Alaina Money, division president of Garman Homes, a quirky custom home building company in the Raleigh-Durham- Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, dropped a bit of wisdom at the International Builders’ Show during a brief, high-energy presentation focused on ways to stand out.
Her first first words of advice to fellow builders and remodelers came from, well, her Dad.
“He’d always say to us, ‘It takes this much more to be better than everyone else’,” she said, separating her thumb and forefinger just a little bit. “And like things most of our parents tell us, you grow up and figure out that he was right.”
Taking his sage advice and running with it, Money found her calling at Garman Homes and continues to use that same mantra to keep her company ahead of the game, her customers happy and her employees loyal.
The four basic steps she takes to differentiate from the rest:
Hire people with fantastic attitudes. Rock stars make it work no matter what, she says.
Offer a guaranteed closing date. Money says Garman gives their clients an actual date, not a range. And if they happen to miss the deadline, they give their clients $1,000 toward closing costs.
After move-in, inspect your work. Within 45 days after closing, the Garman G-Team (HVAC, door and window) inspects the client’s home to ensure proper function. At 11 months after move-in, another team of trades (paint-drywall crew, framers, tilers, etc.), come in to do inspections as well.
“This is all we have, these four differences,” Money said. “When we first started, we didn’t have models, didn’t spend money on advertising. The market was about to crash all around us. We just had unapologetically high standards and we stuck to them.”
Money said it’s important for the team at Garman to find a way to be the people they want to be and still develop real relationships with their realtor partners and buyers.
To do that, they try to keep things “real.” For example, the team rewrote their purchasing contract in plain language, removing all the legalese. They also use very colloquial and playful language in all their marketing and communications materials. Money pointed to their website where one can go to score a quickie as another example.
“We want to build a connection with our future home owner,” Money said. “We found a way to be memorable for our target market. We know we’re not for everyone and we don’t want to be.”
Money said they talk frequently about dream jobs and dream projects at Garman. Taking chances and innovating is another way the company differentiates itself. “We dream out loud intentionally,” she said. Turns out the dreaming pays off; though not always in the way expected.
For the longest time, Money kept mentioning to anyone who would listen that she wanted to build a pocket neighborhood. One day, she got a call from a developer who had a section of lots available in a successful master planned community who thought Garman would be a great builder for it.
“We did it and we got to work pretty quickly. We were not in this league when we started and had to up our game. Our homes were cute but we really needed to learn how to build pretty. Our learning curve was so steep, the construction manager and trades were so confused. And the buyers’ expectations had never been higher,” she said.
Sometime after the project was finished, the Garman team was invited to the community’s chili cook-off event. One of the home owners came up to Money to chat.
“I ask her about her house and she tells me what a disaster it was. She tells me it was a nightmare; the construction manager was never there and tradesmen never showed up,” Money said. “It was a really humbling moment. I vividly remember trying not to shrink. We had four Garman differences, and I blew most of them with this project.”
But Money looked at this setback as an opportunity to do better, be better. Intention, she says, is doing something with purpose on purpose. Now, this is something she and her team focus on everyday with every client and every build.
Her advice at the end of the day: “Set unapologetically high standards for yourself. It will give you the strength to do this much more every day.”
For more a more detailed look at the Garman way, check out Money’s posts on the Build Like a Girl blog.