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VOL. 124 | NO. 179 | Friday, September 11, 2009

Morgan, Vintage Homes Stays on Top in Trying Times

By Eric Smith

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Email reporter | Comments ()
Charles Morgan
Position: Owner
Company: Vintage Homes LLC
Basics: Vintage Homes has led Shelby County during the past year in the number of home starts.
“What we teach our people now is that the most important thing you can do for the customer is to build them the most house for the least amount of money.”
– Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan learned the homebuilding business from the ground up – literally.

The 58-year-old owner of Vintage Homes LLC began a nearly lifelong building career as a young boy working for his father’s framing and foundation subcontracting company. Morgan’s grandfather also worked in the framing and foundation field, so the basics of homebuilding run in his blood.

“The structural components of the house are the foundation and the framing,” Morgan said. “You can do everything from there. You can be as creative as you want to once you understand those two components.”

Morgan, whose childhood toys were 2x4 blocks of wood, went on to spend summers and holidays framing homes for his dad. He framed his first home at 15, and he built his first home in his early 20s.

He credits the solid foundation he learned from his father and grandfather – a solid work ethic coupled with an intricate understanding of the building business – for his success.

“It gave me the ability to use my creative mind to come up with different designs, different ideas,” he said. “All kinds of things came from that. I was never afraid to try something different simply because I knew what it took to make the structure sound.”

Industry leader

Morgan’s company is one of the more structurally sound homebuilders in Shelby County. Vintage Homes, with 20 employees, routinely leads the county in building permits. For the past year (August 2008 through July 2009) it has started more homes than anyone else with 69; the next highest total was FaxonGillis Homes with 43.

The honor is a satisfying one for Vintage Homes, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Morgan launched the company in 1979 after working for a few years with Bill Martin of Classic Homes. It was Martin who gave Morgan house lots that nobody else wanted, and he even wrote Morgan a letter recommending a bank give him credit.

Morgan said meeting Martin was “the most important thing” in his career, forming the roots to establish Morgan as one of the preeminent builders in the area. Morgan went on to serve as president of the Memphis Area Home Builders Association and the Home Builders Association of Tennessee, and also as a member of the National Association of Home Builders’ executive committee.

Another important milestone for Morgan was joining the 20 Club, a group that is sponsored by the NAHB and gives builders from 20 non-competing markets the chance to share ideas to improve their companies.

Morgan said his membership in that club helped him shred the myth that “you can’t do that in Memphis,” and it helped his company establish an effective customer service department.

“It turned us into business people,” Morgan said. “What we teach our people now is that the most important thing you can do for the customer is to build them the most house for the least amount of money.”

Building what is wanted

That last point became a mantra for Vintage Homes. Last year, as the recession ravaged homebuilding, Vintage Homes forged a partnership with Next Solutions Inc., a California-based company whose mission is to “build builders.”

Thanks to the consultancy from Next Solutions, Vintage Homes was able to perfect its “compelling value” business model, which reduces home costs by figuring out what buyers want in terms of price points and products, and how a builder can consistently bring it to market.

“They have helped me understand some of the compelling value propositions that is keeping us in the marketplace today – not just keeping us in there, but helping us thrive in the marketplace while so many people aren’t,” Morgan said.

Though Morgan and his family’s homebuilding legacy won’t be extended to his two sons and daughter – none of whom carried on the family tradition – he is working on making Vintage Homes last a few more generations.

“We see ourselves positioning our company and our product to where we would be an attractive target for a purchaser in the future,” he said. “That is my real intent for the future of the company.”

Clearly, Morgan’s accomplishments to date have given that mission a solid foundation.

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