It’s no secret, but it’s not exactly shouted from the rooftops, either. And the fact that neither Arthur nor Sally Goldammer feel much of a need to make it known that Verity Homes is a family run business speaks volumes. It’s partly their Midwest upbringing that values humility over ego, but it’s also the fact that both are 100 percent committed to running the business and driving its success. They simply have no time in their days to shine a self-serving spotlight on themselves.
But it’s a story worth sharing, because family is at the heart of everything Verity Homes stands for. We are a company that values relationships above all else. Our core values direct us to make sure everyone involved in the home building process comes out ahead. With family at our core, we provide an experience for our customers that other builders simply cannot replicate.
Recently, Art and Sally carved out some time to share their two sides of the story of how Verity Homes came to be a family run operation… with Art the entrepreneurial leader who kicked it all off and Sally who joined early on to help steady the growth we continue to enjoy today.
- How long have you two worked together? When did it all start? And how did the conversation go? Was it a conversation? Was there a job interview?
ART: I believe it has been about 12 or 13 years… wow! Has it been that long? At that time it was myself, Donny [younger brother], Delton [current warranty manager], a couple other people and some framers and we needed some office help. Sally came in to do some office help, filing and such and worked part-time for about a year. She was working at a doctor’s office at the time, and this was a good opportunity to help out the family business, a little more challenging than answering a doctor’s phone all day. She’s too smart to be doing that and has not been bored since!
SALLY: We’ve worked together just over 12 years. It’s gone extremely fast… I came from a work environment that wasn’t quite as fast paced and forward thinking with expansion, and he noticed that. He knew I needed a bit more of a challenge. So I went from part time help to assist him as he started to expand and then decided to come on full time at the peak of the companies’ growth. The decision for me to go full time was a mutual decision. At the time our other brother (Donny) was a sole project manager, so it was truly a family affair at that time.
- What are the challenges of working with family?
ART: With Sally there really aren’t many challenges. No, we compliment each other so well and our personalities are so opposite, it just works. She’s really good at detail organization, and I’m not. I’m good at being in front of people and leading the way, and she’s not. So the things she’s doing are things I can do, but it’s like watching paint dry for me… and vice versa. She couldn’t go in front of the city commission or deal with an escalated conflict, where as I’m completely comfortable in those situations and good at it.
SALLY: We are obviously at a family comfort level with each other, which can be a blessing as well as a curse, because we are so comfortable with each other. Sometimes people think we might be a little heated in conversation, but we’re really not. It’s easier to speak more openly when it’s family and you already have that comfort established of how you communicate with each other. Arthur and I… we’ve always had good communication. There’s a lot of respect there. No tip toeing on any topics.
- What are the rewards of working with family?
ART: Pretty simple… you get to see your family more. We spend most of our time with those that we work with, so it’s pretty cool to have that interaction built in at work. A lot of people don’t have that with their siblings, especially as we get older.
SALLY: In this environment, watching my brother’s company grow and seeing first hand the different opportunities he’s given to other employees as we’ve expanded and looking at the changes in each market as we’ve watched different trades grow… it’s so rewarding. Driving around town in the Bismarck area and seeing just how many homes have been built here with the fact that he started this up is just amazing to me. I can drive down any street and know which ones we’ve built… even before my time.
- Any advice to other entrepreneurs who may be thinking about working with family or friends?
ART: I would say just make sure there is a clear understanding that work is work and have a plan for disputes when they arise, otherwise you can have negative feelings and it can get to be unpleasant. With Sally, what’s at work is at work. If we have a debate, it’s a healthy debate.
SALLY: On the family startup side, I would say to make sure you truly understand the type of communication and dialect that you currently have with your family and step back and make sure you will be able to communicate without ruining a relationship. If you can’t openly communicate, it may hinder that relationship. The same applies to friends as well. If you aren’t sure, I would take the time to map out the communication styles and differences that you see and see if it will still work for everyone.
- What’s the reaction from trades or business partners when they find out there’s a family element to Verity Homes?
ART: They’ve known that for so long that it’s just understood. I think people think its cool. We’re in ND, and it’s not uncommon to have family, friends, spouses, etc. that work together. Our culture is such that a lot of us are friends, and it’s just kind of the culture we’ve built here at Verity. I think our customers can feel that and sense that… espeically when they’re around here when we’re interacting with each other.
SALLY: The most common thing from anyone that I get is You do look more like his sister than wife, but I couldn’t tell with the name. So that’s the joke in the operation. Overall the feedback has been very positive. Internal staff or external business partners in the community… it has been very positive.
- How has your relationship changed over the years?
ART: I think we’ve grown professionally. It’s obviously changed since we were teenagers. As the older brother, I have always been protective of little sister, but still give her shit. Now there’s a whole lot of respect baked in there. We’ve always been pretty tight knit.
SALLY: It’s actually gotten stronger. As he was starting up his companies and at the very beginning of him becoming an entrepreneur, his schedule and mine were vastly different. I was excited that I got to see him at least part time each day. So for me it’s been rewarding, and I consider myself pretty blessed.
- What strengths (and weaknesses) do you bring out in each other?
ART: She’s better at the finer details and has more patience with dealing with those details than I do. The more difficult situations, I’m better at… the conflict-based situations that can stress other people. A lot of the organization around the detail oriented things would suffer without her for sure. In the office and on the administrative ends… a lot of the processes and details would fall apart to a large extent without her.
SALLY: He is more of a driver, think outside of the box, want to push the limits and try new things and motivate his team to do the same… he takes that approach. I like to have my box of normalcy to an extent, but in this business there isn’t such a box. He challenges me, and I don’t challenge myself enough so I think that’s a positive thing. He makes me use my brain, that’s part of the challenge. He really makes me come to him with things and then talk about it… which pushes me to grow and be more independent. I would say to the Sally of ten years ago: you’re brother is right, he’s going to keep you busy and you won’t be bored. Once again, brother’s right! He has this uncanny way of looking ahead and being so darn accurate it’ll drive you bonkers. He’s not afraid to admit when he’s wrong, it just doesn’t happen very often.