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As a small business owner/builder there are always new challenges to face and overcome. Jennifer Hoffman shares with us her journey and growth over the last two years.

Show highlights Include:

  • How to position yourself for growth (even during times of record-breaking inflation) (4:40)
  • How to avoid stretching yourself too thin as the price of material and labor skyrockets (7:55)
  • How to guide client’s expectations and manage overhead at the same time.  (10:30)
  • What to include in your preliminary estimate before signing a contract to ensure a happy relationship with your client (17:16)
  • How to effectively pivot between a cost-plus and fixed price business model to better position yourself in today’s environment (18:35)
  • Two reasons why hanging out with other peer groups can fast track your success (and where to find them) (30:40)

To connect with Jenny you can reach her at www.jhoffmanstudio.com

To connect with Duane, Dave, or one of our show guests head over to https://buildernuggets.com and join our active community of like-minded builders and remodelers.

Read Full Transcript

Everyone needs a mastermind.

Welcome to builder nuggets hosted by Dwayne Johns and Dave young. Hey, our mission is simple. Build freedom, Where a couple of entrepreneurs turn business coaches who have dedicated ourselves to helping our builder. Remodeler clients create the most rewarding businesses in the Industry. My cohost Dwayne has been a successful builder and remodeler for over 30 years. He's seen the highs and the lows from the beginning though. Dwayne has been on a quest to find a better way to run a contracting business in 2016, he found that better way. That's how I met Dave, a lifelong entrepreneur and visionary who measures his success by the success of those around him. He reached out one day with a formula on how to transform my business. And the rest is history. Since then, we've teamed up to help hundreds of contractors like you build better businesses and better lives. And now we've decided to open up our network and share our secrets so we can start moving the needle with you. It's collaboration over competition. Each week we bring together industry peers and experts who share their stories so that we can all build freedom together. Many of our guests become regular contributors to the show. Today's guest was introduced to the builder nuggets community during episode 15, titled what is she doing here today? She's back to talk about her journey and growth over the last two years with a background in architecture and construction, she founded her company in 2015 with a focus on designing and building custom modern dream homes. She is very active in the industry and is an advocate for professional women pursuing careers in construction. It's my pleasure to welcome back Jenny Hoffman from Jay Hoffman studio design build in chapel hill, North Carolina to the show. Welcome Jennifer.

(01:40): Hi, Dwayne and Dave. Nice to see you again. It's always great to see you and a fellow north Carolinian and you and I spoke a while back and, uh, a whole lot has changed since we had you on mm-hmm I think in the we've had COVID we've had price increases. We've had shortage of labor short, all sorts of stuff. I mean, mm-hmm um, what have you been up to since we last talked ? Well, I'll tell you right off that when you approached me and asked me to come on the podcast again, I hesitated because I feel like it's been such a jumble the last couple years and we've come out stronger and we've learned a lot, but I also feel like this could be an episode about what not to do and what mistakes I've made, but of course it feels like going through the pandemic in the building industry, in a small company that doubled in size during the pandemic, I feel like it pushed me through some growing pains that would've taken me a lot longer under normal circumstances. So I feel like it leveled up my business practices by necessity sink or swim. So works been interesting. Yeah. And I mean, I that's really what we wanna dive more into. Um, but before we do let's why don't we just for folks that maybe haven't, didn't hear your first episode, just a little bit about yourself, your background, business, and anything else you'd like to share.

(02:59): Okay. Uh, so I'm a mom of three single mom of three and started my business in 2015 after having been home with my kids for 12 or 13 years. And, um, I had a background in architecture and renovated every house I had ever lived in. And I worked my way towards a career as a general contractor. And it slowly blossomed into a design build company. You said you were hesitant to do this a little bit, and you explained your reasons why, but it's precisely for those reasons. And the fact that so many people tune into the show to hear the stories that are relatable, uh, to them, which makes it even more important that you're coming on to, to share them and to share what you've been through. And we totally, we totally appreciate that. And the fact that you have the, the courage and the confidence to share some of the things that went wrong, that's really powerful because that's how many of us learn. Those are some of the best nuggets that we ever get. So we're, we're looking forward to, uh, hearing about all that. You've continued to be active as a leader in our industry. And aside from, you know, just those things that you've you've mentioned, and we wanna get into your, your personal story of what you've experienced within the business. What have you seen over the last few years, or since we talked, it's been a consistent theme with fellow builders and remodelers, and you touched on it, these could be successes or failures, maybe, maybe starting with what's worked for you, what didn't work, what you learned and do you feel like everybody's in the same boat on these things?

