Gaffney Homes: America’s Best Builder



What the Oscar is to the movie industry –

What the Grammy is to the music industry –

– the America’s Best Builder Award, sponsored by Builder magazine, is to the national home building industry: the ultimate, most-recognized mark of excellence, as determined by a jury of one’s peers.

In late 2005, as Charlottesville, VA-based Gaffney Homes, LLC approached its 20th anniversary, it decided to enter the annual America’s Best Builder Award competition.  The two key components of the ABB application are:

  • Detailed responses to an extensive list of business, marketing, operational and community involvement questions
  • The company’s business plan


Gaffney Homes retained me to help position it to win the ABB Award

I was retained by Gaffney Homes’ founder and president, Mike Gaffney, to consult on, design, write/edit and produce the following:

  • All ABB application materials
  • The firm’s first comprehensive business plan
  • A comprehensive assessment of its overall marketing strategy and key media, with recommendations for improvement
  • Key media solutions


The result

In late 2006, Builder magazine notified Gaffney Homes that it won the America’s Best Builder Award. Read the feature story at Builder magazine, “High End At Any Price,” here.

And according to Mike* – and an ABB judge – my work was a vital factor in achieving this success (*see letter here):

“Jon assured us at the onset that he would assist us in producing a business plan and application that would be immediately distinguishable from others… including design esthetics, copy content & structure that would be attractive, comprehensive and easy to understand.

“Needless to say, we were thrilled when the ABB judging committee announced that Gaffney Homes had won the America’s Best Builder Award.  One judge specifically cited the easy to follow layout of our business plan as being a critical factor in helping to put us over the top.”

– Mike Gaffney, President & Founder, Gaffney Homes


Examples of my work to craft Gaffney Homes’ ABB application

The overall work plan

As many of the Gaffney Homes (GH) personnel with whom I was going to be working to develop the content for the ABB application and business plan possessed little to no experience in complex document creation & design, I recommended, and GH agreed, that they needed:

  • A bird’s eye view of the entire production
  • A graphic representation of how all their work would be summarized within a four-page document

Below is the graphic that I created to fulfill this need:

The Table of Contents

As you can see, the volume of information the application requests is very comprehensive, and delves deep into proprietary information:

Product descriptions

I created standardized formats and header graphics that carry throughout the entire ABB presentation:

Excerpts from the ABB application

The key here, to me, was to break the content down into digestible-sized pieces, with relatively short paragraphs, bullet points whenever possible, and lots of white space.  Given the level of technical information required by the ABB application, this was not always easy.  As Mike noted in his letter of recommendation, however it was a vital factor in getting the ABB judges to find the document “readable”:

GH ABB Excerpts by jonsutz


Examples of my work to craft Gaffney Homes’ business plan

Below are some (non-confidential) excerpts of the business plan that Jon helped Gaffney Homes to create.  As in the case of the ABB application, my mission was to create a document that essentially “asks to be read”; that is so user-friendly, crisp, clear and easy to read that it immediately stands out when compared to a “typical” business plan:

GH Bizplan Excerpts by jonsutz

A dramatic way to demonstrate Gaffney Homes’ market share growth

One of the key things Gaffney Homes was most proud of was the doubling of its market share, from 2005-2006.  After exploring numerous design approaches, I created this graphic, a sort of pie-chart “plus” (note: “Indirect Competitors” section is blurred because it contains confidential information):


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