Are You Disciplined Enough?

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Big, tall and in control, John Matthews dominates his job site in Cloverdale, Calif., where he builds three- and four-bedroom detached homes 90 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

September 01, 2002


Name: John Matthews

Company: Christopherson Homes, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Years as superintendent: 12

Customer willingness to recommend: 100%

Units carried per quarter: 42

Days ahead/behind schedule: 16 ahead

Homes delivered last year: 62

Value of homes delivered: $26.4 million

Hard-cost variance: within 1%

Punchlist items on first inspection: 5 or fewer

Average days to correct punchlist items: 5 or less

Big, tall and in control, John Matthews dominates his job site in Cloverdale, Calif., where he builds three- and four-bedroom detached homes 90 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Meticulous planning and scheduling occur at the beginning and end of each day with on-site trade supervision from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. During these hours Matthews rarely returns to his trailer. Instead, he checks that trades are ready for inspections, that they keep to their schedules and that work is done correctly.

"I am everywhere you can imagine on the job, from foundation to carpet to move-in," says Matthews. "It is very important that I am out on the site so I know what is going on rather than sitting here in the trailer scheduling and not seeing what is happening out there."

Twelve-hour days, 12 years running: No two days are ever the same, but Matthews religiously adheres to a long day that has three main components: plan, supervise, plan.

5 a.m. -- Arrive at trailer. Review previous day's log. Items not completed are added to the coming day's priority task list. Phone calls follow updates to the master schedule.

7 a.m. -- Unlock homes. Assign priority tasks to trade foremen. Walk the job until late afternoon. His style is relaxed but direct and unambiguous.

3 p.m. -- Paperwork, phone calls at trailer.

5:30 p.m. or later -- Depart.

The same page: Schedule revisions are directed in writing to all foremen and their supervisors. Mandatory, semimonthly meetings with foremen for schedule reviews are open forums for ideas.

Matthews makes it a rule to avoid exaggeration and to never assume he knows more about a job than any foreman or crew member knows. The result is better rapport among everyone on site and a team-oriented approach.

Neighborhood friend: To home buyers, Matthews is the solution guy. No matter the issue, he stops what he is doing to walk over and see about post-move-in problems. Scrap wood is delivered to the driveways of those who seek kindling. Lawn maintenance workers are connected with those who travel.

"Little things like that make a homeowner happy," he says. "There are only certain things that I'm allowed to do, but if a homeowner approaches me and wants me to landscape their back yard, I'll say, 'Why don't you give these people a call.'"

What the trades say: "I make my most efficient money working with Johnny. He's considerate of the trades because he was a trade. My guys in the field will bend over backward for John. He treats younger guys with respect. As gruff as he can look, he knows how to deal with people. He puts his ego aside. He's a pretty smooth guy." -- Rick Rubatino, owner, R&K Construction (interior trim and finish), Santa Rosa, Calif.


Audio Clips

  John on the importance of communication

  John on communicating with the homeowner

  John on communicating with the subcontractors

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