(04:34): You know, it's interesting. I think that there's some things that we've had to overcome and learn from that are specific to the design build model. Um, just to dive in with what we were dealing with, what we have had happened with clients. And now we're better prepared to deal with, with clients is that at the beginning of the pandemic, we were comfortably receiving regular leads and the leads were ramping up as the pandemic went on and people were stuck at home. And, and I think that that was across the board, right. But what we found started to happen because we're in the design build model, is that we would get people started with a preliminary estimate before design based on the scope that we were working towards. And then design would take us four months, six months, nine months. And we do continue to update estimates through the design process, but there's always this morphing of through design. The scope always changes and grows a little bit. So you expect, you expect costs to rise, but you don't. The pandemic was still a surprise to every client that over those 4, 6, 9 months of design, that the cost would, would rise as steeply as it did for the cost of construction. So when we ordinarily would have expected that after we go through the first round of schematics and we have something that we've kind of nailed down, we take it back to the estimating process and come back, we expect that the cost is gonna go up and that we're gonna have to readjust scope slightly nip and tuck here and there, but we would have such big changes that it would send us back to the drawing board in a more comprehensive way than we were used to before. So right at the design phase, it was taking longer to move through the process.

(06:29): So what became tricky for us is, you know, and I, I mean, I can go on from there, of course, getting to the, I mean, the list goes on and on of the ways in which projects were delayed and what was the challenge for my business is that I think the biggest cause for challenges in my business is that we used to do our financial projections based on our estimated construction income for a design build project. As soon as we signed the design build contract. So we might still be anticipating nine months of design before that cons you know, we would have design income, but then construction income would follow behind after permitting. And we would put in a nice cushion for that period of time, but base our annual financial projections on that sort of thing. But to have the timeline for design and permitting and getting financing lined up and talking to banks about home equity lines of credit or construction loans when banks were not keeping up with the rising cost of construction and real estate comps, so challenging.

(07:35): So it delayed things across the board. And then of course you get under construction and we all know how so many things were delayed in construction. So I doubled the size of my company based on many leads and new newly signed contracts. And the numbers were all working out, but I started to feel stretched thin to keep up with overhead and not get into just a break even situation because of the projected timelines. So it's taught us to be much more conservative with our projections. For example, we don't even think about, we don't even conceptualize about projected construction income on a design build project until we've completely finished design and they have signed off on their final construction contract price, and we are basically ready to pull permits. And so the best, you know, the worst case scenario is that we only walk away with that design income, but we've projected only that design income. So Yeah, pipelines become very, very difficult to depend on right now in this environment. It's funny. We had a, we had a guy Steve Sims on not too long ago that, um, and I love the line that he said, he's like, you know, if you wanna make a million dollars set your goal at 10 and fail at five, Right?

(08:46): Yeah. You know, and I mean, I think that's so true in this environment that we have. I, I, I can't think of a builder or modeler. I haven't talked to that. Isn't, hasn't dealt with exactly what you're thinking about. You know, it's for six months going on 12 months, day after day, it's like we couldn't deliver good news to the client. You know, everything was absolutely a, a struggle and everything was more expensive. And like you said, on the positive side, we all saw pipelines and, and potential revenues growing, growing, growing. But the, the ability to actually get that stuff through to construction and then completed a whole different set of challenges really I'll totally relate. Yeah. Totally relate with what you're Saying. Yep. And folks that would come to us thinking that they had a workable construction budget at the beginning of the process might find that they had to their scopes when it finally came time to break ground. So it's, it's tightened up a lot of our practices, including design. Now, when we take people through the design process, I'm less likely to be the indulgent. Let's just have fun with it. Designer, tell me, you know, let's, let's just go for it and really design what you love and then we'll price it. And we can just pull it back if we need to, at this point, I feel like I'm trying to pull people back to the simplest, most basic version of what they wanna build. And let's just see if we can accomplish that scope for their budget. Cuz usually that's even a push right now getting into upgraded fixtures and finishes and expanded square footages and beautiful outdoor spaces.

