Josh Klinger, national purchasing manager at Epcon Franchising, discusses our step-by-step purchasing process, national accounts program and more in this episode of the Epcon Experts Podcast.
“If anything, the past even five years have been very unique to the home building industry. There’s no two years that have been exactly the same. I think what we face today as a home builder is how do we become a builder of choice to our contractors and labor teams.“
Host: Today, we have Josh Klinger, national purchasing manager at Epcon Franchising. Welcome, Josh.
Josh Klinger, National Purchasing Manager at Epcon Franchising: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Host: I’d like to start out, ask the question, from your perspective, what are the most important traits that are necessary for an Epcon Franchise Builder?
Josh: Leading off, I think somebody needs to have a strong level of discipline. What we offer to our Franchise Builders is a long line of processes developed over 30 years of work.
I think they need to be inquisitive, ask the questions as to why. Why do we do what we do? Understand why our vendors act the way that they do, or why do they price things the way that they do, is only going to help them in the long run.
They need to be resourceful. We talked about the plan that we offer them. We have a team of experts. They need to be able to utilize and reach out to each one of those.
Host: That’s great. Just a willingness to have conversations.
Host: In your role as national purchasing manager, you work with Epcon’s national account partners and our Franchise Builders around the country. What are some of the best practices for implementing a purchasing program? How can it be streamlined?
Josh: Absolutely. I think the biggest thing right from the very beginning, if a Franchise Builder is looking to implement some sort of a purchasing program, they need to have a purchasing person on staff. Somebody who’s an expert on their own team is going to lead them down the right path long‑term and set them up for months and months of savings.
Plan ahead. Understand what your base house specs are going to be and understand fully why you are basing your houses the way that you are. Identify the vendors that you want for your market by scouting others.
Then, we have created a step‑by‑step process that we can use to pull upon. Use folks like me to be able to help you pull those processes through. Strategize exactly how we’re going to copy and paste what Epcon Communities already does.
Host: Working with the Franchise Builders around the country, there’s probably some mistakes that you see builders make, whether they’re in the network or not. What are some of those mistakes that you see them making?
Josh: The biggest one, I think, is they’re taking too much on themselves. As a Franchise Builder, it’s very evident that they try to wear every hat in their business. It’s not possible to sustain long term.
When you’re taking on a project like an Epcon franchise, you have to be a land developer at the very beginning, and then you also have to be a home builder. There’s two businesses in one. To try to be specialized in all of them is impossible. You need to have the right team in place.
Host: I think that goes with any small business owner that’s trying to grow and expand. You’ve been a business owner yourself. There’s just trying to do too many things, take on too many roles, as you mentioned.
Host: You talked about the National Account Program. Can you talk a little bit about what the basics of the National Account Program entail?
Josh: Sure. Essentially, it is a group of manufacturers and suppliers that have worked with us to offer materials, and sometimes labor, at a discounted price across the country. These vendors help Epcon remain consistent in all markets. They allow our Franchise Builders to receive better rates and rebates than they would have on their own.
Host: The builders that come into the network get to share within those national accounts. I would think that’s a new program for a small builder, somebody that’s building 10 custom homes a year or such. To come in and have a national accounts program, what’s the reaction you’ve received when you’ve talked to our builders around the country?
Josh: The program itself has been received very well. Since implementation, obviously, we gain new vendors every time that we have a conversation about it because it’s so strong. We have “not to exceed” pricing with a lot of different vendors. That really helps somebody feel confident that they joined a franchise that has their back.
Host: Let’s talk a little bit about you, Josh. You recently joined the Epcon Franchising team, but prior to that, you were at Pulte. I was wondering if you could just share a little bit about both the roles that you’ve had in your career.
Josh: In short, both roles have been wonderful for me. I can’t say enough positive things about my experience with Pulte, and the Columbus division as well.
As the procurement manager for the Columbus division, I was able to learn under some of the best minds in the industry about how purchasing plays a major role in the local success of the operation. Transitioning to my role with Epcon now, I get to be a consultant to our Franchise Builders.
Host: Builders that may not have a purchasing manager, with your experience, what would you say are the most important things that you bring to the franchise network?
