Prior to attending the awards luncheon in October 2008, Ed Nikles Sr. learned that a colleague had submitted an application on his behalf to be named the 2008 NAHB Custom Home Builder of the Year. He also knew the level of competition he faced, so he wasn’t expecting to win that day.
When Nikles, president/owner of Ed Nikles Custom Builder in Milford, Pa., realized he won the award during the 2008 NAHB Custom Builder Symposium in Austin, Texas, he was humbled. “It’s a great feeling to know you’re being recognized for the work you do for your customers and your community,” Nikles says. He knew other builders under consideration built bigger homes than he did, but ultimately learned there was more to the award than the size of the homes he builds.
It was the work Nikles does behind the scenes and within the community that contributed to winning the award, says his son Ed Nikles Jr. “There are a lot of things people don’t see on a daily basis. For example, we use a lot of subcontractors that he helped get started in business. One of our plumbers retired, so dad took [the plumber’s] helper and got him started on his own. He also has mentored a lot of other young builders in the trade who now come to him for advice. He really enjoys his Builder 20 group as a way to help others.”
Nikles Sr. launched the local Home Builders Association, served at the state level, as state president, and has been a strong voice in the community. “He is the most self-motivated person I’ve ever met. It’s extremely exciting from a company perspective, and a personal perspective, to see my father win the award,” Nikles Jr. says. “Seeing what he does on a daily basis, what he has done for the local home builders association as the founding president, state president, and serving within NAHB for many years, he definitely has earned it. He has worked his whole career to better himself and the industry in general, and I’m proud of what he has created.”
In His Blood
Building has always been in Nikles’ blood. As a child, his favorite toys were building blocks and Lincoln Logs. He was always building something, including in high school when he’d sign out of study hall and walk into industrial arts class to work on various projects.
Nikles’ key to success is to do the things you love to do. “I’ve seen some builders get into this market, get off on different tangents, and they don’t concentrate on the core of the business, and are not successful doing that. Focus on what you can be most successful at, stay focused on that direction, and you should be the most successful. And don’t be the same as your competition; be different so you stand out,” he advises.
Innate drive, differentiation and a commitment to doing what you like are a few ingredients for success, but a bit of luck never hurts, either. Nikles admits he has been fortunate at times. “At one point we were stuck with spec homes that we were able to rent out. Eventually we sold them to those who rented them. So it seems that every time a tough situation like this came around, something always occurred that got us through it,” he says.
Ed Nikles Custom Builder focuses on being on the cutting edge of the industry, trying new products or systems, implementing what is learned from Nikles’ Builder 20 group, going to trade shows, and in general keeping the business ahead of the curve, Nikles Jr. notes. “If green building will be the norm in five years, then we must be doing it now so when five years comes around, it’s old hat to us,” he says.
How it Began
Nikles began his home building career with a partner doing remodeling and renovation work referred from his father who sold homes that needed improvements. The two grew the business and built their first house in 1966. Soon after, their cleverly placed model home landed a deal to build about 100 homes annually for a local developer.