Millions of homes foreclosed. Billions of dollars lost by homeowners, builders, banks, and investors. Hundreds of thousands of construction and mortgage finance jobs gone. No end in sight.
Frantic builders scrambling for cash probably aren’t the most receptive audience right now for stories about some company that’s surviving by adjusting its product mix or because it’s fortunate enough to be in a market that hasn’t been crushed. Survivors, though, share an instinct—to reinvent themselves in the face of adversity and before everything hits the fan—that other builders in more dire straits, if they’re honest with themselves, might realize they either ignored or acted on too late.
One example of reinvention is Keystone Homes in Augusta, Ga., which in the previous three years enjoyed steady annual gains that hit $59 million in revenue and 336 closings in 2007. This year, Keystone’s closings are expected to fall to between 220 and 240 units, primarily because of the oversupply of unsold homes in its markets, “particularly resales,” says its president Mark Gilliam. But Keystone is now considering getting into on-your-lot construction for the first time and is already looking for “untapped markets” beyond the four counties in Georgia and South Carolina it builds in.
This year’s Fast Track special report reveals that change is a state of mind and success is a long-distance runner. These profiles are about creativity, farsightedness, and, to be honest, luck. They might lead some of you to reflect on your own businesses, and perhaps recall a passage from the Book of Psalms that reads, “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” When the housing crisis subsides, good ideas could prove fruitful, too, but only for those ready to plant them.