Succession Story: The History and Future of Conrado Home Builders
Generational transfers don’t have to be messy business — despite what TV dramas like HBO’s Succession might depict.
Conrado Home Builders concludes its own 12-year succession plan with founders Paul and Libby Conrado having stepped away from their owner/operator roles. Though they remain as board members and advisors, it’s a major milestone for the company’s story, and the firm starts the new year well positioned to remain an industry leader.
The transfer of ownership and operations from founders Paul and Libby Conrado to their daughter, Colleen Conrado Ferguson, had its genesis at a meeting back in 2010. Over lunch, Colleen expressed to Paul a desire to join the family business. Up until that point, there had been no talk of a succession plan and Paul was moved to tears; someone in the family had become as excited as he was in what he had built and wanted to keep it going.
Paul and Libby went into business together in 1984. Paul was a civil engineer and Libby had done sales at Proctor & Gamble. The couple had initially formed two companies: PRC Construction to build spec homes, and The Conrado Company, Inc, which was kept dormant but might one day build homes for clients. The spec home business turned out to be a bust, and in 1988 it shut its doors. The very next day Paul and Libby dedicated themselves to working with clients on custom homes under the Conrado Company and the Conrado Home Builders brand.
It was a slow start, Paul recalls, with just he and Libby comprising the team, overseeing a single project. But the business gradually grew. “Over the next two decades, we built over a dozen estate homes designed by the late Michael Layne, cementing Conrado as one of the highest quality builders in the area,” Paul says. To date, the firm has built over 100 estate homes throughout the Peninsula and Silicon Valley. Paul can recall every single owner he ever worked with, and to this day counts many of them among his closest friends.
From that first chat over lunch to its culmination, to work side by side with your daughter to close out your career…well, it has been a wonderful experiencePaul Conrado
To run the firm as efficiently as possible, the company developed operational innovations that are still in place today. Pre-construction consulting allows Conrado to develop a trusting relationship with clients before any ground is broken. Pre-construction means the company does not participate in competitive bidding, which too often lacks personal interaction and leads to wasted time and communication issues. All projects are built on a fixed-fee basis — never fixed-price — helping ensure that Conrado’s and the client’s interests are aligned in terms of quality and performance. The HomeCare evergreen maintenance program gives clients peace of mind for years to come. Subcontractors are paid immediately after Conrado receives payment from clients. With its focus on custom residences and their owners, no commercial or spec work is done.
Fast forward to 2011, when Colleen joined Conrado in the newly created position of project coordinator, a junior-level field role supporting project managers and superintendents. The following year, the succession plan — which entailed father and daughter meeting every week — went into overdrive with Colleen cycling through numerous roles in the company to learn it from the inside out, from accounting to construction management to HomeCare. In 2018, she was appointed Chief Operating Officer and Paul scaled back to four workdays a week. Two years later, in 2020, Colleen became President of Conrado.
“The hardest part has been letting go, accepting that Colleen might do things differently,” says Paul, who remains Chairman of the Board. “But that’s necessary for her — and this business — to flourish.”
And Colleen has certainly been well prepared. “My dad has been my greatest teacher,” she says. “He and my mom have built a tremendous company. He cares about it so much that he gave me 12 years — and beyond — of mentorship! At Conrado, we will always be innovating and evolving, yet I take great pride in my parents’ legacy and the relationships and homes they have built.”
Reflecting on his nearly four decades at the helm of Conrado, Paul is especially wistful about those years spent training Colleen, that led to the handoff to the next generation. “From that first chat over lunch to its culmination, to work side by side with your daughter to close out your career… well, it has been a wonderful experience,” Paul says. “But to be able to do that for 12 years is a blessing.”