We've all heard the term "It takes a village" and this is certainly true when it comes to building the perfect dream home for our customers. On this episode, we give you a glimpse into our big JH family and the people that make it all happen. You'll hear from two of our very own employees, Treasury Analyst Kimmi Kelley and Purchasing Estimator Eric Wall, as they share about their personal journeys with the company and give you an inside scoop about what it's really like working for the JH Family of Companies.
S2 Ep14_Why We Like Working at the JH Family of Companies (Kimmy Kelley & Eric Wall).mp3
Intro: [00:00:03] Welcome Home, a podcast brought to you by John Houston Homes. Join hosts, Chelsi Frazier and Whitney Pryor, as they walk you through the exciting adventure of your home buying and building journey.
Whitney Pryor: [00:00:18] Thank you for joining us today on the Welcome Home Podcast. I'm Whitney and I've got Chelsi here with me. We've got some exciting things to talk about today. Chelsi, why don't you tell us about what is going on today?
Chelsi Frazier: [00:00:31] Okay, so today's show is a little different. We're taking a break from talking about the market, homebuilding and products to talk about the John Houston Family of Companies, also known as JH Family of Companies. We've mentioned this before. I know we talked to Bobby last year about it, but we didn't really dive in to who are the Family of Companies? What does that mean? Why do we talk about this? We just want to chat about that. We also have a couple of employees on the show that we're going to introduce in just a little bit to talk about what it's like to work here, the culture, the family and all of that really fun stuff.
Whitney Pryor: [00:01:09] Yeah, we are not just John Houston Homes. There are more companies under our Family of Companies branch. We are actually just one of six companies and in total we employ about 250 people within all of those companies.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:01:27] That's a lot.
Whitney Pryor: [00:01:29] Yea, it is. There is John Houston Homes, which most people know in the marketplace or out in the community. That's the forward facing brand that they see whenever they're looking for a new home, but there are other companies, such as Trinity Oaks Mortgage, who is our mortgage arm, and many others.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:01:49] We've got JH Development, they are a development company. They take the raw land and make it ready for houses for John Houston Homes and also other builders. They are not just an exclusive developer for us. We also have GoPro Environmental. They are an environmental ground erosion company.
Whitney Pryor: [00:02:16] Yeah, and then there's Keystone, Keystone Home Design Studio. They are the architects behind all of our floor plans. Those beautiful four plans that you see, your favorite Concord or Athens Model, those were all designed by Keystone Home Design Studio. Keystone has a team of architects and drafters that do that and make all of those custom changes on the homes that you're building. Then, of course, you've heard about Trinity Oaks Mortgage. I just mentioned them. They are a huge part of the home buying process. Their the financing side of it. We also have Precise Title Company. All of our homes, most of them actually, are closed with Precise Title Company, which is another company in our Family of Companies. You might say, why do you have all of these companies? Why can't you just stick to homebuilding? The big advantage here is communication. Any way you look at it, communication is a huge part of the homebuilding process. Whether it's communicating with vendors, employees, other companies that we're working with, anywhere that we can tighten that communication and those processes, it's way better for the home buyer as a whole. They don't see it because it's all backend stuff, but whenever you're building a home, you're having to communicate so much with the mortgage lender, with the developer on building the home on the land, with your different trades like GeoPro, who does all of the erosion control with your architects who are designing the plans. There's so much daily to the hour to the minute communication that has to take place to make that home perfect. It's so much easier whenever we own those companies and can communicate internally, freely, without having to go through several obstacles to to get that communication. That to me, is the biggest and best reason to have all of the different companies. That just makes it a smoother, more efficient process and communication is great, which equals a way better product.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:04:32] With all of those companies doing their own thing, we still all come together and we feel like we're all under the same umbrella. We are all still co-workers. Just because you work at Precise or you work at Development, doesn't mean that we don't still work together for the same company. We still do a lot together in meetings, company events and in the culture. I feel like the most important part is the actual people in those companies that make all of those things happen.
