What Goes Into Building a Dream Home? My Builder Tells All

Jenna Kutcher 

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January 16, 2023


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I feel like a massive part of my life has flown a bit under the radar, but I’m ready to bring it into the spotlight on the podcast right now. Over the last year we’ve been planning, designing, and watching the process unfold as we build our dream home. We actually purchased land a few years ago, not sure when we would build on it, but excited for the day when our home base was nestled in the woods of Minnesota with land and privacy.

Building a dream home is, of course, a dream, but it’s also intimidating. You want to get it exactly right, but inspiration overload is a real thing. Luckily we found a dream team and partner in this journey who has made the process absolutely incredible. Kirsten Erickson is the founder of Alma Homes, a Minneapolis-based design build firm that serves clients throughout the country, she’s also been my friend since high school. I have some pretty hilarious photos of us through the years.

When choosing who I wanted to build and design my home, she was someone I not only trusted, but loved! I wanted to invite her on the podcast to share more about our home build experience and what it actually takes to bring a dream home vision to life, what it’s like to work with your partner, how to create an exceptional experience as a service provider and also how she’s built a hometown Minnesota service-based business that is expanding her reach to all ends of the world from the comfort of her own home. I’ll also reveal what I’m most excited about when it comes to our new home!

Working With Your Partner

A lot of people go into business with a partner… A business partner, that is. But what is it like to work with your romantic partner? How can you balance work and personal when they’re so intertwined? Kirsten said she can’t imagine not working with her partner, but it’s not without its challenges.

“When we get home, we have a no work rule or we don’t talk about work, because then you just start working right away,” she told me. Kirsten also said that while they have a “no work” policy when they get home at the end of the day, she sometimes wants that banter that so many couples have when you ask your partner how their day was and you get to download your highs and lows. Kirsten continued, “It’s been a learning process and I think that’s for sure evolved over the years.”

“When we first started the company we didn’t have those boundaries. Our clients had our contact info, all my phone numbers. Now I have a separate work number and clients don’t get my personal number just to establish those boundaries. We don’t work on nights, we don’t work on weekends, and so we try to be very, very, intentional with our time.”

Scaling a Service Based Business

When you have a service based business, sometimes the only way to scale and earn more is to work more, but that comes with a cap. Time is not unlimited. Kirsten said that they’ve been exploring more ways to scale that do not require more time. 

“When you look at growth and you look at scaling, there’s really only two ways to do it. One is to take on more projects and grow your staff and grow your team, or two is to venture into the online realm. And so we’ve been exploring different ways that we can serve more people without doing a disservice to the clients that we’re really, really heavily serving, clients who are building homes or doing these big remodels for.”

She continued, “So how we’ve found some success with that is through different things such as affiliate marketing. We’re looking at getting into online courses. Internally, Ethan and I are expanding and starting to do some Airbnbs so that people can have a little taste of Alma Homes and a nice little vacation on the side, too.”

Onboarding is Key

The process of onboarding new clients can make or break a client experience, as well as impact your role as the service provider. A well-oiled onboarding system can actually make your job easier. For Kirsten, the client onboarding process is something they implemented in the last few years after identifying areas to improve the business.  

“We built a house for one client and it was a very fun experience for her, and I say fun from the standpoint that she didn’t want it to end. So we were on revision 30 or 40, and we said, this is a problem. This isn’t sustainable. We need to wrap this up. And so from that came this idea of, what if we could get all this information ahead of time?” Kirsten explained.

Getting the information ahead of time meant a client questionnaire and other resources to really understand the clients wishlist and needs.

“If you’re in a service-based business and think something like this for the onboarding process might be helpful for you, ask yourself what information ultimately do I need from my clients? Can I get that information ahead of time? Because that will save you time with your clients, and then you can process everything on your own time.”

More from Kirsten Erickson

Kirsten and I talked so much more about service-based businesses, but we also dove into my house build and what I’m most excited to see come to life with our dream home design. To follow along with more of Kirsten’s projects and business, visit almahomes.com, @almahomes on Instagram, or Alma Homes on TikTok.

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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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