Nothing is left to chance at Payne & Payne Builders. Growth is controlled, profit is prescribed and survival is expected. A calculated approach works for this residential design/build firm in Chardon, Ohio, and helps maintain harmony among the two sets of Payne brothers managing it.
The last months of 2009 were busy at Payne & Payne, and the first quarter of 2010 has been jammed with starts backing into the second quarter. Mike Payne Jr., vice president of operations, says the strongest indicator of activity is clients being more decisive. “In the past, business would fall off as one year ends and another begins. But now we’re seeing great leads, qualified leads, so good starts and leads are coming in and the pipeline looks pretty good. It’s a mixed bag for many of our peers, but for our market, what we’ve lined up, it’s outside of what the market is doing,” he says.
In recognition of its success, Payne & Payne Builders was recognized as the 2009 Custom Home Builder of the Year by the NAHB’s Custom Builder Committee. The honor roused a sense of pride among all Payne employees, and humbled one of the firm’s founders, Michael Payne. “I know of so many other great custom builders, and I think any one of a dozen others would deserve it, but this is a great honor that means a lot,” Payne says.
Awards and careful business management, however, can’t shield even the most successful business owners from the housing downturn and economic recession. Payne & Payne Builders has experienced struggles as well, but to a lesser degree, one could argue.
The edge of the cliff came in September 2008 which was the builder’s biggest year ever, says Eric Payne, vice president, administration and product development. “We were cooking along fine and had a good book of prospects even then. The bottom dropped out as one at a time our prospect base eroded over a few weeks. It was a little spooky,” he recalls.
Still, Payne & Payne Builders is doing well, and David C. Payne knows why. “The amount of effort put into what we do is significant. We’re good at problem solving. It takes a lot for us to feel we hit a road block. We’re creative and can find solutions most times.”
Solving problems translates to success and growth, but Payne & Payne Builders’ growth has been customer-driven, not part of a business strategy, Michael says. This doesn’t mean there’s no strategy involved in the builder’s success.
In fact, says Mike Jr., strategic planning has always been part of the plan.
“We can look into the future and our capabilities and decide how to handle the work coming up. We’re not just reacting to market conditions; that’s poor business. We’re making strategic decisions for how to manage the workload coming up. When facing trying times, there’s nothing that supports you more than the culture built during good times. That starts with good people, and we have a team of incredible people that treat this company like it’s their business. At the end of the day, it’s that group of hard-working people that I believe made us stand out,” Mike Jr. says.
Brothers in Business
Six Payne men are responsible for keeping the builder operating efficiently: Michael and his brother David S. who founded the business, and Mike Jr., Eric, David C. and Brian who are Michael’s sons. Their roles are as follows: Michael is co-founder and retired president; David S. is co-founder and production supervisor; Mike Jr. is vice president of operations; Eric is vice president, administration and product development; David C. is vice president of sales, and Brian is project manager.
The roles the brothers play were not assigned or chosen. Each brother grew into their current responsibilities. Strengths and weaknesses helped determine where each would do the most good. “We all respect each other’s opinions.
In the worst case, two people might have a disagreement, but there’s always conversation going back and forth, and things get worked out. And once a course of action is decided, we’re all on board,” David C. says.