude, you're lost.”
In lieu of a formal mission statement, everyone at Lakewood Homes lives by “The Golden Rule.” Whether they are negotiating a land deal with a farmer, financing with a bank, or a sale to a new home buyer, everyone treats people as they would like to be treated themselves — one of the reasons the company's customer loyalty scores are some of the highest in North America, winning it a 2008 Avid Award for builders closing more than 500 homes a year.
“It starts and ends with your own people,” Hoffman continues. “It's treating them with dignity and respect so
|Founder Buz Hoffman emphasizes attitude.
Photo: Peter Wynn/GettyImages
they are not working out of fear. It's preparing them to make decisions so things are done faster. And it's obviously rewarding them financially accordingly. I've found that if you treat your own people well, they'll treat your customers well.”
Lakewood's management team is in sync with this business philosophy and has been successful communicating it to everyone in the office and out in the field.
“It comes from the top and migrates down into the organization,” says Jack Shum, executive vice president of operations. “We try to provide every customer with a perfect house — the optimum experience. We try to identify things that are going to be a surprise — what is going to be upsetting to home buyers — and we eliminate them.”
While some builders have mandated price cuts from their subcontractors to help stem loses, Lakewood has chosen to work with them to find cost savings that do not impact quality or diminish the customer experience. By “value engineering” the company's processes and the ways subcontractors did things, Lakewood Homes has been able to recover $2,000 to $3,500 of waste per house, Shum says.
Given Lakewood's team approach to working with subcontractors, it's no surprise that the builder celebrates every success and award with the appropriate trades.
“You need to have the houses done as close to perfect as you can the day of walk-through,” says Robin Johnson, vice president of sales. To get to this point, Lakewood Homes has an extensive inspection program that also tracks individual performance.
By having homes complete at walkthrough, the superintendents are able to celebrate the home with the home buyer rather than creating punch lists. Lakewood Homes has a 98 percent completion rate at the time of closing.
To keep employees focused on the customer experience, Lakewood is constantly evaluating and changing the way it does business. “If we hit a goal in one area and it becomes commonplace, we change the goal — we raise the bar,” Shum explains. “You keep yourself going by constantly reevaluating what used to be the sacred cows.”