If anyone meets the definition of self-made, it’s Justin Bozarth. Two decades ago, at the age of 19, he started on the ground floor at Richmond American Homes, as an assistant superintendent. But, through hard work, sheer determination, and an unwavering dedication to fairness, he quickly rose through the ranks, and today he’s vice president of operations, overseeing nearly 60 staff members and building approximately 1,000 homes each year.
“I was there to grow and learn, and I worked my way up rapidly into management positions, in part because the market was growing at the time,” he says. Bozarth believes that now—given the building industry’s current labor shortage—is the perfect time for young people to consider the path he took, not only because they’re likely to be rewarded with good pay and immediate hands-on experience but because starting early will allow them to forge stronger partnerships like he did.
Bozarth’s current role involves overseeing field operations, business strategies, customer service, and purchasing. He relies on his trade partners to complete much of the work, and many of them are people he’s spent his whole career building relationships with. “We’re working with a lot of different people, and it’s always been important to me to treat everyone fairly,” he says. “I always push myself and my team to be fair but firm, always have our jobs ready on time and always, always treat our trade partners with respect in the field.”
Those relationships are particularly valuable in today’s building industry, in which good labor is hard to find. “There were times when we had the advantage as the builder, but now it’s flipped,” Bozarth says. “You have to use your relationships to get people to come work for you, and you won’t get your labor to show up if you’re not fair or if you cause a lot of grief.”
To show Richmond’s appreciation, Bozarth takes extra effort to organize barbecues, lunches, and other events for trade partners. “The strategy we’re working with now is making sure everyone knows we’re all a team and here to get the same job done,” he says.
Managing a large number of builds at once requires careful coordination of trade partners as well, and Bozarth says he’s learned not to overload any one contractor. “On the average home build, you deal with maybe 30 trade partners or subcontractors, and at any one time we have around two dozen communities going up,” he explains. “You don’t want to have one framing contractor lined up to do them all.” Of course, delivering a top-quality home is always the end goal for Bozarth and his team, and to ensure it’s met, he tells his team to build each house like they’re building it for their mothers.
Also challenging in today’s market are the high expectations of homebuyers, who are savvy enough to know when something doesn’t look exactly right. “We have to remind homebuyers that we’re building homes in the real environment, which comes with heat, rain, cold, and wind,” Bozarth says. “I compare it to building a car outside in a parking lot. We encourage people to come watch the process, but they don’t necessarily understand that there will be things that happen during the build that we’ll correct as we go.”
The current challenges aside, Bozarth is enthusiastic about his career in the building industry and wishes more young people would consider it. The decline in young adults pursuing the trades to begin with is a major contributing factor to the current shortage the industry faces. “It can be hard work, but it pays off in the long run,” he says. “Some of these guys and gals working in the field are working hard but making good money—more than they’d make with a four-year degree, and we’re talking right out of the gate. If you’re skilled and can learn a trade, there’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of good money and benefits that can be made out there.”
He also believes that companies must be willing to hire people right out of high school and take a gamble on someone without much experience, and he himself is a prime example of how the gamble can pay off. “I had some experience because my father was a builder for many years, but I was still a 19-year-old kid,” he says. “I worked hard and didn’t complain and just took care of things.”
That can-do attitude has served him well and continues to fuel his success. “If you work hard, it always works out in the end, no matter the workload in front of you,” he says. “I tell my team to just keep pushing forward every day and it’ll all work out.”
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We at Desert Plastering would like to congratulate Justin Bozarth on his well-deserved honor. It is a pleasure working with him and Richmond American Homes.