(10:14): Yeah. And what a frustration for folks on the design side, this environment has forced them to design towards what's available, True towards what's available and trying to still get, you know, I, I think because as a design builder, my goal is always to, you know, I wanna keep the cash flow going. I wanna keep the company going and I wanna see these design projects actualized in the build. So I wanna see people get the most bang for their buck or they're not gonna be inclined to pursue it. And it'll just die on the drawing board. I think it's made us better designers. I think we're, we're not as much fun maybe as we used to be to work with because we have to be the Debbie downer and say, absolutely, we can do that if you are willing to add X to the budget right then and there in the beginning of the conversation. So I think that the way that the pandemic has tightened up my business is we don't spend as much time in the gray area with clients. We're more blunt and transparent about every aspect of economics as soon as possible just to put everybody, you know, not to waste. Anybody's time

(11:22): You talk about the start of the conversation. And the biggest challenge through these times has been communicating these things and educating the client and, and reframing expectation in the beginning, it was particularly challenging because you didn't know what was going to happen. So you didn't have insight into that. So we'd love to hear about some of the, some of the things you faced and how you've dealt with them during that period. But you fast forward to, okay, we can see these things. We know that there's, there's a little more predictability to the unpredictability, so to speak mm-hmm mm-hmm um, how did you go about reframing expectations? What were the conversations? And the conversations were probably very different in that first nine months versus versus now you touched on it on a few of those things, but what do those conversations look like? Are you, are you just, you, you mentioned we're doing it sooner. Maybe talk about the differences there and what you experienced and how clients responded to it. Like now they're aware of it back when they weren't that's when you were managing instead of setting the expect

(12:24): Mm-hmm mm-hmm well, I think that because there was more play in what people might be able to afford, we might be able to, somebody would give us a budget and we would say, okay, so we have enough room within this budget that we can hit the bullet points of your ideal scope. And we'll be able to add a little fluff here and there for the fixtures and finishes. We can, we can upgrade here and there. And we just kind of knew that we would give them a budget that would give them some financial cushion. And now, you know, we'll give folks a preliminary estimate, that'll have a range of our, what we, you know, basically if the, if the client were to go to Tahiti for a year and leave us completely on our own, we're pretty confident that we could hit the low end of that budget. But then of course, if we take you through the, the design process and we get you into fixtures and finishes, and there's the inevitable change order over the course of construction, we're probably gonna lend at the higher end we've of course, that preliminary estimate, the whole estimate has shifted up and we've started to tell clients to, you know, rather than we're gonna do our best to keep you at the lower end of the spectrum. Now I'm saying for your own peace of mind, you need to be expecting that we're gonna land at the higher end of the budget. And maybe even cushion that in your mind and another 10 or 20%, make sure you feel comfortable there and then you'll have cushion. It's just a different type of conversation. Now,

(13:55): A bigger cushion, definitely. When you were, when you were, you talked about the initial, you know, get started as estimate. They need something to know, even if they want to invest in the, in the design phase that's before you that's spend their, their money. Were you using a ranged estimate, even at that time, how deep were you going in the estimation phase before you were getting into there? Because that, that matters a lot. The, the deeper you go and the more detail, the more the client, it really does that. You've nailed it. Um, Very good point. It's it's always a little tricky because our process is that we will put together, I'm gonna say a free estimate, but it's based on press projects. It's we sit down and it takes us less than an hour and a half or two hours. And we put together a comprehensive, preliminary estimate. That's gonna have a breakdown of all the categories of construction. It'll include our markups. It'll include design, it'll include interior design services, um, full cost of construction, turnkey. So we do break it down pretty narrowly, but at this point we're not under contract. And what we tell people is our goal with a preliminary estimate is to get that estimate to a point where it lands in your financial comfort zone. At that point, we'll go under contract, we'll start the design process based on this loose scope that we've laid out, that's our sort of placeholder.

