With few exceptions, production builders that grew last year are in markets that have escaped the worst blows from the housing recession. But explaining their successes by that measure alone wouldn’t do justice to the ways these builders have kept their businesses moving forward, in good times and bad.

This year’s Trade Secrets special report finds Jeff Benton Homes in Alabama bolstering its brand through an attentive warranty program and marketing that includes distributing promotional materials through local schools. Timely land acquisitions and a reputation for affordable homes for first-time buyers help North Carolina’s Wade Jurney Homes stay on top. A third builder, Hearthstone Homes in Nebraska, is exploiting opportunities with a disciplined construction and operational approach. (See www.builderonline.com/collections/tradesecrets.)

It doesn’t hurt that the markets in which these builders operate for the most part have relatively resilient economies and haven’t been invaded by the giant public home builders. But one gets the sense from their owners and managers that these companies would execute their game plans the same way regardless of who or what they’re up against. That single-minded focus has kept these builders from leaping into trends and making decisions that might have caused them to diverge from their corporate missions and cultures. In the face of adversity, being true to themselves has been these builders’ salvation.

Trade Secrets