Lean, Mean and Legally Clean

A shrinking resource pool of craftsmen forced Mike Holmes, president, Holmes Construction in Reno, Nev., to either find new resources or reduce his targets. So, he downsized and reduced volume to survive. He found new jobs for all former employees, outsourced his CAD operation, engineering and client coordination services.

But Holmes did not outsource design. “It’s a very competitive advantage I have in my market. There are not many who think design/build is an advantage, so that’s my advantage. We’ve got an inbred architectural base in Reno where three or four main architects are in competition for who can design the biggest and best monument. They don’t care what builders say; they design big.”

The result of downsizing and reducing volume has exceeded Holmes’ expectations. “I’m having much better professional and personal lives. I do not have overhead concerns eating at me all day, every day. I also have more flexibility to turn on a dime; I’m more like a hummingbird than a hippo,” Holmes says.

Throughout his transition from large to small, empowerment has been a standing policy. The spirit of design/build permeates trade partners, subcontractors and staff. “Since all these team members are involved from day one, and know the client and a project so well, they understand the big picture. This way they can answer questions confidently and quickly, which builds comfort and confidence with the client,” he adds.

Holmes made another big move after being burned by a litigious client. The client’s actions shed light on exactly how exposed he was professionally and personally. He tightened up the ship and set sail. He transformed into an owner’s agent, sitting on the same side of the liability table as lawyers and clients.

“Custom home customers are demanding more control of their homes, so I give it to them. I am their consultant,” he explains. “They take ownership of their decisions, and I am not blamed for a bad decision. It’s a completely different dynamic when sitting on the same side of the table as the client while reviewing bids. I can say I know product A is cheaper but B is a better value, and they know I have no secret agenda. Relationships are much easier in a frictionless environment when you are all on the same side of the table. I remove the perception that there’s something to be suspicious about.”

Andersen Windows & Doors • American Standard • Bosch CertainTeed/Presidential Shake • Grohe • GE Kolbe Windows & Doors • Kohler • Kichler Lighting • Schlage