Builder, Mom Nicole Goolsby Heads Women’s Council
By Genilee Swope Parente
People join the NAHB Women’s Council for a myriad of reasons — to make contacts, to further their home building careers, to form mutually beneficial relationships with other industry professionals.
But Nicole Goolsby, the council’s 2006 chairperson, sees the council as providing another very valuable and pointed purpose, one that has sustained her during difficult and challenging times.
“One huge advantage to council involvement is that you gain perspective on balancing your life. You learn how be a mother — which never takes second fiddle — and a business woman at the same time,” Goolsby says.
As the single mother of three whose children range in age from seven to 16, Goolsby says there is no better source for learning how to balance motherhood and succeed in the building industry than other women doing the same thing.
Her goal as chair of the Women’s Council, now celebrating its 50th year, is to push the other side of the coin — to help women learn to be top-notch builders and industry leaders.
“I’ve never wanted to be ‘one of the guys,’ just a woman getting the job done right,” Goolsby says, while noting that she believes that sentiment is shared by many, if not most, of the members of the Women’s Council.
“The main focus during this year will be on defining — through marketing and branding — the benefits of being a council member. We’ve made huge strides in the last few years,” Goolsby notes. “To build on that success, we will be drilling down to specific tasks to get the council known and to increase the value of membership.”
Goolsby as Businesswoman
Goolsby founded Rion Homes in the Lake Norman, N.C. area near Charlotte in 2000 after first gaining experience in real estate and as a construction manager for a local developer. By 2002, she was building about three custom and spec homes a year in the $250,000-$300,000 range. Today, she builds five homes a year ranging in price from $300,000 to $750,000, many of them larger, prime waterfront homes along Lake Norman. She also has branched out into remodeling.
The remodeling business enabled her to take a significant step forward last September, when she hired her first full-time employee.
“I put off hiring someone full time for a long time because I didn’t need to be a large company,” Goolsby says. “Life is full of the unexpected, though, and it’s at the point where we’ve grown enough that I need someone to help me keep it organized and become more efficient.”
Because remodeling jobs are smaller but more frequent, the move into remodeling gave her the assurance that she’d have the cash flow “to pay someone every month,” she says. But with remodeling came a new and different set of challenges.
“With residential construction, there is some flexibility in who does what and when. But with remodeling, you sometimes don’t know what you need until you get behind the walls. Then things need to happen in a certain order. If a subcontractor doesn’t show up on a particular day, it can mess up the entire schedule for the project,” Goolsby explains.
That challenge, however, is why she likes the business.
“I love the intensive focus you have to have — of getting the right people in there when they are needed,” Goolsby says.
The key to success is to develop ongoing relationships with good subcontractors. She has been able to do exactly that, she says, because she has been active in her local home builders association.
“The best place to find people is the regular monthly meeting of my associations. I’m always meeting new people and filing their names away. Especially with remodeling, you have to have different crews available for different situations,” she explains.
Goolsby as Mom
As her enthusiasm about her new assistant illustrates, Goolsby is feeling optimistic that life is about to get a bit easier — both for herself and for her family.
The best lesson she’s learned about being a mom and business woman? “It’s a given that it will always be a juggling act. You have to learn to take moments to focus on the big picture and really honestly critique the balance you have in your life,” Goolsby points out.
Goolsby as Leader
When asked about her mentors, Goolsby will not point to any one person — or even to one gender. She says that there have been many teachers in her life.
Some come from her mother’s generation, those rare women of that era who had to hold families together and work, to overcome obstacles such as divorce or the loss of a loved one.
Some of her mentors include several of the people who hired her and helped her progress in her career — including her last employer, a developer who encouraged her to take the initiative and absorb as much of the construction business as she could.
And as with many aspects of her career, Goolsby has found inspiration and guidance through her involvement in women’s councils and home builders associations.
These days, however, she also makes a point of serving as a mentor to others seeking help, guidance and knowledge. “It’s great to be able to give back to the industry, your association and your peers, because you learn more from those relationships than you ever can sitting in a class,” Goolsby says.
Her passion for the home building industry and her desire to grow within it stem as far back as her childhood. When she was 10, she recalls, she loved sitting in the rafters of a house being built — she loved the scent of construction. That enthusiasm has only grown.
“I still love being there when a house is being framed,” Goolsby says. “I love looking at the skeleton and imagining what is coming next.”
This article was excerpted from Building Women magazine.
Genilee Swope Parente is a freelance writer and editor based in Dumfries, Va. and a regular contributor to Building Women magazine. For more information, contact Parente by e-mail.