The History of McSpadden Custom Homes
"This is one of the most insightful articles we have ever published in Builder/Architect Magazine and is a must read for anyone considering building a custom home"
Top Charlotte Custom Home Builder, McSpadden Custom Homes where Quality is Only the Beginning . . .
Cover story Builder/Architect Magazine 2008
By Lin Loflin
Doug McSpadden is no stranger to Charlotte, or to the media for that matter. His work has been featured by many of the leading custom home building journals including Today’s Custom Homes, Housetrends, SouthPark, Charlotte Place, Today’s Charlotte Woman, Urban Home, and of course, he is certainly no stranger to Builder/Architect. His company, McSpadden Custom Homes has been in the spotlight of local and regional papers for award winning work, and leading-edge directions. After 20 years of service, Builder/Architect re-connected to better understand the evolution of one of Charlotte’s wonderful success stories.
Q. Before we get started understanding you as a builder, tell us a little about your personal background
I grew up in Gastonia, NC as the third of four children. Strong Christian and family values were the center of our family’s life. These values and the character development I learned as an Eagle Scout were major influences during my younger years. I attended the University Of Tennessee School Of Architecture and graduated with honors in 1983. During the mid-80’s, I began gathering the credentials necessary to design, build, and sell my own properties. By the time I moved back to North Carolina, I had studied and sat for my real estate broker’s license and general contractor’s license.
Q. What about your family?
My wife, Laurie and I were married in 1984 and have remained best friends and business partners. We have two wonderful sons, Harrison and Connor. Our family is extremely important to us, and we set aside evenings and weekends for our growth and enjoyment. We let our customers know early in our association that from Monday morning – as early as 4:00 am – until Friday afternoon, I’m focused 12 – 16 hours a day on their needs. But evenings and weekends are for family, and I guard this time as precious.
Q. Obviously, your family and your background have strongly impacted who you are today. How would you describe yourself in light of that?
First and foremost, I believe that we are not human beings having a Spiritual experience. We are Spiritual beings having a human experience. This attitude helps me keep things in perspective and remain humble. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale describes it this way - “People with humility don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less” I like that! The humility I strive for is not, however, a passive attitude but rather a “do-it-now” attitude. I thrive on production and getting things done. This translates into prompt return phone calls, efficient business meetings, and easy accessibility. Our customers like that.
“His work ethic is second to none. Just the simple fact that he returned my initial phone call within a day was enough.” – Steve Yoerg
“Doug is a longtime customer and friend of mine. That, plus his reputation as a fine home builder, led me to choose him. Building a house with Doug was better than I expected, in terms of both speed and quality. He stayed on top of everything, and he and his staff did a super job. If I were building again, I’d certainly choose him.” – Rob Watson
Q. How can you maintain this emphasis on family and personal time and still run a successful company?
The two goals are not in conflict. Quite the contrary, I can provide better for my family and have more time to spend with them by maintaining a successful company. To do this, we have structured our team into three divisions, Business Management, Project Development, and Project Management. The key word here is “We”. This is not a “top down” company where decisions are made at the top and passed down to be implemented. Virtually every decision made within our organization is the culmination of input from everyone. By seeking council from all our employees, we not only discover the best direction, but assure that everyone subscribes to whatever the decision is.
“You know Doug’s got a whole team. Doug was wonderful and he’s the leader, but he’s got some good people working with him and they handle anything that needs to be handled.” – Drs. Eric and Fariha Feinberg
Q. So what keeps you and your employees so unified?
Core Values! Each week, our staff meeting opens with devotions. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that our core values must remain unshakeable. Weekly devotions and open discussion keep us in touch with what we are really about. We may not agree on everything during staff meetings, but we are unified with these values and can therefore, resolve any issue that confronts us. Our company direction will continue to change and grow, but our Core Values will remain rock-solid.
“Our team meets each Tuesday to review the jobs…and the areas we each handle. This helps us know what the other person is doing and is also a time to ask for help or answers for who ever may need it.” – Mike Jenkins, Superintendent
Q. Do the sub-contractors that you hire have these same values?
I’d like to think so. We have worked very hard to assemble a team of trade contractors and suppliers that share our philosophies. One thing we know for sure, they are all dedicated and committed to the customer’s satisfaction.
