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Member profile: MasterCraft: 'Quality meets innovation'

NEFBA created the Pinnacle Builder award to recognize its highest achievers and those most dedicated to the industry. To win the award a builder must maintain 90 percent of its active trade partners as NEFBA members. MasterCraft Builder Group saw 90 percent criterion merely as a starting point. MasterCraft was the first Pinnacle Builder to exceed that high standard with 100 percent of its active trade partners as NEFBA members.

Meeting and exceeding high standards is the underlying philosophy of MasterCraft Builder Group's principals Andy Chambers, Chris Shee and Neill Singleton. It's also the basis of their motto, "Where quality meets innovation." This philosophy accounts for the company's remarkable success.

"While we are a smaller local company, collectively we have an extensive background in all aspects of new-home construction," Shee said. "And, that means we have the operational knowledge of high-production builders, yet we've chosen to go a different route. We've all experienced the pressure of high-volume production where the focus is on selling as many homes as possible. When you operate that way, quality is sometimes sacrificed. We don't have those pressures, and we will never sacrifice quality."

Chambers worked for a well-known national builder for 18 years. In 2009, that company began winding down its Jacksonville operations.

"It was time to try my hand at creating my own operations," Chambers said. "It wasn't perfect timing, but I was able to build on owners' lots, and I captured some of the remodeling market. I concentrated on a relatively narrow geographic area so I could manage it alone."

About that same time, Phoenix Development of NE Florida was acquiring lots and looking for a builder to construct some spec homes. Phoenix Development Chris Shee and Neill Singleton approached Chambers and by April 2011 the two companies had merged. Shee was great friends with both Chambers and Singleton and knew the three of them had similar principles and goals.

"It was a perfect fit all the way around," Singleton said. "Instead of Chris and me buying lots and contracting with Andy to build the homes, it just made more sense for us to bring all those roles under one roof. It allowed us to provide the total package for our customers from the homesite to move in."

The extraordinary total package consists of Shee's land acquisition and marketing strategies, Singleton's mortgage financing expertise and Chambers' building experience.

Completing the MasterCraft staff are Brad Shee, Chris' brother, who handles sales and construction, and Becky Ecklof, who manages accounts payable, budgets, starts all the administrative responsibilities that make it possible for the business to operate smoothly.

Chambers said one big advantage MasterCraft has over larger companies is the flexibility the company has when it comes to pleasing customers. The company offers floor plans at all price points, and all the plans boast features that are considered upgrades by most builders. As proud as they are of their plans and standard features, Chambers said the company is quick to accommodate buyers' requests for modifications. In fact, one of their framers asked Chambers if he ever built the same home twice. And, the answer was, "Not yet."

"If a buyer wants to modify one of our plans, we allow them to that without custom prices," he said. "We have the ability and knowledge to be a semi-custom builder, and we do so without the high costs some of our competitors charge."

Shee believes the contract process is another advantage MasterCraft offers.

"From the beginning, we put a high premium on one-on-one meetings with our customers, and we see our role as educating the customers," he said. "We walk through the process step by step so the customer knows what to expect and when to expect it. For example, once the purchase agreement is complete and plans are approved, our customers meet with a licensed interior decorator to professionally design their home. No matter the cost of the home, a homebuyer is making a substantial investment and deserves no less."

Given his background in banking and finance, Singleton has personally selected lenders who are considered part of the team.

"With the right lenders, closing attorneys and title companies, we make sure the business transactions are handled smoothly," he said. "All too often I have witnessed a financing or a closing problem foul up the entire experience."

An extension of selecting the right business partners applies to the trade partners, as well.

"We choose trade partners who share the same basic ideas and philosophy," Chambers said. "We are looking for trade partners who are committed to quality, known for their attention to details, and are dependable in other words, their professionalism."

And that is why MasterCraft insists their trade partners belong to NEFBA.

"NEFBA has been a huge support to the industry and critical to growth," said Chambers, who served as NEFBA president in 2010. "I don't have any problem telling our trade partners that they are obligated to support an association that fights all our battles. And beyond just signing up, they should show up for meetings and actively participate in a council."

MasterCraft supports Builders Care, NEFBA's charitable arm that provides construction services for the area's low-income, elderly and disabled, with each new home closing.

"We make a $100 contribution at each closing," Chambers said. "It's a modest beginning, but think what it would mean to Builders Care if all the NEFBA builder members were to do the same thing. As housing starts begin to increase, it's easy to see how this could grow to be a major contribution to Builders Care without a burden on any one builder."

In addition to new construction, MasterCraft has a strong remodeling component.

"We've done jobs as small and as simple as a bathroom renovation and as complex as a full exterior and interior renovation," Singleton said.

Chambers, Shee and Singleton share in their commitment, business philosophy and total dedication to their customers. They also share common characteristics outside of work. Each has two preteen/teenage sons. Chambers and his wife Lisa are the parents of Drew (13) and Clayton (11). Shee and his wife Jamie have Brandon (13) and Tyler (10). Singleton and his wife Jane have 15-year-old twin sons Benjamin and Thomas.

It's not a coincidence, then, that these names are among the company's floor plans. Naming floor pans after their family members illustrates the commitment of Andy Chambers, Chris Shee and Neill Singleton to create a strong connection between their business and their families. And, it's their dedication to their business, their own families and their customers that is the driving force of MasterCraft Builder Group.

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