All about quality
As the Directors of HotondoRockhampton, Brett and Linda Loutithave built an enduring reputation for being among the most reliable and professional builders in the local area. Over the years, their company – a valued franchise of Hotondo Homes, Australia’s leading network of professional builders – has earned acclaim from the industry and the loyalty of their customers in equal measure.
“Everybody uses the word quality, but we mean it,” says Brett, summarising what sets his company apart in the market. “We put a lot of time and effort into making sure the project is done right, and that the customer is satisfied.”
Brett’s experience with Hotondo Homes dates back to 2004, but his experience in the industry stretches back much longer. He first began his career as a carpenter-apprentice in the electrical industry, and advanced into the building field from there. Eventually, he started working as a subcontractor before forming his own company, which concentrated on residential and small commercial buildings. In 2004, he and his wife Linda joined the Hotondo Homes network after being introduced to one of their representatives by a friend. They have been with the network ever since.
“They don’t try to teach you how to build, they teach you how to sell and run your business,” Brett says of his relationship with Hotondo. “They provide advertising, selling techniques, systems, and drive you in the direction to be more professional. Joining up with them was a great move.”
Walking the walk
Like every other member of the Hotondo Network, Brett and Linda offer more than 90 flexible floor plans for clients to choose from, ensuring that everybody can find something to suit their lifestyle and budget. As a Hotondofranchise, Brett and Linda also offer a fixed price contract prior to construction, so clients know there will be no hidden extras when they get deeper into the building process.
That type of transparency is appreciated by HotondoRockhampton’s roster of customers, many of whom are recurring, or were generated by word-of-mouth.
“Firstly, it’s all about communication,” says Brett, describing his customer service philosophy. “Secondly, it’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. You can’t just talk the talk – you have to do the walk as well.”
HotondoRockhampton also checks in with every project six month after completion, going through the finished product, checking for minor errors and tidying them up. As Brett says, it’s rare for any job to go absolutely perfect. What sets HotondoRockampton apart, however, is their willingness to correct any problems promptly and “without any fuss.”
Additionally, to have good relationships with customers, Brett explains that a builder must also have good relationships with their team – which is definitely true for HotondoRockhampton. For example, Brett estimates that he has put through 12 apprentices throughout the life of the company, and six of them are still around – including the first apprentice he ever taught.
When it comes to subcontractors, Brett says the company’s ties are equally healthy. “They do quality work, and we look after them,” he says. “Some of the guys I’ve been working with have been with me nine or ten years. Once we get a team together that works to the standards we require, we hang on to them as best we can.”
Since joining Hotondo, Brett and Linda have received many awards throughout the years. In 2009, for example, they brought home a regional MBA Award for Employer of Apprentice of the Year, Best Kitchen, and Housing on a Sloping Site Over $330,000. In the following two years, they earned several more MBA accolades – including wins for Home Renovation Project over $551,000, Best Individual Home $601,000 to $750,000, and another award for Apprentice Employer of the Year. Most recently, in 2012, HotondoRockhampton received an MBA Award for Low-Rise Multi-Residential Housing (Townhouses).
“That’s valuable acknowledgement from our peers,” Brett says of the consistent awards attention. “It tells us we produced a product that’s worthy of recognition.”
“I’m particularly proud of the apprenticeship awards, because I’m very proactive within the Master Builder and apprenticeship community,” he adds. “I believe that’s given me a broader life experience. It’s given me the ability to talk to people within the industry and not just focus on my own little corner of it.”
In general, Brett credits the company’s award recognition to their comprehensive systems and processes, all of which have been carefully honed and refined over the life of the business. Those systems, Brett says, start during the initial sales process all last all the way to final handover. “We have systems for estimating, ordering, invoicing, quality control and more,” he explains.
Brett credits those systems, in turn, to the Hotondo group, who encouraged him and his wife to form them right when they joined the network.
Moving forward, Brett says they will continue to update and improve those systems, and continue to operate at the peak of efficiency. In terms of volume, he aims to grow the business to the point where they are building 25 to 30 homes a year. At that type of moderate size, he says the business can still concentrate on “price for quality and customer service.”
“I’d also like to see the company enter the higher-end, prestige-home market,” he adds. “We’re already working in that area a bit, but we’d like to do more. We have the skills and capabilities to deliver those types of homes to a high standard, and that’s what we would like to do.”