Award-winning builder plans to grow “just enough”
By Pat Curry
Monthly Briefing Editor
Robert Gladstein says that his brother Michael, his cousin Joel, and himself — the three partners of American Classic Homes in Mercer Island, Washington — are “just regular Joes.” If that’s the case, then these regular Joes obviously have what it takes to be successful home builders.
Originally owners of a windshield replacement company, the Gladstein brothers started American Classic Homes in 1999, planning to be simply be investors while another cousin ran the business.
“We wrote on a napkin what it would be like to build four houses a month,” Robert says. “We quickly realized it was not that easy. We had the background of running a business, so we got involved in the operations and we learned home building along the way."
The family-owned and -operated company has built more than 600 homes in its 18 years of business. In the past year, they have built about 60 homes a year for the past two years. Within the next two years, they plan to increase their production to 100 homes a year.
“We don’t have plans to grow too big," Robert Gladstein says. "Once you get above 100 homes a year, you need another layer of management and we don’t want that. One thing that really sets us apart against national companies is that my partners and I are involved in many of the touch points with our customers. Personally representing the company throughout the home building process has played a key role in our success.”
As an example of just how seriously they take being hands-on, the home page of the company’s website features a photo of the three partners holding signs with their personal cell phone numbers. “I think it builds trust,” Gladstein says. “To know you can call the owners of the company at any time, lets our customers know how important they are to us.”
American Classic Homes is one of only six builders nationwide this year to win the Builder Partnerships Achievement Award for Customer Satisfaction, and this was their third year in the a row! To earn the honor, at least 88 percent of American Classic Homes’ home buyers needed to say they were willing to refer the company to friends or family. The company was then further evaluated on its customer service and referral rate by a committee of experts, which includes an in-depth review of the company’s processes and documentation.
“The customer satisfaction award is really, really meaningful for us because we work extremely hard to take care of our customers,” Gladstein says. “Even though we may make mistakes, we move forward and always put the customer first.”
A high level of customer satisfaction is essential — and challenging to accomplish — with a diverse customer base. “We’ve seen an increase in demand for feng shui, as well as multigenerational home plans,” Gladstein says. “We do a great job of having floor plans that meet the needs of a wide variety of customers. We offer multigenerational options, including plans that have a den and mother-in-law suite on the first floor. It’s almost like a second master. It’s fun working with a variety of buyers and learning how to take care of them.”
American Classic Homes is among an elite group of builders to win both the Builder Partnerships Achievement Award for Customer Satisfaction and Employer of Choice. Together, Gladstein says, the two awards mean “our team knows we do everything we can to help make them successful.”
“One of the things I think we’ve built on a cultural level is that everybody helps everybody,” he says. “When somebody needs a hand, other people show up to help in the office or out in the field. It’s a group effort and one gets left behind. That’s why people want to come to work every day.”
American Classic Homes has been working with Builder Partnerships for more than three years now, taking advantage of the company’s training opportunities to improve its processes.
“We’ve learned a tremendous amount,” he says. “It’s also nice to learn we’re doing a lot of things right!”
What’s coming up for American Classic Homes? Major companies based in the Pacific Northwest, including Microsoft and Amazon, “can’t hire enough people,” so the region’s demand for housing far exceeds the supply and American Classic Homes has almost sold out of every community it has currently available. That means the company is poised for growth.
“What I’m excited about is having the opportunity to execute and do what we promise, ‘Build a clean and complete home on time,’” Gladstein says. “To go from 60 to 100 homes is no easy task. The most important thing is to be able to follow through and communicate. Those are things we work on every day.”