We're back with the first episode of Season 3, and we are kicking it off with another great talk with CEO and Founder, John Houston, and Terry Trayvick, Chief Strategy Officer! Listen in as they talk about what we have learned over the past 2 years, what obstacles we have faced and navigated through, and of course what is ahead for John Houston Homes and the JH Family of Companies.
S3_Ep1 2021 Year in Review and 2022 Forecast (John Houston & Terry Trayvick).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 listeners, for joining us on the Welcome Home podcast. I'm Whitney and I've got Chelsi here with me. Hi, Chelsi!
Chelsi Frazier: [00:00:25] Hi, Happy New Year!
Whitney Pryor: [00:00:26] Yes, happy New Year. It feels so good to be back in the studio. I know that we've got some exciting stuff to talk about today. I know you've got some things you want to go over with us, for sure.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:00:37] Thinking about everything that we've talked about over the past 2 1/2 to 3 years, it's kind of surprising to think that we still have things to talk about that we haven't talked about, but we've got lots of great ideas for this year. Just looking back, I pulled a few stats. I know how you like numbers.
Whitney Pryor: [00:00:53] I love numbers!
Chelsi Frazier: [00:00:54] I'm going to share a few numbers with you. Okay, 2 years, 40 episodes, 4,700 downloads, this was what was really exciting to me, 3 continents, 45 countries and 578 cities.
Whitney Pryor: [00:01:09] That's all people that have listened into our podcast.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:01:12] Yes.
Whitney Pryor: [00:01:13] That's crazy to think about. When we started this journey, we weren't sure how it would go. It was a different form of communication and something that's kind of new to the industry. To hear that and to know how many people enjoy, listen in and really get good ideas about their home building process, is just really awesome to hear.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:01:33] Yes, hopefully we've helped some people along the way, educating and just being more at peace or feeling like building a relationship with them over these past couple of years. Thank you listeners, you have definitely made it very enjoyable.
Whitney Pryor: [00:01:47] Yes, so who do we have on our episode today?
Chelsi Frazier: [00:01:53] Today, we're very excited to have John Houston, CEO of the JH Family of Companies, joining us here in person. Over the phone, all the way from New Jersey, is our Chief Strategy Officer for John Houston Homes, Terry Trayvick. We kicked off last season with John and Terry and kind of just set the tone for the year. We felt like that was really great information and nice for our audience to hear from John and Terry, so we wanted to do that again this year. We'd like to welcome to the show, John and Terry.
John Houston: [00:02:23] Hey, glad to be here. We're excited about it. I can't believe it's been that long either since you guys started this. Praise God that you're getting across so many different platforms to reach so many different people in so many different places, that's powerful.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:02:37] It is. I mean, people in another continent obviously aren't going to be buying a John Houston Home anytime soon, probably, but just to know some of the things that we talk about with our impact and how we are in the marketplace, I think that's pretty cool.
John Houston: [00:02:49] It is. What's really cool about it is, I remember early on when the Lord had really laid this on our hearts, to start a home building business, to reach people for Christ and give the kingdom. He literally said, "I never told you to sell a house, " and that's what you guys are reminding me of today is, you're not. It's not just about selling the house, it's about living life with people, so that's pretty cool.
Terry Trayvick: [00:03:11] Yeah, I agree guys. One question on the statistics, do you guys consider New Jersey another continent or is that part of..?
John Houston: [00:03:21] Yes, we do!
Whitney Pryor: [00:03:21] I mean, it's about the size of a small Metroplex here, so..
Terry Trayvick: [00:03:25] Absolutely, absolutely, glad to be with you guys.
Whitney Pryor: [00:03:30] The past two years in the construction industry have just been unprecedented. It's nothing that I think anyone could have forecasted or known. We go this way with the pandemic and how that's affected the housing industry. I'm really eager to discuss with you guys what we've learned and what we kind of foresee going into this next year. What are the biggest takeaways for you guys personally over the past two years?
Terry Trayvick: [00:03:58] There's been a lot of changes in the industry over the last couple of years, notably what's going on in the supply chain, but importantly for the home building industry, we've also seen significant increase in demand. Those two dynamics that we've been facing for the last couple of years. From that demand perspective, given where we're located, we find that people who want to get away from the city are more attracted to some of our locations. We've had some record years, however, if you think about the supply chain side, it has elongated our cycle times. As a result, it's taken a lot longer to build houses. We've got to get used to both higher demand, a longer cycle time and how to manage through that.
