A business culture that fosters superior interpersonal skills among its staff and takes total quality management seriously has kept Venture Homes among the top three J.D. Power performers in Atlanta for the past four years.
Bob White, the company's president and owner, says one secret to his company's strong scores is that everyone in the company completes a leadership training program based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey's best-selling book.
“The course teaches you that one of the first principles of being effective is having integrity, being genuine,” says White. “You'd be surprised how many college-educated people feel they have to manipulate and cut corners or be duplicitous, but that's simply not the case. It's amazing how many people go through our public school system and come out ill-prepared to manage relationships.”
White says the course helps his staff develop a world view that makes them confident about relating to people. All of his managers are certified instructors, and they teach the course to the general staff. White even has two of his subcontractors certified and requires that every employee of every subcontractor take the course.
“We want great employees. We want them grounded, emotionally mature, and without baggage. The 7 Habits course gives our people a methodology for conflict resolution and problem solving,” White says, adding that “problem solving is very difficult in many organizations because people don't know how to solve a problem without a confrontation.”
TOTAL QUALITY White, who founded Venture Homes in 1984, started adhering to the total quality management (TQM) principles taught by quality master W. Edwards Deming in the early 1990s when the company grew to about 70 homes a year. “I realized that if I was going to build in volume, I needed a management structure and a system that goes with it,” he says.
White says TQM has three basic premises: focus on the customer, continuous improvement, and involve everybody. “If you focus on the customer, that's better than hiring a $100,000 consultant,” he says.
The home builder measures and sets benchmarks for every possible aspect of the sales and construction process. Through home buyer surveys, Venture measures sales issues such as the agent's performance in explaining the house and writing up the contract, as well as the buyer's satisfaction with the company's design center experience. Venture also measures the quality of the construction process. There's no fancy technology involved; all the scores are kept on Excel spreadsheets and tracked monthly.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.