Woodland, O'Brien & Scott

Charlie Scott has more than 30 years of first-hand home building experience, much of it in senior management positions with an award-winning, nationally recognized Midwest builder. Currently, he's director of Woodland, O’Brien & Scott for Constellation Homebuilder Systems. Scott helps North American home builders grow their own customer-centric cultures, pursue operational excellence, and increase referral sales. Write him at Charlies@woodlandobrien.com.

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A builder would never build, merchandise, and maintain a model without staffing it, would they?  Of course not - this would be abuse of an asset!  The return on this asset (ROA) would be zero, zilch, nada.  No competent manager would ever allow an asset to exist without some expected return on that asset, right?


Most builders expect their model, community, and marketing to return at least one sale per month and cover the bulk of the costs.  Two sales per month break even, and three sales per month make it a profitable community.  The numbers may va

Let me be straight - I am anti-Net Promoting Index (NPI) in the home building industry and this is why...


When I was a manager/leader/owner of a homebuilding company there was a recurring problem that I often saw (and personally committed).  Too often, we would manage our company by average numbers.  For example, let's say our Willingness to Refer (WTR) declined 5 points from 95% to 90%.  We would become upset and meet with the Sales Team and Builders to tell them "we are better than this!"  We were managing the company and staff by the average number. 

I often wondered why a consulting friend of mine wrote of his miserable air travel experiences, and now I get it.   The airline industry, with its product and personnel scenarios are a reasonable proxy for the homebuilding industry.  How?  Read on.


As a Platinum level patron, I am often “upgraded” to first class.  It is amazing how different the first class experience can be on the same airline, aircraft, and route.  All else being equal, what is the determining factor?  It is the personnel, of course! 


Take for instance

The bottom of the market is clearly in and most builders know it, especially those that attended the International Builder Show (IBS) in Orlando, February 7-11th.  At IBS 2012, there were scores of great programs on red hot topics like Social Media Strategies, Marketing Must Dos, Lean and Green best practices, and much more.

December is often the time of year that many home building companies finalize their 2012 goals and budgets.   Management meticulously reviews past sales performances, hard costs, personnel budgets, etc., and set both goals and budgets for 2012.   Once each line item is discussed and approved, these bugeteers ask managers to sign off on this plan as their commitment to 2012 excellence.  Seldom do we see customer satisfaction goals handled with this same degree of foresight and commitment.  Why is this?

When we look into our car’s rearview mirror we see where we have been, as well as the distant horizon; the vanishing point of times past.  In the home building industry’s rear view mirror, I gladly see the depths of home building’s bottom slipping over the horizon.  What makes me think so? 


First, many sectors of the economy and their metrics are undeniably improving - employment, consumer spending, household formations, and most importantly, consumer sentiment.  A long time ago, I remember doing a detailed study which plotted numerous economy and industry data p

The 2011 “Black Friday” sales numbers are in and show a pleasantly surprising 16% gain in year-over-year retail sales!  Some economists, pollsters, and industry “experts” expected consumerism to be flat or even down this year; proving once again that rational surveys do not accurately capture consumer emotions.


Here are two Black Friday observations – first, asking consumers a rational rating question, i.e.

To home builders, speed is a highly valued commodity.  It is not unusual to hear home builders boast about fast build cycles, lightening fast product development, near real-time custom pricing quotes, etc., right?  Yes, it seems we are laser focused on, and maybe even addicted to speed in developing land, designing plans, and quoting homes, but is this speed really important to the customer?  That is a tough question that I can't answer, but here's a speed question I can.

The idea of running a 100 mile race ten years ago was as inconceivable and foreign to me as the possibility of a 6 year real estate crash.  As it turned out, last month I got to experience both of these.

While making sales presentations to three of our four most recent prospective clients, we were hired on the spot – three times!  On the first two occasions, we did not have our start-up paperwork and consulting agreements on hand and ready to go.  We had become conditioned over the past three years to home builders requesting a proposal, mulling it over ad nausea, requesting more information, etc.  Even proven, time-tested, high return investments were being delayed for ‘safety sake.’  Many older-school builders were totally focused on reactive, ‘

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