(15:19): And then as design develops, the goals is to stay within that range, right? So it is hard to nail down with clients, their expectation for level of finishes. Before we've started design, we will ask them lots and lots of educated questions, and we'll ask them for some early images and things like that in those early conversations. But I will say that it's hard to it's it's always been hard to figure out that sweet spot of a preliminary estimate for a client where, you know, you wanna, you wanna get under contract with folks. You wanna sign, you wanna sign a contract and seal a deal and get rolling on work. So you need to come to a compromise on what their expectation is, but before you've done design, how, and you've, you know, people hire you for design because it's hard for them to do on their own. The place that we start is with advanced training techniques, uh, sealed crawl spaces, good quality windows, a mid-level range of fixtures and finishes. We describe this, the standard cabinets that we use in the hardware, that sort of thing. Um, our expectation for a mid-range plumbing and electrical allowance. And sometimes we've got clients that just comfortably follow our guidance and we can keep them there. But I would say it's, it's frequent that we'll have clients that come in saying, we are very happy with what you're suggesting, mid rage, fixture, and finish selection. We love what we see on your website. Let's just plan on that. And then we get into design and their tastes are changing and that's fine. That's just a change order. That's fine. But what's been tough in the pandemic is trying to break down for clients. What happened when they went to the, with an allowance of X it's more?

(17:17): What, what happened that we started off with this preliminary estimate. We went through the design process. Now, now we have a much better idea of their level of fixtures of finishes, and we've gotta go back and do what we call the intermediate estimate to make sure that we're all on the same page, but we've had prices climbed across the board. Every, every aspect of construction has gotten more expensive and they've gotten into higher fixtures and finishes. So there's always this push pull of how much of that was bad estimating and how much of that was escalation of materials and how much of that was the client's, the client's taste and, and things that evolved during the design process. Basically, it's more complicated. It's just more complicated. So everything that we can do to be crystal clear about expectations earlier on makes us stronger A, a, a few questions here. So when, when you were going through that, uh, estimated the initial estimating phase, and you had your line items broken out, were those ranged as well? Or was that just, yes. Okay. Yep. And just for, for clarity, your business model, are you using a, a cost plus business model? Good question. We started with a fixed price model with allowances, for fixtures and finishes, and we now have moved more building materials and some labor costs into the allowance line items and our future contracts that we're in negotiation with now will be cost plus.

(18:53): And how did you make that decision? What went, what went through your mind for you to commit to that? I mean, I'm still flexible with clients, but I'm more transparent about, you know, we, we switched to a fixed price because, you know, when you have a cost plus contract, you have to be very transparent about where the money's going. You might end up in a micromanagement situation with your clients who mean, well, they're earnest and they're interested, but they don't always understand the push and pull. And the way that, you know, you, you Rob from Peter to Paul and your line items to keep the numbers on track. So it's just simpler to say, tell you what we're gonna agree on. A, a rate that we feel confident is gonna cover your project. And we are gonna build in a little bit more cushion, but then you have a guaranteed cost for this project. And the only variabilities are going to be change orders that you initiate or unseen conditions that we encounter that we could not have anticipated.

(19:49): Well now unforeseen conditions is the entire market. So now what, what would I'll say to clients is I'm still open to cost plus or fixed price, and you'll still have the peace of mind of a fixed price contract. There are still many line items that we can put in a fixed price contract, but they need to understand that I probably will give them a lower markup and they have the potential for saving money with a cost plus contract. However, they also bear the risk just like we do of the costs rising. So I, I think that it improves client relationships right now to go into a cost plus contract, because we're all riding the tide together, but you, you know, your clients are still going to depend on you to somehow have a crystal ball and anticipate what's coming down the pike for material cost changes. And they're still gonna be surprised and disappointed when costs go beyond what anybody could have anticipated, Wanna level up, connect with us to share your stories, ideas, challenges, and successes. The builder nuggets community is built on your experiences. It takes less than a minute to connect with us@buildernuggets.com, Facebook or Instagram, Want access to the resources that can take you and your team to the next level. One call could change everything.

