Building Dream Homes Becomes a Dream Business
Absolute Customs Restructures into an Ideal Franchsie
Entrepreneurship can start at any age. When he was just 10-years-old, Scott Warren started his first business making and selling sack lunches to construction workers on job sites. In junior high he had his own landscaping company, and in high school he started an asphalt driveway sealing business. So it’s no surprise that he eventually became the owner of his own home construction company, Absolute Customs, which he recently sold so that he can franchise the business concept nationally.
Following the path of his previous endeavors, Scott got into residential painting while attending the University of Nebraska Lincoln. That led him to becoming a subcontractor for custom home builders. Ultimately, it was out of tragedy that he started building his own homes. When Benchmark Homes filed for bankruptcy in 2006, Scott became part of its unsecured creditors committee. What he learned from that experience enabled him to start a home building company with a different type of business model—one in which subcontractors are paid directly from the bank, and the homeowner carries the loan, ensuring neither loses money.
“What we offer is transparency,” Scott explained. “We partner with the homeowner so that there are no hidden fees or costs along the way.” Absolute Customs establishes an up-front management fee for building the home, and everything after that is done at wholesale pricing. Scott said this gives the homeowner greater value, either by allowing them to choose higher end finishes or having more equity in the home when it’s finished. And with up to 30 custom homes per year at an average price of $650,000, that business model pays off for everyone involved.
As the company grew and expanded outside of Omaha, Scott’s time was divided between various markets. He saw there was opportunity in other cities such as Des Moines, Sioux City, and the big three in Texas—Houston, Austin, and Dallas—but knew he couldn’t give the Omaha market the attention it still needed if he was focused elsewhere. So at the beginning of 2016 Scott decided to look for a new owner for Absolute Customs and sell the business.
"When he was just 10 years old, Scott Warren started his first business making and selling sack lunches to construction workers on job sites."
He contacted The Firm to start the process and soon found the right buyer: Brett Eby. “Brett came across as having an understanding and a passion for custom homes, and he had the business experience necessary, so I felt comfortable he could come in and grow the company,” Scott said. Brett’s management background wasn’t the only thing that made him a good fit; outside of his regular work hours he did a lot of home remodeling on his own. “I’ve always loved construction and the process of creating something new and beautiful,” he said.
Brett’s father and uncle were both small business owners, and for years he dreamed of owning his own business. He just didn’t know what type of business that would be. When faced with the risk of losing his job after the company he worked for was sold in 2015, Brett decided it was time to pursue that dream. “I reached out to everyone I knew asking if anyone was aware of a business for sale, but nothing interested me,” he said. That’s when he contacted The Firm.
"Eby's father and uncle were both small business owners, and for years he dreamed of owning his own business. He just didn't know what type of business that would be."
They started the process of looking for the right company for Brett, but home building never came up in conversations. “Construction companies typically aren’t for sale,” Brett said. “They’re usually passed down to a family member, so I never mentioned that would be an industry I’d be interested in. I didn’t even think it’d be a possibility.” He looked at several businesses but didn’t feel passionate about them. Until he learned about Absolute Customs. “It instantly grabbed my attention,” he said.
After learning about the company’s structure, Brett knew it was a concept he could get excited about. And it was evident after his very first meeting with Scott that the two shared the same vision and passion for the business. “Our personalities really meshed,” Brett said. “We have similar life goals, and even the way we talk about business is the same.” Every conversation they had reaffirmed that it was the right move. And after five months, they closed the deal. “The Firm did a great job of knowing exactly what each side needed to come together and they have a good deal process,” he added.
Brett acknowledged that there’s a big difference between remodeling and new construction and knew he had a learning curve ahead of him. So the fact that Scott would stay on for six months and teach him everything he’d need to know about running a whole home construction business was a big factor. In fact, Brett can call on Scott at any time. “Omaha will always be the home base for the company, and I’ll always be here to help him grow the Omaha market,” Scott said.
That’s a rare feature when purchasing a business. Even Brett said that when he decided to pursue entrepreneurship, he assumed he’d be buying a business from someone who planned to retire and wouldn’t be involved. Either that, or with most franchises there’s an element of corporate control. “This model is perfect because I own 100% of the business, but I have the resources of a national company behind me,” Brett said. And he’s eager to combine his business expertise in team management and marketing with his passion for the home construction industry. “This is so rewarding. I love this more than any other job I’ve ever had,” he added.
Although wearing so many hats can be challenging at times, Brett said he welcomes the responsibility of overseeing every aspect of the business. He’s already set financial goals for how to grow Absolute Customs locally as well as outside the market to smaller, surrounding communities. “The company is in good hands, and the Absolute Customs brand is going to be enhanced in the Omaha market, and hopefully I improve the process of building a home even more than before,” he said.
The biggest surprise for Brett when it comes to owning this business has been how much he enjoys the actual sales process of home building. “I thought I’d like sales least and the construction aspect the most, but I love talking to homeowners,” he said. “There’s nothing better than talking to people about the one place where they want to spend all their time: a home.”
The Firm Deal Review
Reason for Sale: To franchise nationally
Seller Attorney: Abrahams Kaslow & Cassman, Jennifer Rattner
Buyer Attorney: McGill, Gotsdiner, Workman & Lepp, Gary Gotsdiner
Transition Period: Six months
Custom Homes Per Year: 30