If You Don’t Look for Anything Else in a Builder, Look for This

I happened upon an interview last week on business radio with the longtime CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch. One comment in particular really caught my ear.

“Leadership,” Welch said, “distills down to two words – truth and trust. If people trust you, if you’ve been authentic, you’ve got to get truth in your company. And you’ve got to get rid of the spin and all that. You’ll only get that if people trust you, if you’ve been authentic.”

Wow. I couldn’t help but think how relevant Welch’s words were in our world of residential construction. Sadly, our industry is not always known for truth and trust. Custom home building is an industry fraught with opportunities for the unsuspecting consumer to be swayed by not-so-truthful promises from not-always-trustworthy sources. Anyone can hang out their builder shingle in Texas, and in boom times like these, they do. And, low-balling bids is a common tactic to land a project. Get the foot in the door, base bids on low-quality finishes and then hit the customer with change orders to get what they had originally envisioned to begin with. More often than not, that’s not going to win long-term happy clients.

That’s never been how we do business. But we see it time and again. I recently ran into a guy who had asked us to bid a large remodel and pool project not long ago. When we walked the project and listened to the customer’s vision, we pulled no punches on what kind of budget (i.e., a big one) to expect for extensive excavation and structural changes the project would require. It wasn’t the kind of news someone wants to hear. He ended up choosing another contractor. Now a couple of months into the project, he was shaking his head and lamenting how it’s grown into a much more expensive project – for that excavation that we had truthfully priced to him initially.   

Last year, we had a call from an investor asking for our help. It seems the builder he’d contracted wasn’t much on the “truth and trust” mantra. The investor had forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars, trusting the builder to buy product, hire qualified tradesman and inexpensively build several spec homes. Unfortunately, the builder wasn’t worthy of that trust – corners were cut, inspections skipped, codes ignored, and more. The investor was left with a costly mess that we helped him clean up. We got the projects back on track, beautifully completed, and sold.

It is human nature to want to use the contractor who tells you want you want to hear. But be cautious. A contractor who instead tells you like it is may save you money and heartache in the end. Look for someone you can trust to tell the truth in pricing, truth in commitments, truth in timelines, truth even when it may not be what you want to hear. For many, a custom home may be the biggest investment of their lifetime. Partner with someone you can trust to treat it that way.

We are immensely proud of our work. But we’re even more proud to hear our clients describe us as trustworthy, honest, conscientious professionals with high moral standards.

Of all the things we advise consumers to look for in a builder – local experience, references, a track record and staying power, and more – by far the two most important traits to seek are these: truth and trust. If you don’t look for anything else in your next builder, look for those.