Our MarkSystems Community User of the Month is Carrie Roeger with Windsong Properties, located in Georgia. Carrie is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Windsong Properties; they build on average 90 new homes per year and specialize in the Active Adult segment.
In our interview, Carrie discusses the challenges in the home building industry, how she expects her role will evolve over the next few years, and offers some great advice to other COOs about implementing processes and systems.
How long have you been in your role/or working in the new home construction industry?
I’ve been working for Windsong Properties for the past 15 years--I was the first employee! I started out as a purchasing assistant, worked in marketing for a few years, and then six years as an Operations Manager before taking on my current position as COO. I’ve been in this position for the past two years.
How do you see your role evolving over the next few years?
I think that market strategy is going to become a bigger focus for me over the next few years. Since we're focused on the Active Adult segment, we have a lot more competition coming into the market that we didn't have before. I think that that's going to significantly change where I focus and where I spend my time.
I think the builders are finally realizing just how big the Active Adult market is and that the industry is continuing to struggle with entry-level home buyers actually buying homes. The lack of entry-level home buyers combined with the fact that there are a plethora of Active Adult buyers has led to the increased competition.
What's the most challenging aspect of your job? What do you do to overcome that challenge?
I would say that the biggest challenge is the variety of situations that need to be resolved. It’s something new at every minute of every day.
In order to overcome this (and actually get work done) requires me to be very disciplined. I work on the tasks that I call important but not urgent. If I don't pay attention to the important and not urgent, it suddenly becomes urgent with everything else. So you have to be disciplined to stay on that level of things to keep them at bay.
How have you seen the home building industry change in the last few years?
Well, I see that there have been two very significant changes in the home building industry over the past couple years.
Number one is that the cost of land has gone sky high in many metropolitan areas; in addition, the costs associated with building that are being levied by the municipalities.
Both of these factors are putting a tremendous amount of pressure on our ability to produce affordable homes. The NAHB right now quotes that 25% of the cost of building a house is in municipality fees.
The fees associated with building are really deep. It begins from when you start developing the land. There's just this plethora of fees that are put on the land and then there are even more fees that are put on the builder as well.
How long have you been using MarkSystems and what’s the one MarkSystems’ feature that you can’t live without or helps you be more productive/efficient?
We’ve been using MarkSystems nine and half months. We chose MarkSystems because of the level of integration across the entire organization and the depth to which we could manage purchasing.
We have already seen a reduction in our direct costs because of being on a closed purchase order system, and we're very close to 100% at this point. We're reaping the financial benefits of the system already.
The other thing that was very important to us, which ties right into purchasing, is the fact that purchasing has the opportunity to see what has been processed through accounting without having to call accounting and ask them. Those sorts of efficiencies with the shared information were very attractive to us.
I would also have to say that change is hard, but change is good.
Even when you're worried about changing enterprise software for your company--it can be a big project but it's so worth it to do. We're only nine and a half months into it, which is really great because we're past the Dark Ages and the “oh my God, what the heck did we do that for” stage, and we’re already reaping the benefits,
When I was looking at software, I was very worried about the change and how to manage the entire organization through the change. It was not easy, but it was so worth it to do.
Do you have any specific successes you'd like to highlight?
I would say that one of the things that we’re most proud of is that we have been recognized as a Builder of Choice through Builder Partnerships. We hold those standards very high and we try to execute as a Builder of Choice every year.
Any tips or advice for fellow COOs in the residential home construction industry?
The one big piece of advice I would offer to fellow COOs is to make sure you have processes and systems. There are so many small home builders out there who feel like they're not big enough for processes but they are. Processes and systems, when fully implemented and managed, can revolutionize your business.
Favorite thing to do outside of work?
The only thing that I'm doing right now that is taking up a tremendous amount of time is studying for my MBA at the Jack Welsh Management Institute. I am really enjoying it!