Building Homes and Friendships

Every one of Paul Magleby’s clients is also his friend, and that’s the way he wants it. The home building experience that Magleby creates for his clients, as CEO of Magleby Companies Inc. in Lindon, Utah, is one of the reasons the National Association of Home Builders chose him as the 2006 NAHB Custom Home Builder of the Year.

“I want a client to be remembered as one of our good friends, not just a client,” Magleby says. “We have a relationship with them for 18 months, and after all that time if they’re not our friend, then no money is worth the experience. I’d just as soon not have done the project.”

To be recognized as the 2006 Custom Home Builder of the Year from a little state in the West called Utah is a big deal, he insists. “That’s pretty significant. And certainly to be honored by those of your own kind is significant as well. It’s an honor to be recognized by one’s peers,” he says.

Magleby is the first recipient of the new NAHB award, sponsored by Dryvit Systems, which was presented to a surprised Magleby during the Custom Builders Symposium in Lake Las Vegas in October 2006. A fellow NAHB member and friend nominated Magleby for the award to “… recognize this humble, spectacular example of a custom home builder,” the nomination form states. The nomination was kept secret from Magleby for fear that if he knew of the honor, he would duck out to avoid the spotlight.

A humble man, Magleby worked for a local developer, did subcontract work, concrete, framing, finish and exterior work in production housing until about 22 years ago. He built his first custom home for a software developer which took him out of production and into a different realm.

Big business brought money into the Utah Valley area, and Magleby became known and sought after in the community for custom home work.

With 75 employees, Magleby Companies does more than its competitors, and for good reason. “It’s a control issue,” he says. “When we can’t get trade contractors to perform according to a timeline we committed to, we have to take control of it. That’s part of why we have our own framing crew. Not too long ago we couldn’t get a framing crew or excavator to come out sooner than four to eight weeks,” he adds. “Nobody does what we do. Others might dabble in their own mill, or have some excavation equipment, but no one has developed to the level we have.”

In addition to office and field management staff, Magleby Companies self-performs cabinet millwork, excavation and framing. Another residential specialties division handles remodeling and maintenance.

Magleby Companies operates on a cost-plus basis dubbed Clear Build, says Paul’s son Chad. Clear Build is an open-book system that provides clients with a sense of transparency by putting all information on the table. “We don’t hide anything, and don’t try to undersell our clients. They know our costs and margins.” Magleby has lost work because of this, but ultimately those customers have come back and said they wished they chose Magleby because it cost them more in the end than Magleby would have charged, Paul Magleby says.

Magleby attributes much of his success to involvement in NAHB, he explains. “We have always looked to that forum for solutions to our growth problems. We always had a purpose in going to NAHB conventions. In our early days, we were doing accounting manually and made an effort to look at all the accounting software programs at the show. As we grew more, it was employee issues we focused on so we made an effort to go to seminars that helped us understand employees, and to be a better employer.”

Some people focus too much on looking at all the “things,” when the real value of attending the builders show is the education. “It’s so cheap. The instructors have had your problems and developed a solution, so why should we have to pay tuition to go through those experiences when I can sit in a seminar and get a lot of good information?” he asks.

According to Plan

Paul Magleby’s passion is seeing the dirt move, putting the pieces together and watching a house grow out of the ground. “We view our homes as artwork, and our clients get to enjoy our art. They live in it,” he says. “It becomes part of their lives, and it’s functional, too.”

Magleby Companies works closely with architecture firms on roughly 80 percent of the homes it builds. The majority of clients come to Magleby first before going to an architect or designer. Contracts are made with clients who are then brought together with the architect.

“We want to guide the architect, and want him to include details the way we want to build it,” he says. “Then, when we get the plans, we know it’s something that’s buildable. We’ve worked out any inefficiencies by that time. The result is the project can be built more quickly and more economically.”

In his humble way, Magleby is quick to point out he’s not a home building genius. He gives a lot of credit to the people who work with him.

“The good folks we’ve aligned ourselves with are a huge part of our success. It’s not that I’m brilliant; it’s that I collect ideas into a system and procedures so we can deliver a better product to the client. We want to meet or exceed their expectations so they say, ‘The experience has been beyond what we expected.’ That’s our payment.”

Asked to name the qualities he admires about his father, Chad Magleby mentions his constant pursuit of perfection, his sincere desire to mentor those around him and his passion for creating an environment where craftsmen have an opportunity to perform at their very highest level. Paul also genuinely cares about his employees, Chad notes. “He not only cares about them, but about all the many aspects of their lives such as families, hobbies, education, etc.,” Chad says.

Working with his father so closely, Chad has learned a thing or two about running a successful custom home building business. “Integrity. Be absolutely true to your word at all times and in all places,” Chad says. “And take care of your people. They are the most important asset any company will ever have. If your people are genuinely treated well, then they will often give you all that they have in terms of hard work and loyalty.”