Breaking news: Chuck Shinn is retiring. If you know Chuck, this may not be news to you because he’s been threatening to retire for a couple of years now. If you don’t know Chuck, well, you’ve got some catching up to do.
Fifty years ago, after receiving a B.A. in Economics and an MBA in International Business, Chuck landed his first big job, one that would inform the trajectory of his entire career. He became the assistant director of economics for the NAHB. There, he analyzed economic and housing trends, conducted surveys, wrote position papers, and served as a spokesman for the industry. Over the course of the next seven years and several promotions, Chuck began to develop courses for the NAHB and its members in business management, sales and marketing, estimating, and purchasing.
In 1975, he was persuaded by the University of Denver’s Real Estate and Construction Management Department director Lee Evans to join the faculty. (University lore claims that a bottle of wine and a twisted arm were involved.) Working with students taught Chuck the importance of training the next generation of builders, and he created scholarship programs, organized a student internship program, and brought them into the NAHB with student memberships. He also created a graduate degree program at the school and completed his own doctorate at American University.
Eventually, Chuck became a home builder himself. He left teaching in the ’80s to focus on his business, just in time for the downturn precipitated by the savings and loan crisis. Although his company made it through the downturn, the experience underscored once again the need for professional education and training for home builders, and Chuck turned his attention once more to teaching. In 1992, he founded the Lee Evans Group, in honor of Evans’ contributions to industry education, and built a portfolio of seminars designed to help home builders survive tough economic times. The Lee Evans Group closed its doors in 2008, but the seminars continue to be presented today through Shinn Consulting and Builder Partnerships. Thousands of home building professionals have learned their craft and honed their skills from them.
For some years, Chuck was the lead judge of an awards program I managed. I listened and learned as he combed through each entry, examining their systems, marketing programs, community service, P&L statements, and more, and discussed them with the group. He was a tough judge, but when it was over, you knew the companies that won were the real deal.
Read a distillation of some of Chuck’s lessons—his “five essential truths”—which he assures us will remain relevant, boom or bust.