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Happiness and 'The Bear'

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Business Management

Happiness and 'The Bear'

Can happiness be the core strategy of a home building business? It can ... and it probably should be

December 12, 2023
Happiness in home building: CEO and co-founder Chris Schell at Schell Brothers
Chris Schell started Schell Brothers with a singular and sincere mission of happiness and delivering "unreasonable hospitality." | Photo: courtesy Schell Brothers
This article first appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Pro Builder.

An email caught my eye the other day. The subject line was “Employee Happiness Hits New All-Time Low,” which struck me (a born cynic) as both reasonable and intriguing. So I opened it.

It was a nationwide study that, to my amazement, ranked Construction (yes, Construction!) as the happiest industry among six others on something called the BambooHR Employee Happiness Index, and by a good margin.

Despite a slight dip during the third quarter of this year, Construction achieved an employee Net Promoter Score (a measure of job satisfaction and likelihood of referrals) of 47, a good distance ahead of runner-up Travel & Hospitality (38), and well distanced from Restaurant, Food & Beverage, the least-happy industry, with an NPS score of 31 ... which helps to explain why there’s now only one overwhelmed barista behind the counter at my neighborhood Starbucks. 

While encompassing all segments of construction, not just residential, the cause of such joy is, according to the researchers, a function of our industry’s labor shortage, which has resulted (generally) in higher wages, additional training, and advancement opportunities. 

That bit of news came on the heels of me visiting Schell Brothers, our 2023 Builder of the Year, where happiness is the foundational strategy for the company and one put into practice every day for employees, partners, their communities, and especially customers. 


I won’t spoil the fun beyond that, so I encourage you to read that profile—if only to quell any skepticism you may have about a home builder that is committed to prioritizing happiness over revenue, closings, and profitability, and yet still manages to be exceedingly successful by those and other conventional measures. 

In our research for that story, we came across a bevy of mantras at Schell that inspire and propel its mission. The one that stuck with me the most, and the one I believe most enables the builder’s success, is “Nothing Without Purpose.” That’s a powerful mindset, and it made me think about the imprint my actions and words leave on others—their workloads, their satisfaction and sense of pride, and their perceptions of me as a person and a leader, and of this magazine. It’s harder to do and more far-reaching than it sounds, but is also hugely impactful.

That revelation led my head to The Bear, a television series on Hulu in which the main character, a renowned chef, returns to Chicago to transform his family’s sandwich shop into a world-class restaurant. The series was inspired in part by the book Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara, which advocates providing every customer with a tailor-made, VIP experience; in turn, customers happily become vocal, unpaid, unprompted advocates for your business.

At Schell Brothers, they’re called ecstatic customers and brand ambassadors. What are they called at your company?

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Written By
Editorial Director

Rich Binsacca is editorial director of Pro Builder Media, Custom Builder, and PRODUCTS. He has reported and written about all aspects of the housing industry since 1987 and most recently was editor-in-chief of Pro Builder Media. rbinsacca@sgcmail.com


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