Whitney Pryor: [00:05:02] We've grown so much in the past few years, but it's been amazing to be a part of the growth.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:05:08] Yeah, because you and I haven't been here since the beginning, but we do have someone who is. That brings us to our guests on the show today. We have Kimmi Kelley, who is a Treasury Analyst, and Eric Wall, who is a Purchasing Estimator. Welcome to the show Kimmi and Eric!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:05:22] Thanks for having me.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:05:24] Absolutely.
Eric Wall: [00:05:25] Thanks for having me over here.
Whitney Pryor: [00:05:26] Welcome! We took you out of your little holes and brought you here to talk about the company and what you love about it. We want to get some insight into what you do and why you love working here. We also want to let people know about our culture and why we love what we do.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:05:44] I'm excited because you have two very different perspectives. Kimmi has been here for seven years. has had a couple of different roles and has seen a lot of growth. Eric, six months, not brand new, but newer than seven years. I'm just interested to hear the different perspectives that you have on working here from a long term perspective and then a short time perspective.
Whitney Pryor: [00:06:09] Kimmi, I did not realize you were here for this long. Tell us how many years have you been with John Houston?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:06:13] It will be seven years in September.
Whitney Pryor: [00:06:16] So you've seen a lot of change?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:06:17] I have. When I first started, there was only like 100 people in a tiny little office, maybe.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:06:22] Yeah, you guys were down the street in the old building.
Whitney Pryor: [00:06:26] It was a shopping center building.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:06:27] It was a shopping shop, we were at the end. The Design Studio was right beside us and it was small. All of the STARTS departments working out of models. We had employees, but the office was so small it only held the main office people.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:06:45] That was back in the day when John would say, "all right, y'all, we're going to Dairy Queen!" The whole office would walk to Dairy Queen and get ice cream.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:06:54] We would have random days that he would just walk in the office and say, " Okay, we're going to Dairy Queen!" We would all go to Dairy Queen. He would buy us all ice cream and then we would go back to work. There were also days in the old office that we had Wingstop Fridays.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:07:07] He would!
Whitney Pryor: [00:07:08] I like those Fridays!
Eric Wall: [00:07:08] I think we need to bring those back!
Chelsi Frazier: [00:07:10] I agree!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:07:10] He tried to do that once a month, but I mean, it's easier when we're smaller, but now we're way bigger.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:07:18] They still feed us and treat us very well. It just is brought to the office is trying to vs. trying to take everyone out.
Whitney Pryor: [00:07:25] On that note, we also have Eric Wall here who has not been here quite as long. How long have you been here, Eric?
Eric Wall: [00:07:32] I've been here six months now, I believe so not very long at all. I don't know about the Wingstop Fridays or the Dairy Queen ice cream trips, but they do feed us well. I do make the comment every now and then to new employees when I do see them coming in. "Hey, just be careful, they feed you almost every day!" There's always something to eat.
Whitney Pryor: [00:07:51] If you're on a diet, this might not be the place.
Eric Wall: [00:07:54] This might not be the job,no.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:07:56] You need very strong willpower.
Whitney Pryor: [00:07:58] Yes, very strong. Well, that's awesome. What do you do, Eric Wall?
Eric Wall: [00:08:02] I am the Purchasing Estimator. When we receive any custom changes, when they roll out new house plans or do any kind of custom houses, I am in charge of the lumber takeoff's and all of the building materials. I make sure that the builders have what they need to build the house for the customers.
Whitney Pryor: [00:08:21] That sounds very stressful.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:08:23] Yes.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:08:24] Yeah, lots of questions on that.
Eric Wall: [00:08:27] It's not bad.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:08:29] It sounds exciting! Every day is different and there is always something new.
Eric Wall: [00:08:34] Any time any one of the sales guys want to make a change, then we have to change all the plans. With the different types of houses being built, whether they want a different kind of design style or whatever is strong in the market right now, they always go so that way we're always ahead of the curve.