Josh: In general, I’ve been through what they’ve gone through. I’ve had to start with bare dirt and find all the vendors from the very beginning. I think knowing that somebody has already been through the struggles that you’re going to go through as a Franchise Builder is a powerful tool to draw upon.
Host: To have somebody that’s been there, done that. That’s a real help to builders to know that they’ve got somebody that’s experienced and is going through the same challenges that they have. Obviously, the opportunity at Epcon came along. Can you talk a little bit about what you saw within the company? What helped you to choose to come to Epcon?
Josh: Sure. For me, looking back at why I make the decision. The opportunity itself, this position didn’t exist before. It wasn’t posted for me to be able to join it prior to my time with Pulte. As we talked about, me being a business owner, I was a franchisee. I started my career in the franchise business.
Getting to marry the home building side of things with my franchising side of things was a unique opportunity that I thought was perfect for my experiences. I thought, I can lend a lot of value to our Franchise Builders through this opportunity. It just felt like a perfect match at the end of the day. A complete compilation of all of my work experience.
Host: When you talk about home building and you talk about franchising, those are two things that don’t often come together. You probably took a look at that and go, “Wait a minute, how does that work? How does a home building franchise work?”
Josh: Exactly. My inquisitive nature picked up right then.
Host: You get to go out and work with our top builders that are in our network on a regular basis. How do you see our top builders approaching their purchasing needs?
Josh: First and foremost, they have a purchasing person on their staff. Those are the best. Somebody that I can talk directly to and we can speak the same exact language. The top builders are proactive. They see what kind of production lies ahead of them in years to come and they plan for that in their purchasing needs.
They make sure that they have enough vendors on staff to make sure that they’re going to stay on top of their schedules. They have enough materials planned out at the same time. They’re precise and accurate with their bid strategies. They evaluate their vendors on a monthly basis.
They take full advantage of the resources that we can provide such as the step‑by‑step program that we can offer. They are very collaborative with other Franchise Builders to learn best practices.
Host: A lot of builders that are looking to grow or diversify their businesses are often custom builders. Between custom, the production world and home building, there can be a lot of differences. If you were going to talk to a custom builder and have them take a closer look at what the production builders are doing when it comes to purchasing, what would you say to them?
Josh: If anything, the past even five years have been very unique to the home building industry. There’s no two years that have been exactly the same. I think what we face today as a home builder is how do we become a more builder of choice to our contractors and labor teams.
There’s a labor shortage. There’s no secret to that. There’s no true answer as to how we increase the labor force that’s out there today. We need to focus on being the builder of choice. How we do that is by standardizing things and making sure that it’s a simple process for them to bid.
Giving them the tools they need. Giving them the transparency to know when their next house is coming. Simplifying the option layouts. It’s something that we at Epcon have strived to do over the past few years, is to really simplify what options we’re going to offer so that they know exactly what they’re going to build and there’s repetition to it.
They can be more comfortable doing what they’re doing on a regular basis. The product availability is also going to follow that because we know exactly what options we’re going to offer, we know what exact faucet we’re going to need for the rest of the year. That plays a huge role in how we can best put our foot forward for our teams.
Host: I use the word standardization. I think that’s important because you’re not only standardizing the product you’re building, but you’re standardizing some things within your business. That ultimately will help you be more efficient.
Josh: Absolutely. That’s what we’re after.
Host: Josh, if you were going to be speaking with a custom builder or a low‑volume production builder, and you wanted to tell them or give them some advice as they were starting their first project, what would you tell them?
Josh: Most builders who decide to join the Epcon Franchising family are highly successful, driven and self‑motivated individuals already. They operate at elite levels in their daily lives. These characteristics tend to lead them to be a little bit more of the DIY type.
My advice is to use the resources that are available to you. There’s an entire team that is waiting in the wings, so to speak, to help and jump in at any given moment. We have a purchasing person, obviously me. We have a salesperson, marketing and land person that are ready to help.
Host: That’s great. Josh, I appreciate you spending some time with us today, and I appreciate you sharing your knowledge.
Josh: Excellent. Thanks for having me.