“I have worked with some of our trade contractors for the entire eleven years that I been with McSpadden and have a great communication level with them.” – Mike Jenkins, Superintendent
“He’s worked a long time on putting crews together and he expects the very best.” – Marvin Price, Carolina Painting
Q. How did you become so passionate about the Construction Industry?
As a child, I was constantly fascinated with design and construction, whether it was a city of building blocks or a tree house. I was also intrigued with the aspect of business development – encouraged by my dad. Even in college, I had a pretty clear vision for the company I wanted to develop. This company should be able to design, build, and sell its own product. And I was quite deliberate in making this happen. By age 25, with a degree in architecture and a real estate license, I had purchased, remodeled, and sold property in Tennessee and by age 27, had moved back to North Carolina, obtained my general contractor’s license, and incorporated McSpadden Development. We built our first speculative home in a Charlotte Waterfront Community on Lake Wylie, and we’ve grown ever since.
Q. What have been your major influences as you developed your business?
The strongest influence has been the moral and ethical principals I learned from my parents as I observed them in their day-to-day life. They taught me that the principles of Christian living are imperative in everything we do. I strive to live by these values and let them guide our company, and I think the principle of servant hood has influenced our company the most. I also discovered very early that time to enjoy life is just as important as a large bank account. Quality family time and recreational activity have always driven my vocational goals. That’s why we accept only a limited number of homes to build each year.
“It’s mostly communication and honesty. And I mean that’s his strong points. He’s going to let you know what’s going on every step of the way and you can trust him.” – Drs. Harry and Kathryn Caufield
Q. How does your value system affect your business philosophy?
Our corporate mission statement was written in 1987 and has been our constant companion: We shall execute a Professional, Predictable, Detailed, and Systematic Process of custom home building characterized by servant hood, with core values of honesty, diligence and excellence as our cornerstones, wisdom as our guide and longevity as our goal” I think the first 6 words of this statement sum up the company value system better than all the rest. Servant hood means we put the concerns of our Customers and Trade Contractors above our own. And I don’t include the word “Trade Contractors” lightly. Service to the customer is expected, but we must also service our tradesmen in order for them to service us. I’m convinced that, in the words of motivational speaker Zig Zigler, “You can have every thing you want out of life if you just help enough other people get what they want”.
“His work is always a notch up. Jobs are always clean and ready for us when we get there, so all my guys look forward to doing a McSpadden homes house. Everything’s run so smooth and coordinated so well.” – Rick Cook, Energy Efficient Heating and A/C
Q. How does this business philosophy impact your company?
Ray Crock, the founder of McDonalds has a great saying - “As long as you’re green you’re growing, as soon as you’re ripe you start to rot.” But growing is not just about doing things bigger, faster, or more expensively. Growing frequently involves paradigm shifts. Einstein suggested that “the significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”. This attitude of business development keeps me constantly thinking “outside the box”. To offer the best custom home building experience possible, we can never stop growing and must constantly be thinking at a level higher than we were a year ago.
“Our company has experienced growth within the past few years and certainly we have goals and visions for our future, however, we have intentionally stayed small enough to focus our efforts towards providing our clients with a sense of intimacy and warmth; we want them to feel as if their project is our only focus and not just a number waiting in line to break ground.” – Amanda Eldridge, Office Manager
Q. So what does this mean to your Customers?
Our customers can count on two things: Our core values will not change, but our growth will. But growing is not just about building more homes. Growing in efficiency, professionalism, construction technologies, response to customer and trade needs, project management, and trade management, are all part of this philosophy. We prefer to build a limited number of homes and maintain a 100% satisfied customer base. Smoothness of operation is a primary goal of our Company. It’s easy to say “Quality Job, On Time, and Within Budget”. This is the buzz phrase of our industry. To accomplish this, however, requires sound business practices as well as continual review and upgrades of systems, services, and procedures.
“I personally try to make everyone, whether a half-million dollar client or a two million dollar client; a banker or a realtor; a showroom rep or a tradesman, feel as if their phone call or request is a top priority, and to treat them with the same amount of courtesy and respect.” – Amanda Eldridge, Office Manager
Q. How does this business philosophy affect the development of a project?
This has been one of our major “Paradigm Shifts”! We don’t operate the way most Customers expect. We are not about taking a set of plans and basic specifications and returning a “bid”. In fact, we don’t even participate in competitive bids. Our first objective is to determine whether there is a good fit between customer and contractor. We’re about open-book, goal-oriented, face-the-facts, evaluate the options, Team Approach. If the fit is good, the experience will be as well.