John Houston: [00:04:40] Yeah, I think those are great points Terry. A couple of things that really stood out to me ,as well, is just the amount of pressure that it puts on your staff, the amount of pressure it puts on customers, and as a company, how do we lead through that, from a CEO level. Terry also plays the role of COO for the home building company. When I think about that, I can't think about how many conversations we've had about how do we make sure that we're taking care of our staff? How do we make sure we're doing the best we can to take care of our customers at the time? Knowing, that in some cases, we don't have all the answers because none of us have ever been here before. None of us have had to lead through a pandemic like we've seen over the last couple of years. For me, it's still a learning curve. I think the other thing that has really been sticking out to me is, how important it is for us to be better operators and continue to become more automated, more process and system driven and to streamline our approaches to make life easier and smoother for our customers, as well as, our employees. I think we're coming out of it actually stronger than we went into it. I think that's really helped us. Honestly, I love to learn, I love the challenge and I hope we never quit getting better. I've been really proud of our teams. Everybody has really pulled up their boots and just did whatever we needed to do to continue to deliver, but also continue to get better.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:06:27] Yeah, you make some really great points. I feel like everybody just kind of had to shift and adjust, literally every position. Sometimes you had to be working from home, but we were lucky to have the infrastructure set up, being with Microsoft and on Teams. Of course, there were hiccups along the way, but it kind of almost felt like second nature to work from home, remotely or offsite in a model home or something like that, because we were all set up and ready to do that. I think that speaks a lot to the workplace systems and how we communicate with each other. Even in just our contracting system or our website, how everything talks to each other. We're always, like you said, learning and wanting to do more, differently and better. I feel like we have a great basis to jump off from and just grow from. I feel like every department is always looking for, how can we do this or make this a little bit easier, better or more life-giving? How do we make it simpler and not as hard?
John Houston: [00:07:27] It reminds me of when I was in college, which was a little while ago.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:07:32] Like five years or so?
John Houston: [00:07:33] Yeah! I always heard in marketing, they said, "it was location, location, location." I've actually thought about this over the last couple of months, over and over again. I think in this market, it seems like it's all about communication, communication, communication. How well are we communicating with each other? How well are we communicating with our subs and suppliers? How well are we communicating to our customers? All across the board, how well are we doing that? For me, that's one of the biggest things on my heart is, how do we even get better at that right? How do we get that message even more clear? I'm talking about from me all the way through the entire organization and then back up because we've got to be able to hear what's going on out in the field. We've got to be able to hear what's going on in the office, with the builders, and we need to make sure that's going both ways.
Whitney Pryor: [00:08:30] Yeah, I think that's my biggest takeaway through the past two years. Like Terry said, there's supply chain issues, but there's a growing demand. What that's left for me, what I've seen with our builders, our sales team and the people out in the field, is that they're having to overcommunicate. Over communicating has never caused an issue, right? We might not have all the answers, but we're communicating to the people that we know, "hey, we don't have the answer, but here's what we were expecting and what we're hoping for." That's helped with our relationships with the wonderful families that are purchasing homes, but also with our suppliers who are communicating to us about potential spikes and pricing. We're able to deal with that on the front end and not have any surprises down the road. Just from the beginning, you guys as a Management Team and as an Executive Team, started getting on teams and doing the videos with the company. It was so important to hear from you guys consistently, almost daily, and really push that message of communication to every person in the company. Every trade that we deal with and every person that we see out in the field. I think that's really helped us through the past two years.
John Houston: [00:09:49] Good, that's awesome.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:09:51] Our mission, vision and culture are very much a priority. Like Whitney said, we never skipped a beat on our all staff meetings. It just went from in-person to virtual, so we continued that. We know and feel that it's a priority, but how have we kept that a priority in the busiest and most stressful market we all feel like we've ever seen?
John Houston: [00:10:12] For me, I think it honestly came down, and I think Terry will vouch for this, it actually came down to literally the first week of COVID. When everything really just blew up in the U.S. and all of a sudden man, I'm literally getting calls from some of the top builders and they're going, "what are you guys doing?" I'm hearing over and over again, people are putting the brakes on, they were stopping construction. They didn't know what they were going to do. I talked to one company and they let a lot of their staff go immediately. Literally that same week, it was a Friday, we were having an Executive Meeting to ask, "what are we going to do?" All of the Executive Team were sitting around the table and we're talking. It's been almost two hours that we're really processing, what do we do? I just remember the Holy Spirit speaking to us and saying, "man, you guys don't even know what the future looks like." It just kind of hit us, that's exactly right, we don't. We just said, "hey, you know what? We're just going to go pray over the weekend and then let's come back and talk." Really, that's where the shift was for us is that we had to just go. When we came back on Monday, literally across the entire Executive Team, every one of us had felt like that the Lord was laying on our hearts. We were to keep doing the same plan we had. We didn't need to put the brakes on anything. I'm not saying that's for everybody, but I'm saying for us, that's what worked. It was literally that challenge of keeping the first thing first, our mission and our vision that God had given us. It starts with us and if we're not doing it, how can we expect anybody else to?
