There’s something unique about coming home, going through the front door, and having your family rush up to you and say hello. A home isn’t simply a place to sleep — it’s where you taught your kids how to ride a bike, where you camped in the backyard, … In Scott’s words, “It’s a book of memories.”
I had a chance to spend the day with Scott Laurie, CEO of Olson Homes. You should hear him talk about building houses. Words like “community,” “opportunity,” and “memories” are what you’ll hear around him.
Scott joined me for our Cannonball Mindset podcast. More fascinating than his passion for homes, was his passion for how he builds homes — the incredible attention to customer service that every person in this company has.
From Top to Bottom, Details Rein King at Olson Homes
You can’t miss the level of detailed service here. I met up with Scott in the office of one of their housing communities in Southern California. The entire community was immaculate. I sat down with Scott, who began to unfold why his company expresses such a deep level of customer service: It’s by design, and it’s part of their culture.
“We care, and it’s taken a lot of time to build up the right team of people.” It shows. While I was walking into Scott’s office, I passed through a hallway with a long line of awards. I was particularly struck by the 30+ Eliant awards: “Best Customer Service Experience,” “Best Construction Experience,” “Best Purchase Experience.” The word “experience” came up a lot.
Competitive Frisbee (Really Competitive Frisbee)
<“We win as a company.” — Scott Laurie>
To create a team culture, they host cross-functional team competitions throughout the year. These aren’t some hack they do to pretend their office culture is fun. They’re serious about these (they actually had to stop bowling because it became too competitive).
“At the end of the day, we win as a company. And to be able to do that, we need the cross-functional departments to work together.”
After New Year’s, they break up their employees into different teams. Scott and the HR manager have created a cross-functional system so people from different offices are grouped together on teams. It’s brilliant. While other companies are struggling with breaking down walls and just hoping their teams will find some sort of alignment, Scott says frankly: “We have no silos.”
Their spirited teams compete in a variety of ways: Each team has a list of certifications they must achieve by a certain date. They have dinner outings, team competitions, and an annual dinner where they host a trivia night, asking teams to answer difficult facts about the company.
At the end of the year, they tally the scores across all categories and declare a winning team.
See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It, Win It
Olson Homes has an insanely high benchmark of success: 96% customer satisfaction.
Right now, they’re at 97%.
<“Many people want to avoid their customer. We want to hear from them.” — Scott Laurie>
That takes an incredible amount of coordination from staff. They have a motto here, an altered version of the Oz Principle: See it, own it, solve it, do it, win it.
Pick a Saturday. If you visit any of the 9 communities they’ve built across Southern California, you will likely find an Olson Home staff putting on some sort of community event. Potlucks, open house, passing out hot chocolate — all outside of their normal hours. Why? Because that motto is true throughout the entire DNA of every staff member: They listen when customers complain about anything. For instance, one homeowner said there was a nail in his pool. A staff person dove in and pulled it out.
Obstacles Are Opportunity
Here’s something else that really struck me about this company: Almost all their communities are built where another builder flatly said “no.”
The community I visited is situated between I5 (the second busiest highway in the US), a large retail space, and a cemetery. Not exactly prime real estate to most developers.
“Where other people see obstacles, we see opportunity.” — Scott Laurie
Scott says his team always sees the opportunity. They saw a retail space and a movie theater within walking distance. They saw a gap in the market, a community desiring an oasis-like escape, and easy access to the highway, which is a must in California’s car-centric society. Opportunity, not obstacles.
Homes Are Memories
I’ll close out with a final thought from Scott: There’s something very special about your own place. Homes aren’t meant to be traded like commodities. They’re unique to individuals, a place to build a family legacy.
Those aren’t throw-aways from Scott — if you ever visit any part of their company, from their leadership, to staff, to a community, my guess is you’ll feel something deep.
It was by design.