All of our Projects are developed with the same thoroughness and service-oriented philosophy, whether they’re a $500,000 home or a $5,000,000 home. We meet with our customers and, first of all, listen. We then provide a professional system of project development that allows the Customer, Architect, Designer, and Contractor to evaluate and refine the project as a team. This process provides a predictable path, and allows us to align The Design, The Specifications, and The Budget. Then and only then are we ready to actually construct the home. No sugar-coating, no hidden numbers, no unanswered questions, and a mutual level of expectation.
“Doug is great to work with. He doesn’t just follow the blueprints. He understands architectural styles and has a good feel for the finishes that are appropriate for each style. He takes the time to meet with us and our clients so we’re all on the same page. That gives us a good feel for how much everything will cost and ensures the clients get what they want. The quality of construction McSpadden offers is very good. Doug’s been in business many years, and he’s built good relationships with his subcontractors, and that shows in their work.” – Christopher Phelps, Christopher Phelps & Associates
“You know we were working from square one, every step of the way, every time we got a new draft from the architect, and so when it came time to build, there were no surprises. It was real smooth.” – Drs. Eric and Fariha Feinberg
"McSpadden is very methodical during the start up stage of the building process…. This process took about 3 months to complete and by the time we finished, we knew there would be no surprises." - Steve Yoerg
Q. And how does this philosophy influence the actual construction of your homes?
This early development and thorough understanding of the Project allows all parties to engage in the construction process with the same level of expectation. This also eliminates pressure on the client to make quick decisions once the job is underway. Once underway, our job is to implement the construction activities in a fashion consistent with our corporate statement. Since each of our homes has different needs, budget, time frame, specifications, and design, the one consistent element our Company must offer is that of consistent implementation. With this in mind, we have assembled a team of consultants, tradesmen and suppliers who share our same values and respect our business philosophy. We must keep in mind that we don’t build houses; we simply orchestrate, coordinate, and communicate with those that do.
“Project Development is our clients’ opportunity to help create the best custom home for their budget. I work with clients, along with architects & designers to develop a custom home project that meets their living needs, fits their individual style and works within their budget. We have designed systems, procedures, and resources to make the process enjoyable, beneficial and reliable. We use a state of the art specification / estimating program and a completely customized data base to ensure accurate estimates with no “surprises”. The end result is a custom home project that the client can afford and enjoy for many years to come.” – Mike Lindsay, Project Development
Q. Define quality home building. What are the ingredients to building a consistent, quality home time and again?
Systems, Systems, Systems. I’ve heard it said that if you have a problem in your organization, it’s because you don’t have a system to prevent it. Quality home-building involves a professional, predictable, systematic approach to getting things done. And once our customers see the whole picture of how we do things, they are excited to get on board. And we never stop developing systems, because we never stop forging into new territory. So, how do you provide the ingredients to consistently produce a quality product when you’re trying to hit a moving target? Never stop developing systems!
“Quality Home Building consists of: Quality Sub-Contractors, Quality Materials, Quality Organization, and Straightforward and Friendly Business Environment. It is my pleasure to serve our customers as Project Manager for McSpadden Homes.” – John Gump, Project Manager
Q. What advice or helpful hints could you suggest to prospective clients?
First, beware of a quick low price that does not involve proper project development. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told by individuals after selecting another contractor that in the end, they spent just as much as if they had gone with us. We won’t tell our customers what they want to hear just to get the job. We help them gather real information so they can make quality decisions.
Secondly, put some opportunity money aside for changes and additions that no one can foresee at the beginning of the project. This may be as much as 5% to 10% of the total contract amount, but it will allow them to capitalize on the unforeseen opportunities that inevitably pop up.
Third, be flexible! The homes we build are one-of-a-kind. There will be details and design decisions that will need to be developed in the field. Our experience and education usually provide immediate solutions to these challenges, but sometimes, we still need to consult with the architect or engineer to find the best answer.
Fourth, be real with your budget. Realize that you can’t have it all. But also recognize that our system allows you to put your money into those areas that are most important to you while value-engineering those areas that are not. We have yet to meet a customer with an unlimited budget. Our systems are designed to work within budget parameters and produce a home which is of the greatest value, not necessarily the most expensive.
