Pete & Co. - Building a Company Pt.1
September 20th, 2023 | by Madison Stone
Pete & Co. – Building a Company Pt.1
In keeping with the theme of introductions from the last post, we wanted to give you all more insight into Stonewall Homes—our founding, our growth over the years, and the values that form the strong foundation Stonewall Homes is built upon.
To do this, we first asked Pete to explore how a simple desire to build led to the construction a successful homebuilding company. Then, in the next issue of the newsletter (because we couldn’t fit such a great story in one post!), we’ll get into the unique struggles, principles, goals, and faith that makes Stonewall Homes the company it is today.
Q – Out of all the professions out there, what made you choose homebuilding?
A – I’m not wired to be sitting at a desk. My dad always worked outside, and I grew up watching him. I needed to be active. While I was at the Tulsa Community College, I got into more hands-on type of work—maintenance at the school, doing grunt work for older builders, painting, concrete, whatever—and I enjoyed it.
l majored in engineering, but in the math labs I would sit and watch out the window as the performing arts center was being built. I longed to be out there with those guys instead of where I was. Like I said, I’m not wired for sitting. I loved the idea of building something, so I switched it up and went to OU to major in construction science. That’s what steered me into construction to start with.
Q – When and how did Stonewall Homes start?
A – On the outset of this, I want to make sure that we’re giving God the glory in all the successes—I was young and didn’t know what I was doing, and from the beginning He steered me around icebergs in the water I didn’t even know were there.
I got a job out of college doing commercial jobs at Flintco, but from the start I knew that wasn’t really what I wanted to do long-term. I had an entrepreneurial streak; I wanted to have my own business. Eventually, I became interested in real estate through a few business books I’d read. My dad and I would buy and flip houses in Tulsa on the side, but I just didn’t know enough about it to be competitive.
Around that time, I ended up at a conference where one of the speakers was a man from Texas who owned a bunch of rental properties. He was the first to recommend that I just buy a lot and build my own house. So, I decided that’s what I would do. The problem was, I couldn’t get into any neighborhoods. The developers would take one look at me—twenty-five, green, doesn’t know what he’s doing—and write me off.
“I want to make sure that we’re giving God the glory in all the successes… He steered me around icebergs in the water I didn’t even know were there.”
Then I discovered some empty lots in Moore from one of the big tornadoes. I started writing letters to the people who used to live there to see if any of them would let me help rebuild.
Out of all the letters I sent, I had one person answer me and say they would sell me their lot. I drafted up a house plan, built a little house, and sold it. I didn’t make a lot of money, but we got it built, and it was sturdy, and I enjoyed the process—working with the subs, having a plan, getting it built. It just struck something in me. So, I did it again—bought another lot about a block over and built the same little house.
At that point I’d learned a lot and gotten to know one of the developers in town. He decided to let me build in one of his new neighborhoods, and I jumped on the opportunity. He sold me my first three lots, and I built more houses doing as much as I could myself—cleaning, laying sod, installing hardware, etc. Then, I would sit out at a finished house with a folding chair and table and just talk to anyone who stopped by. Looking back it seems a bit audacious, but I actually sold my very first custom home doing that.
Q – What did the first few years look like?
A – Year by year, we’ve always just built. That first year, I wasn’t trying to build twenty homes at a time—I was just trying to figure out one house and the process as a whole. That’s kind of how it went for a few years. Each year has slowly built on the last, which says a lot about sticking with something and being willing to constantly learn.
I read a book once that had an analogy comparing businesses to an airplane. With those old planes, you’d have to spin the propeller, and the propeller would spin faster and faster and faster until the engine finally started. That’s how businesses work. We’re still spinning that propeller, but it’s moving faster with each year that passes.