Chattanooga, Tennessee
Adobe Stock / Melinda Fawver Chattanooga, Tennessee

Meshing longtime trucking executive experience with longtime real estate development experience, Eric Fuller and Marcus Lyons have launched a new-home building company out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The new business LFG Homes—or Lyons Fuller Group Homes—has big plans to develop homes in an area that has seen rapid growth following the pandemic.

Kicking off with a 113-home development, BUILDER caught up with Fuller to learn more about the new company and his transition from trucking to home building.

How did you team up with Lyons to form LFG Homes?
Marcus and I have kids in the same grade at their school, and they are good friends. I was the CEO of a publicly traded trucking company with 10,000 employees and $2 billion in annual revenues. Shortly after the company was sold and I left, Marcus was talking to me about how he saw significant growth opportunity in residential real estate. He felt like his company was able to participate in that growth, and he saw this as a narrow point in time where that opportunity existed. He mentioned to me that he was very strong at finding and selecting sites, raising capital, and envisioning what a piece of raw land can become. At the same time, he mentioned that building teams, creating workflows, and managing people was not his strong suit and that in order to build a high-growth company he would need someone with those skills.

I became very intrigued with the opportunity. I felt like with his guidance and extensive knowledge in the industry, I could help him build a high-growth company in this sector. I do not believe this is something that I could do on my own, but partnering with him gives me someone who can ensure we don’t go down unnecessary rabbit holes. The division of labor became easy because our skill sets were so uniquely different. Marcus is the strategist and the visionary, and I am the person who executes and builds the infrastructure to enable his vision. Marcus has been incredibly successful in the build-to-rent space, and he is someone who I think has a unique talent that can be the gasoline for a high-growth company. He just needs someone to build the engine so he doesn’t have any limitations in his growth potential.

How does your experience in trucking transfer to home building/development?
In the beginning, I saw similarities in that as an executive of a large company it was about systems, processes, people, regulatory, communication, and accountability. Most large companies are similar. My philosophy has always been set up the right systems, workflow, and infrastructure; document and communicate expectations; hire the right people with the right experience; and then get out of their way with autonomy to do what they need to hit the goals and expectations that you lay out.

However, as I got going in the home building industry, I recognized one very obvious similarity that I had failed to realize beforehand. Trucking is a very fragmented business. There are over 20,000 individual trucking companies. Most of the companies are relatively small, and you would describe them as mom-and-pop family-owned businesses with multiple generations working in the company. They are very street smart and savvy but unsophisticated regarding management systems, technology, and workforce. There’s a fair amount of midsize companies that are regional or focused on a certain niche that are very successful but have limited growth capabilities. And then there are the handful of large, nationwide, or even international companies that are mostly publicly traded and are very sophisticated. Within the industry we always felt this was an environment unique to trucking. However, as I got into the home building industry, it became very evident that it was very similar in this way to trucking. I believe this gives me an advantage in how to maneuver and build a company in this environment. Someone who has not participated in a market like this might struggle more when dealing with the different dynamics.

What type of product is LFG planning to develop?
We plan to be a tract home builder who will build developments from raw land to finished homes. We plan to build for-sale single-family and townhomes, and build-to-rent single-family and townhomes. Our first development under construction is a for-sale community. We plan to be opportunistic in our approach by studying the environment and reacting to market and regional conditions to determine what product to build where. Our current development based in Ooltewah, Tennessee, right outside of Chattanooga, is more of a starter-home development, but we will build the product that best fits each individual site.

Can you share more on what’s in the pipeline?
We have a 113-home development that is being developed near Chattanooga. We have a 150-plus homesite planned for an area in North Chattanooga that is a premier building location giving us a presence just 10 minutes from downtown. A neighborhood this large this close to downtown is unique. We have another site under our control in the vicinity of the first site, and we are constantly looking for more land.

How many projects are slated for this year? Next year?
We will start building homes on our first development this year and expect to go vertical on our second and possibly third development in 2025.

What makes Chattanooga a prime location for development?
Chattanooga is a growing market that has boomed post-COVID as people have looked for communities with lower taxes, lower cost of living, more room, and outdoor attractions. Chattanooga has been named repeatedly as the best place to live and as the top city in the United States for outdoor activities by numerous publications. The other thing Chattanooga has going for it is it’s still underdeveloped relative to the demand that exists.

Are there any new markets outside of Chattanooga that LFG may expand to?
We plan to operate in the Southeast and will go to any market that we believe has similar demographics and economics to Chattanooga. Knoxville, Tennessee, is next on our list for growth, but we are considering all Southeast markets outside the big cities like Atlanta; Nashville, Tennessee; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

What are some of the strategies LFG has in place for its first year of business?
Our plan for the first year is to find the best land that we can for our developments and lock up that land for future growth, along with building out our team and infrastructure to enable us to grow in subsequent years.

Why home building?
There is a lack of supply of homes that will continue for the foreseeable future. It will take decades of growth to make up the deficit. Also, I am a student of disruption and innovation. I view artificial intelligence (AI) as an emerging technology that will transform and disrupt many industries. Some industries and companies will be completely transformed. Many companies will fail as new emergent companies take their place. This will occur over the next 10 years. While there will be a lot of change to construction and home building, it will be an industry that will be less impacted than most by the widespread adoption of robotics and AI.