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Mosby Building Arts, Ltd has been a known name in the home remodeling and repair business in Metro St. Louis for more than 65 years. We caught up with CEO Scott Mosby to talk about what it’s like to run the family business and the secret to innovation in the aged industry of remodeling.
How did Mosby Building Arts get its start?
My dad started making cabinets in his office in Webster Groves in 1947 to support himself and his mother after returning home from World War II. He discovered that he was good at organization and putting together people, materials and methods to get stuff done.
It is the best job I can imagine. What I do, and what we do, is build things that last longer than we live. One of the neatest things is that when I drive around town, I see things I’ve built myself, that my dad built. His mark on the world is semi-permanent. I get to work with creative and organized people: I work with the engineers that endlessly review structure and support and the rules of physics, creatives who don’t want to hear all that, and great clients that rule all rules. It’s really a lot of fun, and it’s exactly why Dad founded the company years ago. The coolest part is getting to put all of these dissimilar personalities and skills together to build something.
What is the biggest challenge running a family business?
It’s 24/7. An exaggerated version of it is any family-owned restaurant. My wife, Judy, and I discuss business 24/7 and our kids grew up with it. You can’t get away from it. Like it or not, a family business permeates all things. When does the workday stop and the marriage start? When does work stop interrupting a father/son baseball game?
And the rewards?
The biggest reward has been the growth of our family through alignment in the business. Our kids aren’t in the business, so our family now includes clients and the people we work with. We have all these dissimilar people and the work reminds everybody why we’re together. Family businesses are cool because of alignment and shared stuff. When that happens at all levels, you have a community. It’s kind of easy—we’re all believing and rowing in the same direction.
What lessons in entrepreneurship would you like to share with businesses similar to yours that are starting today?
Persistence and ignorance. It’s like parenting—if everybody knew what they know now…would they have kids? I’m not the smartest tool in the shed, but I’m persistent and a dogged pursuer of what I believe in. They call it the vision. The people I work with make a smarter team. I think we can outrun the next guys.
Figure out the what and why behind what people say they need or want. Clients really want a functional space that touches something beyond bricks and mortar—that’s family and home. There’s something about a really well done space—whether you are looking at something from thousands of years ago in Greece, or a hundred years ago designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Today, open floor plans create that space, and the sensation of creating a sense of home or safety or connection exceeds the sum of the parts. Entrepreneurs understand this.
Is there anything you would do differently if you could?
I would have more compassion. The regrets I have are how I fired somebody 15-20 years ago. It shows the vulnerability of a leader and that no matter how smart we are, we’re wrong a lot. Entrepreneurs guess better in the early years—it’s an instinct or sense. When I look back in the evolving years of my skills, I see now that compassion counts. That’s it.
In what area do you feel you’ve been most innovative?
We have been innovative in the pursuit of excellence, becoming more than we are. We’ve outrun parts of our industry, and had to create tools for ourselves. For example, we created a CRM for our entire team to use. There was no software for the remodeling industry that could handle our communications, reporting, estimating and project planning the way we needed.
So, four years ago we wrote our own software to fill that need. Last year, we licensed the technology to a company called readybuild who modified the software to make it commercially available to other remodeling companies.
What are you plans/hopes for the future?
I launched this ship that’s kind of a company on a dream, and I hope that it continues beyond me. I hope the buildings do, and the team. It’s a career, and it’s a company and it’s a business, but It’s also a purpose. Why am I here? Why should I garner air and soil and food all the stuff I use up? I think it’s to put together exceptional people beyond what we thought we could be. In the future that will be under somebody else’s leadership. The longer I’m in this business, I realize how simple the alignment is, and how easy it is to mess it up.