From an early age, James Kennedy had a love for building.
“When I was young, I’ve always had a hammer in my hand building tree forts and stuff like that,” James said. “When I was applying for school, I knew that I wanted to study construction management.”
He remembers riding around residential construction job sites in Chesterfield, VA, when he was a boy, watching the way his grandfather, a builder, carried himself and talked with people. His grandfather was his idol, and the reason James pursued a career in construction when he got older.
Today, he hopes that there are similarities to his grandfather in the way he interacts with his home buyers for Eastwood Homes.
James opted to attend Appalachian State University because of its construction management program, as well as the success of the football program and the opportunity for outdoor activities like snowboarding. He also held minors in Business and Planning and graduated in May 2013.
Just prior to graduating, he met the team at Eastwood Homes when we came to speak with the Student Builders Association there. His involvement in the organization provided him a foot in the front door to his passion for residential home building and he became one of the few graduating seniors with a job under his tool belt before he even received his diploma!
He started with Eastwood in our Charlotte division as an Associate Builder in June of 2013. Today, he holds the rank of builder and also holds his General Contractor license. At Eastwood Homes, a “builder” manages all the trade vendors that work on the construction of a home. They also meet regularly with homeowners and our New Home Specialists to ensure a smooth building process.
In our busiest season, James might manage the construction of nearly 30 homes at once! That means busy days for our builders, including James, who starts his day usually around 7:30 when he arrives on his job site to meet with trade vendors and review their schedules. Throughout the day, he’s checking in with those vendors to make sure everything is running smoothly. He’s also viewing the homes he’s overseeing multiple times a day and meets with home buyers weekly to provide status updates and to give them orientations to their new homes.
There are certainly challenges our builders face with such a busy workload. He says being organized is key to juggling a hectic schedule, as is being proactive instead of reactive.
“Just get it fixed,” he said. “If I see a minor tweak or issue that needs correcting, I take a picture of it and email about it then instead of waiting. Just take care of it then."
Communication is also very important, he says. Whether it’s working with an Eastwood New Home Specialist and being there for them when they have questions either during normal working hours or after, or setting the right expectations with our home buyers, it all comes down to communication. Managing the trade vendors on so many homes can also be challenging.
But at the end of the day, there’s nothing better than building someone’s home.
“I take a lot of pride in creating a product that has Eastwood’s name on it, and building a homeowner’s dream,” James says. “What they see on paper, I make it come to life and put it together for them. I try to tell my homeowners, I want to make this a custom experience for you even though it’s not a completely custom build.”
James has advice for those who may be trying to enter the home-building industry.
“Try to immerse yourself in the industry,” he says. “I had a good base knowledge coming out of school, but I realized when I got to the field that there was a lot I didn’t know. School is a good base to build on, but being in the field hands-on and asking a lot of questions is key to being a successful builder. Just jump in.”
He also suggests that builders should get their General Contractors license after they’ve been working in the field for a year or two as a way to further their career.
James’ work has not gone unnoticed here at Eastwood Homes. During our annual company awards luncheon, he earned the Rising Star award during his first year as a Builder. That award honors a team member who exemplifies the culture of our company during their first year. Last year, he earned the Built With Care award. This award highlighted his help with setting up the online scheduling system for our subcontractors.
Thank you, James, for your amazing contribution to Eastwood Homes! If you know of anyone interested in pursuing a career in the home building industry, please have them visit our Careers page.
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