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Grace, Growth, and Keeping Your Word: NAHB Remodeler of the Year Elliott Pike

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Grace, Growth, and Keeping Your Word: NAHB Remodeler of the Year Elliott Pike

ELM Construction Founder Elliott Pike’s three sources of success, and his road to the National Association of Home Builders' Remodeler of the Year


By Caroline Broderick May 21, 2024
elm construction nahb remodeler of the year
ELM Construction President Elliott Pike (center) says the two necessary traits in a team member are humility and grace. | Photos by Allison Carpenter
This article first appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of Pro Remodeler.

Elliott Pike started his remodeling business in 2008—arguably one of the worst economic times in the last two decades. But the founder of ELM Construction knew that everything would be okay.

That’s because the Birmingham, Ala.-based remodeler realized a great reputation, a great team, and a great business come from one simple, yet all-too-rare quality: Keeping your word.

“If we just do what we say we’re going to do, I think we’ll be okay, because how frequently in your world does that happen?” says Pike.

Keeping his word has proved to do just that for Pike. Sixteen years after opening ELM Construction, he’s now won the prestigious Remodeler of the Year award from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). 

elliott pike
Elliott Pike

The Power of Trust

Remodeling isn’t in Pike’s blood. Instead, construction and entrepreneurship trickled throughout Pike’s life post-
college until he began ELM in 2008. 

Pike learned the elements of construction by working on the commercial side for a few years, then in residential building materials for another three. But ironically, it was a complete 180-degree turn into the logistics industry that provided him with the formula for his success.

“I started doing logistics and hated it,” recalls Pike. He owned a DHL franchise, which, at the time, wanted to challenge the big names like FedEx and UPS (Pike even jokes today about the company’s defeat in this attempt).

Pike’s role was to sell—and he knew how to do that. But he couldn’t get past the front door. 

“The thing I just couldn’t believe, and that taught me a lot about how important relationships are, is when I’d go in, and talk to them, they would say, ‘Oh, well, John handles all of our stuff. He’s our delivery guy. And he does a great job,’” says Pike. “That relationship that they built with that driver, that delivery person was the hardest thing to get past. They don’t worry about price because they built those bonds.”

It’s what Pike heard in rejection after rejection. It’s also how he knew that if he kept his word and developed relationships, nothing, not even price, could come between him and his clients.

So, when an old friend called to offer Pike a project management job in 2005—in reality, an escape from the job he hated—his immediate answer was, “Absolutely.”

 

It sounds very cliche, but [ELM] is not like any other construction company that I know. It’s a very positive environment. Everyone is very supportive of each other, very goal-oriented.

 

A Team That Does What They Say

Years later, when 2008 rolled around, nobody in construction was hiring. Naturally, Pike decided to start his own company after teaming up with an insurance adjuster to receive regular work.

It came quickly and when needing to name his newly formed company, Pike’s first thought was ELM—Emma Grace, LeArden, and Mary—Pike’s two daughters and wife. Today, ELM has 10 employees and completes about 25 projects annually. 

Pike’s ironclad philosophy of remaining impeccable with your word applies to his team as well as his clients.

“I do the same thing with our people here, I give them a lot of autonomy. I give them the ability to set their own deadlines in most cases,” says Pike. “I’m not dictating [deadlines] to them and giving them some unreasonable thing. I’m asking you. If I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t ask you. That puts a little more pressure and accountability on them.”

The result has been a workplace culture based on mutual respect and autonomy. And at the center of it sits one word: Trust.

“That’s something that I think most of us are appreciative of,” says Adam Martz, ELM’s production manager and lead estimator. “[And] that’s part of the reason why I think he can be the leader that he is, and give us that autonomy, is because there’s a level of trust there.”

 

Continual Team Growth

If there’s one thing as important to Pike’s business as staying true, it would be continual growth. To that end, when Pike puts questions to his team members, whether it’s about a deadline, or how they want their careers to look, he then makes sure they have all the tools needed to achieve their goals.

“Ultimately, when you give people the ability to grow and expand, and you push them a little bit, and they start to get more confidence and they start to see, ‘Okay, I can do this,’ or when people start to see their value and their worth, at work, or at home, that’s big, that’s really big to me,” says Pike.

Liz Kennedy, lead designer at ELM Construction, met Pike through the local Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders, where he served in a variety of positions including President of the association, Chairman of the Remodelers Council, and board member. The association designated Pike as the 2020 Presidential Award winner, the 2019 Builder of the Year, and the 2018 Remodeler of the Year.

 

nahb remodeler of the year
Pike’s love of learning extends past his team. “I’m still learning every day, but I love telling people about 20 Clubs and about NAHB and how it helped my business,” says Pike. | Photo by Allison Carpenter

 

One of the most impactful tools Pikes gives his team is the ability to learn and connect, especially through industry organizations, he says. And he would know. Pike has earned the designations of Certified Graduate Remodeler, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist from the NAHB, and a Master Remodeler designation from his local association.

