A Family in Control

by bkrigbaum@solagroup.com

There are family businesses, and then there are businesses like Payne & Payne Builders in Chardon, Ohio, where family members make up almost half the entire staff. Brothers Michael and David founded the custom home building business in 1993, and have successfully ran it ever since. Two brothers wasn’t enough for this family, so Michael’s four sons joined the company, and now all six Payne men sit on the board of directors.

That’s six brothers (in two sets) who almost outnumber nonfamily staff. With this many family members in charge, one might assume that typical family dynamics inevitably would lead to corporate self destruction, but the situation works well for the Payne family. It works so well, the NAHB Custom Builders Committee named Payne & Payne Builders the 2009 Custom Home Builder of the Year.

Our cover story beginning on page 14 of this issue examines the role each brother plays, and how those roles were determined. Rather than assign job titles, the Payne brothers let each one’s strengths and weaknesses determine the role they’re best suited for. There never was a meeting to determine who will hold which job title.

Once responsibilities were established, the division of duties has been respected. No brother steps on another brother’s toes, but they’re quick to assist where assistance is needed.

The cover story also touches on the company’s evolution and how the custom builder has survived the housing downturn. The Payne family’s proactive approach has helped sustain the business through these difficult times.

When brothers Michael and David founded the company, the vision was to design and build distinctive custom homes that make people say “wow” when they see them. To accomplish this, a design/build approach is taken, but not in the single-entity concept of design/build. A client is introduced to a handful of Payne & Payne’s trusted designers, after which client personalities and design styles are matched with a designer.

The designers work closely with the construction team to ensure budgets aren’t exceeded and that design concepts can be built as drawn. Eric Payne summarizes their approach this way: “In my mind, no one designer I’ve ever met suits everybody’s needs.”

Designers and other trade partners are highly valued contributors to the company’s success. A sidebar on pg. 16 reveals the Payne approach to working with trade partners, in the Payne brothers’ own words.

What I like most about Payne & Payne Builders is the take-charge approach. They don’t allow themselves to be caught off guard by local market conditions. They are proactive, not reactive, and that’s smart business.

Congratulations to Payne & Payne Builders.

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