Whitney Pryor: [00:08:49] So one change, people might not realize changes several different trades or different materials. If you think, "let's just move this toilet to the other side", it's not just moving a toilet. You have to break up the foundation or whatever your process you're at, there's a lot of things to think about. That's kind of what you do is, okay let's break it down by trade, figure out what that's going to cost and what that's going to look like.
Eric Wall: [00:09:17] Correct. It's not just on the one plan. I think we have 35 to 40 different floor plans for now, so we then have to do that all the way across the board.
Whitney Pryor: [00:09:27] So execute it across every floor plan,wow!
Chelsi Frazier: [00:09:31] Eric, when you came on board, what was it like? Did it feel like a large company to you?
Eric Wall: [00:09:36] It did at first. The first day I walked in for my interview I was like,' okay, this is a lot bigger than I'm used to,' you know? On the second or third day, once I actually got started, it's not really a company atmosphere. It's more like a family atmosphere. Everybody's kind of friends or they talk to you, they don't talk to you like, 'okay, I'm the boss and you've got to do what I say.' It's more of they get your input all the way across the board from the small guys that just started to the guys that have been here five or six years. It's more like a family atmosphere. I think that's just from John and Tracey, just the way that they want it from the top down. Being able to walk over and talk to your CEO in a bigger company that has 215 employees is almost unheard of in any other industry.
Whitney Pryor: [00:10:18] Yeah! He regularly, like once a week, we'll stop in to every department to just chat and ask, not about what you're doing work wise, but just how you're doing in life.
Eric Wall: [00:10:29] Yeah, he talks about your family. "Hey, how's your wife? It was good seeing her at the picnic the other day", or something like that. I mean it's great.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:10:35] Kimmi, what has it been like for you to see the company grow?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:10:39] I mean, it has been kind of crazy! We only had probably 100 people a long time ago and then now it's like we have people everywhere. We had to move to different offices to hold everybody because there was not enough room. It's awesome because we're able to do that, but it's just been kind of crazy with how many people we've actually have.
Whitney Pryor: [00:11:00] When you started working for the company, you were in the position you're in now right now, right?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:11:06] No.
Whitney Pryor: [00:11:06] What did you start as?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:11:08] When I first started with John Houston, I was an Accounts Payable Specialist. I was just entering invoices, all day every day. That was back before we had PO's, so we were entering anywhere from a 1,000 to 1,500 invoices manually every week.
Whitney Pryor: [00:11:24] Since then, you've grown in positions, right?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:11:29] Right.
Whitney Pryor: [00:11:29] How long were you an Accounts Payable Specialist and when did you move up?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:11:35] I want to say I was an AP Specialist for maybe two to three years, and then I became the AP Manager,for probably about two years. Last year, I changed to an Accounting Clerk, which basically supports all of our accountants. Just last month, I actually changed over to Finance to be a Treasury Analyst.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:12:01] Wow! What is a Treasury Analyst?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:12:03] I secure all of the financing for all of our construction loans for any of our new houses that we've either sold or we're building as specs. I'm also responsible for lot financing. I work closely with the Title Company to ensure that it all closes correctly, between the banks and them.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:12:24] Wow! That's a big deal. I don't know how you got that out in one sentence because I feel like there's a lot to that.
Whitney Pryor: [00:12:32] Yeah.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:12:33] I really like it. It's different from Accounting. It's also something that I've always wanted to do, work in Finance because I came from a bank before I came here. It's just interesting.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:12:44] As the company has grown, do you still feel connected or has that been that growth been fostered, in your opinion?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:12:52] I think so. I feel like we do enough activities as a Family of Companies. We all get to know each other if you're not in the office or if you're outside of the office when we have picnics and stuff like that, so I feel like we're still all in a way connected.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:13:07] I think I know what your favorite company event is.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:13:10] Yes, the State Fair.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:13:12] Yes, Kimmi loves the Fair. Her whole family loves the Fair.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:13:16] It's my favorite!
