Handcrafted Homes, Inc. has been in business for 40 years. As you probably know, the residential real estate market is competitive. You are probably also aware that there have been a few downturns in the economy in the last 40 years, and that when you’re in a crowded industry, those downturns can be especially hard to survive. For that reason, I’m particularly excited about this week’s guests, Judy Mozen and Randy Urquhart from Handcrafted Homes, Inc.
On the show this week, we talked about how they flourished through the downtimes. They offered a lot of fantastic insight, and among that was mastering communication. Mozen and Urquhart not only run a successful business together, but they are married to each other, as well. If anyone has something to teach about effective communication, it’s them, so here are a few of my favorite take-aways.
Know Your Team
Mozen is extremely active in industry organizations. Years ago, as a member of Leadership Atlanta, she participated in a workshop on personality testing. For Mozen, that training represented a pivotal discovery. She began implementing personality type analysis as a tool to work with both customers and clients. She stresses the importance of looking at each employee as an individual, and taking their personality type and likely responses into consideration when communicating with them.
Treat Customers Like Individuals
The same desire to see each person uniquely also applies to customers. Urquhart explains a deep desire to be respectful of customers. To understand what they want, and to give them a positive experience of dealing with the company has to do with knowing how they, individually, communicate. He says, “It’s understanding how they feel… how they can feel good about what we are doing.”
They also insist on having regular meetings with their clients, explains Urquhart. “We have at least a weekly meeting, and sometimes it’s even twice a week. What that does is help us get our houses to look more like our clients instead of, ‘Oh, this is a Judy Mozen design.’”
Create a Safe Environment for Responsibility
Both Mozen and Urquhart believe that it’s key for people to take responsibility for the mistakes they make. Creating the environment for that to happen comes from the top. It has to do with making it both safe and expected for employees and contractors to own their mistakes.
It also has to do with the C-suite being willing to acknowledge their mistakes, and accept input from their team. At Handcrafted Homes, Inc. that comes from regular, structured meetings. Mozen explains, “We have a conference table in our office. On Mondays all the superintendents and project managers come in and sit with us at the table, and at the table they’re expected to speak freely. They are expected to tell us if they disagree with something in our scheduling, in our process, unhappy with a sub-selection, a client, so we really emphasize that.”
Don’t Let Things Slip Past You
The regular team meetings they hold not only create an environment for owning mistakes, it allows a path to dealing with issues regularly and immediately. Mozen highlights the need to deal with things that need attention.
They keep detailed records and job reports, and use those as a means to keep track of, and deal immediately with, any issues that come up. This has to do not only with fixing problems, but also, just as importantly, with rewarding success.
Judy says, “We make sure that we’re together every Monday to discuss what happened in the past week, so nothing is let go…if you’re not connecting with your department regularly, or grouping your people together regularly, you can let things go, and just forget to say anything about it, because it’s easier. It’s a lot easier to let it go, but if you’re catching it every time and you’re talking about it, it will always be a learning experience.”
Mozen explains, “After 40 years, you can imagine we’re very much a team, and a lot of the people that are with us now have been with us for a long time, and so the best way to do it is just a be upfront.”
After the 2008 market crash, a lot of residential real estate companies went under. Handcrafted Homes, Inc. was not one of them, and that is in great part due to the transparency with which Mozen and Urquhart operate.
Mozen explains, “We had a meeting with everyone that worked for us, and called them all in and said, ‘Hey gang, one of the only ways we’re going to make it through this is to be very competitive.’ So, I said to everyone in the room at that time, ‘I’m stepping forward and taking a 10% cut.’” The rest of the team stepped up to do the same. Without transparency and trust that could never have happened. The team’s gamble worked, the company survived the downturn – and the days of the 10% cut for the team have long past.
Be a Professional
Being a leader means, among other things, operating with emotional restraint. When Urquhart and Mozen were first dating they came across a book that suggested scheduling a time for a conversation when disagreements happened in the relationship. Uruquart calls it, “an appointment to fight” and explains that the point of the meeting is to give emotions a chance to cool down. “It’s not a good time to talk about it right when you’re in the heat of it, and you’re very unlikely to make a good decision.”
The same lesson has crossed over to the business realm for them. When things don’t go as she wants them to on a job site, Mozen thinks to herself, “I am a professional and I will walk into this professionally.” This gives her time to assess the situation and come up with a productive response – and the structure she’s created with weekly meetings means there is an easy means to address the issue later.
She says practice is key, and suggests association training. “You get used to being on teams, and you get used to being a leader…. when you’re on a team, you respect each other, so professionalism has to kick in, and you have to be able to do that. It takes experience, so again I’d say get active, get busy in groups that are not necessarily your own company where you can really communicate.”
Being a great leader means taking care of your team, and sometimes that can be hard to remember. It’s not about you. This is why communication is foundational to your success as a CEO. Handcrafted Homes, Inc. have made it through 40 years successfully because it is helmed by two leaders who are constantly looking for ways to grow, and to better care for their team. And, your team’s success is your success, so keep focusing on how to communicate better with them each and every day when you show up to your corner office.