About the Author
Our MarkSystems Community User of the Month is Karie Ann Murray, Controller and HR Manager with Cronkhite Homes. Serving the Springfield, Missouri area, Cronkhite Homes has seen 20% growth this year and will be on track to build 150 homes in 2020, up from the 115 in 2019. In this interview, Karie Ann discusses her background, the changes she’s seeing in the industry, and shares advice for those looking to enter the home building industry.
I’ve worked in accounting my whole career. My first introduction to the construction industry was on the finance side. In college, I worked for a lender auditing mortgages, making sure the mortgage document matched the loan. This was during a time when the industry was booming!
When I got out of college, I worked with D.R. Horton in Portland. This was in 2005 when you couldn’t build the homes fast enough! I was there until 2011, living through the downturn—watched the layoffs and how they completely restructured the company.
That experience really shaped my career, from going through the boom to going through a downturn. And working for a large builder, I could see the impact land development had on a construction company. Being able to do build something affordable, meant needing to buy land and develop it themselves.
After D.R. Horton, I worked for a custom home builder who was also an on-your-lot builder. That’s where I first started using MarkSystems!
I started working for Cronkhite Homes last year. With my professional background and my MarkSystems experience, it has been a great fit! I can see my current role evolving into a more strategic one, focusing on business planning so we can be in a position of growth.
For me, the biggest challenge is making sure we’re investing in our people to get them up and running in MarkSystems. Since I have the accounting and systems experience, I need to make sure I’m not doing everything myself—it's important to delegate tasks to the team so they can learn and grow too.
I try to do this in my weekly one-on-ones...evaluate what tasks are going well and which ones not so well, and make sure the team has the right training. The MarkSystems’ WebClasses have been a great resource. If I see a class coming up, I make suggestions for team members to attend and discuss what they learned. In a session on accounts payable we learned about using the recurring invoice template. This turned into an opportunity to try something to help us become more efficient.
Probably the biggest change is that the home building industry must respond to the wants of customers. Homebuyers are getting more particular about the features they want to see in a home—they see options on TV and want those too. Their needs focus on custom options and updating floor plans to include different features, finishes, and product offerings.
You need to make sure the system is managing all of the data, so you can cater to customers and to keep the sales growing.
The biggest impact of COVID is product availability. During the lockout period, suppliers were shut down. Currently we’re seeing volatile lumber prices and general product costs are rising too. We need to try to understand how the increased costs will have an impact on are margin percentages.
Personally, I’ve been using MarkSystems for almost seven years between the two companies. The biggest change to IHMS for MarkSystems is with ECI. It has been great to see the ongoing development and improvement of the system. The quarterly updates always have something impactful and helpful for users.
The ability to track construction loans. In Missouri, we’re required to do draws through a title company so being able to track construction loans within the system and run reports on draw amounts has been very helpful. The reporting around this functionality is exceptional.
We’re also looking forward to implementing LotVue—having a map-based view of the business and being able to drill-down to see sales status, construction activity, and visual reporting will be a great addition for us.
Whether you’re looking to be a part of a small company or bigger one, always be aware of the opportunities to learn. You can find success wherever you go, but you always need to be ready to take in new information—you can’t be scared of doing things differently.
My husband and I enjoy taking advantage of the Missouri sunshine! Having moved from Washington State, where it’s often rainy, we bought a boat just before we moved here and enjoy the time on the water!
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About the Author