Chelsi Frazier: [00:13:17] They go every year,
Kimmi Kelley: [00:13:19] Yep, sometimes more than once a year. We will go a couple of times.
Whitney Pryor: [00:13:23] Wow!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:13:23] It just helps because my first Fair Day was actually like a week after I started.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:13:29] Oh, cool!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:13:31] I didn't know anybody.
Whitney Pryor: [00:13:32] You are like, "best company ever!"
Kimmi Kelley: [00:13:34] Right, I was like, oh okay, cool. My brother worked here so I just kind of stuck to him like glue at the fair. I was like, I guess I'll have to make friends. It was a good icebreaker coming into working. You have this huge company event where you have to make friends, figure out other people and you get put on teams and stuff like that, so it helped me coming into it.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:13:55] Yeah! Eric, did you meet a lot of people at picnic?
Eric Wall: [00:13:59] I did. My favorite event so far has been Christmas and that's just because right when I started that fed us a lot of food. I'm a big guy, so I like food, it's all good. Also just the gifts. We didn't get to have a Christmas Party this last year because of the COVID, but it was just still amazing that they took all the money they were going to spend at the Christmas Party and rolled it in to give an employee stuff. Through the events that they had, like the Twelve Days leading up to Christmas, decorating the cubicles, which I thought was weird, but still kind of fun, you know. You saw how the different teams came together. You got to meet people from other departments as they were messing up your cubicles and just seeing the overall joy that all the employees had. I think I was the only one who started right after Christmas and everybody was having a good time and having fun. It was like, "hey I made the right choice. I'm with a company that even after five, ten, fifteen years, all these people are having fun still." That's the best part about a job is when you come in, you want to enjoy what you do. I haven't done the Fair Day yet. I do love the Fair and our family loves the Fair. I'm looking forward to that, but so far, the best event has been Christmas.
Whitney Pryor: [00:15:13] Yeah, just so you know, he mentioned messing up cubicles. We have an elf on the shelf, but it's John and Tracey on the shelf. We've put their faces on an elf on the shelf. That elf visits different departments and causes lots of mischief to each department and then that department then gets to carry on the mischief to another department. It's a lot of fun around Christmas time in our office.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:15:44] Yeah, if you come in and your door was closed but it wasn't closed the day before, be prepared for what's going to be behind it because you've been elfed!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:15:54] Yes.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:15:56] Eric, you have a unique job in which you work with multiple departments. We kind of talked about that a little bit, but I think you offer an interesting perspective on how you work with people out in the field and also other departments internally. Tell us a little bit about that.
Eric Wall: [00:16:10] Correct, As the Estimator, I've already mentioned that I work with Keystone and the architects, so that's one of the companies that I work with. I also work with O.T., who is a Field Validator. He works mainly with the builders out in the field to make sure we're using the material, to check if we have too much of this material or too little material. That way, we are bringing the best value to our customers out in the field, once the house is complete. If something needs to be changed to where it doesn't look like it's right for our customers, I get it. I then go back to the Architecture Department and say, 'hey, we need to make changes on these house plans,' so that way it's made across the board. That way, we feel safe delivering a product to our customers and be comfortable about them having. It's the same way with the Warranty Department. If he has a lot of warranty issues with a certain plan, we go back and look at it. We make sure once again, with architecture, that they're doing the right stuff. If we have any being built, I actually go out and talk with the builders if O.T'S not available. We meet out there with and we work out the best solutions. One of the advantages of having the multiple companies under one umbrella is we all do work together. We're all the same Family of Companies. We can make those changes. Our number one goal is to make sure we're taking care of our clients, which are our home buyers. Our job is to make sure that we're delivering a safe, wonderful house for them that they're going to enjoy for the rest of their lives or until they decide to sell it, and hopefully build another house with us.
