Epcon Franchise Review: Q&A with Builder Lyle Wiley
How a former director of operations for a grocery store became one of the most successful owners in the Epcon homebuilding franchise system
Lyle Wiley is a true believer in the Epcon homebuilding franchise system. Even when he was a director of operations for a large grocery store, Lyle always had the desire to go into business for himself. After seeing several friends find success developing Epcon communities, Lyle decided to make the leap and become a Franchise Builder himself. Lyle hasn’t looked back; he is developing his fifth Epcon community in the metropolitan area of Greensboro, North Carolina.
This is his story:
What were doing before you became an Epcon Franchise Builder?
I’ve had a diverse background. I was a director operations for a large local grocery here in town, but I’ve always had a desire to be self-employed. I left the grocery store and bought a paint and drywall company. We started growing and developing it, and one of our customers was Epcon. I got to know a lot of the Franchise Builders and became friends with them. I got to see how well they were doing financially and how they were growing their businesses. It made me curious to the point where I started inquiring about becoming a franchisee myself.
When did you become an Epcon Franchise Builder?
I purchased a franchise in 2006, and we settled in Burlington, North Carolina. My business partner and I felt like the area offered a great opportunity to expand our business. In 2007, right at the turn of the Great Recession, we bought our first piece of land. As a result, our progress was slower than we would have liked, but we survived. By the end of this year we will have built our fourth community, and our fifth is under contract.
What do you think sets Epcon Communities Franchising apart from other business opportunities?
I like that Epcon has people at the office who are out doing this every day. Epcon founders Phil Fankhauser and Ed Bacome have their own land that they develop, and I can call them and bounce a question off of them. I like that they can help me look at a piece of land and understand how it can be utilized. For example, I can ask if we have captured the density of the property and if are we getting the most profit and loss from a development standpoint. It’s good to have someone that has done what we are doing — and is continuing to do it successfully — to help you grow.
What kind of support does Epcon Communities Franchising provide?
Epcon will give you as much support as you need or want. We have webinars for our sales people, plus a lot of manuals and continuous training. We have regional meetings that we can send our sales staff to, in order to help them grow and become better sales people. On the marketing side, we order all of our marketing materials from Epcon, so we don’t have to worry about developing those ourselves. Marketing is not my area of expertise, and they utilize the internet in such a way that I’m sure we would miss a lot of opportunities if they weren’t there. From a construction side, if we are having an issue, we can reach the leadership team and ask them a question. Because they have done this successfully for so long, they usually can provide an answer. If they can’t answer a question, there’s a number of Franchise Builders we can reach out to for help. Finally, at the beginning of the process when you’re looking at site selection, density, and going through zoning — the people in the Epcon office have gone through the same process several times, and they can help guide you through it.
On a personal level, I’ve become close friends with several of the staff members at Epcon. They’re good people. They want to help make you successful.
What does it take to be an Epcon Franchise Builder?
In the early 2000s, I saw a lot of Realtors, doctors, lawyers, land developers — people from a lot of different backgrounds — signing up to become owners in the Epcon homebuilding franchise system. If you don’t have a background in building, that’s all the more reason to have a company like Epcon to hold your hand as you go through things like the process of selecting a piece of land. Even if you have a background in homebuilding, there is no way that an independent company could go out and get one out of three buyers from four states away to come to a little town and buy a home. I believe that only happens because we’re a part of Epcon Franchising.
Do you have a typical day?
The days are very exciting. I love what I do.Starting out with one community, you’re sitting in the sales office trying to focus on pre-sales, or you’re out walking through the houses. Now I focus on managing the financial side. We’re looking at our numbers every single day to ensure that we’re staying within budget and forecasting correctly.
What do you personally like about the business?
Again, I really like that the founders of Epcon are actively developing their ownEpcon communities and have a proven track record of success. Since I’ve been with Epcon, I’ve seen 18 floor plans come to the market. The corporate team makes sure they are a hit with customers before they send them to the Franchise Builders. What I’ve found is the product is so well-received — the floor plans are what people are looking for, they are award-winning floor plans. I can’t say it’s a foolproof business, but I can tell you with all my heart that if you follow Epcon’s program you’re likely to be more successful than if you did it on your own.
Who are your customers?
It’s exciting to see a completely empty seven-acre piece of land become a thriving community. The sense of community we are able to develop is tremendous; the people who live in Epcon communities become friends who support and take care of each other. When I get back to visit a community, I can’t get anything done because it takes me two days to catch up with the homeowners.
There is an added plus to our customers: When the market turned, the empty nesters still had their money. They wanted to move where their kids were. The economics should remain strong for at least 10 years, and at the same time, we’re in the best position to survive another downturn because empty nesters frequently buy homes in our communities.
If you ask any analyst in the homebuilding industry, they will tell you that the fastest-growing segment is empty nesters, and that’s who we most appeal to. Our buying segment is projected to continue to grow and grow.
Is now a good time to open an Epcon Communities Franchise?
The short answer is yes! Last year, in two communities, we closed 50 homes — and these are in very small towns. Right now there is a real shortage of land that is developed, and a lot of builders are no longer building after walking away from the industry during the Great Recession. There is a lot of opportunity for people to get into this industry and start developing homes.
Would you recommend Epcon Communities Franchising to others?
Absolutely. I would recommend Epcon to anyone looking for an opportunity to grow a company and be successful. The uniqueness of the system Epcon has in place is that you can be someone without great knowledge of building homes — or you can be someone who builds homes and who is looking for more and better opportunities. A lot of the guys I know were small builders in town and came on board and worked to grow their companies with Epcon.
Learn more about Epcon Communities Franchising
The offer of a franchise can only be made through the delivery of a Franchise Disclosure Document. Certain jurisdictions require registration prior to the offer or sale of a franchise. We do not offer franchises in jurisdictions where we are not registered (or exempt from registration). Epcon Communities Franchising, Inc. 500 Stonehenge Parkway, Dublin, Ohio 43017. Minnesota Franchise Registration No. F-3531.