Terry Trayvick: [00:12:04] When you're doing something with a mission, things will try to get in the way of that. You have to keep your eyes focused on the mission. That's what we try to do. Did we stop to reflect? Were we nervous? Were we afraid? Yes, but he point is, when fear comes in, you go to higher power, which is what we did to get our answers. We know we're on a mission. The pandemic was not a surprise to the God. God didn't wake up that morning and say, "oh, oh no, there's a pandemic." He knows what's happening. When he has a vision for you, which he has for our company, you just go back to him and say, "you knew this was coming, so what's our role in this? What are we supposed to be doing?" As John said, after praying about it over the weekend, we came back and we were all in agreement that we were moving forward and we're going to position ourselves to grow. When we had the big issue back in 2007-2008, that was an opportunity for us to grow, when a lot of people panicked. Again, we prayed about it and that actually put us in a stronger position by continuing to move forward. We saw that play out again in 2020.
John Houston: [00:13:18] While Terry was talking, one of the things that I was thinking about was,4,700 downloads, 3 continents, 45 countries, and 575 cities. The odds are, you've got some people on here that don't believe in Christ, don't believe in Jesus, and that's okay. We want people to realize our heart and what God has really asked us to do. When we're talking about God, we're talking about Christ. He just told us to love people and love them where they are. We're not trying to talk anybody into anything. I want to make sure they understand that too. You just ask us a question of how do we do that? I think it's important that we do share how we do it and that is how we do it. For us, that's really what it's about. We also don't forget that man, the only reason I know Jesus is because of the love of Jesus. It wasn't until I knew that, that I actually decided to follow him. You don't have to be a Christian work here. You don't have to be a Christian to listen to this. You don't have to be a Christian for us to build a house for you. It is part of our DNA of who I am and who Terry is personally. It is very much a part of what we do, so hopefully that's clear.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:14:34] Yes. I think that as employees for each other, that makes it a really amazing place to work because you can be who you are at whatever point in your life you're at. If you're at a stronger walk or not as good as you could be, nobody's going to check you at the door and say, "can't come in today. You need to get it together a little better." We're all in it together, love each other, help each other out and carry each other when we need to. Somebody's going to carry you when it's vice versa, so I think it's not just something that is said. I can say personally, it's something that is felt and actually done.
John Houston: [00:15:17] Yea, it's even our brand vision. You know, we're really here to help people find their way Home by being joyful, hope filled, loving guides. Any of us can choose to do that.
Whitney Pryor: [00:15:27] Speaking of reaching people, a huge part of our mission and culture is the opportunity to go on mission trips both locally and internationally. We've had to pull back on that for obvious reasons in the past couple of years, but do you foresee us getting back out into those mission trips?
John Houston: [00:15:44] Yeah, we're honestly we're looking at going full speed ahead again this year. We've got multiple mission trips, both in the states and out of the states internationally, already set up. You guys will be hearing about those pretty soon. We're pretty excited about it, but it's also it's also been pretty cool. We just had a team that got back from New Orleans. I talked to some people about how much that impacted their life and how much they really loved to serve those families that were down there. They're was still a lot of things going on that were just part of what we do. A lot of times people like to serve locally, which we still do that. We did that all the way through the pandemic, but people also like to go experience different adventures, places, countries, and different people. The plan is right now, even with Omicron, is to to actually kick that off again this year.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:16:42] There will be a lot of people excited about that! I do love the local stuff. There's something about being in your backyard and the impact that can be had there. To John's point, we never slowed down on financial or even just time, we just maybe had to shift. Instead of getting on a plane, we did something locally.
John Houston: [00:17:07] Yea. The cool part is, as an ESOP, which is an employee stock ownership plan that we move to right before COVID, we've actually been able to increase the last two years on the amount of outreach and missions that we've been doing. We actually did more than we'd ever done. Last year, with our staff, everybody's help and the Lord, obviously, we were able to even do more than that.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:17:35] As we wrapped up 2021 and strategically planned for this year, 2022, can you share some things that are ahead for John Houston Homes and the Family of Companies?