Whitney Pryor: [00:17:33] Absolutely. I think on that to, not every home builder, especially not smaller ones have estimators. It's such an important job because like you said, we want to deliver a safe and beautiful home that can last for years and years for many families in most cases. Also efficiency wise, you're there making sure that the plans don't have too much material. That's a cost savings that gets passed down to the homeowners, making sure that we're not ordering too much brick. That's a waste that eventually the homeowner has to pay for or someone does, right? Your position is very important. You make sure that the right materials and the right amount of materials are ordered, so that we can get the best cost for our different houses and our different products.
Eric Wall: [00:18:22] Definitely, yeah. You've been on job sites where there's just stacks of bricks, like you said, or just piles of two by four's . Yes, somebody's got to pay for that and normally home builders send that down to the customer because this is what the house cost. If we have it in our budget and we have the right materials where we're not overdoing it, our home prices can be lower, being that's not in your upfront cost. If you have something left over, we can't just return it back to ACME brick or wherever we got our brick from because they're not going to take it back. We ordered it, it's ours.
Whitney Pryor: [00:18:56] Yeah, that's awesome. that's a really good position to have. it's not something that people often think about, but it's really important.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:19:03] Eric, you make a really great point about the benefit of working with a Family of Companies and other departments. Kimmi, have you seen that in your positions with accounting and working for the Family of Companies, not just John Houston Homes?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:19:16] Yeah, for sure. In Accounts Payable, you have to work with literally everybody. You have to work with Purchasing to make sure that the P.O.'S are correct. You have to work with the Builder to make sure that the P.O.'S are approved. You have to work with any of the companies if they have invoices or anything like that. You're always constantly working with other departments. You're never just working by yourself.
Whitney Pryor: [00:19:37] What's your favorite department? I promise I won't tell.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:19:40] Well, now it's Finance because I'm in it, but outside of that, it's Marketing.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:19:45] Yes.
Eric Wall: [00:19:45] Wow! Where's Purchasing?
Chelsi Frazier: [00:19:46] Eric is over here pointing to himself!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:19:49] Um, third?
Eric Wall: [00:19:50] Why third?!
Chelsi Frazier: [00:19:50] Top three!
Eric Wall: [00:19:53] If Purchasing is not right, then Marketing can't be right and Accounting gets all messed up.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:19:57] It's Marketing, Accounting and then Purchasing.
Whitney Pryor: [00:20:02] Eric, it's not about our jobs, it's based on personality. We all know Marketing has the most fun personality.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:20:10] It's like all my friends are in Marketing and Accounting.
Eric Wall: [00:20:12] That's because you don't hang out in the fun cube enough!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:20:15] I'm too far from that. I'm too far away from the fun cube!
Chelsi Frazier: [00:20:19] Hey, we'll make our way to the fun cube, it's happening. What are some of your most fun or memorable moments so far? I know you kind of shared the Christmas stuff, but anything else?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:20:30] I do love the picnics because my kids have developed a relationship with a lot of my co-worker's kids. They have a lot of fun doing the family events like the Easter Egg Hunt and stuff like that. I will say one of my favorite memories is a prank we use to play. We use to do April Fool's pranks all the time. In our old office with Mrs. Sue, we had the printer guy out the day before to maintenance our printer. We had convinced her that the printer was now voice activated, so if you needed copies, you had to tell it, "I need two copies." She was standing at the printer and we're all trying not to die laughing and she's like," two copies", and it's not printing them. She's like, "two copies", and she's just getting louder and louder. It's not giving her copies, obviously, and she's like, "what is wrong with this? I need to call the guy!" We were all just like. "Mrs. Sue, it's a prank!"
Whitney Pryor: [00:21:32] Oh, I would have let her call the guy!
Eric Wall: [00:21:35] I've actually heard this story.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:21:36] There's a video somewhere! I'm not sure who has it because it's been so long ago, but was so funny. It's just one of those things that's like always stuck in my brain.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:21:48] That is so funny!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:21:49] Office pranks are always funny!
Chelsi Frazier: [00:21:51] Mrs. Sue is the sweetest lady!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:21:52] She's standing over there yelling at the copy machine, "two copies." That's one of my most memorable.
