Builder Life: North Twin Builders, LLC

North Twin Builders, LLC: Where New Customers Become Old Friends - For as long as he can remember, John Volkmann has been a builder. His father founded North Twin Builders in 1971—serving Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan – and, from a young age, John could be found on the job site, helping his dad. “I don’t know if I was more of a help or a hindrance, though,” John laughs. From laborer to carpenter to job foreman to over all project coordinator, John worked his way up through the ranks for twenty five years, and eventually became the new owner/CEO of the business in 2004.

As a local contractor of choice for over 4 decades, North Twin Builders specializes in custom homes, but provides a wide variety of services including remodeling, roofing, green building, timber frame home building, economical home building, and more. We recently caught up with John to learn more about his business, and what keeps him in the business of building.

What do you like most about being a homebuilder?

Overall, this is just a very rewarding field. I especially enjoy providing my customers with exactly what they want, from building custom homes to fixing issues created by previous, perhaps less reputable contractors or well-meaning DIY-ers. And I think it’s cool that a lot of people we do work for end up becoming lifelong friends. Our social calendar definitely gets pretty full in the summertime!

What is something that makes North Twin Builders unique?

We are devoted to continuing education at North Twin Builders, and on average take about four times as many courses as the state requires to keep current on all the latest building practices and industry trends. My employees and I regularly attend classes, whether in person or online through the WBA Foundation’s Home Builders University, and we also attend industry events like the Better Buildings: Better Business (B4) Conference. (Editor’s note – The WBA Foundation is a B4 Conference partner.)

It looks like your company is also active on social media. What made you decide to get online?

It’s just the best way to reach people now. I recently attended a class where we covered a study that had found an overwhelming majority of Wisconsin consumers start their home building search online, and, of that majority, nearly all have formed their decision before walking through your door. Therefore, through videos, blog posts, and social media, we can best show our potential customers all we have to offer them, along with the level of experience, quality, and professionalism they can expect from us. We’ve definitely seen a return on these efforts, too.

What do you think is an important issue the home building industry currently faces?

With the housing market recovering, it’s clear that there is a shortage of qualified workers, and this is something we’ve experienced firsthand. What’s more is that the current labor force in the industry is aging, which means the problem is only going to get worse. We need to let young people know that careers are possible in the trades after the major downturn in 2008, rather than pushing just for college education. I volunteer on a committee for a carpentry apprenticeship program at Nicolet College, and it’s a challenge to get young people interested. More support from the industry is needed.

What brings you back as a member of your local association (Headwaters BA) & the WBA year after year?

The continuing education opportunities that are provided through my local and the WBA are a big value to my business. I also enjoy the ability to network at meetings and through committees, where you get to know and work with fellow builders and tradesmen. Outside the association, there’s definitely the perception that things are dog-eat-dog, but—within it—we’re all working together to make the industry as strong as it can be. Additionally, being a member gives you a “seal-of-approval” of sorts, as membership requires you to be an above-board contractor, with all the proper licensing and insurance. That’s the most important thing we can teach consumers—contractors are not all the same, and the lowest price could often mean unnecessary future risks to your wallet or your safety.

For more information on North Twin Builders, visit www.northtwinbuilders.com or check them out on Facebook, YouTube, or Pinterest. Originally appears in Fall 2015 WBA Badger Builder, see full article with images here. (pages 10-12)

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