(21:12): Yeah. And so will you, which is why it's smart to switch to that model, frankly, because now you don't have to bear all those unknown risks on your own. Like, it's not fair. This is how builders are, you know, don't finish projects because there's no longer money in the project to complete it. And, and if they have enough of them going, this is, this is the race to the dead end where, you know, you just can't complete, you just don't have the resources. You know, one thing that's just to be mindful of. And that's, you know, we've seen all sorts of changes over the last couple of years and things are new and we've had builders and remodelers that really never entertained or thought about things like escalation clauses and how to properly use them, include them in their mm-hmm their contracts. And then, um, you know, we've had people that went well, I'll just, just throw everything into an allowance. And then that ends up usually in miserable failure. And, and then we've had people say that they're gonna switch to, you know, to a cost plus model, which we're, we're big proponents of, but you don't just switch to a cost plus model either. You know, there's, there's things that come with that, that have to be done, right. There has to be a ton of stuff behind the scenes. Mm-hmm to support that information, transparency, transparency to the yeah. Transparency to the max mm-hmm . So again, it's, it's a great point to bring up, but it's, it's one of those things that has to be well thought out, or you can create a whole new slew of problems for, for yourself Absolutely End in what you, to your point earlier, um, blown expectations.

(22:32): So, yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, the other thing that I was thinking about that's changed with clients and leads in terms of the viable projects. And this is just the, sort of the sad state of affairs. Everybody's talking about mortgage rates going up and how affordable housing is more and more of an oxymoron. I mean, everybody's getting edged out of the market. It's the same with construction. I feel like our demographic before the pandemic were, I don't know if there's a middle class anymore, but I would say it was folks that were living in homes that were in our area. The average home price was maybe a 600 or $700,000 home. And they were putting 3, 4, 5 into it. And now those same renovations are three quarters, more or double. Um, so the same demographic that was our core client base has really kind of gone outta the running.

(23:32): Most of those are having a much harder time qualifying for financing, or they can get financing, but they can't afford to make up the difference between what the bank will approve and what yeah. And, um, and what they can afford to make up. So what's happened in our area. Is there are lots of folks moving to this part of North Carolina because cost of homes is less expensive than in Dallas or Los Angeles or New York. So they're moving here with bigger pocket books. They're more likely to be self-funded. So we're serving a wealthier client base now, which on the, you know, it's sounds great. Right. But I also feel like the numbers are gonna be less like that. That means that our demographic has shrunk. We have a, a wealthier demographic, but there's less of them. So it makes me nervous to have a business model that's dependent on these high end clients. I'd love to figure out. And I just, you know, I hope that construction becomes more affordable again for our, you know, for the demographic that's, that's dying for renovations out there. It's it's out in the stratosphere. Now.

(24:48): It, it comes down to consumer confidence. The, the wealthier clients are still insulated. They have the confidence, they can weather the storm of increasing fuel prices, cost of living, all that sort of thing. They have more confidence to still proceed with a dream project. Whereas somebody else, when it was tight for them, they, they were in go for it mode mm-hmm . And now the, the cost of borrowing what they needed to do it because they weren't pure cash. Uh, clients that's gone up, their valuation has gone down so they can get less money. They pay more for it. And the cost of everything has gone up. So that really, yeah, that really takes away the consumer competence for the bracket that you are talking about mm-hmm and defers them likely to some stage or they switch to will just remodel what we have.