“McSpadden has been VERY accommodating when it comes to making changes. We have made countless changes during the construction process, not from lack of preparedness, but due to issues no one could have foreseen. For example, the exercise room we felt was too small once the framing was up. We asked them if they could make that room larger, and it was completed that day!” – Steve and Lucy Yoerg
Q. You have great drive and determination in running you business. What do you do for fun?
I spend a lot of time in the outdoors. Work hard, Play hard is a motto I live by. My definition of a great vacation is one in which I need to get back to work to relax! I am an avid kayaker and have paddled rivers across the country including the Colorado. I also enjoy climbing and mountain biking. The new U.S. Whitewater Center has become my playground! Boating, snow-boarding, scuba diving, tennis, ultra light flying, and playing the drums round out my list of recreation. The great thing about most of these activities is their ability to teach self-assurance and independence. As a company leader, these characteristics are quite important. Decisions are made and the consequences are yours and yours alone. I count on our team to guide us, but ultimately, I have to call the shot. I make many decisions every day, sometimes they’re not right, but I accept the consequences, fix what needs to be fixed, and move on.
“McSpadden and his staff have helped ease the anxiety of moving into a new home. McSpadden is very responsive to correcting even the smallest problem. He is fortunate to have on staff someone as cooperative, knowledgeable and reliable as his manager, John Gump.” - Pam and David Furr
Q. It appears that you enjoy recreation that is unique and progressive. This is not your typical “Country Club” venue. How is this attitude reflected in your company?
We like to stay on the leading edge of both business development and construction technology. We have experience with Green Building initiatives, geothermal heat recovery systems, whole house warm floor systems, Energy star ratings, High performance Home technologies, Healthy-built home parameters, state-of-the-art insulation systems, Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) construction, Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) - Poly-steel wall systems, steel floor framing, computer-controlled lighting packages, and integrated whole house wiring technologies. Pushing the industry’s limits and taking advantage of new developments has been and will remain one of our strong corporate goals.
He could adapt with any kind of new concepts, new products, unusual requests about how to solve a problem that we might have.” – John and Lisa Morris
Q. How do you position McSpadden Custom Homes on the leading edge?
We continually study current building trends, network with other builders who are leaders in our industry, and attend educational seminars to keep us abreast of the market. As a 20 year veteran Real Estate Broker, I constantly evaluate market demands and trends through continuing education classes and realtor business relationships. But perhaps the most significant contribution to our Companies trend-setting direction is an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and forward thinking instilled in me through the disciplines of Architecture. Our Company is one that produces Art, not just houses. And while history is a major part of the equation of new home construction, creative and forward thinking coupled with what history has taught us is what produces leading edge services and products. We embrace new Information Systems and Business Directions and are constantly re-evaluating our business practices to keep us razor sharp. An open mind and creative yearning tempered with decades of practical construction experience and coupled with pragmatic real estate business parameters will continue to guide our direction in the years to come.
“It is fun being part of a team that works hard every day to make someone’s dreams come true. I have a great job.” –Mary Chaires, Business Management
“Doug McSpadden has been a great leader and coach for our team. He backs each of us when ever we need it and has always been there for assistance.” – Mike Jenkins, Superintendent
Q. What current trends are influencing your company’s structure the most?
The “Trends” of today’s custom homes are evolving from the demands of a more educated, environmentally conscience, and participatory consumer. And they are fueled with an un-ending flow of nearly instant information provided by our internet super-highway. Understanding this, our company structure is focused on four theatres of customer service – each of which has involved a bit of a paradigm shift:
Professional “Business” experience:
Consumers are more sophisticated than ever today. They want straight answers. They don’t want things sugar coated. They want to understand everything about their home, from the spec level to the pricing structure. We’ve found they would rather deal with the “facts” of a project up front than see a “pretty picture” painted by a hasty and overly optimistic builder only to have to deal with the harsh realities later. We therefore, will continue to grow our systems and processes to offer the consumer a more professional “Business Experience” rather than just being a “Builder”.
Our Team Approach to custom home building is an extraordinary experience. We do not participate in competitive bids. An educated consumer quickly recognizes that we provide better value, more flexibility, a higher level of customer participation, and a more efficient building process than a builder marginalizing your home in a competitive bid scenario in order to present a cheaper price. We evaluate the plans together. We build the Specifications together. We build the price together.
