Keeping the Future in Sight

Running a successful home building business is tough enough, especially when doing it with three brothers. So when two of them succumb to cancer within one year, the challenges, and emotions, quickly multiply.

The deaths of Tim Hensley’s brothers — Greg and Russell — affected revenue for Hensley Custom Building Group in Cincinnati. Some competitors took advantage, Hensley says, which took away from sales. “I was even questioning if I wanted to keep doing this. But I realized I had a passion and love for the industry. My son John came on and now my daughter Abigail is on staff, too. It’s back to being a family business,” Hensley says.

This tough experience made Hensley realize how important it is to have a game plan. He made a plan for buying out his brother, identified challenges, and where the company wanted to be in five years. “We ID’d key team members, projected sales, disposed of inventory and directed business toward key market areas,” he adds.

Custom communities with high price points is where Hensley’s product fits best. Hensley ceased building on the west side of Cincinnati and focused on the high-end north and east sides. Lots cost about $900,000 and the homes sell for roughly $2 to $3 million.

Hard work and determination are parts of a good plan, but sometimes luck plays a hand. In 1999, a realtor contacted Hensley about 88 acres of land that was part of the estate of a local industrialist family. A family member was selling, so Hensley pursued him. “I was able to contract with him to buy 88 acres. That was our first big development. He called back later with another 80 acres, which I also bought. So it was another stroke of luck. We secured two key land positions in a hot area. Still, we sold a few lots to competitors to ease some risk.”

While Hensley’s brothers were sick, a competitor suggested merging, but Hensley first wanted to do a project together. So in another aggressive move, Hensley joined forces with the competitor to purchase 200 more lots, to the disappointment of competitors who thought they’d get a piece of the huge parcel.

The two former foes urged the developer to sell the 200 lots only to them, suggesting it would be easier for the developer to deal with two builders rather than banging heads with 15. “Plus, this way we don’t have to beat each other up to make a profit.”

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