Tuesday December 5, 2017
Harvey's Year End Letter to "Team Turnstone"
Reflections on the Business Side of Life
(This letter to Team Turnstone was written by Harvey Ryan)
As the year draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on what this year has meant to Turnstone, and to me as a business owner, husband and father. I co-founded Turnstone in 2004, working predominantly as a trim contractor for national builders in the area. We began building a few custom homes for friends, working days, nights and weekends trying to break into a business with firmly established competitors, many of whom had been in business for decades. We were working out of a dingy, second floor office in a nondescript industrial building. I laugh now, recalling how I would try to steer prospective client meetings to the job site, hoping to avoid having them see the office. We tried to earn the trust of prospective clients by convincing them of our honesty and sincerity – that’s all we had to sell back then.
Having never worked for a custom homebuilder, my learning curve was very steep. I am pretty sure I made every business mistake in the book in those early days, but never allowed my mistakes to affect the quality of our finished product. Our early clients loved their houses, even if they didn’t always love the process. And they trusted us.
I wore many hats back in those days. Sales, production, procurement, hiring, breaking up fistfights on job sites, accounting, insurance, crawling in the mud to fix broken equipment, office supplies, responding to burglar alarms – you get the idea. When we brought in a partner with financial expertise in 2008, his first demand was that I never be allowed to touch the accounting again! Today I’m surrounded by a team of really qualified people who I respect and enjoy.
The housing crash of 2008 – 2009 claimed many victims in our industry. We survived, and the experience made us stronger. Although business today is stronger than ever, I will never forget the lessons of the crash, and know I must always be prepared for the next downturn.
Building custom homes is a really complex business. Each project is unique, and each customer brings their own experiences, expectations and quirks to the process. In the early days, I would promise prospects that I could make their dreams come true, even if their expectations (or budget) were unrealistic. And I would deliver on that promise, often losing money along the way. With over 100 custom homes and renovations under my belt, and my once lush head of hair much thinner and grayer, I have learned that the most important thing I can do for our prospects, our team, and my own sanity is to clearly explain the economics, tradeoffs and commitment of building a custom home, and to counsel prospects that don’t seem like a good fit toward another builder.
Now more than ever, I love coming to work every day. Success is energizing! I am so proud of what we have achieved, and how bright the future looks.
I love having the freedom to work with clients who value what we are doing, and having the time to get to know them – to really listen to their goals and dreams. I love watching the light bulb go off when they realize we know what we’re talking about and have tremendous value to add to their new home project.
I love being surrounded by a team of people who share my values, commitment to excellence and excitement about the future. You guys are amazing!
More than anything else, I love my wife and kids for being there to lift me up after a really hard day. Although long hours are still very much a part of my life, I love feeling that I am truly in the moment when I am with my wife Amanda and our three kids. That would not be possible without you.
I wish you each a peaceful Christmas and Holiday Season, and can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in next year!