Scott Buescher is the President of Land and Operations at Mercedes Premier Homes and VE Homes, a custom home builder and 100% privately owned family business. The company builds luxury homes for customers in Florida and Texas.
Scott’s father was in the home building industry and all his summer jobs in high school and college focused on construction, framing houses, or doing block and brick work, or digging footers. It was a good preparation for him, and he really learned the business from the bottom up as he was going through high school and college, so it was a pretty easy transition for him to get involved in the home building industry himself. After graduating from Edinboro University in Erie, Pennsylvania with his degree in Business and Economics, he worked for a couple other builders for a short period of time before the family business was created.
Scott has over 25 years of experience in the home building industry and helping to manage Mercedes Homes which at its peak was the second largest private builder in the nation with $1.7 billion in revenue and 2,400 employees. Mercedes Homes had significant cashflow struggles after the 2008 and 2009 downturn and ultimately had to file bankruptcy. However, Scott Buescher has been involved in rebuilding the family business in the past nine years through his leadership of the new company, Mercedes Premier Homes and VE Homes.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
What I think is great about our industry is you get the feeling of accomplishment that comes from starting out with a piece of farmland or an orange grove and developing a beautiful neighborhood. Within that neighborhood we build a house. Every day you go there, and you get to see change, you see something building. There is progress every day. I don’t think I would have been happy sitting at a desk and doing numbers all day. I am usually in the office a lot, but when I do get out, I get to see the progress and the build.
The other really important thing is we’re putting families in homes, and this is where they spend all their time together. It’s where they have all their holidays together, their Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, or whatever their religious holidays are. It’s where grandparents come, aunts and uncles come, and friends come. We’re creating a special space for people’s lives. It’s always good to come home. Even after work, if you love your job, it’s nice to come home, and you’ve got to have a nice home to come to.
What keeps you motivated?
I like the challenge of always doing something new, something a little better, something a little different. I like keeping up on the competition and seeing what we can do to stay one step ahead of them. Those are the types of things that keep me motivated.
The other part of that though is building a strong team. We hire our employees. We train them. Watching them grow, giving them the opportunity to grow in their career, make more money, and do things with their families is also motivating.
How has your company grown from its early days to now?
We had a very large home building company called Mercedes Homes. We named it Mercedes because it was my mom’s first name. That business did extremely well. In that company we were the second largest private builder in the country, and we did about $1.7 billion in revenue in our best year.
We were in business for 30+ years and then in the market downturn in 2008 and 2009, we wound up going through bankruptcy. There were a lot of builders and developers who went through bankruptcy and went down in that timeframe. The lesson learn is we didn’t our balance sheet balanced. We got too aggressive buying land and putting too much money out in front of us instead of holding back some. We thought the good times were never going to end. After bankruptcy, it was terrible, but we just didn’t want to lay down and give up, so we started a new company.
Our new company is named Mercedes Premier Homes. We also conduct business under the name of Vintage Estate Homes and now we just call it VE Homes. In our new company, we have been in business for nine years. We have grown substantially. We operate in several divisions in Florida and a few in Texas. We’ve built some good strong teams.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
What we really try to do is design the homes so that people will drive by and say, “Wow! That’s a great looking house!” Even if it’s a lower priced home to a first-time buyer, we like to put a little bit more pizazz on the outside and on the inside. That, I think, inspires us because, again, when your family and friends come to visit, hopefully they’re going to say, “Wow, your house is nicer than these other ones in the neighborhood that the competition is building.” When they come in, they are going to say, “Wow, this house feels good. It has a good flow.” Things like that inspire us to just build something that we think is a little bit better than our competitors and somewhere where you can raise your family and enjoy your home.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
I guess probably my dad. He was a home builder his whole life, and he was the one who started us in business. Yea, it would be my dad.
He worked for a big national home builder, and he was always in a corporate office. When he would come home, he would talk about different topics and things related to his work and we would pick up on that sitting at the dinner table. He would often bring people home. Back in the day, people didn’t go out to eat as much. I’m one of seven kids. My mom would be making dinner for all of us, and my dad would bring home a guy from work or two that came out of town to work with him. You would hear their work stories as well. We were around people that were in our industry quite often.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
I think it’s pretty easy because I’ve been doing it for so long. I get up every morning and go to work. It’s just what my body is used to doing. I get up and go to work. Then you come home and chill out a little and have dinner. On the weekends, we go golfing or do something as a family. We would do a lot of vacations. I’ve got three daughters and we would make sure that we would go do very good vacations every summer when they were out of school and build those bonds there.
