Meet Tyrone, an Epcon Franchise Builder in Fargo, North Dakota.
Tyrone has been in the real estate industry since the 80’s and moved to the United States in the 90’s, when he founded Heritage Homes. At his company, the home buyer is at the heart of everything they do and Epcon’s plans and unique designs have given his buyers something they’ve never seen before and something they love.
Host: Hi, Tyrone. It’s great to see you this morning, and thanks for taking some time out of your day to chat with me. I was wondering if we could get started by hearing a little bit about your background, your career, and your business.
Tyrone Leslie: Yeah, kind of a brief history of our company is it started in about 1998, got into real estate, loved the industry. My family has been in real estate and hospitality basically all of their lives.
It was pretty obvious I’m probably going to be falling into that type of category. Got into real estate in ’87, moved to United States in 1998 from Canada, started Heritage Homes, which is our building company, and never looked back since then.
Host: That’s so interesting, Tyrone. How did you get involved with Epcon Franchising?
Tyrone: How I founded about Epcon actually was through Brock. I saw a floor plan that he had. Then I thought, “Hey, this is a really great plan. I’d love to buy it from you.” He said, “I would do that except I don’t think Epcon would care for that too much.”
As we were joking, and I said, “Well, what’s Epcon?” The doors opened. He explained to me what Epcon’s all about. I did some research on Epcon, and realized that their philosophies, their ideas were very parallel to ours as a company.
That’s how the doors opened. Before you knew it, within I would say about five months, we were already meeting with Epcon and signed the papers to become a franchisee.
Host: Wow, that was super quick. How was your experience with Epcon as a company? How’s it been and just in building our specific plans?
Tyrone: The relationship with Epcon so far has been absolutely phenomenal, probably even more than I ever probably anticipated. We’ve been…Again, I’ve been in the building industry for 34 years.
To see a company that actually paralleled a lot of our thoughts was very refreshing, made it a little bit more easier for us to adopt, of course. Whenever I have a question, whenever you have a thought, even our team, we’re very team oriented at Heritage Homes.
To be able to contact anybody at Epcon regarding a question whether it’s marketing, construction, any type of design ideas or concepts, they were always there for us.
To me, that makes it really refreshing because of the fact that a lot of times you join a company, and all of a sudden, things start to taper off. That hasn’t been the case here. We’re very excited about our relationship and new projects going forward.
Host: You talked a little bit about how you had many years of experience before joining Epcon. As someone who came into Epcon franchising as a production builder, what new things have you learned along the way that maybe you hadn’t implemented before you began working with us?
Tyrone: I think it’s about the floor plan design and really catering to the active adult design. We have done these projects before in various stages, various designs, but this one was really quite unique.
What we learned was how to make the plan more livable for the active adults, and really dealing with today’s needs compared to what yesterday was. It really made a big difference in our success at our company.
Since launching our model homes, just to hear the responses of the unique designs, something they’ve never seen before, that’s what you want as a builder, to be able to provide something that’s so cool, so unique, and really have that client at the end of day saying, “This is exactly what we wanted.” That’s when you know you’ve done the right thing.
Host: Absolutely. Let’s shift the conversation a little bit. I want to talk about building challenges today. What would you say is your top challenge in today’s market? How are you working to overcome that challenge? How is Epcon helping you to overcome that challenge?
Tyrone: The biggest challenge right now that we’re dealing in the industry right now is probably workforce. We’re seeing a lot of people right now not coming into the industry and a lot of people going out of the industry, just because they’re getting older, they’re retiring and whatnot.
That has been probably our biggest challenge I would say at this point. Commodity costs, lumber costs of course, but just like anything else, those go up and those go down. You can deal with those type of things, just being proactive, being smart, working as team, being aware.
You can’t make up workforce. You can’t just pretend something’s happening when it’s not. That’s been probably our biggest challenge. Again, working as a team, whether it’s through Epcon or your local HBAs, these are the things that we need to be figuring out as to what we can do to really get people encouraged to get into this incredible industry.
We’re very lucky to be building homes. To be able to offer the American dream is by far the most rewarding thing for us as a company. We really need to continue to work on that.
Host: Where do you go for business advice? For example say, you’re looking to fill your labor force or any other challenge that you might be facing, where do you go for advice in this industry?
Tyrone: I guess, in this particular case, again, we’re very team‑oriented. When you share information, you also get information back. Your local HBA is a very crucial deal. National Association of Homebuilders, being a member of that, you’re going to get a lot of great information.
Then, tied with Epcon as well, you do have opportunities to really think out of the box as to what you can be doing for advertising and getting communications out to your trades and why come work for us or why come work in the industry.
There’s more entrepreneurs brought into by this industry than any other business. We just need to do a better job communicating that to the people out there.
Host: Yeah, I agree, Tyrone. I want to touch a little bit on the award that you won this year. First off, congratulations.
Tyrone: Thank you.
Host: You won Franchise Builder of the Year yesterday. Building off of that momentum, what advice would you give to a brand new franchise builder coming in having gone through your first couple years with Epcon, and the things that you’ve learned along the way?
Tyrone: The most important thing is always keep ego set aside. In this industry that we’re in, it’s all team‑oriented. The more you work with your team, which we value tremendously at Heritage Homes, you can’t do anything by yourself.
Our company is not about any one person, it’s about a team of people that genuinely love what they do. When you love what you do, it’s not a job anymore. It’s a hobby and then you provide a service to your end‑user that’s like nothing else.
That’s what it’s all about. Learn, continue to learn, never think that you’ve got there. Just when you think you’ve got there, think, “OK, what am I going to do to change?” Never get complacent.
Those are the biggest things that I’ve learned in our industry is always remember, you’re providing a service, and be legendary about it. Don’t think this is all about bottom line only. The second you think about that, I think you become a has‑been.
It’s really about creating a service for your client that is second to none, and when their journey is complete for that client and they’re walking out of your office with tears in their eyes of joy and happiness, the fact that they’re going to miss all that excitement of building their brand new home.
That’s when you know you’ve done something, but again, it’s not about any one person. It’s a team of people that have to truly believe that. At Heritage Homes, and I feel at Epcon, they believe that. That’s why you see the successes of both companies doing quite well.
What it really comes down to is, when you join a company, you really got to make sure that you are giving as much as you’re taking. As long as you do that, especially with a company like Epcon, which we have, we always give our opinions of what maybe we could do differently.
When you have that type of relationship, where they accept our ideas and we accept their ideas, you can’t help, but get the best of both on top. At the end of the day, our clients are the ones that end up getting the benefit. That’s what is the most rewarding.
To hear more about Tyrone Leslie’s story, watch Building Homes From Canada to North Dakota.