Terry Trayvick: [00:17:46] Yeah, we have some long term goals that we're trying to accomplish for John Houston homes and a portfolio of Companies. We're constantly looking at ways to continue to grow. What we're doing right now, is we have some very specific plans for the business. I can talk a little bit about what we're doing. At TOM, we're accelerating growth there, both organically and we're looking to bring in outside organizations, to join us. We've done a couple of those very successfully over the last couple of years. Within John Houston Homes, what we've done, is we focus near-term on just getting better operationally. As John said, we've gotten a lot better over the last couple of years. Some of it was due to the pandemic. We had to become better communicators. We had to get better with some of our our systems and better at engaging our workforce along the way. From a John Houston Homes perspective, we have a plan of continuing to grow in excess of 20% a year We're doing that by acquiring a lot of lots, that is business for the future and we've also continued to invest in the development of our people. Even recently, we've had some significant changes in the organization to further develop our people. The other thing I would add, from a portfolio perspective, is our entry into the single family attached or multi-family, into that segment, which we had a pretty strong year of first year. We're positioned to really accelerate the growth there and we've just recently assigned a President. Many of you listeners probably know, Jason Dodson is to lead that part of the organization. There are a lot of good plans and in fact, we're going to meet tomorrow, our Executive Team, and start praying about kind of how to continue to grow from here. We believe you're not growing, you're dying, so we want to just continue to grow. We've been blessed to be able to do that successfully from a company that was at zero when John started in 2006, to now a company with five major segments of business and approaching .5 billion dollars of revenue. We don't plan on stopping here. We will just continue to grow that as long as we're alive and beyond!
John Houston: [00:20:15] Yeah, it's honestly a really exciting time for all of us, you know? For us, strategy wise, Terry and his team, as far as John Houston Homes, have done a great job positioning us to where we're positioned right now. They've got some major strategic projects that are on the agenda for this year to get accomplished and they're on track right now to to do that. We've staffed for those, so that we can get those things done. One of the biggest projects, is to make life and doing business with John Houston Homes easier, smoother and more efficient for our customers, for our vendors, our trades and, as well as, for our employees. That's one of the biggest ones that I'm really, really excited about. I'm also really just excited about our teams. Honestly, I look back and I'm like, "man, I just feel like we are so blessed," because the reality is, especially in a market like this, even you guys, everybody on our teams, they choose to work for us, right? What a blessing that is to be able to partner with you guys on what God is doing. I'm honestly just humbled and thankful for our entire staff who actually choose to walk alongside us and run this race with us. what's really cool about it, too, is to see some of our leaders that have just really risen up. You guys know us, we're not big on titles, but we're big on testimony. What are you showing us? What are you doing? To see some of our leaders just rise up.
Terry Trayvick: [00:21:58] I will just build on that a little bit before you go to the next question. You always face challenges in business and you always will. You also have opportunities. I find if you're curious about the challenge and you're curious about finding a solution, as opposed to having a defeated attitude or personality, then you will find a solution in every situation. We've had challenges throughout, since John started this business, but we're always curious about how to deal with that challenge, and I think it has seen us through. I would encourage the listeners out there, don't get caught up in being seen, get curious about how you can do it different going forward. That's worked well for us. We'll continue to be curious and we invite you guys to be curious with us.
Whitney Pryor: [00:22:51] Yeah, I really love that statement and I think that like John said, the people choose to work here and it shows. The people that are on our teams always come with not a position of here's a problem, but here's a solution. How can we make this better? How can we make this more efficient and work better in the future? I love that all of our leadership, even down to the employees and the people in the field, have that attitude of this isn't working, but I have a I have an idea of how this can work. That just goes such a long way, as far as attitude goes.
John Houston: [00:23:31] It makes a huge difference. It's powerful.
Chelsi Frazier: [00:23:34] Yep. What great advice and challenge from Terry on just keep keep pushing through, see the good and see the positive because that's the case for your career and your home life. I mean, so many people have been through so much in the past two years, and it's really opened up some doors, but then also been very difficult too. I think what great advice, just to keep pushing through, keep our heads up, see the positive and see all the great changes, as a world, that we've been able to to do together over the past couple of years.
Whitney Pryor: [00:24:03] Thank you listeners for joining us today on the Welcome Home podcast. We hope that you enjoyed hearing what we've got in store for 2022. If you have any questions or have any feedback or things that you'd like to hear us talk about on the next episode, feel free to give us a call at 866.298.1416. You can also visit our website at jhoustonhomes.com where we have tons of information for you to look over. If you want to join us on social media, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram, as well. Thank you and have a great day.
Chelsi Frazier and Whitney Pryor: [00:24:44] Welcome Home!