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.
Vince Butler, GMR, GMB, CAPS, is a second-generation builder and remodeler and principal of Butler Brothers, Inc. in Clifton, Va. Vince has extensive experience in the design, sales and production of residential construction and remodeling. He was named NAHB Educator of the Year in 2012.
We sat down with Vince to get to know him a little better:
You’re from a building family – what was that like?
A lot of builders have a family-run business. Having come from that background, it helps. It gives me a unique perspective. But you do have those close relationships that add a level of stress. It’s hard to put it away when you leave at 5 p.m.
What’s your favorite source for industry information?
It might sound corny, but it’s NAHB itself. I don’t have to go to a magazine or government report—the information is all collected and distilled for the most valuable elements, like having economics reports available online. There is one source rather than 20. Time is the driver of everything in a small business, so doing something efficiently is always helpful.
What’s the best advice you can give industry professionals looking to grow their businesses?
Learn from those who came before you. Building attracts a lot of entrepreneurial, independent types, people with strong wills. But that can be an impediment. They try to solve problems themselves. If you try to solve a problem alone, you are blazing a trail through thick brush—you get cut. There are people who have done what we’re doing for 50 years—take advantage of that.
What is your favorite thing about being an NAHB instructor?
It’s about meeting people, folks doing the same thing I am doing all over the world. I taught in Canada—I can go there or Los Angeles and find people dealing with the same issues I have. There is a camaraderie you find, like at IBS, I meet people from England, Australia, Japan. The fundamental challenges are the same.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
I think it was “believe that you can.” You learn all this stuff and you’re thinking you can’t do it. But the only obstacle is between your ears. For me, for a couple of years, I had a network and mentors who constantly challenged me, and I realized, yes,I can. That’s the key, you gotta believe you can do it.
What was your first job in the building industry?
At first I was just a gofer, working with my dad and uncle, picking up trash. I was probably eight. Back then the guys drank all day. It was a lot of beer cans. I would make pyramids with them along the wall, So I went from being something of a nuisance, slowly becoming a helper, digging a footer or making a measurement.
What is your favorite course to teach?
Business Management, although I teach CAPS a lot. Students are surprised when I say that, as passionate as I am about aging-in-place. But my real passion is business management. Our family struggled with separating our business and personal lives. Business Management is where you help people get control of that, to turn it from something that runs their lives into success. You need to have this fundamental knowledge.
What is your favorite project you’ve done?
I’m certainly a big fan of old houses. They are a challenge to work on and live in, but when you take one that isn’t aging well, and you turn it into someone’s home, it’s incredibly satisfying. We did an 1880s farm house for a young couple who really wanted to make it a family home. It had no indoor plumbing or electric—it was this close to being torn down. But they loved the history of the house. We made it modern for them.
What are some of your hobbies when you’re not building or teaching?
Being outdoors. I love to hike.
What’s your favorite movie?
“Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” with Cary Grant. It’s great--I share it with my clients when their emotions go through the roller coaster. They see themselves when they see the characters.
What’s your favorite sports team?
The Washington Nationals. I’m a lifelong Washingtonian, and I grew up during the Redskins heyday. We had season tickets. But they’ve just worn me out.
What is one thing in your career you could go back and change if you could?
We’ve been primarily a remodeling company. I would do more new construction—fewer eggs in the remodeling basket. Building new is better logistically. I would have a more diversified business, less specialized.
Where do you find your inspiration for your building projects?
It used to be your competitors, you’d see parades of homes and other people’s work, and think “Hey, I can do better.” Now it’s online—Pinterest and Houzz, you see so many things put there. The latest pins start my day.
I’m a busy builder with a lot on my plate - why should I make time for education?
It’s all about time and efficiency, and education gives you that. Education is essential, and you have to believe in the investment. Believe that you need it and find the time to do it. There’s a reason folks who have been in the business for years are successful—they stay current and make learning new things a priority.