Photos by Hillary Ehlen
May 11, 2018, was a special day for Tyrone Leslie. After 24 years of hard work and dedication in business, he was awarded the ChamberChoice Entrepreneur of the Year award. With the 2019 ChamberChoice Awards happening on Friday, May 17, we thought we would sit down with him to see what business lessons he’s learned over the years. Here are the six insights we gained from him.
1. Humility is important
In Jim Collins’ business book “Good to Great,” Collins cited a study in 2001, which went through nearly 1,500 Fortune 500 companies over a 30-year period. Collins and his team of researchers went through and looked at the companies, which saw growth after a transition in leadership. The team found two characteristics among the leaders of the companies that saw significant growth: humility and a determination to do the right thing for the company, no matter how painful.
“I still think about winning the award to this day. It was a very humbling experience. If I had the opportunity to say, ‘You know what? This isn’t for me. This is for my team and my company,’ I would do that in a heartbeat. My goal is to infuse fun in everything we do while ensuring customers and our team are met with professionalism and respect during every interaction. We are dedicated to making our clients’ dreams come true through an enjoyable journey and unparalleled service by not only our
2. Hiring the right employees is crucial
It’s a cliché in business, but the mantra of hire slow is true. Leslie and his team have developed hiring committees to ensure they are getting the proper candidates who fit their culture. Many companies, including Google, have enacted hiring committees. Google states they use hiring committees because it “reduces individual unconscious bias in the hiring process, ensuring the candidate is the right match for the role”.
“The success of an organization is based on the talent and skills of our staff,” said Leslie. “Recruiting qualified employees and being able to keep them happy at an organization is an investment of time and resources. In strong economic times, finding capable applicants is a challenge and keeping them is an even greater challenge. At Heritage Homes, employees are the greatest source of finding talent. There is little to no turnover because employees are retained through a culture of empowerment, training, accountability and praise. A business plan is developed, goals are set and successes are celebrated. The environment is attractive to professionals because of the opportunities to grow and be recognized.
Another large part of this process is that new potential team members are not just interviewed by one person; it’s a team of people interviewing. The buy-in needs to be by the team and not just one person. This is not just a benefit to our team, but the interviewee. Doing this really secures the culture and maintains the solidarity in the office, which simply just works.”
3. Adapt quick
“We’ve had to overcome adversity with the labor shortage in construction with the market rebounding. Part of our solution to this problem is through our culture. Our company practices the lean philosophy, which means finding ways to get rid of waste in any process because waste does not give value to the customer.
“Part of this process was to partner with our trades to discover best practices. Our goal was to create a smoother working environment for the trades to give our customers better value. There was a great byproduct created from this process. Our trades appreciated being involved with a company that values their time and efforts to produce a high quality home. During high demand times, other contractors may offer a more elevated price to have our trades leave us for another project. However, if their job-sites are not work ready, our trade partners understand they will actually make less money and have more stress. Our streamlined, work-ready job-sites allow our trade partners to complete more jobs and be more efficient with their time.
“Our number one goal is to continue to create the goal of team work. No matter what happens in business, most companies will not succeed without complete and utter acceptance of a team. When we win, we all win together and when we fail, we all fail together. Whether we win or fail we need to understand the “why,” learn from it, make our adjustments and continue to move on without guilt, fear of retribution or, most importantly, the risk of complacency.
When we win, we learn. When we lose, we learn. We continue to move forward.”
4. The role of a visionary is important
eritage Homes isn’t afraid of change. In fact, they openly embrace it, as evidenced by their use of technology. They continue to grow while staying aware of the needs of the city and changes in the market. Technology also plays a major role in their homebuilding journey with interactive plans, 3D experiences and an oculus program where homeowners can virtually walk through their future home. In 2018, they introduced Matterport, a camera and building scanning, which creates a 3D virtual tour of their model homes. This enhances the user experience and their customers can tour their homes from the comfort of their home. They constantly strive to keep their technology cutting edge.
“You can call me the dream maker. A lot of ideas that I come up with can be somewhat silly and drives our team crazy. Every company needs that guy that creates these ideas and hopefully gets some feet on it. I’m the visionary. I like to be able to look down the road so that we’re always on the cutting edge of the services we provide.
“The building industry is changing at a rapid pace. If you’re not ahead of the curve, what does that tell you and where does that leave your company down the road? That’s not an option. I’m a guy who embraces change and teamwork. I’m a fast start.”
5. Customer satisfaction is number one
Heritage Homes has an impressive track record of customer satisfaction. One hundred percent of their customers have no economic surprises at closings. Ninety-eight percent of their clientele would recommend Heritage Homes to friends and family. How do they achieve this success? Well, it’s pretty simple.
“One word. Process. It’s well defined with the buyer in mind, not the builder. A lot of times, it’s a skinny company. It’s more ‘me centric’ when it has to be ‘customer centric.’ It has to be well thought through. You have to have the right team to implement it.
“I’ve seen policies and procedures that are just awesome, but the people behind them aren’t all in. They don’t care. It’s just a paycheck for them. Both sides of our company work incredibly well together and are united.
“Our primary goal is doing what we can to positively influence people’s lives every day. We want to make sure when we are given the honor to build a home, which is still the American dream. We are very passionate about it and we don’t take the task lightly.
“Specializing in making the homebuilding journey the most enjoyable and stress-free experience, we have processes in place to streamline the build and take the worrying out of the decision-making. We pride ourselves in building the most livable homes for our clients while working with our passionate, genuine and energetic team to create a homebuilding experience like no other. Our HomeCare/Warranty program takes our clients beyond closing day and with the premium materials our trusted trade partners use, makes us one of the areas well-respected homebuilders.”
6. His success is shared with the whole Fargo business community
Leslie is originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and while he’ll always love his hometown, when he first moved to Fargo-Moorhead, he instantly fell in love with the community.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this local community is so tight and all about giving back to the community. Three years of living in this town, I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, how can I live here?’ I was living in Winnipeg, a big city. I was going a little bit crazy. I said, ‘Hold on. Let’s backtrack this a little bit and look at this more carefully.’ Not only do I swell with pride when I think of how far the FM area has come in these past years, but I am reassured that we, together, have built a community where I am proud to raise my family and call home.”
Book he recommends: “Blue Ocean Strategy”
“It’s such a great book because it really defines the importance of business but, most importantly, it defines who Heritage Homes and Berkshire Hathaway is. … They talk about the circus. You’ve heard of Cirque du Soleil and you’ve heard of the other typical circuses that are just dying. Why does Cirque du Soleil do so well? It’s because they define a completely different program that people are paying 10 times the price and having an experience. The other circuses are dying out and fading away.
“That’s what this book is about. It’s about creating a blue ocean strategy and getting away from the bloody red sea, which everybody is fighting for.”