Sunday, June 24, 2018

Modcoach's Top 40 for Sales Managers

Every year brings new lists of what to do better, how to do it better as well as list after list of things not to do to improve your business.

This is my list of things a modular factory Sales Manager should be doing to be successful. 40 things that if done every day will not only make you a great sales manager but will endear your sales reps and builders to your factory.

Here goes in no particular order:

  1. Always come to work as early as you want your staff to be in. Nothing destroys morale quicker than a late arriving sales manager.
  2. Dress the way you want your staff to dress.
  3. Handle your problems on a one-to-one basis.
  4. Don't coddle your top producer.
  5. Always show your boss respect in front of your sales staff.
  6. Never hire a friend.
  7. Never hire a friend of a friend.
  8. Spend a little time each day with individual staff members.
  9. Point out the individual accomplishments.
  10. Admit your errors as quickly as you want others to admit theirs.
  11. Go on at least two sales calls with each sales person every month.
  12. Never assign a rookie to a major builder.
  13. Never get drunk with your staff.
  14. Never get drunk with your boss.
  15. Never get drunk with a builder
  16. Never get drunk..
  17. If you blow up, apologize immediately upon calming down.
  18. Go for a walk around the block before you blow up.
  19. Make your sales meetings informative and interesting.
  20. Make your sales meetings as short as possible.
  21. Schedule a weekly meeting with your boss to recap sales for the week.
  22. Make all your staff live under the same rules, even your top producer.
  23. Develop a master testimonial book and use it to update the company website.
  24. Keep the promotional sheets and literature fresh and current.
  25. Encourage input from your staff.
  26. Make sure everyone “buys in” to new procedures.
  27. Understand the role of the reps – they sell, you motivate and lead.
  28. Hire the best salespeople you can find.
  29. Hire your replacement.
  30. Don’t answer a question with “Because I said so”.
  31. Learn your traffic system and inventory system so you can explain it to others.
  32. Demand 10 new sales contacts per month from your sales reps.
  33. Have a quarterly sales meeting outside the office.
  34. Make sure you have a great assistant.
  35. Take a course in Marketing.
  36. Answer your emails promptly.
  37. Don’t hide from irate builders.
  38. Make sure everyone knows the importance of “Open Houses.”
  39. Have a Builder Conference at least once a year.
  40. Eliminate unproductive sales reps quickly.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Will We See You at the 2018 BSC Housing Summit?

The Building Systems Council of the NAHB is hosting their annual summit on Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2018, in Knoxville, Tenn., and will offer CEU credits for a total of six hours to industry professionals.

Devin Perry, director of Building Systems Councils, reports there are at least two market indicators contributing to the growth of systems-built construction.

“First there is a labor shortage for the traditional construction industry as a whole. It has not rebounded since the great recession,” he said. “Second, we are seeing a materials shortage, and the scarcity of lumber alongside steel tariffs has underscored the economic benefits of offsite construction.”

The building systems seeing growth fall into five categories: modular, panelized, concrete, log and timber frame homes and other commercial projects. All systems-built structures have their own defining characteristics with a focus on quality control, energy performance and sustainability. And the costs of the materials as well as labor are factored in so that the overall process is markedly cheaper than on-site construction, Perry said. Modular building systems also meet local and state requirements.

Interest in modular construction has traditionally been strong in the Northeast because that’s where the manufacturers are, meaning shipping costs are greatly reduced. In that region, projects are growing increasingly larger. New single-family home developments are mushrooming, as is shown by the largest modular family development in California recently breaking ground. The large-scale project in Oakland has 110 apartments in four buildings including 44 townhouses and will be built by Guerdon Enterprises, a Boise, Idaho-based company.

The Building Systems Housing Summit underscores how technology has upped the ante for modular construction via the use of robots, for example, hastening speed-to-market.

Perry expects to see more shopping of the manufacturers themselves by builders looking for quick-turnaround choices at the right price for their clients. The event also hosts an awards program, which is still open for entry and will honor best-in-class participants in the categories.

The gathering will allow for ample discussion at the welcome happy hour, roundtable breakouts, in between education sessions, and the featured excursions on the Building Systems Housing Factory Tour (an additional $55 ticket).

Applications for the BSC Jerry Rouleau Awards for Excellence in Marketing and Home Design and the BSC Specialty Awards can be accessed through the new NAHB Awards platform. Users may enter information all at once, or over the course of several days, through their application portal.

