Courtesy Stone Martin Builders

Based in the Auburn-Opelika, Alabama, metropolitan area, Stone Martin Builders has been building homes and developing communities throughout the state since its establishment in 2006.

In the past 16 years, the company has quickly grown to become one of the state’s most recognized home building companies. From 2020 to 2021 alone, Stone Martin jumped from No. 85 on the 2021 Builder 100 with 670 closings in 2020 to No. 69 on the 2022 list with 905 closings in 2021. CEO Frank Plan says the builder is on track to hit 1,000 home closings this year.

The company also was recently awarded “Best Home Building Experience in Alabama” by BUILD Magazine’s 2022 Construction & Engineering Awards.

“Earning this recognition is an incredible achievement that reaffirms our success in building strong communities. Choosing a home builder is one of the most important choices one can make, and we are so honored that we have built an exceptional experience across Alabama,” says Plan. “We build homes that last generations and provide a sense of ownership right from the beginning. That is the Stone Martin Builders Difference.”

BUILDER spoke with Plan to learn more about the company, its history, its growth strategies, and plans for the future. Read more from him below.

BUILDER: What is the history of Stone Martin Builders?

Plan: We started with a couple of small homes in east Alabama, then 2008 came. We had some wonderful partners that afforded us opportunities, which really set things in motion for Stone Martin Builders with our first large communities in two separate central Alabama markets. The years have flown by since that point, but all in all the history of our company is just that it's history. It is something that we put in a book that we still learn from today on how to not do things if you want a positive outcome. The greatest accomplishments in the company have been seeing the people still with us from the beginning and their growth alongside the company. People that used to do general labor are now running entire markets. Contractors that started with one crew that now have 12 crews. The ebbs and flows of markets have always been a challenge and will continue to be in the future, but recognizing the growth of where we started to where we are now is something that allows us to never lose perspective. The focus of how to build a home more efficiently and more effectively is a constant day-to-day activity, but we have put tremendous focus on how to give someone an experience that is easy and memorable when buying a home.

Starting from just a few homes to now handling master-planned communities is something that gives us all a huge respect for where we came from in our past. Humbling, empowering, thankful are all words that come to mind with everyone when they look back in the history book of Stone Martin Builders.

BUILDER: Who are the key executives, and how did they get into home building?

Plan: I first became involved in Stone Martin Builders in 2010 as an investor and officially joined the company full time in 2018 as a major shareholder and vice president of land acquisition and development. In this role, I worked closely with Stone Martin Builders’ executive and management teams on business development, sales production, and finance.

John Manasco, chief operating officer, has been in the home building industry since 2011, starting in the field as a general laborer and working his way up to a superintendent. In 2013, he was promoted to the executive team as the director of purchasing and estimating where he led the purchasing and estimating team and oversaw the procurement of all trade partners, materials, as well as estimating of all items for our homes.

Nick Howard, chief financial officer, has been in the home building industry since 2011 starting as a controller for the company and working his way to CFO in 2018. Howard works with our banking partners and individual investors as well as manages the day-to-day financials of the company.

Courtesy Stone Martin Builders

BUILDER: What does the company specialize in?

Plan: Stone Martin Builders specializes in detached single-family homes. We offer a variety of styles including townhomes and ranch-style homes, depending on the community. There are hundreds of floor plans and models to choose from, and we recently launched our Thrive Collection, a new line of affordable, masterfully crafted, single-family homes.

It is our mission to build better neighborhoods and make homeownership attainable for all. We want to balance the best parts of living. Stone Martin Builders’ neighborhoods balance private serenity, active lifestyles or recreation, and easy access to the conveniences of the vibrant city life.

BUILDER: What sets Stone Martin apart from other builders in the area?

Plan: We say we have the “Stone Martin Difference,” meaning that we are here to build better. While that includes the highest-quality materials, energy-wise construction, and timeless style options, we also want focus on building neighborhoods that are meant to last for generations, will be the place where lifelong memories are made and cherished, and promote a better lifestyle. We build amenities and choose to be in areas where residents can live a good day, every day, any day.

