JayMarc Homes: From the Ashes to Silver

2019 NHQ Silver Award Winner | JayMarc Homes

By Rich Binsacca, Contributing Editor | October 4, 2018
JayMarc team closeup
Co-founders Jay Mezistrano (front, center, seated) and Marc Rousso (to Jay's left) with the JayMarc team. (Photo: J Garner Photography)

Everyone at JayMarc Homes has a nickname; a clever moniker given to them by their fellow employees after 60 days on the job that not only conveys the personal and professional qualities of each person (example: “Material Girl” for purchasing agent Sarah Feldman), but is also indicative of the company’s inclusive, club-like culture, which encourages both entrepreneurship and collaboration. 

If that isn’t a model for the future of the home building business, maybe it should be.

 

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After all, on its first-ever try for an NHQ Award, JayMarc earned a Silver, which means it’s doing a lot right. That’s pretty heady for a builder that rose from the ashes of a land development company after the Great Recession to arguably become one of the best-run and successful luxury spec and custom home boutique builders in Seattle’s West Bellevue and Mercer Island communities—a relatively (and purposely) small market that has attracted the attention of a handful of competitors, including a few nationals in the area looking to cash in on what appears to be an insatiable appetite for $2 million-plus homes in and around Lake Washington.

But JayMarc’s success isn’t all (or even mostly) market-driven. At its core is a philosophy of treating everyone—customers, employees, trades, neighbors, banks, and others—with respect, which is empowering. “We’ve brought together an all-star cast, so we don’t need or want to tell them what to do,” says president and co-founder Marc “Captain Vision” Rousso. “We want them to make their roles and departments their own.”

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The JayMarc Homes team. (Photo: J Garner Photography)

The NHQ judges agreed, recognizing JayMarc’s dedication to delivering a delightful and memorable customer experience, practicing open-book transparency throughout the 36-person company, engaging its trade partners to improve construction quality and earn loyalty, and rewarding employees for seeking out best practices and pursuing continuous improvement.

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JayMarc was a Gold award recipient in the 2017 Best in American Living Awards for Single-Family Production: Detached Home Over 4,000 Sq. Ft. The home was designed by Donald Ruthroff of Dahlin Group Architecture | Planning. (Photo: courtesy JayMarc Homes)

“Customers are not simply viewed as homeowners; instead, they become part of the JayMarc family,” the judges said. “JayMarc’s commitment to reward team members for increasing their awareness of what it takes to provide great service creates a true sense of community. Employees believe the company is transparent and empowers them to make decisions.” 

Other recognized strengths include a “safety net” of cash to provide a measure of security during the next market cycle; a nimbleness in responding to issues through weekly production meetings with a cross-section of department reps; and a commitment to construction quality through collaboration and consultation with outside experts. 

The judges also praised the company’s Waves of Innovation, a collaborative, creatively illustrated brainstorming exercise that has mapped a journey for JayMarc through 2024, including an anticipated market dip in 2020. After spending the first eight years of the company’s existence as its sole visionary, Rousso opened his whiteboard to others on the team. “I wanted to incorporate the thoughts and dreams of the talented people we have to be a part of our future,” he says. 

Of course, JayMarc isn’t without opportunities for improvement. The judges asked for measurable metrics and a process for employees to assess the performance of the leadership team. They also encouraged the company to engage trade partners in strategic planning efforts and customer survey responses, to optimize existing software programs to glean more and better construction-defect and warranty data, and to consider networking with other successful builders as part of its continuous improvement tenet. 

It’s that type of constructive criticism—and a history of having lost everything only to come back stronger—that keeps JayMarc on a path toward sustainable success. “You waver between humbleness and ego in this business,” Rousso says. “We have to tame the ego. Being humble and consistent is the key to our success.” 

See the other 2019 NHQ winners

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