(25:37): Yeah. I mean, what my, I would say the way that I'm trying to address that. And I guess the other thing I wanna say about that is that the other thing that's interesting about the demographic shift is that I would say our typical clients before who were growing families and they, you know, the mom and dad had just hit a point of financial comfort where they could afford to add on a master suite and they could renovate their kitchen. They wanted to make their existing house work better for them, or they bought a new house and they wanted to build it out. Those folks are just having such a hard time in staying in the running for that. So the new demographic are wealthier, but their lifestyles are different. They are more likely to, this is a second home for them, or this is their, their forever home. And they want it to be their dream home. So they're not worried about resale values in five or 10 years. Money continues, even though the interest rates have gone up money continues to, to be historically still fairly cheap to borrow mm-hmm . Uh, but what's, what's starting to sneak in again, is it it's like it took so long after, you know, the great recession for comps to come anywhere, back to normal. Well, now we're getting in that scenario again, where prices have just shot up home prices have shot up so much that the comps aren't getting anywhere near it. That's great. And even people that wanna, you know, invest in possibly a, a million dollar or $2 million project, you know, they probably do have the cash, but they're gonna say, no, I'd rather borrow some of that, cuz the money is cheap, but the cops aren't there to do it. So there there's just, again, there's just a host, there's always a new host of challenges that comes through all these things.

(27:07): Mm-hmm, interesting to bring all those out. Yeah. What, what else have you seen? I mean, you said you've kind of doubled in growth. Have you seen stuff from the, whether it's staffing or the people that you're bringing on or just processes system, you know, growing labor business itself. Yeah. Yeah. Your, your project management labor would, it'd be really interesting to dig into that because you have this growth period. Now you're looking at maybe scaling back you've, you've ramped up on a lot of different things. Those are new challenges and expectations and, and rising cost of living for your employees and fuel costs for trucks and everything like that. How's that affected you? Yeah. Oh, well, like I said, we, you know, I feel like I had to tighten my belt as a business owner and just, you know, I wanted to keep everybody on payroll as much as we possibly could. I didn't cut anybody back. We continued to grow, but there was a point in time where I was watching the bank account to make sure that we were keeping ahead of, of, of overhead. Even though I could see by the end of the year, our financial projections, where we were still gonna come out in the black to get through these dips of income because projects were so protracted is what's been challenging. So what Gary, who is my, one of our project managers, he's the operations lead and he helps me with sales. So what he and I have been doing is really hustling through our leads and working to close more contracts more quickly so that we've got a solid pipeline of work.

(28:37): And like I said, we've changed our projection method. So we don't project our construction income until we are ready to break ground on those design build projects. So it's made things a lot safer for us, but for sure, my goal and everybody in the company knows it is that by the end of 2022, I wanna be doling out some raises because all of our cost of living is going up. Um, I remembered something I wanted to, to say about how our design model and our build model is changing just a little bit. When we work with clients who were our more typical demographic, I really try to coach people to think about, we wanna get you a space that works really well for you and your family. And we wanna try and keep the investment safe for you. So let me be your advisor in thinking about your house as a flip. Let's not think about it as let's see if we can remove a little bit of that emotional attachment to this project and think about how do we make this work really well for you and be something that you feel more confident you'd be able to turn around and sell in the next few years if you needed to. So hopefully clients are feeling well taken care of in spite of the onslaught of costs, but our markups, you know, our numbers have gone up too. So we're, I'm sorry,

(29:58): You know, you and I had talked about, and this was going back to the first episode you did with us at the time you were, you know, getting more involved in HBA, some builder groups. And I think since we've talked, then you've joined a builder 20 group mm-hmm and I think you've, uh, even helped, uh, launch a, a level up group. Tell, tell us a little bit more about that, cuz we're always that's of course what we do with the podcast. We're big on sharing and collaborating. I mean, what, tell us a little bit about that. How has that helped you as a business owner? Sure. And yeah, Yeah, sure. Well, I had been working with individual business coaches, one on one, and it was hugely helpful just as I was starting to craft a business and starting to think about hiring and business processes. But I got to a point where I really wanted a forum of peers that I could talk to and bounce ideas off of instead of having, you know, one or two local friends that I could call for real advice, I just felt like I needed more of a network. And I had been referred to the home builders association, builder 20 programs, and I applied, but the pandemic had just gotten started and their, you know, their ability to put new builder, 20 groups together was not great. And so my application sat and sat and sat and you know, and I was really feeling like desperate sometimes for gosh, I just really wish I had a forum of people that I could quickly ask questions of and we could trust each other.