Save money by submitting your application prior to the early bird deadline on July 27. The awards portal closes Aug. 25. All types of construction, including single-family, multifamily and commercial buildings are eligible to compete. Qualified projects must have been built in the last 24 months.

To register for the event, visit the Building Systems Housing Summit website. Early-bird registration ends Friday, July 27, 2018, at 5 p.m. EST.

The early member rate is $395 while the equivalent non-member rate is $435.All suppliers of systems-built housing, including product manufacturers and service providers, can attend by sponsoring the event. For information about sponsorships, contact Don Berey at 202-266-8208 or Perry can be reached at 800-368-5242, ext. 8577.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Could Coodo Become Popular in the US?

The latest in tiny home innovation comes from LTG Lofts to Go – a German-based company who recently designed the Coodo 64. Using almost all recyclable materials, the Coodo is a prefabricated home ranging from 200 to 720-square feet and can be used as a retail space, restaurant, studio, office, or social space. Without any limitation on location, this is an ideal home for the adventurer interested in exploring parts of the world without sacrificing the comforts of home.

With design options ranging from one-room pods to entire stand alone tiny houses, LTG Lofts wanted to give homeowners the gift of flexibility. The prefabricated house is pretty much a blank canvas and since it’s box-like structure is modular, you can set the Coodo down in highly congested urban settings or right along the water’s edge in remote areas. With a small footprint, the house can be easily installed with minimal impact on the building site and the environment.

The Coodo could be the answer to FEMA’s problem of getting homes to disaster sites faster by stockpiling these non-HUD IRC compatible units in stacks instead of side by side like HUD units waiting for the next natural disaster. With one of the units holding the ‘wet’ areas such as the bathroom and kitchen as well as the living room, a second Coodo featuring 2 or 3 bedrooms could be stockpiled making it easier for large families to get more bedrooms.

LTG offers different Coodo types depending upon its intended use. The “Watercoodo,” for example, functions as a houseboat whereas the “Saunacoodo” is designed as a luxury one-room retail pod.

Installation in Minutes

The Coodo installation process is on-site and can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to a few hours. Transported on a flat bed truck to its final destination, LTG’s tiny home can be up-and-running within days of ordering. Since the assembly process is like stacking LEGOS, relocation is a breeze. In other words, homeowners can take their Coodo to their new location with minimal effort.

As for the home itself, everything is designed around reducing the environmental impact of the inhabitants inside. Whether it’s the multifunctional heat pump that doubles as a premium air filtration system, the triple-glazed full-length windows, or the premium insulation materials designed to reduce energy loss and heating/cooling expenses, the Coodo is built around sustainability. According to LTG’s website, all units are equipped with “low-pollutant, ecologically compatible, and mostly natural materials.” This includes the outdoor shaded deck which is built from recycled planking.

Smart Home Features

If you’ve always loved the convenience of a smart home, the Coodo will not disappoint. Homeowners can control their electrical devices by connecting their smartphone to LTG’s built-in wireless system. With optional features that include a security camera, movement sensor, temperature sensor, door and windows sensors, and smoke detector, owners will have the perfect balance between safety and comfort – with just a press of a button. All of the electrical components come pre-installed – meaning no additional wiring needed upon arrival.

LTG will soon be making a “Coodo 96,” which is larger than the “Coodo 64.” The company is also coming out with a “Coodo 64 Up,” which is a larger two-story model, and a “Watercoodo,” which sits on a floating platform in the water.

Creating Healthier Interior Environments

A new Podcast from my friends at Art of Construction

Nonnie Preuss, the Executive Director of Wellness Within Your Walls, joins us on the Art of Construction to share how her company is connecting professions with healthy, eco-sensitive products that result in sustainable, non-toxic interior environments. As green construction practices grow in popularity, our buildings are becoming more and more airtight. A tight envelope is great for energy savings but can be problematic for indoor air quality. The building materials we use and the products we put inside our homes have a huge impact on healthy living spaces. Take a listen to learn where to find the best resources for creating wellness within your walls.

Commercial Developers and Owners Still Reluctant to Embrace Offsite Construction

As prefabrication, modular and other off-site construction techniques gain favor among contractors, a new study suggests that a substantial percentage of owners appear reluctant to adopt—or even explore—these methods for their own projects. And that could well pose an obstacle for builders trying to use these techniques to improve productivity and bridge the shortfall in skilled craft labor.