We also focus on the home buying experience, which can be intimidating especially for first-time homeowners. We have qualified real estate professionals, construction supervisors, and homeowner warranty specialists on-site every step of the way for every future resident. It makes the homeowner feel like they’re in control before they get the keys to their house.

BUILDER: How has the company evolved from its establishment to today?

Plan: We have always seen the importance of investing in your people because the company is larger than any one person. We had to try different things out to find the right culture to make sure the best home buying experience was provided.

We have also instituted internship programs by partnering with Auburn University’s Building Science Program, and we completely remodeled our office space to provide a warm inviting atmosphere for our employees. We are always looking for new, better solutions to improve our processes and be more efficient than we were the day before. We have also rebranded to bring differentiation between our Thrive by Stone Martin Builders product and our popular Stone Martin Builders product.

The most important was empowering our employees and empowering our leadership to find the next level of success for the company, employees, and homeowners alike that truly allowed our company to evolve to the next level.

Courtesy Stone Martin Builders

BUILDER: On the Builder 100, Stone Martin jumped from No. 85 in 2021 to No. 69 in 2022. What strategies led to more closings and how will the company fare this year?

Plan: Strategies included:

  1. Processes and accountability: We had to take a long hard look in the mirror and say, “More may not be better.” We had to bring the quality and ease of process that our home buyers deserve day in and day out. We had our ups and downs, no doubt, but the ability to take the good with the bad and realize it is part of growing and getting better is what empowers everyone to at the end of the day do the right thing.
  2. Giving the customer what they need: We know homeownership is a pressing issue so we made a movement in 2021 to add an additional extension of our company product offering that we call Thrive by Stone Martin Builders. The collection is an affordable, entry-level home that allows us to offer a quality home in our existing markets while giving a Stone Martin experience to more people.
  3. Content and marketing: People like to see what is going on in real time. We have a team of marketing professionals who share all dimensions of our company to a new audience. We post our growing teams, videos of the crew building a new home, community involvement, news features, and images that capture the most special moments. We had someone propose to their partner in the home they were building with us, and we were able to share that. The mix of content, marketing, and media coverage have all helped generate interest for potential homeowners to come to us and eventually close with us.
  4. Hosting open houses and events in new communities: When new communities are being built, our teams will host open houses, tours, and events for those in the area. This lets our team share new updates, answer questions, and make a personal connection to the interested homeowners in attendance. We recently held a “What’s Brewing in Glenbrooke” event with an incredible turnout for one of our growing communities. It’s the perfect opportunity to share who we are directly with the community.

We are hoping to have another great jump! We’re on track to close 1,000 homes this year. In 2023, we believe the Thrive line will allow us to continue growth in our existing markets.

BUILDER: What markets did the company start in, and which does it serve now?

Plan: We had our first communities in the Opelika-Auburn markets. Now, 16 years later, we are established in nearly two dozen cities across Alabama, including Dothan, Montgomery, Huntsville, and Harris County in Georgia.

BUILDER: Are there any future growth plans outside of Alabama? If so, where?

Plan: Truly our goal is to stay focused and grow within the states of Alabama and Georgia by spreading the process of what we do to more and more cities. We want to be a household name in the states we are in and for all the right reasons.

BUILDER: What are the company’s goals moving forward?

Plan: For the future ahead, we look to better our technological systems and processes while continuing to enrich our company culture. We can’t have a successful future without people behind us, so it’s one of our top priorities to have a great culture at Stone Martin Builders for our customers and teams. Many in the home building industry tend to forget that it’s not just about volume. As a business, you can build the best product you want but if people are miserable doing it, you will eventually encounter problems.

To make it in the home building industry, you must be passionate and adaptive. We will continue to face unpredictable challenges based on global and economic constraints, most often out of our control, but one thing we can positively influence is the experience our home buyers have walking into their new home and the experience that our employees have stepping foot onto the jobsite or in the office every single day. Building a culture revolving around our employees and homeowners is something that allows us to weather the tests of time and set up positive goals for the future.