Go to Top

Case Study: Fortune 500 Homebuilder

The Client

This client is a Fortune 500 homebuilder with revenue of more than $3.95 billion, constructing everything from starter homes to estates. The company currently operates in 27 markets across the country and has built more than 230,000 homes and financed more than 200,000 mortgages since its inception.

Background

Based in Southern California, this is one of the nation’s largest homebuilders and a leading mortgage-finance company. The company wanted to understand the qualities of their top performing Homebuilders and New Home Sales Representatives.

Their goals for the Homebuilder position were to find people who could:
•     Supervise all aspects of multi-unit residential construction projects
•     Effectively manage subcontractors to ensure on-time and on-budget delivery of homes
•     Develop new ways to cut costs without compromising quality
•     Handle homeowners’questions about the construction process and progress

For the Sales Representatives, their goals were to:
•     Minimize the time needed to “sell out” a development
•     Increase market share in highly competitive markets
•     Develop strong networks within the local real estate community
•     Improve service and customer satisfaction
•     Make an immediate impact on revenue with minimal training time

The Business Challenge

The company wanted to gain a better understanding of what separates their top performers in these two roles from average and marginal performers.

The Homebuilder’s primary responsibility is to oversee the work of subcontractors to be sure they are meeting standards of quality as well as timeliness. He or she is also responsible for ensuring that sufficient building materials are onsite, permits are in place, subcontractors are scheduled appropriately, and that each stage of construction is on schedule.

Sales Representatives need to develop relationships with local real estate agents to send traffic to their site, as well as ask potential buyers for a commitment and a deposit, even during an initial visit. Knowing what makes a strong Sales Representative would help the company avoid wasting valuable time and resources.

The Sales Representatives posed a different challenge than the Homebuilders in that the company needed to gain an edge in highly competitive marketplaces, specifically Florida and California. These areas had a great deal of new home construction, and the company’s current Sales Representatives were struggling to meet sales quotas.

The Strategic Solution

An analysis of the company’s situation indicated that the best way to help them meet their goals was to implement a Top Performer Analysis. This would clearly define the traits and competencies required to meet expectations in the Homebuilder and Sales Representative roles.

This process began with partnering with the company to identify those who were truly top performers, which meant reviewing specific performance criteria and applying consistent standards. Top Homebuilders were able to keep costs and overruns down while maintaining quality. Their sites had a minimal number of homebuyer complaints and fewer repairs that needed to be made, while the house was under warranty. They had also developed close working relationships with local municipalities and officials, as well as a strong network of subcontractors.

Sales Representatives needed to successfully develop new business by identifying real estate agents with the potential to bring in business, asking for commitments, and closing consistently. They had to follow policy and procedure, so a review of their employment files had to show a consistent willingness to play by the rules. Moreover,they needed to have strong working relationships with their colleagues and a willingness to work as part of a team.

All of the company’s top-performing Homebuilders and Sales Representatives took the Caliper Profile so the traits of top performers could be identified. After reviewing their Profiles and interviewing their managers, the top five Homebuilders and Sales Representatives were recognized, and a benchmark established the traits and competencies that set them apart.

The top-performing Homebuilders displayed strong aggressiveness, in that they were not as motivated to persuade people so much as they were forceful and directive in their approach. They also did not appearto be especially people oriented, empathic,or accommodating.In short,when it came to dealing with subcontractors and vendors, they would not accept excuses and would not hesitate to terminate a relationship with a subcontractor if expectations were not being met.

Top Homebuilders also appeared extremely detail oriented yet still motivated to get things done quickly.Their strength in managing construction projects seemed to center on their capacity to micromanage a building site without getting bogged down in details and on their willingness to address difficult situations when dealing with subcontractors. They also displayed some creativity, which could help them discover new ways to keep costs down.

While they did not show strong interpersonal dynamics,they were able to get the job done as expected. This was clearly a unique Profile, and candidates with this type of Profile may not come across well in job interviews.They mightseem standoffish, abrupt, and perhaps even unfriendly. It became important for the company’s Human Resources staff and other hiring managers to familiarize themselveswith the Profile so that theywould understand their top performers and know how to identify them during the initial interview process.

The company’s top-performing Sales Representatives displayed very high levels of persuasive drive, assertiveness, aggressiveness, and urgency. In addition,they appeared to be friendly, outgoing, and genuinely concerned about client needs. Their overall empathy was above average, and they seemed willing to go the extra mile for a customer—but they could still ask for a commitment and a deposit. These interpersonal dynamics also suggested the capacity to network with real estate agents in the community and develop strong working relationships. This combination of sales drive and service qualities allowed them to build rapport with prospects and put them at ease when discussing their housing needs.

The combination of their good empathy and strong idea orientation also meant that they were able to work with each prospect individually and make recommendations that suited a wide variety ofsituations.Do theywant a lot that backs up towoods?Would they like a finished basement? Would they be better offwith a smaller home? Their capacity to make targeted recommendations meant they could gain the trust of the homebuyer.In contrast, a Sales
Representative who is highly persuasive but lacks people skills might be seen by real estate agents and prospective buyers as too pushy. On the other hand, this aggressive approach might seem desirable during a job interview.Again,thisstressesthe importance of hiring managers knowing what to look for during the initialstages ofscreening job applicants.

Overall, it was discovered that the Profiles of the top performers in both the Homebuilder and Sales Representative position were unique. Homebuilders were very aggressive, structured, and demanding, while Sales Representatives displayed a combination of both sales and service dynamics.

This Top Performer Analysis enabled the company to have a clear-cut understanding of the personality attributes necessary for success in two very important, yet very different,roles.

The Results

Once the benchmark was established and managers were educated on how to use it during the hiring process, it became a guideline for hiring in both the Homebuilder and Sales Representative positions. A targeted interview format was designed to help the company screen applicants for each role. Each person who made it through a first interview was then given the Caliper Profile.

Their Profiles were then compared to the benchmark, and, if deficiencies were apparent, they became the basis for additional questions in follow-up interviews. This process helped the company reduce both the number and length of interviews, freeing hiring managers to focus on their primary responsibilities. This engagement was critical in helping the company meet its financial goals by assisting them in hiring Homebuilders who can keep costs down and Sales Representatives who can sell out developments quickly. By focusing on the qualities that distinguish their top performers and then using the benchmark to help identify high-potential job candidates, they were also able to reduce turnover and the time required for new hires to get up to speed.