Hsu Named July NAHB Remodeler of the Month
Jamie Hsu, CAPS, CGR
Lakeville Homes, Bellevue, Wash.
Year Founded: 1985 (30 year anniversary!)
Number of Employees: 9
Who started your company?
Susan Ho, my mother.
When and how did you choose this career?
I grew up around the home building industry with a general contractor for a mother and an architect for a father. In spite of that, I pursued a degree in architecture. After practicing commercial architecture for a number of years, I decided that I had an entrepreneurial spirit that needed to be satisfied and a strong desire to work with individuals over corporations.
What did you do before becoming a remodeler?
I was a commercial architect. Schools, hotels, retail … super sexy projects including produce section renovations of my local grocery store.
How has the remodeling profession changed since you’ve been involved?
Technology has certainly become a big part of the process. The way our customers have access to ideas and information (both good and bad) changes the landscape significantly. That said, I think it only further emphasizes the importance of personal relationships and face-to-face communication. Just being in the same room now provides a leg up and the opportunity to leave a lasting and positive impression.
Right now, what is your focus as a remodeler — more growth or steady revenue at greater profitability? Please explain.
Revenue at a greater profitability. Where quality of customers is more important than quantity of customers or even quality of project. I’ve been known to say that great projects are a dime a dozen; it’s the fantastic clients are what we really value.
Where do you go to look for solutions and ideas for your business?
As our customers base is largely made up of women (be honest men, do you really care what tile is used for the backsplash?), I love to put my head together with fellow women entrepreneurs. That way I am able to speak to my target market and business minds I respect, often with viewpoints I will share, at the same time.
Finding qualified labor is a challenge — are you hiring this year and how are you going about finding the right people for your company?
We are hiring. And it is a challenge. Really, my approach thus far has been to talk to everyone. While I believe my future employees are currently gainfully employed, they may very well not be happy in their current role and may be looking for a second-family like Lakeville Homes. Most of our employees have been with Lakeville for 10+ years for a reason!
What is your No. 1 source of leads right now and why is it working?
I spent quite a bit of time networking with design professionals during the economic downturn. We continue to have good relationships with them and approach projects as a team. But I don’t think we have any single source of projects at this point. They are coming equally as referral from previous customers, design professionals, real estate and other strategic partners. The common thread is that they are referrals, however, vs. other methods of lead generation.
What is the most unusual project your company has completed?
We’re working on a pretty spectacular renovation project that will probably end up around $600-700/sq. ft. over 3,000 sq. ft. It is architect-designed with minimal tolerances and specialized selections. I can’t wait to see the finished product!
What is your favorite item in your office?
My staff! The smiles that greet and the awesome attitudes of the people I am lucky enough to call co-workers!
What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
“Create a life/job you don’t need to escape from.” I love what I do, which makes it a joy to do what I do. Whether I love what I do because I am good at it, or am good at what I do because I love it doesn’t really matter. It’s a win-win situation.
What does being part of NAHB mean to you?
Joining the NAHB is joining a fraternity of like-minded peers. It’s a brother/sisterhood of entrepreneurs who have weathered the same storms as you and forged ahead. My colleagues celebrate with me and offer assistance when I need it. It’s an extended family.
What have you done to grow your business during the current economy?
I’m not sure we would need to do anything to grow our business in the current economy! That said, Lakeville remains focused on just a few things. 1) Setting and exceeding expectations with our customers. 2) Providing an excellent product and experience
Anything else you’d like to mention about career accomplishments?
It’s all about the team. My company is a family more so than most.