Close to home, Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association's young president grew up with experience
EDMOND — Andrew French, the youngest-ever president of the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association, does not have to look far for seasoned advice in these challenging times.
He can turn to his father, Tom French, who has been there — as president of the association, although not during a pandemic, stock market collapse, and upheaval in business and society.
Times were good in homebuilding in 2003, when Tom French was association president, at age 39-40, about 15 years after starting French Construction.
Times are troubled now, for the housing industry and everything else. The association has canceled or postponed all its area council meetings and other activities through mid-May, including the Parade of Homes Spring Festival, originally scheduled for April 24-26 and May 1-3.
Meanwhile, Andrew French, who turned 28 on Tuesday, six years into the business, goes on, with an eye on the news and the latest from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On his birthday, he answered questions by email.
Q. How and when did a nice guy like you wind up in the homebuilding business? Did your dad make you do this? (Kidding!)
A. I’ve grown up in the business. From the time I was born, I was riding around with my dad checking on jobs and watching him. My dad never put any pressure on me at all to get into the home building business. I enjoy it mostly because of the people you get to meet. I truly believe we have some of the best clients out there, and many have become friends and neighbors.
Q. Does your dad work with you? How do you get along?
A. We work together every day. It has been a blessing getting to work alongside my dad and have him be an amazing teacher. When I first started, there was no real way to teach this business except being hands-on. I rode around with him for at least the first year and watched everything he did; that was the best experience I could have gained.
Q. What's your favorite part of home construction?
A. My favorite part of construction is walking around and pulling the dust covers off the smoke detectors for final inspection. That means we are done and close to moving a family into their home.
Q. How many houses will French Construction build this year? What sizes and styles and where?
A. We will build between 10-15 homes this year, mainly in the Edmond area. Our average size is between 3,000 square feet and 4,000 square feet. Most of our recent homes have been one-level open concepts. People seem to enjoy having all main rooms on one floor, so the family can be together and entertain in one area.
Q. What's the biggest trend in design and how is French Construction responding to it?
A. Light and airy seem to be the biggest design trend right now. We are doing a lot of natural white oak flooring, light colored quartz, etc. We have started using more color on cabinets (light gray, black, stain) rather than white. The trends are always changing, so we always try to stay ahead of the curve.
Q. How are you dealing with the coronavirus in your business and on job sites?
A. We are trying to respond as proactively as we can to the coronavirus, and we are constantly keeping up to date with the latest information. Regarding open houses, we still have them, but ensure they are cleaned prior. Additionally, COHBA pushed back the spring Parade of Homes. We want to make sure everyone will have the best experience, and that everyone in attendance is safe during the parade.
Q. What about the stock market meltdown? Oil prices? The economy? How is home building in Oklahoma City going to ride out all this chaos?
A. I personally believe the stock market meltdown is going to be short-term pain and may not affect us. I think with interest rates as low as they are, many people are still looking for a new home. I saw an article this week that talked about the number of contracts and closings that said, “Oklahoma you’re doing fine.” When you look at the numbers, I have the same thoughts.
Q. Talk about being president of Central Oklahoma Homebuilders Association. Like father like son? Or, how do you think you're different?
A. When I first started working for my father, I wouldn’t have imagined I would be the president of COHBA just six years later. Growing up around the association, I understood the inner workings of it and still remember events that happened years ago. This year, I have tried to bring back many of the older members to try and get them re-involved. I think many have the mindset of trying to find new blood for the association and leadership; however, I believe people of the past have so much history and love for the association, it is worth making sure they stay involved and feel appreciated as a longtime member. Sometimes in business (how I view COHBA), you need to take a step back and think, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” and go back to the way things used to be. In fact, we sent out a mail invitation last week!
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A. Growing up, my family had a motorhome that we traveled in. I initially wanted to get into that industry because it combined two of my passions: motors and homes. It amazes me what all they can compact into 450 square feet hat can roll down the road at 70 mph.
Q: How do you spend your time when you're not working?
A. When I’m not working, I enjoy going to Grand Lake. When I am not there, I am traveling. I usually go to SEMA (Speciialty Equipment Market Association, automotive trade show) and Barrett-Jackson (classic car auctions). Both my father and grandfather are car nuts, so I caught the itch at a young age. I am into antique cars and Cushman Scooters.
Q: Is there a pastime or hobby you used to have but don't anymore? Why?
A. I still try to find time for anything that interests me. I believe a good work/life balance is important, or you will burn yourself out quickly.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote?
A. I have so many quotes I like, so it’s hard to choose one! One is by Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Also, I recently read a quote recently that has stuck with me. It’s from the late Boone Pickens: “Be Humble. I always believed the higher a monkey climbs a tree, the more people below can see his ass. You don’t have to be that monkey.”