NAHB Education Instructors are a tremendous benefit to hundreds of students every year, guiding them through the information, trends and skills that will help them grow their businesses.
NAHB Master Instructors have taken the extra steps to connect with students and HBA staff, as well as advocate for lifelong learning. They have more than 10 years of real-world experience in the content they teach and take pride in promoting the NAHB Education curriculum.
Tom Stephani, GMB, MIRM, president of Stephani Enterprises, LLC, has developed and built commercial and residential land projects along with custom homes and traditional neighborhood infill projects. Tom is an internationally recognized consultant, speaker and trainer on the residential construction industry. He helps develop and write NAHB designation classes and was the 2015 chair of the NAHB Education Committee and 2009 chair of NAHB’s National Sales & Marketing Council. He also serves on the NAHB International Global Opportunities Board and Single Family Builder Committee.
What is your favorite thing about being an NAHB instructor?
Honestly, it's the interaction and getting the opportunity to meet people from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences. I find that I learn from them as much as they learn from me — I'm just a facilitator. It's very gratifying.
What is the best piece of advice instructors should follow?
You're not really teaching as much as you are facilitating a discussion on the topic. You're not there just to spout your wisdom, although it's good stuff. You have to make it personal and get the class involved.
What was your first job in the building industry?
My building career wasn't something I chose; it chose me. I was hired by my best friend to work at his family's home center/lumber yard/remodeling company, even though I didn't know anything about the construction industry. I had gotten out of college and the Army, and I was working at the post office. I knew I didn't want to be a government worker. I said I would give it a try and thought I could make good money at it.
What courses are you teaching in 2017?
Primarily, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) and Certified New Home Sales Professional (CSP) — those are the ones most popular these days.
What is your favorite course to teach?
Business Management because it is so broad and can go in many different directions.
What is your favorite project you’ve done?
When I moved back to Crystal Lake, Ill., 26 years ago, I had primarily been a custom builder. But there was a piece of property that got my attention during walks with my dog. It was 8.5 acres on an old railway line. I contacted the owner to see if he would work with me to redevelop it. I came up with 27 lots in the neighborhood, traditional homes but also new — Dole Crossing. The town loves it, and I made good money on it. It was my most enjoyable and profitable project.
Are you a dog person or cat person?
Dogs beyond all doubt. I have a black Lab named Daisy.
What’s your favorite sports team?
The Denver Broncos. We used to live in the Colorado Springs area during the John Elway era. I also love motorsports — Indy car racing. I also own a couple of vintage race cars that I love to race.
What is one thing in your career you would go back and change if you could?
I think I would have veered off custom building sooner and gone into production — semi-custom production homes on my own lots. My personality is better suited for controlling the whole process. Control freaks don’t do as well with custom.
Where do you find your inspiration for your building projects?
I used to be enamored with Colorado contemporary design — rustic, straight lines. Then I switched to more traditional. Seaside in Florida is a traditional planned development designed to harken back to the old days of Florida. They have some really cool houses and a town center. Kentlands in Maryland is another traditional neighborhood design I like.
I’m a busy builder with a lot on my plate — why should I make time for education?
Because if you don't keep learning, you stop growing. While traveling, I've seen many different types of construction and business models. I have been exposed to new ideas through education. Education keeps you from getting stagnant, going stale or getting bored and losing touch with where the market is moving. Whether through NAHB or conferences and conventions, you have to stay up-to-date.