Custom-built for you
Homebuilding franchise spreads across North America
GREEN BAY, WIS.––With some 100 offices in 13 American states and five Canadian provinces, Alair Homes is growing across North America. Alair works hard to make their clients’ visions for their homes a reality by offering them award-winning options that are sure to please.
We recently spoke with partners Andy and Nicole Selner of Alair Homes Green Bay. This remarkable team told us more about Alair locally and what makes it such a solid homebuilding franchise with much well-earned recognition and a unique franchise business model that is both nationally recognized and locally respected.
“We all own and operate our own offices individually,” he points out. “It’s all about the relationships, that’s the how we view it. We’re in a service industry, and providing the hospitality is key to a great custom home or renovation.”
“We’re all connected,” he adds of Alair. “We’re all talking with each other and it’s a great collaboration, where we can move and innovate faster than any anybody could on their own.”
For more than 22 years now, Andy has worked in the building industry. He has much experience managing many projects, from custom, architecturally driven homes, remodeling projects, to condominium and commercial projects. He has the requisite technical knowledge for building, as well as the creativity needed to achieve the details.
A graduate of St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., Nicole has a background in marketing, project-management, and an affinity for process-improvement. She has the kind of creative thinking needed to give clients unique features in their homes, as well as in the business.
Andy explains that after he and Nicole started their company more than a decade back, they joined Alair five years ago.
“It was a move to help grow and advance our business,” he says. “We had always had a heart for client relationships and doing the best for we can for them. I think joining Alair definitely elevates our level for that and gives us a better client experience in some ways. It helps us navigate our business and helps us with a better growth strategy.”
Andy continues that they target 8 to 10 new builds annually and about as many renovation projects as well. Projects range in style and size. “We’re seeing a variety of projects,” Andy reveals, “and we like that variety.” He adds that having a diverse portfolio of projects helps in all aspects of business. “You can learn a lot from remodeling that will apply directly to new construction, and vise versa.”
Even such a dynamic duo can use some help, of course. Andy reveals that they’re joined by two project managers, two site managers and an office manager.
“We actually have been adding staff,” he informs, “and we’re looking at a growth strategy right now and continuing to look at that in the years ahead. The construction economy is still strong. The demand is good, and the landscape is good for growth.”
Andy says he and Nicole constantly bear in mind when they are growing that they are able to service their clients at the best level.
A full schedule
Some builders in northern climates have to make adjustments for inclement weather. In Wisconsin, Canada and elsewhere, snow and cold can shorten a builder’s calendar by several months.
Yet that doesn’t have the effect it used to. They maintain a year-round schedule despite the winter months.
“It’s one of those things you get used to,” says Andy, “you know how to work with the weather. You know how unpredictable it is, so you have to plan ahead for it. I think it’s not much different than if we’re working down south and having to deal with and predict hurricanes or natural events like that. I can’t imagine what they go through to prepare for that!”
One perfect storm of a non-meteorological kind was the COVID pandemic. Andy says that had a significant impact upon everyone.
“I think COVID in general was just a business-changing event,” he stated, “whether good or bad. Everybody can look at it and see different aspects of it and have different views. For us, it definitely created a lot of work. A lot of people wanted to do a project then, from a remodel project to new construction because ‘Hey, now’s the time to build a house, because we see prices are going high, and we want to get in before it gets too high.’ It definitely increased our business.”
Keeping up with all those clients is crucial, of course. Whether by using Zoom or Teams for remote meetings with clients, or having software and technology in place.
“We’ve learned to adapt quickly to those new business practices,” says Andy.
What does the future look like for the construction of new homes throughout North America in the years ahead? Andy looks into his metaphorical crystal ball to tell us.
“One thing in the next five to 10 years in our industry: there’s going to be some major changes in building practices, even how we do business in general.” he states. “We’ve been struggling for the last 10 years just with the labor pool in the market. COVID then
brought on the shortage for supplies and having to deal with and navigate that going forward. We’re looking at different ways of how to get ahead of all those challenges.”
He adds that the solutions may come through technology or new innovations, and they just might be found in the new blood that one day reinvigorates the industry.
“We’re also trying to get in front of the young kids out there,” Andy reveals. “We recently did an event with the middle school locally, getting the kids on the project site, helping them see what the construction industry is to them and how it is changing.”
From new, cutting-edge tools to project-management software, construction is indeed changing, and it can be fun. That’s the message that the Selners are imparting to the potential next generation of young builders.
“Even when it comes down to project-management software, there’s many different types out there,” as Andy points out, “and how we’re managing our businesses is really going to be how we’re going to have to tackle the industry in the future. I like to say, ‘How can we do more with less?’”
Many builders have children to whom they want to impart a love for the business, perhaps even having them inherit it some day. The Selners are blessed with two sons, 13 and 10 years of age.
“There’s always that thought of, ‘I would love for them to take it over,’” Andy allows, “but I also don’t want to force it on them. Not everyone is cut out for business ownership. I hate to say that, but it truly is the fact. Really, it’s just about trying to steer them in the right direction. If they’re coming up into it, great. If they’re not, we’re gonna cheer them on either way.”
“I think it’s needed to get any students started early,” Andy observes. “I think when they’re starting to get to the middle school age, they need to experience the trades, and they need to experience everything. They may not like framing, but they may love trim work. Or they may not like the construction aspect of it, but hey, maybe they love welding or something like that. We’ve got to give them a good amount of opportunities, because there’s so many opportunities for skilled trades out there. It’s much needed, that they can find a great avenue either way.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: a custom homebuilding franchise
Where: some 100 offices around North America