Each month, Majestic Kitchen & Bath Creations will feature a profile on an area leader in the residential building industry. This article highlights Mark Johnson, Founder of Mark Johnson Custom Homes.
While he has much to celebrate about his career, Mark Johnson counts checking off daily tasks among his list of accomplishments.
It’s a good thing he enjoys keeping – and crossing out – to-do items, since building $1- to $3-million-dollar custom homes and large renovations require a high level of planning and detail. It starts with the design process and encompasses everything from helping clients with interior selections to assuring paint choices adhere correctly to the walls, per manufacturer specifications.
It’s a layered approach to building with many different moving parts and people. But for Mark, it’s all about achieving one end result – the smiling faces of clients for whom he helps build their dream homes.
How did you get started in the building industry?
When I was 10 years old, I got a walkie talkie for Christmas and I spent a lot of time with that walkie talkie in my room, just pressing buttons.
I was somehow eventually able to connect to random truck drivers and I started ordering construction materials. I have no idea where the truck drivers were or who they were, but I would get on there and say things like, “I need one cube of two by fours.”
So, I guess that was my first experience with getting into construction [laughing]. No one ever came and dropped anything off and nothing ever happened, but I did try. I guess I started my purchasing career pretty early.
What about the industry made you want to continue to progress?
After I graduated college, I worked for a homebuilder in Raleigh. They gave me 25 townhomes on my first day and basically said, “Figure it out.” There were multiple levels of supervision above me, but it was my responsibility to figure these 25 townhomes out. I had never managed a house or a project.
So, I guess just learning the various scopes of work, seeing smiling clients and the dynamics of physical change – things look different from day to day as the house progresses – made me want to stay in this industry.
For me, something else I enjoy doing within the industry is simply marking stuff off my to-do list. I make so many lists and so many tasks come to me every day that I really enjoy marking things off. They’re like little accomplishments, every one of them.
What is the biggest challenge you faced?
My biggest challenge ever was the 2008 financial crisis. We had a couple of million-dollar specs and some land, and we were paying about $30,000 a month to the bank at the time.
Before we ran out of money, we reached out to the bank several months ahead and sat down with them and explained our challenges and our upcoming issues. Therefore, they were much more willing to really work with us beyond maybe what they would normally do.
What we learned from that is the importance of being vocal and sharing challenges before an actual issue arises. I think it establishes a better relationship when you can be up front and transparent.
What one person motivated and inspired you the most?
Dallas Romanowksi of Cornerstone Business Advisors. He approached me back in 2006 to join an advisory group of other business owners in town, and through that, Dallas really helped us define the “why” behind what we do every day. His book, Performance Culture, is a great read.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
I’ve been told I’m humble, almost to a fault. So, what I took from that advice was the need to create more of a sales process around what I do differently than other custom homebuilders in our market. It took really understanding that
I’m humble to share with people the things we do differently and that we think we do well, rather than them hearing through the grapevine or experiencing it once they’ve chosen us.
What does being a leader mean to you?
Sharing a vision and getting out of the way. Being accessible, working harder than the people around you to lead by example.
How do you build trust and loyalty within your organization?
Be consistent and supportive. Follow through and hold people accountable. I also have to hold myself accountable for what I say I am going to do.
How do you handle tough decisions?
I consult my wife, who is half-owner of our business. And, I’d say, I consult Dallas, for sure, and the peer advisory group he organized that I have been a part of for several years.
What advice would you give those just starting out in the industry?
Engage in a business coach or find a mentor. I can keep clients happy all day, but there’s an entire world of sales, marketing, company culture, insurance, financing, etc., that really takes most of my time.
Anyone can start a homebuilding company but that doesn’t mean they can sell the house, get financing or understand the business side of the company. It’s nice having someone help me wade through some of those various decisions and just sort of force me to think through some things.
For a quarter century, Majestic has offered a wide selection of products for homebuilders, from counter tops, shower enclosures, shelving, door hardware and accessories for kitchens and bathrooms, in North and South Carolina. Acquisitions just within the last year of many well-established companies – including Builders Glass & Hardware Inc. in Wilmington and similar businesses in Greensboro and Charlotte – allow Majestic to be the most professional trade partner. Visit www.gomajestic.com or call (910) 762-2252 for more information.