Two years ago, few custom builders would have guessed that the industry was walking into a buzz saw. But Ken Wrench had a privileged view of what lay ahead. The Charlotte, N.C.-area builder handles sales and marketing for Augusta Homes while his partner, Ron Talbott, covers production. Wrench also sits on the board of directors of a local bank, and from that perch, he says, “We started seeing it before other builders.” Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Wrench and Talbott acted swiftly. Working with an outside consultant, the partners revamped their entire marketing program quickly and effectively enough to largely negate the downturn's effect on their volume.
To expedite its traditional design/build process, Augusta developed a portfolio of its own house designs, allowing owners to simply tweak existing plans rather than start from scratch. Rendered with the same elegant graphics as the website, the plan portfolio says as much about the company as it does about the houses. As a result, Wrench says, “We have access to a whole part of the market that we didn't have before.” And the timing couldn't have been better.