Excellence Award-Residential Design and Build Magazine

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Like many who launch their own business, John Cannon received a little help. A developer fronted him a lot and Cannon found the funds to build his first house. The house was well received. Once John Cannon Homes took off, the Sarasota, Fla., company jumped immediately into the design/build process.

“We saw a trend to more custom design, so we jumped onboard and that has set us apart from the crowd. Other builders are saying no to pure custom, and steering clients toward buying one of their models. For us, shifting to high-end custom was the right move,” says Cannon, president and CEO.

“To prep for the move to high-end custom, we had to allocate more overhead as a percent of the job cost because there’s more work to do and it takes more people. Your level of expertise must be high, you must have the best superintendents who have the best training and experience, and you must compensate them for all of those attributes,” he says.

John Cannon Homes not only pays for talent, but it has also been paying for employee health insurance for five years. Cannon believes that to retain the best, you have to treat them the best. But paying health insurance is not just a benefit to employees; it’s a benefit to the company, too. “We can’t do what we do without the employees, so it’s not a hardship at all to do this for them. It has a benefit for me, too. It attracts good candidates, and we have low turnover,” he adds.

“I think knowing that you must spend money to make money comes from my business experience. I learned very quickly when my father said it’s not what you pay someone; it’s what they cost you. You might think you’re getting a great buy, but the cost in mental energy you spend teaching or training or bailing out of jail might be too high,” he says.

Cannon just spent more money on new offices, including a larger design center. “We’ve had a design center for five years, but now it’s bigger and there are more selections. We’re hoping that if you look at the dollar per square foot of sales space like a retailer does, having more square footage and more selections will result in more sales.”

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