Top 500 Profile: Smooth Transition

No. 93 Mosby Building Arts embarks on a promising future after its owners retire from the everyday business operation.

authors Kyle Clapham | August 19, 2019

For the last 22 years, Scott Mosby has helped answer dozens of questions on the radio every Saturday morning from homeowners throughout St. Louis. In 2009, Mark McClanahan decided to switch careers after 17 years as a music producer and engineer. He reached out to his network and met Judy Mosby, who sought to groom the next leader of Mosby Building Arts, a design/build firm.

McClanahan started working for the remodeler in 2010 as a marketing consultant, but by June he had been hired on full-time. Scott and Judy promoted him to chief operating officer the following year, and in 2012 they created a transition plan so that Scott could step away from the day-to-day operation within five years. McClanahan became president in 2015 and the Mosbys since retired.

“Scott had been a radio personality, so he was a well-known celebrity in the St. Louis area,” says McClanahan, who also ran a record label for seven years. “I had done that for a long enough time where, I don’t want to say I was getting burnt out, but I didn’t really like where the industry was going. Because it was [becoming] less about the artists and just more of the business standpoint.”

McClanahan once collaborated with an architect to design a full production studio but otherwise did not have much experience in construction. He had written plans for and thought strategically about a business, though, so he understood how to manage people and assets. The Mosbys were involved with several peer groups as well, exposing him to many remodelers across the country.

Before joining the company, McClanahan did not realize how fractured the remodeling industry could be. But after seeing the number of small contractors in business—and the amount of work each one takes on—he gained appreciation for the organization that can offer a one-stop solution to homeowners, who usually have to deal with any fallout if a contractor becomes overwhelmed.

“It’s not because they intend to get overwhelmed; it’s just hard for them [not] to take on too many projects,” McClanahan adds. “Sadly, the consumer—the homeowner—has to deal with that. But knowing it is a pain point, I’m proud of the fact we provide a solution expected for the industry.”

Mosby Building Arts offers a full range of home improvement services, including Right Kitchen & Bath, its semi-custom remodeling division, and Exteriors by Mosby, which can boost the curb appeal of a house. Bathrooms in particular have been popular for the company, although the size of projects is shrinking after being up significantly in the past couple of years, McClanahan says.

Mark McClanahan, president

“This has been the longest stretch we’ve had without any kind of [market] correction,” he notes. “Of course, all the talking heads are saying the same thing: ‘We should have a correction.’ I just heard yesterday it should be in the next 18 months we’ll have a reset—a recession—and it’s like, ‘Haven’t they said 18 months for the past year?’ Whatever is coming, I want us to be prepared.”

This year the remodeler launched Build Partner, an initiative that provides independent designers and architects with construction expertise. Design professionals typically use smaller contractors or builders, “so we’re trying to offer them a different experience for their customers based on the type of delivery, the speed of delivery and the quality of what we can do,” McClanahan explains.

Mosby Building Arts employs two in-house architects, plus a handful of designers and home consultants. The company recently joined the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and will become a chapter sponsor, he says. The remodeler also will bring back its handyman service, which aims to secure maintenance contracts and give customers menu-based options.

“We’re working on the brand name for that, and then we’re going to be looking at maintenance contracts and just classic handyman services based on a menu and not an hourly rate,” he adds.

The company investment in additional offerings helps diversify its portfolio and keep employees busy in the office and out on the jobsite. “It’s about market share—getting more market share and also investing in things for us to keep our financials healthy,” McClanahan says. “We’ve got the crew to do it with 60 employees in the field, so we’ve got an obligation to land work to keep them fed.”

Vertically integrating its entire workforce—especially in-house specialty trades—would unlock even more earning potential for the business. “We’ve got a few plumbers and electricians. How do we continue to expand that in a healthy way?” he asks. “We can provide our services at a much greater success than when we have to rely on outside partners. But we need to maintain the right amount of work and not get too far into it because we don’t want to become a plumbing company.”

With any kind of company expansion, however, McClanahan will need to solicit buy-in from employees and ensure they remain aligned. “Just make sure everybody’s on the same page about why we’re doing this, so they don’t feel like we’re chasing shiny objects,” he explains. “Because I could see why they might think that. We’re intentional about the work we do to create these new ventures.”

McClanahan instituted a formal structure for one-on-one performance reviews between managers and subordinates, and he introduced town hall meetings where employees dictate the agenda and can ask him questions. “Transparency is the best way to run a company because with the absence of information, people have a tendency to write their own stories—because they don’t have any other options.

“Those stories could be way off the mark about what’s really going on,” he adds. “The town hall meeting is a great way to be transparent and share what they want to know about the company.”

Earlier this year, McClanahan began recording a weekly selfie video in which he shares a timely message with the organization. Some of them feature employees, such as when he discussed the company’s apprenticeship program, Tradeswork, with a recent graduate who was hired full-time, or when McClanahan personally delivered pizza to workers during employee appreciation week.

“Scott is absolutely beloved by the employees, so there was certainly a shift in culture,” he says. “Scott and I are different types of leaders, [but] we have some similarities. The similarities are that we care deeply about the people who work for the company, and we believe that having a good vision is really important. I do have a tendency to be a lot more structured than Scott was.

“Because of that structure, it certainly created a little bit of attrition—there was definitely some people who were not happy,” McClanahan continues. “The organization shifted a little bit, and I think Scott and Judy are happy with it. I’m happy with it. We try to remain as caring as we can.”

McClanahan also appreciates how Scott promoted his value to the rest of the company before he became president. “He was setting the stage for me well before I got into the position, and then even after I was assigned the role of president, so I feel like that helped set me up for success.” QR

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