DREAM BIG Small Business Award Winner: Heritage Homes

May 22, 2012

CEO Daryl Braham and President and Owner Tyrone Leslie accepted the 2012 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam's Club® at the Chamber's annual summit. (Photo: David Bohrer for the U.S. Chamber)

Seven regional finalists are competing to be named the 2012 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam's Club®. The winner, to be announced on May 22 during America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C., will receive a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Chamber.

The DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award pays tribute to businesses that excel in the areas of staff training and motivation, community involvement, customer service, and strategy.  The finalists were selected from 75 Blue Ribbon Award winners.

FreeEnterprise.com interviewed each of the finalists to learn more about what makes them special. Here's what Heritage Homes had to say.

Midwest Region

Heritage Homes, Fargo, North Dakota - an award winning new home construction company that’s been featured ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Home construction has taken a real beating during this recession. How have you managed to grow and adapt?

CEO Daryl Braham: Since the downturn began four or five years ago, we (Braham and Tyrone Leslie, president and owner) said that we’re going to innovate. We added more staff and continued to grow. And last year we had a record setting year. We spent a lot of time motivating our team and concentrating on wins and successes. We also reached out to the community more, created more buzz and enthusiasm, created business where we hadn’t in the past.

You transformed your sales team twice, including rehiring the sales team you had before. Why?

We had hired some great consultants, and one had a completely innovative approach to business. We went all in and followed his system. About 80% of what he told us was perfect for our company. The other 20% was not. We tried it and it just didn’t work. So we used the lessons learned from that and rehired back our original sales team. We learned a lot. We believe that if we’re not trying new things and being innovative and failing or tripping over ourselves, we’re not really trying.

You (and Leslie) talk a lot about how you don’t just build houses, you change lives. Tell us about how you’ve impacted your community.

We’re where we are in the community because of the community. We’ve built 590 homes. The average home has three plus people - that’s 1,800 people directly. And everything happens in these homes we’ve built—weddings, funerals, anniversaries. And they’re going to be there longer than any of us. We’re physically impacting the footprint of the community. The homes we build become the community. Our goals for this year is that we want to positively impact 65 families' lives, not build 65 homes.

What does it mean to “hire slowly,” and how does this strengthen the business overall?

Our latest hire, a new marketing manager, was a four-month process. We sometimes have people drop out because they can’t believe the process takes so long. From our perspective, whenever we bring on somebody new to the company, we give every other employee the opportunity to meet the person and weigh in. It gives the candidate the understanding that while we’re not necessarily a family business - we’re related by marriage - we treat everybody like they’re our own.

The announcement of the winner

We interviewed Daryl and Tyrone after winning:

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