A recent survey of more than 100 owner organizations conducted jointly by FMI, the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT) and the Construction Industry Institute (CII), says that only 38% of owners expressed high acceptance of manufacturing-oriented off-site construction. Even then, use of these methods is limited, since fewer than 50% of participants’ capital projects involve off-site construction.

Owners’ aversion to risk and their lack of knowledge about off-site construction—cited by the study as being top impediments to its adoption—are further evidenced by their preference for traditional delivery methods. Nearly half of the surveyed owners say they use traditional design-bid-build delivery, which Ethan Cowles, a principal at FMI and a study co-author, says doesn’t lend itself to the up-front planning that makes off-site construction methods viable. “Changing owner behavior is the big thing,” Cowles says.

But that might be more easily said than done, particularly if owners lack in-house expertise to fully weigh the opportunities and risks associated with off-site techniques. Along with being a departure from conventional construction processes, the economics of off-site methods often necessitate different products, materials, vendors and supply chains, which can vary from one project to the next.

What’s more, owners must decide early in a project whether to use off-site methods—something that many of them are unwilling or unable to do, says Pete Dumont, vice president of global strategic projects for nVent Thermal Management, Houston, and president of CURT. Even when information and expertise is available, Dumont adds, opting for off-site construction requires more thought. “It’s not always a slam-dunk decision,” he says.

Deciding early on to use off-site construction methods may also be impractical for some types of projects. While many healthcare facilities are making use of prefab components such as overhead corridor racks, bathroom stalls and patient-headboard assemblies, some spaces built around specific types of equipment don’t lend themselves to standardization.

CLICK HERE to read the entire ENR article

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Enjoy this Weekend at Tiny House Fest in Vermont

Make a weekend of it in Vermont! Explore the perfect weekend VISIT of Brattleboro at and Stay at the historic Art Deco Latchis Hotel only steps away from the fest grounds on Flat Street.

Friday evening, enjoy the downtown streets during Gallery Walk. There will be Tiny House Fest Vermont exhibitions to VISIT in the mix of art openings and events. Dine throughout town and shop at tons of unique stores and shops. Saturday, June 23rd, the day of the Fest, VISIT the street fest, parklets (mini public parks in the space of one parking stall) designed by youth, and lots of vendors on Flat Street. If you'd like to tour the tiny houses in the Pop-Up Tiny Village and participate in our Pop-up MakerSpace, then check out what the EXPERIENCE Ticket includes. Co-sponsored by my friends at Yestermorrow School in Vermont, this is one event I wish I could attend. If you can make it to the Fest, send me pictures! CLICK HERE for more info.

“Go Build” Sites Should Be Popping Up Everywhere

Tried to hire a plumber lately? An electrician? A roofer?

Chances are getting one was a challenge, especially if you are a modular home builder or factory HR person looking for ‘middle skilled’ people for the production line or at the jobsite. The labor crunch is unlikely to ease any time soon.

The average age of ‘middle skilled’ labor is 47 years old. Think about that for a minute. That’s only 3 years shy of joining AARP. 

The unemployment rate has dropped so low that every person that wants a job can find one. The key word is ‘wants’ a job. Our youth is a gold mine for ‘middle skilled’ labor but as we are learning, they really have had little exposure to working with their hands in a 40+ hour job.

It’s clear the offsite construction industry has very little recruiting and training programs available to entice young people to join the ranks. I don’t know any modular factory or builder that is doing anything other than posting ‘help wanted’ ads and signs. OJT is waning because the skilled labor that used to mentor the new people is too busy actually trying to stay ahead of the work at the jobsite.

The labor shortage is simply a supply and demand problem. A good economy brings demand for more goods and services. New home sales are up but most modular factories are booked way into late Summer or early Fall. Offsite builders are struggling to find subcontractors that can do the work needed at the jobsite.

All this adds to the cost of a new home driving retail prices higher and making lead times longer.

Enter “Go Build.” This program developed by some states is targeting young people in high school, the recently disillusioned Millennial that has realized that can’t pay their bills or buy a new car simply by playing games and writing on social media and middle age people that are finding their current job can’t sustain even a minimal lifestyle for their families. 

Go Build offers hope to the construction industry in the states that use it. I couldn’t find a “Go Build” website for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York or any other Mid Atlantic or New England state. 

