Hubbell Homes earns national recognition from Professional Builder magazine.
Awards are always nice, but not all awards are the same. Professional Builder’s National Housing Quality (NHQ) Awards are in a league of their own. Hubbell Homes, winner of a bronze award, was one of only four companies in the United States to earn one this year.
The NHQ award process is a lengthy, time-consuming, intense experience that examines every aspect of the applicant’s business (see Best of the Best). Like all elite competitions, it’s not for the faint of heart.
“The first thing you realize when you start the application process is what you do and don’t know,” says Hubbell Vice President Rachel Flint. “The application is nearly 20 pages with a whole laundry list of questions that get into every single area of the company. Nothing is off limits.”
Hubbell first applied for the NHQ award in 2017 and received a written response from the judges with a number of areas to address and feedback that motivated the company to pursue the award again.
“It is such a meticulous, challenging evaluation that you’re really just hoping for a site visit from the judges,” says Hubbell Vice President Rachel Flint. “If you get a site visit, you know that there’s a chance you’ll be recognized. But you have to do really well just to get that visit.”
Aaron Bohn, Hubbell’s Director of Operations Excellence and Customer Satisfaction, says, “The feedback the judges give isn’t always what you want to see. But at the same time, when you’re constantly working to improve, there aren’t really any surprises. It was good to see the amount of work we’d put in as a company and the changes from 2017 to 2020.”
The application process for the 2021 awards began last spring, and the judges’ site visit took place in September. As Flint told ProBuilder magazine, the judges’ visit “validates the accomplishments you made over the last several years, but it also highlights where the next steps need to go.”
In fact, she says, long before Hubbell knew whether it would receive an award, the company began making positive changes as a result of that site visit. “We had a list of things after that visit that we knew we wanted to address. We’re always striving to be more efficient as a builder, to offer a better customer experience, a better trade experience. So we put together a very detailed list of ways we could improve, just based on the initial feedback from the judges.”
Assessing eight areas of operation, the NHQ examines everything from company leadership and planning to quality of work and customer satisfaction.
“The judges asked questions about our trade partners, our relationships with them, and even our company culture,” says Brandon Wilson, Purchasing Manager at Hubbell. “Even though we have a good sense of where we are on things, it’s good to hear from someone who has experience with builders across the country so we can see where we compare nationally, too.”
Not only did the judges look at general business practices, but they thoroughly examined the entire design process at Hubbell. “They went through our software, our processes, how we address the different requirements of building in different communities with different regulations,” explains Design Manager Susanne Roesch. “Those conversations were very interesting, and they’ve already resulted in changes in our processes.”
“We have a great team at Hubbell who are open to constructive criticism and willing to change,” Flint says.
“We have the right team in place,” agrees Sales Manager April Seydel. “I’ve worked with Hubbell both as an outside consultant and as a full-time employee, and the growth since I joined full-time in 2017 has been eye-opening.”
Senior Superintendent Dave Neyens, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the field, says, “I’ve been doing this for a year or two. Staying on top of things in the field, keeping skilled workers, and staying on top of suppliers are all ongoing issues. We’re fortunate to have a great group of trade partners and suppliers who work with us to make sure we have what we need and help us run efficiently.”
That being said, Bohn says, “Every builder has areas where they can improve, and this experience has given us new goals.”
As a production home builder, rather than a small custom builder, those changes can take a little longer to come full circle. “I compare it to a cruise ship,” Flint says. “It takes a little longer to turn a cruise ship than it does to adjust a jet ski. Sometimes it takes a full build cycle before we see the results of the changes we’re making across the company.”
Looking back at 2020 and the numerous challenges that it held, earning the NHQ bronze award is even more rewarding. But in some ways, the team at Hubbell isn’t really surprised.
“We have a highly intelligent, very motivated group of people here,” Flint says. “We all like working together and don’t want to let each other down.”
It’s no wonder that NHQ recognized Hubbell’s strengths as leadership, team environment, and company contribution to employee well-being. Hubbell was the youngest of the three companies honored this year, and every member of the team contributed to that accomplishment.
Best of the Best
Professional Builder’s National Housing Quality award is a thorough and critical evaluation of companies involved in the home building industry. Modeled after the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award and the automotive industry’s ISO 9000 certification for quality management, the NHQ award requires a self-assessment application that evaluates the following eight areas of operation:
- Strategic planning
- Performance management
- Customer satisfaction
- Human resources
- Construction quality
- Trade relations
- Business results
A jury made up of NHQ gold winners and quality management experts evaluates the written applications, selecting finalists for on-site visits. Each of those companies then undergoes in-person evaluations from a trio of judges. Grades from those visits, combined with the original application scores, determine whether the company will be recognized and at what level. Those final scores can result in gold, silver, or bronze status. Every applicant also receives a detailed report that offers feedback and advice for improvement.