In 1997, John Kirkenir and Ed Crowley formed an independent, single-family homebuilding business. “I have a background as a CPA,” John elaborates. “I was hired as a controller for a single-family homebuilder in 1985. I worked there for a number of years and eventually became CFO.” He and Ed Crowley met there, working together under another firm. Together, they decided to strike out on their own and founded Alliance Homes.
The small team started out building large, single-family homes in central New Jersey. As of 2014, the crew has built townhouses in the Jamesburg area, active adult communities in southern New Jersey and more single-family homes around the state. When the economic downturn hit in 2007, the company was forced to make major operational changes. “We downsized and shifted focus,” John explains. “In recent years, we have been building smaller subdivisions. 10 years ago we were building 80 to100 homes annually. Now that number is closer to 12.”
He has seen significant improvement in the market, however. “Things are looking up,” John notes. “We have been very active in finding new projects and taking on different types of homebuilding that we have not performed before.”
Returning to growth
While John points out that “luck” has had a lot to do with his company’s stability over the last decade, his financial expertise has contributed significantly to the company’s ability to stay afloat. “We are a conservative company by nature,” he explains. “I’m a finance guy, not an architect or an engineer. I am a numbers-based person and I lead the company from that perspective.
“Before downturn, our numbers were crazy,” he continues. “We sold inventory off to other building companies. The numbers we were offered made it hard to come up with a reason to build the houses ourselves, so it made sense to sell most of our undeveloped property off. When the economy crashed, we had nothing on our books. We were very fortunate; we took the money and ran. When the market was booming, we kept within our parameters. We never got extravagant, and we refuse to stretch to do a project that didn’t make financial sense. Maybe we are not always as busy as we’d like to be, but we stand behind our work.”
Building a strong professional network
Alliance Homes is involved with the New Jersey Builders Association as a member business. John says he has found the association to be an invaluable resource over the years and one that has helped the business grow. John currently serves as the organization’s secretary and sits on several committees.
“I’ve found my involvement at the state and local level to be very educational,” John explains. “The experience has helped round out my building education. I find myself constantly learning more about the legislative initiatives political landscape, changing code requirements and environmental regulations of this industry. I have also been able to meet a great network of contractors and professionals. Our members include builders, suppliers, architects, engineers, attorneys and other professionals. If something were to come up, I know that I always have someone I could call and quickly get an answer, who could help me explore a problem or an opportunity and decide where to go.
Putting resources to work
These relationships become even more important when considering that Alliance Homes has a staff of only five people. “Our relationships are extremely important,” John explains. “We subcontract everything out. There are many contractors we have worked with for the last 15 years or more, on a regular basis.”
This kind of reliability has allowed the team to remain flexible, keeping the small, core group busy through the recession and beyond. In recent years, Alliance Homes has been involved in a range of unique building projects throughout the region.
“We built a little project in the historic village of Kingston NJ, as part of the town’s historic district,” John explains. “We renovated and modernized three run down old farmhouses and built six houses that mirrored that same style of country home. This work was very well received, and the end product was very rewarding. Historic nature blended with village. We were able to modernize these structures while blending them in with the older homes and preserving the look of the neighborhood.”
The team also has several additional projects set up for 2014. Alliance Homes is building a smaller project in Plainsboro, N.J., involving five 5,000-square foot houses in the $1 million-plus range. “We have a few more to get approved and developed,” John explains. “We’re working there and on a project with similar scope in Princeton, N.J.”
Despite a difficult few years through the recession, things are certainly looking up for Alliance Homes. John, Ed and their team maintain a strong dedication to quality and community that is apparent in all of the company’s projects. With some strong work down the pipeline, Alliance Homes is steadily entering a period of growth.
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