The two sites below are examples of what can happen when the construction industry in Alabama and Tennessee take a very active marketing approach to recruiting and training “Middle Skilled” for the future of our industry.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Searching for Modular Housing Gold

Recently Peg and I have been searching the Internet for information on a big purchase we hope to make soon. 

Complete Honesty: This is not Peg and I

Wow!, have things changed since the last time we searched it for information about a purchase this big. 

So far we have visited more than 20 sites and to be completely honest we were excited to spend time on some while others including the top brands were so bad we stopped looking at them as a possible purchase.

As you read what I discovered in my search, take a look a really hard look at your company’s website. Modular factories and modular builders could be doing so much better.

Many of the websites failed to showcase their brand by not using creative, quality and relevant visuals. Many small builders have websites that do little to showcase their brand. 

Several of the brands we liked before visiting their website proved to be disappointing when it came to telling their “story”. We were there to learn more about the brand but found little information about it. Hard to believe that a big company would put up a website and not tell their “story”.

A couple of the websites had us playing ‘hide and seek’ looking for the specific information we needed. One had us visit drop down menu after drop down menu until Peg said “forget it.” Please make your site easy to navigate or your new home buyers may also say ‘forget it’.

I learned quickly that not all requests for more information on the different websites provide adequate space for you to give specific information about why you are looking, when you are making a decision and other pertinent information. A couple of the larger company’s websites only had an email address to contact for more information which was quickly ignored by us.

And the websites that seemed to have a decent information  request form fell into two distinct categories; those that responded quickly and those that didn’t respond at all. Wake up, the reason you have a website is to get people to knock on your door and if you don’t answer it they will never darken it again.

Since it didn’t appear that many of the websites we visited have been updated for a while I began to wonder if it was because the job of updating was considered unimportant or maybe it is too hard to update. I know from personal experience with my website that sometimes what seems to be an easy update actually took me several hours of trial and error. Make updates no matter how tough it may seem.

Another thing I found quite interesting was after visiting a site their ad started showing up on my Facebook page, in my searches and even on their competitors websites as a pop-up. I swear Google could clone you just based on the websites you visit, the products you search for and the purchases you make online.

BTW, if you still have a heartbeat you probably have a smartphone. If your website isn’t mobile friendly...well damn! Almost 50% of searches start on a cell phone and if your website shows up looking clunky and outdated on a smartphone you may have lost their interest within the first 3 seconds which seems like 10 minutes in “Millennial Time.”

Stop looking amateurish! Most small business owners aren’t web designers, graphic artists or copywriters and your website can suffer when you upload images with poor pixelation, add too many graphics or buttons on a page making navigation difficult, make too many typos and provide poor content. 

Your website should not only reflect your company, but it also needs to resonate with your target audience. Here’s a hard but probably very necessary thing to do to improve your site. Ask your past customers AND your employees (anonymously) to rate your website and be prepared for some harsh criticism. If you are a modular home factory, you may need to invest in a lot of changes. If you are a modular builder, it just may reveal the need to invest in making your website better.

If you still have a banner on your website that says “Holiday Blowout Sale!” or a blog that hasn’t been added to since November 2014, it’s time to start giving your website some love. 

Your business is always growing and changing and your website should reflect the new products and homes you’ve recently built, great client reviews that prove your credibility or events, like Open Houses, that your customers should put on their calendars. 

Give your visitors reasons to visit your site often and establish loyalty. There is no telling when the email or phone call will arrive asking you for appointment to build their new home. And isn’t that what you wanted when you became a modular home builder?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Blokable Does a Smart 180

Doing a 180 just before ramping up production for the first time usually means that something went wrong but in Blokable’s case, something is going right.

When costs for their steel framed modular units, built in their Vancouver factory, broke the $200 and kept climbing co-founder Aaron Holm said, “All the costs were getting padded and we were like ‘You know what? Forget it. We’re going to deliver the entire thing,”

Blokable had planned to sell bloks to private housing developers, who would then configure and install them.

The new plan targets nonprofits and market-rate developers as customers. These customers won’t need to hire a general contractor to prepare the site and assemble the bloks.

One of the first projects is a partnership with the King County-based nonprofit Compass Housing Alliance to build up to 80 units on a church property in Edmonds.