(31:21): So I'm on the board of the, my local home builders association. And we were talking about what are our goals for? It was probably 20, 21, what are our goals? And, you know, I raised my hand. My big goal is I would love to see our local home builders association provide more professional development and more, uh, opportunity for like a master group. You know, uh, what's what like a round table of, um, business owners, builders that could lean on each other. And so that turned into creating the, what we call the level up program, which is a, a one year series professional development program that was offered to our first group of home builders. And we've got home builders and associates. And so we've got our first group and every other month we're bringing in speakers to talk on various business development processes. We have them do homework, they work with each other, they bounce each other ideas off of each other.

(32:21): So while that was coming together, I actually was accepted into a builder 20 program. So I started that and we've just had our third, no second meeting in person. So I feel like we're just getting into it, but what's really awesome about the builder 20 program is the humbling transparency that's required. We all had to submit our company financials in great detail, all using the same spreadsheet and, and share it with the, the national builder 20 economist who then came in and spent a day with our group doing a PowerPoint presentation company by company and looking at how our balance sheets and profit in and loss sheets, the story that it told about our businesses and compared and contrasted. So we could quickly learn, holy cow, look how that guy's numbers are coming out. And he's got this really unusual business practice. And look how this person who was following a more traditional model was suffering because of it or this person who wasn't tracking project management hours could be, you know, which should be increasing their, uh, their markups, that sort of thing. Talking our language.

(33:35): Yeah. I feel like it's, um, it's already been hugely helpful and I'm really excited to see where it takes us. Everyone needs a mastermind, you know, and it's, it's one of the biggest nuggets that will, that you could ever talk about is you need to surround yourself with other successful people who are doing it and openly sharing about it. That transparency is so important because mm-hmm if, if you don't have it and you appear to be right or have everything under control, nobody can help you. It's only if you have the confidence and the trust to share, what's going wrong, that you get a group of others jumping in to, to help, to support you and to share with you what's worked. And that's absolutely, that's hugely comforting. It's humbling to, you know, to come on your podcast and to share with other local builders who I think of is very successful. The tough lessons that I've learned in the last couple of years, but what's really gratifying about it and validating about it is how often I hear same here, me too, on a different level at a different scale, same problems. That's called leadership though, where you're, where you are willing to do that. You have the confidence to do that. You know, that you're doing, you know, that it's empowering or elevating other people you even called your program leveling up. Mm-hmm you have to be able to do that, or you're not, it's not going to be real leveling up. It's just going to be, you know, a bunch of people nodding and smiling and picking and choosing what they're gonna take away based on what they heard and what they heard. Isn't necessarily the whole story until you are willing to dig in and reveal the nitty gritty of what's going on. So kudos to you. That's a big leadership move and you're sharing it with others. Thank you.

(35:17): That collaboration at that level, which does force you into, as you said, some uncomfortable transparency, but I mean, I think that's really where the true, the growth comes from. You know, you get it out there, you get it on the table. You realize that, as you said before, the problems are really the same. Maybe they vary in level of intensity or size, but when you, when you dig deeper, the problems are the same. So why not put this stuff out there and share it, collaborate on it. So that's great that you're doing that. And you know, we've, there's many different paths, many different, uh, ways that folks can, can get into peer groups and collaborate together out there. But I encourage anybody that's listening. If it's not something that you're doing, take a look at some of the things available and, um, do it sooner rather than later, Do it sooner rather than later. Yeah. I mean, you know, I still have to give myself that pep talk when I write my check to build their 20, but I can already see in a short period of time, how much it's benefited my business. What are you excited about here going forward over the next six months to a year what's on your radar?