When we first were starting the business, I can remember working very long hours. Then it got to the point my wife would say something, and then when the kids came, I just said, okay, I’m going to get home at 5:00 or 5:30 and this other stuff can wait. You learn that as you go.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
I’m fair, but I’m firm. I’m not wishy washy. If I tell you, “Hey, this has to happen, and we need to get it done.” If he says, “I can’t. It’s been raining.” I’d say, “Okay, how are we going to get this done? This customer needs this.” I think firm, but fair, and give good, solid direction and people like that. They don’t want, “Oh, we’re going to do this, wait, wait, wait, tomorrow, we changed our mind. Instead of going straight ahead, we’re going to go to the far right.” Good direction, firm but fair, and consistent. You don’t change your mind constantly. Boom, you keep on track and go. But that comes from slowing down, thinking it through, and saying, “Here’s what we have to do, here’s how we need to do it, and here’s how we’ll get it accomplished in a timely manner.”
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
If there were to be prepared starting out as a new home builder, they would definitely have to get some experience in the industry working for another builder or another company that built homes. They would need to be able to be prepared to work long hours and learn a little bit of every part of the business. You really need to know the marketing, how to sell, how to deal with different people, whether realtors, developers, subcontractors, and then of course, how to build and how to know when you’re getting the right price or if someone is taking advantage of you on price. You really need to get some experience. I don’t think you can just walk out there and go start building houses now.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
Going through bankruptcy was the hardest obstacle. That was it right there. It was devastating. We built that company for 30 years. We were very successful. We were the second largest private builder in the nation. It was named after my mother. After we went through bankruptcy, we got out of bankruptcy, and a hedge fund started buying up our debts through various banks because we had a big bank syndicate of 12 banks. The smaller banks wanted out, and they started selling. The hedge fund wound up walking us out of our business, took it over and then shut it down a year later. It was very difficult.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
In our industry, I led my team and our group, you had to get all entities involved, operations, which is construction, purchasing, and land, and then we brought the marketing in, accounting, finance, and merchandising people, but we won two National Housing Quality awards at Mercedes Homes. We won it one year and we went back about three or four years later and won it again. At the time we were the only builder that had won it twice, but it really makes you look at every step of your business. The bottom line is you have to really focus on taking care of that customer and making sure that customer is happy. But to get that customer happy, you have to do everything right. You have to have the sales contract right. You have to have the selection sheets right. You have to have your design set. It just forces you to get everything right so the customer says, “Wow, that was seamless and nice and easy to go through.”
But then, going through that, what we really learned is that you can’t have happy customers unless you have happy employees, dedicated employees. We realized that so we applied to those other entities and we then were awarded one of the Best Companies to Work For. It just makes sense. You really can’t satisfy your customer and do all those things if you don’t have a dedicated team and the team is happy.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?
Watch your balance sheet. Keep your balance sheet balanced. Don’t get too heavy on risky assets.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
It changes as life changes, but outside of work I’ve always been into fitness. Whether I’m running or biking or going to the gym, I think people would know that about me. Every day I go to the gym at lunchtime. As I get older, now I’m not getting up and riding my bike 50 or 60 miles on a Saturday or Sunday, but I’ll still ride my bike 25 to 30 miles or I might go golfing. I’m still into fitness. That is what would define me outside of work.
What trends in your industry excite you?
One of the things that we’re really looking at right now, in fact, we meet every Friday on it, is energy efficiency. We have done that before in our old company, and we worked with different experts from the University of Florida, Winter & Associates, FLASH, and a whole bunch of people about 15 years ago. Now, the technology has gotten better and better. The way you can insulate your house, your attic, the efficiencies of air conditioning, the efficiency of windows to keep heat out and/or cold out, and the whole solar option. Today we can pretty much have a house that can sustain itself from power if the customer wants to pay for that and put it in. Those are some of the new trends I think we’re going to see more and more. We are going to see more energy efficient homes and people leaning more and more to the solar panels as they come down in price and they become more efficient.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
The company is owned by me and my brother and my two sisters. Right now, we’re 25% owner each. As we are getting older, we keep saying we want to look at a succession plan and we’ve also had people come to buy us. We’re looking at it slightly different than when we tried to build it up to be a huge, huge entity like the first company we had. But the real goal is to get pretty much where we don’t need to use a bank or very limited money we have to borrow from a bank. That’s what I see us doing moving forward with the business.
Explain the proudest day of your professional life.
Winning the National Housing Quality Award that then would tailspin into one of the Best Companies to Work For Award in the United States. That was a big award and it helped our company tremendously. I was very proud of that. You wind up having to track everything, every little thing, and we realized that if you don’t track it, you really can’t get better at it.