If the city permits the project, Blokable could contract with a firm to install infrastructure. Then it will truck its modular units from Vancouver to the suburban Seattle site for installation. Janet Pope, CEO for Compass Housing Alliance, said the speed and cost savings are significant improvements over past projects.

Bloks will come with built-in sensors that could quickly alert landlords to fires and even mold. Hi-tech built-in software could help social services caseworkers better communicate with tenants who need regular care.

Blokable’s homes could provide stability to underserved populations.

Doing a 180 is not always a good thing but I think the folks at Blokable have not only taken a good 180, it looks like they are getting ready to put the “pedal to the metal” by helping nonprofits and market-rate developers put more people into houses faster than has ever been done before.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ralph Lester, Founder of Nationwide Homes, Obituary

Ralph C. Lester, 99, of Martinsville, Va., passed away Wednesday, June 13, 2018. He was born December 1, 1918 in Figsboro, Va. to the late Loury Lawson Lester and Mamie Draper Lester. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers, Victor Arlington Lester and Lawson Jackson Lester; sisters, Virginia Joy Lester Saunders Phillips and Golden Lester Slawson; and by his first wife, Alice Saunders Lester.

He is survived by his wife, June D. Wilson Lester of the home; daughter, Elizabeth Lester Winn of Greensboro, N.C.; son, Ralph C. Lester Jr. of Lincolnville, Maine; stepson, D.E. "Skip" Wilson of Martinsville, Va.; sisters, Inez Lester Montel and Lottie Lester Estes both of Martinsville, Va. and Vaulene Lester Harris of Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Also surviving are three grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and several nieces and nephews.

Before graduating from Martinsville High School, he worked with his father in the lumber business. After graduating in June 1936, he worked for V.M. Draper Mfg as a booking trainee. Before joining the United State Army Air Corp. in July 1941, he worked for Lester Lumber Co. as an outside salesman. He came home a 1st Lieutenant after serving 50 months. His overseas service was in the Pacific, namely the 5th Air Force as a military glider pilot and as a co-pilot on the C-47 troop carrier. He flew 62 combat missions, hauling ammunitions, food, and other supplies to the other services in the combat zone. Most of his combat service was on the island of New Guinea.

After returning home in September 1945, he and his brother Lawson started a partnership building houses. This partnership was organized into a corporation with others in 1946 named Lester Bros. Inc. He ran several divisions. After resigning his position at Lester Bros, he founded Continental Homes in 1955, a competitor of Lesco Homes. With the help of many friends as shareholders, he organized another company in 1959, founding Nationwide Homes, Inc. At the time, this was unique in that its devoted purpose was to the contracting and building of shell homes. This industry, the Home Manufacturing Association, honored him in several ways. He was given the Eugene Kurtz Memorial Award in 1969 for his outstanding contributions to the industry. In 1987, he received the James R. Price Award for innovation and leadership in the industry.

Ralph was the pioneer in the manufacturing and marketing of the modular house with his unique structure design first offered by Continental Homes in the mid 1960's.

Don O. Carlson, editor and publisher of Automation in Housing Manufactured Home Dealer said, "He is the father of the modern modular housing industry, an innovative individual who is committed to hard work and willingness to risk capital to pioneer new ideas."

As a community worker, Ralph was a Kiwanian, a Phythian, and served in many civic and charitable organizations. He was chairman of the Salvation Army board for 5 terms and was a recipient of its highest honor, The Others Award. He was a charter member of the Patrick Henry Community College Scholarship Foundation where a scholarship was established in his honor. He served the Martinsville-Henry County Memorial Hospital as its chairman and was president of the board when the Ravenel Cancer Center was established and organized.

As a result of his civic activities, he received the Heck Ford Award, sponsored by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce. Ralph also served on several business boards including Piedmont Trust Bank and Virginia Mirror Company.

In the early 1950's, he helped to organize the Forest Hills Presbyterian Church where he served as a Deacon, an Elder, and was a Trustee until his death.

Ralph said: "First of all, my Lord God is responsible for any worthwhile legacy." He also gave credit to his friends, his bankers, his shareholders, and his employees.

In 2008, Ralph authored a book, Magnet, to identify and perpetuate the entrepreneurial spirit that has dominated Martinsville and Henry County.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 18, 2018 at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church with Chaplain Paul Johnson officiating. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 17, 2018 at Norris Funeral Services, Martinsville Chapel. Burial will be at George Washington Lester Family Cemetery.