(36:12): Well, I feel calmer. I feel like we've really got a system now for surfing the tides of all these changing conditions. And I feel like we're more resilient as a company than we used to be. We're more equipped to deal with the unexpected. So we've got a really solid pipeline of excellent work coming in. And my question right now is whether or not we can manage to stay at this point as lean as we are. I don't wanna grow anymore if we can possibly, I would just love to get to a point where we can roll out some raises. We can, you know, reinvest in the business because what we've been doing is growing the business and investing in payroll. So now I'd like to say, okay, we've got a really good team built here where the dream team let's take better care of the dream team. And, um, you know, I, we bought our building and I'd love to be able to do improvements on the building. So our offices are more comfortable. It still feels sort of scrappy. You know, I'm excited for the systems that we've put into place. I'm excited that I'm starting to really feel more freed up now that we've put really good systems in place. And we've hired people that I've hired myself out of a lot of the TDM of the design build process. So I can focus on the, the business more. How about on the, when we talked too, you had bought a farm and you big farmhouse. How did all that work out?

(37:41): Well, I'm sitting here now. So I, yeah, it was, it was crazy. The whole, the last couple years has been crazy on so many levels. So I sold my house in suburbs and my, and in order to be able to comfortably afford renovating this farm that I bought and building a house for myself and my kids, I didn't wanna carry two mortgages. So I bought this five and a half acre, 1880s dairy farm, and it had a 7,000 square foot, old barn building rambling, long building. And what I decided to do was split the building, remove a section of the building and create two new exterior walls so that I had two different buildings. And the front section of the old barn, I completely renovated to basically brand new construction, but with historical details here and there. Um, and we moved into the back barn building, which was sort of heated and cool, lots of daylight seen through the cracks in the walls and under the doors, lots of insects, mice. We had mouse traps. So we lived like that with a bathroom on the other side of the property, in another building for nine months. And I built this house in record time. There's nothing like living in a barn with teenagers to hustle you through a project. So it, it, it was fun in the, and gratifying in the scope of everything else, all the other stresses to be able to be like cranking through a construction project at my own place, purely motivated by the discomfort of what insect am I gonna step on when I step outta bed this morning?

(39:28): Well, it definitely has been an interesting few years. The thing that that impresses me is you continue like all of us, you know, you're, you're coming up against some stumbling blocks and there's always new challenges up, but you're, you continue to kinda just persevere and you're, you're doing the right things, you know, the, the, the growing of your business, learning from your mistakes, but also getting involved in, uh, in these peer groups and growing yourself personally, professionally, so congrats to you for charging forward and best of luck to, to everything as you, as you go into the future. Thank you. I appreciate being part of the builder nuggets community. I really do. And taking some time out to boil down what life has been like the last two years to be able to talk to you about it is, um, you know, it's nice to see that while sometimes it feels like I lie awake and bed at night and think about all the worries of the business through the pandemic. It's nice to recap it and realize we've had a lot of successes too, and we've worked our butts off to improve the company in the context of all of us.

(40:28): Oh, that's great for anybody out there that wants to get in touch with you, whether it's another builder who wants to learn about your experience or wants to level up, or, or for a project manager, that's heard these episodes and wants to be a part of your team, what are the best ways to learn more about your business website, social media give us that they can reach out. Yeah, yeah. And you know, on that note, I did wanna mention that what's become more and more of an exciting passion of mine. That is a priority for me to introduce more and more into the building industry is welcoming and creating opportunities for people who are not typically in the construction industry, people of color women, the LGBTQ T plus community. And so what I especially love to do is try to help folks that are trying to make inroads that maybe feel intimidated by the, the typical, uh, boys club to, to reach out to me and be, and use me as a resource. And let me connect you to folks that I know of that wanna make those opportunities happen. So best way to reach me is through our website, J Hoffman, studio.com or our Instagram page, which is JS design build. And you can always email me. It's Jenny with a Y J Hoffman studio.com. Excellent. Jenny, it's always a pleasure. Thanks again for being on. And, um, we'll talk soon. Thanks So much. Have a great week.

Hey, thanks for listening, Dwayne and I love hearing from you. Your stories are inspiring and your challenges can be overcome. Got a cool tip idea for a show problem that you haven't been able to solve, or maybe just struggling to figure out what you need next and where to get it. We can help hit us up@buildernuggets.com and start building freedom.

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