Does Your Kid Want Your Job?

Filed in Business Management, Education, Sales & Marketing by on April 21, 2016 0 Comments

“Doctor,” “policeman” and “firefighter” are common responses when a kid is asked what he or she wants to be when they grow up.

Family and friends of Brad Cullum, 27, construction manager at Cullum Homes in Scottsdale, Ariz., still remind him of what had always been his emphatic response: “Framer.”

Home building is in Brad’s blood, which explains why his family name is on the outside of his truck. His parents, Rod, 60, and Kim, 59, founded the luxury home building company more than 30 years ago and they’ve always known that Brad would take over some day.

Brad started walking jobs with his parents when he was six years old, and was never shy about approaching any of the subs to learn about what they were doing, how and why.

Those constant learning opportunities quickly grew into a full-time career and a gradual transition into business ownership. When the time comes for his parents to retire – many, many years from now, according to Rod — it will be Brad at the helm.

Rod Cullum, left, owner of Cullum Homes in Scottsdale, Ariz., plans to one day have his son, Brad (left) take over.

Rod Cullum, left, owner of Cullum Homes in Scottsdale, Ariz., plans to one day have his son, Brad, right, take over the family business.

Full Immersion

For about the first year after he earned his construction management degree from Arizona State University, Brad worked with his dad continually at his side. But in the years that followed, he quickly became almost entirely autonomous.

“It’s a 24/7 job. If you’re going to be successful in this business, you need to fully immerse yourself, and Brad was able to do exactly that,” Rod said.

Just as Brad finished college, the housing market turned and opened his eyes to some of the more challenging aspects of the industry. He participated in just about everything from the most difficult client meetings to some very uncomfortable bank calls.

Today, Brad oversees approximately 30 individual projects at any given time, managing all of the various groups within the company. “He works as hard as anyone I know,” Rod said.

Father-Son Dynamic

Brad and Rod say they have a strong working relationship and a mutual understanding of their respective roles.

In recent years, they’ve generally agreed that Brad makes the decisions on the construction end and Rod handles those on the business end. That approach has worked out well, so far. But not every decision can be so cut and dried.

“If we disagree on something, it could be a mentoring opportunity for me and I’ll share with him some of my experiences,” Rod said “Or, it might be a time when I’ll say, ‘Wow, I never thought of that. I guess that education paid off after all.'”

Rod admits there have been many times when he felt obliged to support one of Brad’s decisions, even though he might have done things a little differently.

“He’s not used to people disagreeing with him, and it wasn’t easy for him to let go at first,” Brad said. “But I think he realizes now that we have the exact same mentality.”

Accepting the New Boss

Rod says Cullum Homes has dozens of loyal subs, many of whom he’s worked with for more than 20 years – some he’s even known since high school. Most of them already respected Brad and had no trouble accepting him as their new construction manager.

But there were others who struggled with the switch.

“Some [subs] just weren’t open to change and didn’t respond as well we would have liked. [Brad] eventually made the tough decision to change companies, and he had my full support,” Rod said

Both Rod and Brad acknowledge that building strong relationships took time. For Rod, it also took a lot of self-restraint to refrain from answering construction-related questions that should be directed toward Brad.

In the last two years, Rod has removed himself entirely from the company’s bi-annual conference when they meet with each of their key trades. It’s now Brad who sits down with them, asking and answering questions from an owner’s perspective.

Letting Go

As far as letting go completely, that isn’t on Rod and Kim’s radar just yet.

“My dad is very proud of what the company has accomplished, so he’s going to work ‘til the day he dies. And I think that’s great,” Brad said. “I go to nearly all of the client meetings, but for the most part, my dad still structures all of the deals. All I have to do is keep working my ass off on the construction side.”

That kind of determined mentality gives Rod and Kim all the reassurance they need to know the company will be in good hands someday . . . in the very distant future.

“If I had to start it all over, I’d probably get out of his way quicker. I’m sure that would have made him happy,” Rod said lightheartedly.

“As a parent, you worry about whether you’ve done it the right way. But Brad really stepped up to all of that pressure,” Rod said. “Now, he’s basically running a $50 million construction company at age 27.”

Tangible Details

Owners may benefit from seeking the advice of an estate planner who can walk them through the details of a successful succession strategy that should be considered, including buy-sell agreements, wills and taxes.

More information about these topics is available on in Estate Planning & Business Continuity: Your Legacy, Your Company’s Future. NAHB members have instant access to this and many other resources in the BizTools library to help boost and sustain their bottom line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *