Tim O’Brien, a Builder With a Mission

Tim O’Brien realized early on in his career that the core of his company is a “people business that just happens to build homes.”

Coming from a background in Total Quality Management (success through unparalleled customer satisfaction), Tim O’Brien, president of award-winning Wisconsin builder Tim O’Brien Homes, has long been a believer that a business is only as good as its company culture. 

His culture is more than just words on paper. It’s a genuine commitment to “positively impact people’s lives.” This includes clients, vendor partners and employees.

The company adheres to that principle, along with seven core values that guide its day to day operations. To keep these core values alive within the company, an employee recognition program was initiated two years later. “YouShamROCK” encourages employees to nominate someone within the company to be memorialized for their actions in embracing one or more core values in a work event or situation.

Recently two employees, Matt Dries and Emily Eagles, were nominated for remarkable customer relations work that embraced two core values: Deliver Extraordinary Experiences and Communicate with Empathy and Understanding. A letter from one of the happy customers that prompted the nomination read as follows:

“When selecting a builder, it was important for us to have people who listened and cared about our wants, concerns, and needs. We greatly appreciate how Emily and Matt have repeatedly gone out of their way for us, and we know they did a ton of work behind the scenes that we won’t ever know about. Thank you!” 

“Nominations tell stories,” says Tim O’Brien. “Each month, we select the best one, and award the winner with a special certificate. At the end of the year, one of our monthly winners is inducted into the YouShamROCK Hall of Fame, and receives a custom, logo-ized Tim O’Brien Homes jacket, kind of like the Masters Green Jacket in golf.”

A Little History

According to O’Brien, green homes were a missing segment in Wisconsin back in 2007, a time when people who wanted an energy-efficient home would need to look to work with a custom builder and usually pay a premium for the finished product. Driven by a desire to build better, more sustainable homes at an attainable price, Tim O’Brien Homes saw this as an opportunity to create a market niche for itself. 

Sustainable, comfortable and durable homes focusing on best design and building science practices and advanced technologies were built according to a production model to offer average working-class Americans a more mainstream, green-certified and cost-effective product.

Since that time, Tim O’Brien Homes has successfully built about 2,000 homes in Wisconsin, with green features standard. According to Director of Marketing Ryan Hillgrader, the company continues to offer what he describes as “Three Uniques” in the marketplace: Green Certification – every home is field-tested and certified by a third party professional; Lasting Value—with designs that focus on “space in the right place”; and an Extraordinary Experience for every customer.

A big part of the company’s commitment to its employees and customers includes looking forward to the future of home building. As in many parts of the U.S. (and the world), there continues to be a shortage of skilled trades in the local construction industry. 

Since 2010, Tim O’Brien Homes has teamed with local school districts to provide on-site training for high school seniors. Currently working with four districts and their students, twenty-four homes have been completed to date.

Oconomowoc 2022-23 Groundbreaking

“Participation in this project has averaged about fifteen students per home, with most of those going on to work in trades or with our trade partners,” says Tim O’Brien. “And this year, we’re also working on getting more females into the program. Women are definitely under-represented in the home building industry. Toward the end of each home project, we have open houses for the students and their parents at the pre-drywall and finished stages.”

One student, Andrew, summarized his experience as follows:

“This project has exceeded all of my expectations. It has been my favorite class by far in all of my years of schooling. I learned so much more than I ever would have expected, and it was so useful to get all of this knowledge about all of these different trades. It’s truly fascinating. Because of this program, I now know what I want to do with my future.”

In addition to the school district program, Tim O’Brien Homes is participating in the McKenzie Workforce Center, a unique project designed to prepare young people in Dane County for quality, family-sustaining jobs. The heart of the center is the Skilled Trades Training Program, which educates and supports youth pursuing careers as plumbers, carpenters, HVAC technicians, electricians and more. 

“What kids are learning through these programs is all about life skills in the home building industry,” O’Brien adds. “We hope this important movement gains more traction across the country.”