Learning To Work On The Business, Not In The Business
Politics pried Gary Aubuchon away from his business and taught him to delegate.
Aubuchon moved to Southwest Florida in 1984 and began working in real estate, but was making a typical small business owner mistake—working in the business instead of on the business. When Aubuchon was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2006, he was forced to let go and allow employees of the Aubuchon Team of Companies to take on his tasks and make decisions.
“I couldn’t physically be in my office when I was required to be in Tallahassee,” he says. “What I realized at that time was I had been too involved in the day-to-day parts of my business. I was keeping my people from becoming independent thinkers and problem solvers.”
By the time Aubuchon was elected, his business had grown into a onestop shop for real estate needs. The Aubuchon Team of Companies has a custom home division (Aubuchon Homes), semi-custom home division (Sterling by Aubuchon), interior design company (Evalutions by Aubuchon), and a residential and commercial real estate firm, Miloff Aubuchon Realty Group, which also includes property management, annual and vacation rentals. He is also a partner in Omni One Title Co.
To make letting go more challenging, the housing market collapsed shortly after his election and the country fell into a recession. The Aubuchon Team of Companies was forced to lay off about 40 percent of its workers, which he says helped “save the mother ship.” He didn’t have to shut down, partly because he had diversified after experiencing the more mild 1990-1991 recession.
In 1992, he and his brother, Daryl, created Aubuchon Homes and spent a decade diversifying. That diversification sustained the business after the housing market collapsed in 2007 and the defective Chinese drywall crisis followed.
Aubuchon evaluated the skills of his workers to retain them and help grow their careers.
“We could elevate key people into leadership and in some cases, ownership roles, and build companies around their skill sets that would dovetail nicely with the services that we were already providing,” he says.
Evaluating customer experience when building and buying homes and learning to improve the process was also critical. There’s often a lack of coordination between designing, building and buying a home, he says. Aubuchon’s divisions were created to take care of those needs.
The Aubuchon Team of Companies now has five locations, from Cape Coral to Marco Island, with about 150 staff members and sales agents.
The company has built nearly 500 homes since 1992 and is generally working on 30 homebuilding projects— at various phases of development— at any time.
This summer, the company made a significant internal change. It realized the homebuilding customers lacked a key contact, and requests for products and pricing at each stage were slowing down the building process. Now, members of the estimating team are called project managers who serve as that primary contact during all stages.
“After being a homebuilder for 24 years, we’re not staying static and doing things the way we’ve always done it. We’re singularly looking for ways to be better,” he says.
During his unsuccessful run for U.S. House in 2012, Aubuchon drove throughout Florida’s 19th Congressional District, from Cape Coral to Marco Island. Afterward, he saw a business opportunity as the economy and housing market bounced back.
“I said to my team, ‘Look, I obviously didn’t win that election but I spent over half a million [in campaign dollars] building the Aubuchon name. There’s no reason why we’re not building and selling real estate all through that same area,” he says. “How can I turn this around and find some real value in losing? We’re making a concerted effort to continue to move south. We want to have a much more regional presence.”
He plans to open an office in Naples, likely in 2018. Even as his company expands geographically, the history major remembers the lesson he learned while in the legislature.
“When I came back into the business at the end of 2012, one of the things I made a concerted effort to do is to not slip back into getting too deep into the daily operations of the business and instead focus more on supporting my people,” he says.