As the pace of society moves faster and faster and the mass production of houses continue to grow, we continue to limit the number of homes we build each year. This allows us not only the ability to build a relationship with our customer, but also to focus on building a one-of-a-kind home. We are seeing a trend of production home builders offering more and more expensive “luxury” homes. And while there may be a market for this, our focus is more about the customer relationship and process of building a unique, personalized, one-of-a-kind home.
New products and consumer awareness continually change the direction of the custom home building business. We want to stay on that leading edge. We intend to stay in front of rapidly growing arenas of “Green Building”, “High Performance Homes” and “Healthy-built Homes”. And we thrive on the cautious exploration of the unique and innovative.
“I mean the house is 3years old and I’ve never had one single thing Doug had to come back and fix. When you get a builder that you don’t even need a punch list for...that’s a compliment.” – Richard LaVecchia
Q. There have been additions to your company slogan, “Quality is only the beginning.” Some of your team follows the phrase with “Service that is never ending.” What sets your company apart when it comes to securing customer satisfaction?
We possess a relentless pursuit of Customer Satisfaction through a genuine caring and lasting relationship with our Customers. In fact, I think it safe to say we don’t just build houses, we build relationships. It’s the relationship that builds customer satisfaction. This may seem a bit of a paradox, but in my mind, the Team comes first, then the establishment of real expectations. The house is a product of a well educated team armed with real expectations. If real expectations are communicated and embraced by the Customer, Architect, Designer, and Contractor, then real Customer Satisfaction is inevitable.
We’ll never claim to provide a “challenge-free” home-building experience. In fact, as we step out on the “leading edge” we find more challenges than staying in the “Safe Zone” and building the same basic product again and again. So, the first step to customer satisfaction is the setting of real expectations. Starting right up front with our sales presentation, we’re clear about the realities of custom home building. We educate our customers, build relationships, and then follow through.
Q. What goes into your planning before you break ground on a build site?
EVERYTHING! Our systems and Procedures provide a platform to completely develop the project with the Customer prior to ground-breaking. Again, it’s a team approach. By the time the project emerges from Project Evaluation, the entire team is completely on board with the Plans, the Specs, and the Pricing structure.
“A lot of planning, a lot of planning. We probably spent as much time at the table with him thinking about what we’re gonna put in this house so we could figure out the cost as we’re going to build.” – John and Lisa Morris
Q. How has your style of design changed over the years? Why?
It’s important to note that we don’t have a “Style”. Our style is whatever the Customer wants. But we are integrally involved with the development of the project from its inception, and offer advice, opinions, and past experiences to bring the Plans, the Specs, and the Budget into alignment. The Style is ultimately determined by the Customer.
“Each homeowner is different and focuses in on different areas of the jobs that concern you more than others. It doesn’t matter to me what your focus is because once I know it; it becomes mine.” – Mike Jenkins, Superintendent
Q. Where do you see the future of McSpadden Custom Homes?
We will continue to grow as one of the finest One-of-a-kind Custom Homebuilders in the Charlotte metro region. Our focused business development, passion for what we do, and satisfied client track record are a testament to this. We will continue to develop strong relationships with the finest developers in the region and cautiously expand our territory, but will also continue to limit the number of projects to maintain the quality home-building experience the Charlotte area has grown to expect. Without question, our focused and deliberate growth pattern coupled with a genuine servant’s attitude will provide our high level of service and quality to an ever-increasing select group of customers.
“Quality builder, I think he’s the best in the area. It was a very pleasant, rewarding experience.” –
Bill and Alcy Whisenant
“The quality of the job Doug’s people did was 100 percent. Ours was a difficult house to build, a combination of stucco and stone. Mike Jenkins and his subcontractors were the best around. We were impressed with the quality of their workmanship. Some builders take shortcuts, but not these. They never cut corners or used inferior products. They really went the extra mile. Doug did a great job of staying in touch. He’s very detail-oriented, and he likes to have everything in writing. When we got to the final walk-through and punch list, there were no hassles. Doug’s people took care of everything quickly and easily.” – Richard LaVecchia
High Quality Custom Homes in Charlotte, Lake Wylie, Mecklenburg County, York County, North and South Carolina.
A Top Rated Home Builder, Top Five Custom Home Builder and Business Professional in the Charlotte, North Carolina Region
“McSpadden Custom Homes, A Lake Wylie/Charlotte/North and South Carolina Custom Home Builder"