This week on the Mike Thakur Show we’re chatting with John Houston, founder and CEO of J Houston Custom Homes (as well as a few other companies). This episode was timed to go live today, April 20th on the same day his new book is released called ‘Finding My Way Home’, that tells his story and shows God’s hand in his life in some incredibly powerful ways.
Abandoned by his parents when he was 11 and his older brother 15, they lived at home by themselves, learning quickly how to generate income to survive, but little did he realize that this entrepreneurial beginning would turn into a major custom home building company with millions of dollars in revenues based on God’s leading.
THE NEW BOOK
John never planned on writing a book as he recognized that everyone has challenges and trials that they go though, but he felt God’s leading to unpack the hard times of his life on paper so that other’s could see God’s perspective in the hope that people see in the midst of difficult times, that God is always faithful.
THE EARLY YEARS
John and his brother were 11 and 15 when their parents divorced, and then both moved out leaving them completely on their own. God helped them through this time as they leaned into him and their local Church, while also building his first business to help pay bills and buy groceries. During these teenage years it’s incredible how many good choices John made (which he attributes to God’s grace on him) and how many bad choices he was able to stay away from, despite the freedom that he had.
He met his wife and her family when he was around 5 or 6 years old and grew up around them (through Church), obviously with no idea that one day they’d start dating and get married. That familiarity and comfort around their family was a key part of his life in his late 20s as he moved in with them and allowed them to help him and shower him in love as he navigated becoming an adult.
During Bible college he developed a real hunger and interest in the Word.
Abraham’s turning point was when he realized what God was doing for him. John felt as though he was so focused on what he was doing for God he missed the part about what God was doing for him.
Resting in God and letting God be God, using the business for whatever his purposes are.
Just because we realized it was time to follow what God had planned for his life, the challenges that have come since then have been worse than the ones before, he may not have always understood what God’s purposes were he took comfort knowing that God always comes through.
He started the business right as the housing recession of 2008 kicked in and he got a call from his banker one day telling him he needed to pay back the whole $7 million line of credit back, immediately. It took 2 years to pay it off and he couldn’t tell you how God did it, but he did it. As a result, other banks started calling offering larger lines of credit to him because of his good stewardship which put them in a stronger position to buy up bargain lots for future homes.
When you have no money it’s not hard to handle money well, you pay your bills and there’s none left for anything else. Once you have a little money and all the bills are paid, it’s what you do with what’s left that shows God where your heart is in relation to stewardship. It’s not based on need, it’s based on wanting to be generous towards God and his kingdom.
THE FIRST SALE
John recounted a story about the first home they ever built as a home builder, after 5 long years of trusting God from the time they first felt he wanted them to start building homes and the time they pulled it off. As he was praying on the morning of the closing, he felt as though God asked him if he’d be willing to give ALL of the profit away for the kingdom, to establish the business the way God wanted it to be.
4-5 months later they were about to close on the second house they’d built when he sensed God telling him not to sell it to the people who’d signed the contract because they were buying it so they could divorce and God wanted them to stay together. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear the end of this story!
DEBT VS CASH
Pay cash for everything you can. Only use debt for investment type expenditure (investing in things that will help the business grow like land for example) and use cash for all operating expenses.
When we build houses we borrow 75% – 80% maximum so that even if the market drops, we can aboard a 10% or 20% hit and still not go negative, and lose money.
My wife and I live by the philosophy that if we do borrow money, they get paid back before we get paid even if that means we have to sacrifice more and go without.
Keep it simple. All their prospects are just as important as the ones that choose to buy, and so the whole point for the business is to stay more focused on the people (and less focused on the transaction).
Business is such a great vehicle for funding kingdom work that they sold the company to the employees through an ESOP last year, and continue leading it while finding more ways to impact kingdom and mission with the funds. He sees this as an opportunity to teach the hundreds of employees how to be great stewards of everything God has given them. That way the giving and impact doesn’t stop with the Houston family.
The purpose is also key when hiring. He found how important it was to bring people on and build a team around them who were likeminded in spirit but also have different gifts.
- God’s faithfulness is real, especially in the middle of challenging or difficult times.
- His identity came from how much money he could make when he realized in high school he was making more money than most of his friends’ parents made. Years later, he realized how wrong this thinking was.
- The future of ministry and how it looks different than how it has always been. Where ministry is headed in terms of spreading the word of God.
- Filed bankruptcy a few years into his marriage as he realized that he wasn’t the one responsible for all the money being made.
- God always comes through, but not always in the way I wanted him to.
- Pay cash for everything you can. If you borrow money you’re a servant to the lender.
- God has repeatedly spoken into John’s heart with guidance and direction over the years, and proven himself trustworthy.
- He sold the home building business to the employees through a 100% ESOP in 2020.
- Focus on 3 key ares in relation to stewardship – Personal life, Family and Finances.
- You’ve got to be like minded (in spirit, not gifting) with your leadership team.
“Seek the Lord, do what he says and follow him.”- JH
“Keep it Simple.” – JH
“The greatest stewardship is learned in a time of blessing, not the time of need.” – JH
“Would you be willing to give me all the profits from this house sale?” – God
“None of us including myself are never going to be perfect until we stand there one day with him.” – JH
“God’s a God of redemption, and reconciliation.” – JH
“Real ministry happens in business because this is where we get to touch their lives every single day.” – MT
“I wasn’t getting out of homebuilding, it was more, how can I be more impactful with what God told us in the very beginning, to reach people for Christ and give to the kingdom.” – JH
“I thought I was fairly smart… But Chad [CFO] knows way more than I do… God brought the right person at the right time.” – JH
“Whenever God lays something on your heart, don’t wait, go do it now.” – John Maxwell