“​Through the Home Builders Associa­tion, he was always very positive,” recalls Kennedy. “Always looking at how you can help somebody grow, ‘What are your strengths? What are you good at? What do you want to do?’ And really good at trying to offer the resources to help you grow in that area.”

 

... When you’re frustrated, and you’re starting to lose patience, let’s take a step back, take a breath, let’s have a little grace because we’re all humans.

 

Kennedy was a pivotal hire for Pike. Prior to bringing her on board four years ago, he handled much of the design, and ELM didn’t consider itself to be truly design-build. 

But since hiring Kennedy, and then a subsequent associate designer, and with Pike’s continued support, the design department has gone from “floundering to flourishing.”

“Elliott’s the same today that he was 10-plus years ago when I met him, as far as wanting you to achieve your goals,” says Kennedy. “It sounds very cliche, but [ELM] is not like any other construction company that I know. It’s a very positive environment. Everyone is very supportive of each other, very goal-oriented.”

Kennedy’s big goal was to become a Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer through the National Kitchen and Bath Association. She achieved that in 2022 with Pike’s encouragement. She’s even had talks with him about expanding the company’s offerings to start an interiors division. 

Pike’s mindset of continual growth also extends to the benefits he offers his team. For him, part of achieving your full potential lies in providing a strong, supportive foundation and competitive compensation package.

At ELM, employees receive health, dental, and vision insurance, long-term disability, an IRA with a 3% matching contribution, paid holidays, a minimum of two weeks of paid vacation, and a week of paid sick leave. Pike is also always on the lookout for increasing these benefits because he wants to be a fair competitor in the hiring marketplace.

“One of the reasons we do this is to provide them with opportunities,” says Pike. “If we’re going to have somebody there with longevity, I need to have growth, I need to have opportunity, more than just a 3% cost of living raise every year. And so we’ve added lots of little perks and benefits, again so that we can stay competitive and offer that to potential new hires.”

It also allows Pike to be selective. He sees hiring as a strategic choice that is only made when the team is certain a new hire will fit culturally. And their interview process is more of a conversation where Pike engages with candidates about their hobbies and personal lives—and above all, their level of humility and grace.

“Those are two big things that I think the world needs more of. So those are things I pick up on, and I think my team would tell you the same thing,” says Pike. “I’ve tried to remind them all the time about when you’re frustrated, and you’re starting to lose patience, let’s take a step back, take a breath, let’s have a little grace because we’re all humans.”

 

elm construction
Elliott Pike wants his team to row the boat together, so he offers financial transparency with quarterly budget and profit reviews. | Photo by Allison Carpenter

 

Never Take Your Eye Off the Ball

While he pushes his team to improve and grow their skills, Pike is leading the way. For him, this creates happy, skilled team members, and happy team members safeguard his client’s solid experiences.

“We worked so hard to have opportunities for our employees and our people, and to establish a really great reputation. If you take your eye off the ball, it doesn’t take a lot to sully that,” says Pike. “Just like they say, people may tell one or two people if you did a great job, but if you make one mistake, they may tell 10 or 12. We’re always working to get better and improve. We cannot settle.”

One example of this is Pike’s decision to bring design in-house. For him, this helps create efficiencies that can be passed down to the client and creates a better experience through enhanced communication from design to production, resulting in more raving fans. 

 

We worked so hard to have opportunities for our employees and our people, and to establish a really great reputation. If you take your eye off the ball, it doesn’t take a lot to sully that.

 

Striving for Open Communication and a Collaborative Approach

ELM’s website promises potential clients open communication and a collaborative approach. 

For Pike, these elements—and the added business necessity of strong financials—are achievable because of what he’s learned from his peers. His long-standing involvement in local and national associations has connected him with like-minded remodelers and educational resources that Pike says have had the greatest impact on his company since joining 10 years ago.

 

elm construction
For ELM, bringing design in-house helped create efficiencies that led to a better client experience. | Photo by Allison Carpenter

 

In that decade, ELM has doubled its net profit and experienced steady revenue growth.

“That was the best thing I ever did for the development of my business,” says Pike. “I think so many young businesses get so focused on the pretty projects and the big projects that they think that’s where they’re going to hang their hat.”

And according to team member Martz, ELM does communication and client experiences right.

“We always say this to each other: Ultimately, everything comes down to communication,” says Martz. “And as long as you’re communicating internally, and with the customer, you may still have challenging times arise … [but] you can circumvent or reduce some of that stress.”

Pike’s legacy will one day be the people he’s surrounded himself with, and his impact on their personal and professional growth. And besides delivering an exceptional customer experience, that’s what matters most to Pike. 

When given the opportunity to speak to hundreds of industry members when accepting his award, he had one message, “If you see somebody young and new and they need some help, offer it to them. Invite them to a meeting. Offer to do whatever you can for them.” 

 


written by

Caroline Broderick

Caroline Broderick is the Managing Editor for Pro Remodeler. Most recently, she served as the associate editor for PR's sister publications, Pro Builder, Custom Builder, and PRODUCTS where she covered design, building products, trends, and more in the residential construction industry. She can be reached at cbroderick@sgcmail.com.
 


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