Whitney Pryor: [00:22:03] I remember a couple of years ago I did an April Fools prank and Chelsi was in on it with me. I got a Krispy Kreme box, I took the donuts out and I put in a veggie tray. We set up a video camera in the break room to see people's reactions when they open the Krispy Kreme box. There were so many people that walked in with a face, like, "oh, yes, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts!" Then they opened it and they're like, "what?!"
Eric Wall: [00:22:30] That's just cruel.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:22:32] I think my favorite part of that was people they would walk in and kind of just look at the box like they're thinking about it. Some people would do the left to right look like, "is anybody going to see me get a doughnut?"
Kimmi Kelley: [00:22:49] I would be so sad if I was expecting doughnuts and it was celery.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:22:53] Especially a Krispy Kreme!
Kimmi Kelley: [00:22:54] Right, they're so good. Nope, sorry, it's celery.
Whitney Pryor: [00:22:58] Yup!
Chelsi Frazier: [00:22:58] Last year we were voted the Most Innovative Place to Work in Ellis County, which we're really, really proud to get that because it was a JH Family of Companies Recognition. It was the first time that they have added that category to Best of Ellis County. I'm just curious from your perspective, what do you feel makes us innovative as a Family of Companies?
Kimmi Kelley: [00:23:19] I feel like as a Family of Companies, we're always constantly trying to improve everything. Whether it's our computer programs that we use to do everyday business, the process of how we're building a house or the process that the home buyers go through, I feel like we're just always learning and striving to do better, either for our employees or for people buying our houses.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:23:45] Yeah, I agree. I think it's just always a topic of conversation. It's not like we've always done it this way and we're going to keep doing it this way. It's how could we do this a little bit differently or better? Do we need to talk about it or review it or what else is out there? I couldn't agree with that more.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:24:01] Right.
Whitney Pryor: [00:24:02] Internally, we call it Mending the Nets. We're always trying to fix things, make it more efficient and better. I mean, when I started here, I felt like that was a big difference. A lot of times it is software or different tools that can help us, but sometimes it's as simple as having a meeting across different departments and figuring out, "hey, this is how it's not working for me," and just getting together with different departments and communicating, that can help efficiency so much. I do feel that were always just trying to strive for better and strive for a better experience for the homeowner.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:24:44] I feel like we've all done that. Eric, you could probably speak into this a lot, too, but like especially this year, everybody's had to be so flexible, so much communication.
Eric Wall: [00:24:56] Oh, definitely. I mean, this year, even with the Townhomes, I was out there with the Executive Team. They're walking and they're just, "okay, how do we make sure that this is a place that if you yourself were buying a house you would want to live in, that this is an area you want to live or you would want these changes made, but that still fit within our budget so we can still deliver that value product to the homeowner." That's one of the big things with this company that I feel, just in my short time being here, is they're always striving to put the homeowner first. Let us help you find your way home is really their motto. That's what they live by or what we live by, is how can we help these people move into these houses, be happy, safe and have a great experience all the way across the board.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:25:40] That is so true, great example.
Whitney Pryor: [00:25:42] Thank you so much for coming, Eric and Kimmi. It was a pleasure speaking to you and getting your insight into what you feel is the best part of working for the John Houston Family of Companies.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:25:54] Thank you, guys.
Kimmi Kelley: [00:25:54] Thanks for having me.
Eric Wall: [00:25:56] Thanks for having me over to give me a break from looking at numbers all day long.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:25:59] Any time!
Whitney Pryor: [00:26:00] Now it's lunchtime, so we need to wrap it right up, right?!On that note, thank you so much for listening in today to our podcast. We hope you enjoyed it. We will have notes in the show notes on how you can reach us. You can visit our website jhoustonhomes.com or if you have questions, feel free to give us a call at 866.298.1416. We look forward to having you listen on the next episode of the Welcome Home podcast.
Chelsi Frazier and Whitney Pryor: [00:26:31] Welcome Home.