- September 21, 2022
Earlier in his career, Ian Schmoyer received an inside look at the homebuilding process, an experience that informed and inspired his current venture.
His company started out doing concrete shell fabrication for both national homebuilders and local custom builders. It was in that work he saw unmet potential and an opportunity to grow.
And that's why, in 2017, Christopher Alan Homes expanded into homebuilding. The Fort Myers-based firm hasn’t looked back.
Today, the company builds 450 to 550 homes a year on average, and has about 100 employees. Revenue has increased significantly in the pandemic, growing from $80.5 million in 2020 to $141.98 million in 2022 — up 76.37%.
The firm builds on single homesites throughout Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres and Port Charlotte, as well as master-planned communities Babcock Ranch, Burnt Store Village, Deep Creek and The Hammocks at West Port. It specializes in entry-level and move-up homes, from the high $200,000s to $700,000.
Christopher Alan Homes also ranks among the top 10 builders in Southwest Florida for single-family residential permitted units, according to the 2023 Market Trends databook from Southwest Florida real-estate firm LSI Cos., and the firm earned the No. 108 spot on Builder magazine’s Next 100 list in 2022 (which, along with the magazine’s Builder 100 list, ranks the top 200 homebuilders across the United States by closings).
“We plan to sell our homes all over the state of Florida and beyond one day,” says Schmoyer, 46. “That’s our vision and growth plan. But we take it one step at a time, and we’ve grown organically.”
At a Glance: Christopher Alan Homes
|Year||Revenue||% Growth||Homes Closed||% Growth|
|Source: Christopher Alan Homes|
Christopher Alan Homes follows a set of core values that guide the company’s work and help it stand out from other homebuilders: build better, create opportunities and fulfill dreams for clients.
“The homeowners, in my mind, is where all the attention should be,” Schmoyer says. “Construction is a complex industry, but our decision-making process is simple and always goes back to our core values. I think as long as we keep that in mind, it’s very easy to set ourselves apart.”
Schmoyer’s people-first leadership style is another reason for the company’s success.
“I think my job is to get people with the right values and capabilities in the right seats to lead,” he says. “If I’m able to do that, I can focus on being a servant leader and can remove obstacles and just watch my team succeed. I want them to be empowered to make decisions right or wrong and to grow as leaders.”
Justin Thibaut, president and CEO of LSI, who works with Schmoyer regularly, says “Ian has surrounded himself with people who know what they’re doing, and that’s just as important as what he’s doing day to day himself. He has some top, excellent people.”
In addition to focusing on its own employees, Christopher Alan Homes is also attentive to the subcontractors with whom it works.
“They know what it takes to put together a good team,” says David Hamman, president of Gator Electrical Contractors in Cape Coral, which has done electrical work for Christopher Alan Homes for about five years. “They were a subcontractor themselves, so they know what we’re looking for as a subcontractor … they know how to treat people, and they know what moves the jobs along and what helps us be more profitable.”
With the labor market the way it is, Schmoyer understands it’s vital to cultivate a corporate culture that inspires employees to grow along with the company. “We try to promote from within as much as possible,” he says. “Our team is just phenomenal, and hopefully they’ll keep growing as a team and as leaders.”
Schmoyer says he prefers encouragement to browbeating. “I’m compassionate; I understand people,” he says. “I understand when to push … but I don’t like the old corporate style of demanding excellence out of everybody at every turn and just pushing people so hard. I just don’t believe in any of that. I believe in working through issues with everybody and letting them lead and take the reins. And you’re there to support them.”
That support can mean guiding employees (and customers) through change, which is a constant in homebuilding. “I’m definitely not afraid of change,” Schmoyer says. “You have to always be able to change and change your vision. This market is always changing, and construction is always changing. There are always new problems every day. As a leader and a team member, you have to be willing to accept change and to change as it’s needed.”
In the end, it all comes down to a simple philosophy. “Treat people right,” Schmoyer says. “Treat people with respect and take care of your team and your trade partners and your homeowners. And you can build a good business out of that.”
As Christopher Alan Homes has expanded from single homesite projects into building homes for communities and developments, its overarching guiding principles haven’t changed.
“Each community and geographic area offer different challenges for our team, but it’s just important for them to stay focused on our goals, which is to deliver an exceptional home for our buyer that they’re always proud to talk about,” Schmoyer says. “There are differences logistically between individual homesites and communities, but in the end, we approach it the same way, which is to make our homeowners happy.”
LSI’s Thibaut considers it refreshing to see a builder like Christopher Alan Homes finding success in a market like Southwest Florida.
“Christopher Alan Homes is delivering a good product in good locations throughout Southwest Florida at reasonable prices, which is something that we’ve needed in our market for a while,” he says. “It’s nice to see a regional builder that’s privately owned doing the scale that they’re doing. Typically, our market has been dominated by national homebuilders, so it’s nice to see someone who was the little guy – though he’s no longer the little guy – emerge and have success in this market.”
Christopher Alan Homes also has a presence on the east coast of Florida in the Palm Bay and Melbourne markets. Further expansion is in the works, with a new division opening in Tampa this year.
Schmoyer saw elements of the Tampa market that indicated the company could enjoy similar success and growth there as it has in Southwest Florida.
“We watch the big guys, the national builders that spend countless dollars on research and marketing,” he says. “If they’re going into an area or already have a strong presence, I rely a little on that information, and I don’t mind competing with them. But I think we approach it very conservatively, and we go into markets where there’s a spot (single) lot opportunity, because it presents a lot less risk.”
He’s got a five-year strategy to open additional divisions in Florida. Expansion outside the state is also a goal.
In the meantime, the company is dealing with the same kinds of challenges other homebuilders are, like the high costs of materials and rising interest rates.
“This industry is not for the risk averse,” Schmoyer says. “But a great thing about us is we can make quick decisions. We can adjust quickly because we don’t have the red tape and bureaucracy of some of the larger companies, so it makes it easier to navigate through challenges.”
That said, Schmoyer approaches the future with both optimism and realism: “I am still optimistic about this year. I think we’re going to have a really good year, but it’s going to be a challenging year.”
On the plus side, Florida continues to attract new residents. And Schmoyer thinks interest rates will start decreasing in 2024. “I think we’ll have a better 2024 and just keep expanding,” he says. “There still is a huge national home shortage.”
Though the company has accomplished a lot since 2017, Schmoyer feels like he and it are just getting started.
“My team has done an awesome job, but I don’t think I’ve done anything yet,” he admits. “My expectations and what I think we can achieve are so high that I’m not there yet to give myself any credit. There is so much more we can do.”