How a Media Salesman Became a Home Builder
Successful Epcon Franchise Builder Peter Engles tells how he used his experience in sales as an asset in the success of his second career in the housing industry
For Peter Engles, the desire to do creative work that would benefit a community compelled him to leave not only his home in Columbus, Ohio, but also his career as a media salesman. Now based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Peter has become one of the most successful Epcon Franchise Builders in our network. He has already completed several Epcon developments, and he has plans to build three more by 2016.
While still in Columbus, Peter watched with great interest as a colleague, a CFO of an advertising agency, became an Epcon Communities Franchising builder. Peter’s lack of experience in homebuilding didn’t diminish his desire to get into the business.
“I always had the desire to build and the creativity that would allow you to succeed,” Peter says. “I didn’t have a building background, so it was unclear how I would get into the business. In watching my friend, I became more and more intrigued and confident that it would work for me.”
After a lot of research, Peter decided to embark upon becoming an Epcon Franchise Builder. He attended home building conferences and met with other Epcon Franchise Builders, all of whom were willing to share their time to help Peter learn about the business of building Epcon communities. He visited Epcon Communities under construction. Once he felt that his dream of building houses could be a reality, he spoke to the Epcon corporate team. He decided that Grand Rapids, Michigan, was an underserved market and a perfect opportunity for an ambitious home builder.
“I grew up in Columbus, but my wife is from Holland, Michigan,” Peter says. “We started asking ourselves, ‘Where are we going to do this?’ We came up with a very short list. We ultimately decided on Grand Rapids because we wanted to have kids and raise a family in a great community. Grand Rapids was smaller than Columbus, but it was still growing, and we wanted to be a part of that growth. There wasn’t anybody who was building anything like Epcon Communities at the time. The first time we hit ground in Grand Rapids, we knew it was a great fit for our family.”
Peter soon discovered that the skill set he had acquired as a media salesman was extremely relevant to his success as an Epcon Franchise Builder.
“I know there are some people who are great at building product, but they don’t know how to sell,” Peter says. “I wanted to build a great home and be able to sell that; to have the complete package: sales, marketing and construction. One of the things that I learned when I was working with Time Warner was that they always had specific brands and targets: ESPN – The Worldwide Leader in Sports, CNN for News, etc. That’s when I learned the value of niche markets and niche brands. I took my background and knowledge of niche markets and began applying it to Epcon.”
One of the reasons that Peter is so enthusiastic about Epcon is that we appeal to the niche market of 55+ buyers, who are expected to account for 52% of all new home sales from now until 2019, according to Metrostudy (a division of Hanley Wood).
“Epcon is staying in their lane and focused on being the best in the marketplace,” Peter says. “We always say that we are selling a lifestyle and a condo comes with it. One of the things I liked about Epcon was the community aspect of the clubhouse. We’re not just building sticks and bricks, but a community that’s alive.”
The ability to be a positive force in the community is also satisfying to Peter, who maintains relationships with the people who purchased his homes. They send him text messages when they’re hosting a 1950s-themed party or when they’re volunteering at a local school or church.
“Our goal was to accomplish that,” Peter says. “I always thought that business success was going to happen if we took care of people the very first time they stepped onto the property — whether they were going to buy or not. From my perspective, our goal was to help people and ultimately, that would make our business successful as well.”
As an Epcon Franchise Builder, Peter has had his fair share of trying times. Peter weathered the Great Recession of 2008, where the housing markets crashed and many left the industry for good.
“When I first became a franchisee, Philip Fankhauser (co-founder of Epcon) said that no matter how good or bad things get, always stick with ‘A’ sites,” Peter says. “That echoed in my head even through the downturn — I always stuck with ‘A’ sites, even when there was property on fire sale. Cheap property is not always a good deal. Knowing that is one of the numerous reasons we were able to make it through the recession. It’s also important to follow this advice when times are good.”
Being a successful Epcon Franchise Builder has allowed Peter to focus on being involved in his community in both financially supportive and emotionally supportive roles.
“One of the core things for my wife and me in terms of money and time is involvement with our church,” Peter says. “My wife was in the business on a day-to-day basis, but once we got it established, she stepped back. She’s now on the board of our church. We’re involved in several youth groups as part of that church, and we’re working with youth ministries. We also help support the people in our church who are running these things. For example, there was a youth pastor who wanted to become a senior pastor, and we were able to get some people around him and move him to a church in order to get established on his own. It’s a very fulfilling thing for us to be able to have the success from the business and to be able to support our church.”
Peter recommends becoming an Epcon Franchise Builder if you’re a creative type who wants to make a tangible impact on people’s daily lives.
“Usually, I would ask them why they want to do it,” Peter says. “What are you trying to accomplish? I want to be very successful financially, as obviously it allows for great things. However, if that’s the main motivation, I don’t know if this is the best thing for that — there are so many moving parts and so many lives involved. If a potential franchisee is calling me, they’re almost always interested in building something and having a creative outlet that makes a difference in people’s lives. When someone asks me, I always want them to know as much about what they are getting into as they possibly can. If the answer is still yes, then it makes sense for you.”
Epcon Communities Franchising Inc. is America’s 38th-largest homebuilder (“2014 Builder 100,” Builder Magazine, May 2015), and one of the only home building franchise companies that exists. Epcon and its Franchise Builders develop communities of ranch-style, low-maintenance homes popular with 55+ buyers — a targeted demographic that is projected to drive new home sales in the United States for many years to come.