Lessons from Legends in the Home Building Industry
Our Lessons from Legends series are informal chats with leaders in the home building industry. In which we pick the brain of, and learn the (inevitably) inspiring backstory, of people who have not only survived, but thrived in this unpredictable industry. It’s our not so sneaky way of gleaning some lessons on how to be successful in business and life.
The Legend: Phil Fankhauser
In this installment we were joined by none other than Philip Fankhauser one of the founding partners for Epcon.
Epcon Communities develops new residential communities targeting the 55+ housing market. Founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1986. They later expanded with regional development offices in Raleigh and Charlotte, NC and recently, added Indianapolis, IN.
Epcon Communities Franchising was founded in 1995, to share Epcon’s copyrighted architecture and business processes with other developers / builders. Currently they have franchised communities in 33 states with over 17,000 homes to date.
LD: Thanks so much for sitting down with us. I know you’re busy, so let’s get right to it. If you had to explain what you do in 10 words or less what would you say? What is your own personal elevator speech if you will?
PF: I work with a team that builds the best new homes for the active adult market in America.
LD: Nice, very concise. What is it about Epcon Communities that results in such quality product year after year?
PF: I think it boils down to listening. You must listen to your market. Trends come and go. Priorities shift. But if you are listening, you become aware of the changes and can react appropriately. If you want to be a leader you must also be a listener.
Along those lines, we have listened and learned that in addition to quality construction and visionary architectural design, our buyers want a different “way to live”, a way of life they’ve never experienced before. For our customers, just as important as the home itself, are the lifestyle features we offer.
The 55+ market is looking for a certain lifestyle that we provide with every Epcon home. A lifestyle that affords them more free time, more fun time. They want to feel like they’re engaged in the social fabric of their community including diverse amenities that promote wellness.
LD: It’s definitely proved to be a winning combination. When and how did you get started in the housing industry?
PF: It started nearly 50 years ago.
LD: Please elaborate.
PF: After completing college and working for a couple of years with a manufacturer in market research and advertising, I realized I wanted more. I suppose it was the entrepreneurial spirit emerging.
A neighbor back then was a home builder with a sales challenge. I told him “you build and I’ll handle the sales”. We built a business together for 13 years until business philosophies dictated a change.
LD: Then what did you do?
PF: The day after I left that business, I called my now partner of 35 years, Ed Bacome. The best call I ever made! Earlier as a builder, I had worked with his property management business and respected his qualities.
We agreed to go on “a business date” to do just one project and see how we teamed. The rest of the story is Epcon’s 35-year history.
LD: What is your favorite part of what you do? After all these years, what keeps you motivated?
PF: I like moving fast. I like great variety. My job is different every day. The variety of challenge is inspiring. It’s a thrill ride. Almost without exception, each day has been filled with good experiences. Not to say that we haven’t experienced the housing crisis and/or other economic downturns, but we have survived each time.
I’m fortunate at Epcon to work regularly with exceptional people. Really exceptional people. You can’t be anything special without extraordinary people.
LD: In addition to surrounding yourself with the right people, what do you attribute to your long, successful career?
PF: Good health. You can’t take that for granted. I feel half my age. I live a “healthy life.” And as a result, I am excited for every day. But I couldn’t do any of it without the support and encouragement of my wife Kathy. She has been by my side, my biggest cheerleader for over 52 years. She is an endless source of strength, friendship, and love.
And the work has remained fun. I enjoy solving problems. Determining the best solution for a problem, or a better way to serve a customer is incredibly stimulating, and fun! Financial rewards tend to follow as well.
LD: I love that. I feel like that is Lita’s philosophy too. Doing a job that makes you happy and is fun is what makes you successful and keeps you motivated to keep doing a good job. It’s a virtuous circle.
LD: You’ve shared so much great advice already, and we appreciate it. Just one more. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
PF: I’d have to say I got great advice from my parents. They were two wonderful people who had such high personal values. They believed in honesty and hard work and in treating everyone fairly. If you witness that model throughout childhood, it becomes a lifelong value.
As far as work/career advice, I’d say, the higher you want to go, the more you need to surround yourself with people who know more than you.
LD: Any parting words of wisdom?
PF: Dream big – it’s a lot more fun!
LD: Perfect! Thank you so much. It was a pleasure chatting with you. We appreciate you sharing your words of wisdom and lessons learned.
For more information on Phil Fankhauser and Epcon Communities please visit their website.