Ten years ago, John Houston was sitting in truck, stuck in the gridlock of Dallas’ I-35. And he got the sense God was trying to tell him something. Specifically: “This is the day.”
Houston knew exactly what “the day” meant. Five years earlier, he and his wife felt God leading them to establish a home-building business. Why? “Two reasons,” Houston explains. “One, to reach people for Christ and two, to give to the Kingdom. And that’s it. He said, ‘Those are the things I want you to focus on, you do that and I’ll take care of you.’”
Houston didn’t turn in his notice to his employer—an investment company—that same day (“That’s a big step of faith!” he told his wife), but he did soon thereafter. “I felt like God said, ‘Hey, you’ll never experience the miraculous if you don’t get out of the boat,’” Houston remembers. “Just like Peter—he would have never experienced the miraculous of walking on water if he hadn’t gotten out of the boat in the first place.”
On that leap of faith, Houston began John Houston Custom Homes in 2005. During that first year, Houston estimates they built six houses. This year? They’ll build around 750 houses.
It’s quite a story for a business that catalyzed in the middle of a traffic jam.
Obviously, Houston’s story couldn’t have happened without his deep faith in God. But it’s how he brings his Christian convictions to his business that has turned heads all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area. For Houston, his faith and his business both rely on building relationships. “We really believe the scripture,” Houston notes. “It’s all about relationships. God says that He created us for relationship with Him. He says, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.’ In order to do that, you have to have a relationship with Him. He says, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ and in order to do that you have to have a relationship with [your neighbor]. You have to have a relationship with others. So pretty much everything surrounds relationships. That’s kind of how we tend to have our business to impact our community.
“Everybody knows we’re faith-based,” Houston says. “We’ve probably built 1,200 houses or so in the last few years, so just by doing what we say we’re going to do, our name has spread. Probably close to 80 percent of all the houses we build are referral based. That lets me know I’m impacting peoples’ lives.”
Houston finds himself in a unique position to build the relationships through the day-to-day work of his calling. Since his business builds homes, he found that during the process of a single build, it was possible to foster around 60 new relationships. “Because we really believe God has given us a strategic plan to follow, we believe for every home we build, we have 60 opportunities to share the Gospel,” Houston says. “Basically how that breaks down is, on average, our salespeople will come in contact with 10 different people for every one home they sell. Then God will bring the sale that He wants us to have, and the builders come into contact with approximately 42 different subs [subcontractors] and suppliers, vendors, whoever that might be through the process. Then it takes approximately eight people to close a house.
So if we do 200 houses, that’s 12,000 opportunities we get to share the Gospel. I can’t do that alone. It takes a whole team buying into our vision. We believe, as the scripture says, pray and ask the Lord to bring the workers to do His work. God has certainly answered that prayer by blessing us with an amazing group of people.
Houston’s unique approach to his business has also proven to attract attention for their remarkable sales numbers in the middle of a recession. “Our slowest growth year through the whole recession year over year is 27 percent,” he says. “So what that’s done is open up a huge door for me to sit across from bankers and developers and they’re going, ‘What are you doing? How are you selling houses?’ And we’re like, ‘We’re not selling houses, we’re reaching people.’
“We live life with these people,” Houston says. “I don’t want to send the message that we stand on the street corner and preach—we don’t. We want our staff to live life with people. And over time, we’ll earn the right, by doing what we say we’re going to do, by delivering the product we say we’re going to deliver at the price we say we’re going to deliver on. With quality, we try to earn the right to be able to speak into their lives. So if they’re ready and they say, ‘Hey, what is it that’s different about you guys?’ then we can say, ‘I’m glad you asked.’”
At the end of the day, for Houston, it’s a passion for following God that rises above everything else.
With all the success he’s seen with John Houston Custom Homes, he still tries to maintain that stance of listening and obeying that changed his life in middle of the interstate. “The Lord has just laid it on my heart that He’s looking for people [who] are willing,” Houston says. “He didn’t tell [me] to have figured it out. Every day, I go, ‘I don’t know how to run a multimillion business.’ [God] says: ‘Good, ‘cause it’s not your business, it’s mine. So if you pray and you’ll seek me and you study my word, I’ll show you how to do it, I’ll open the doors you need.’ For me, that’s really what it’s all about—it’s
all about the obedience.”