Business Profile: Tartan Builders

Scott and Ryan McNaughton learned a lot working for their dad, Jim McNaughton — especially since he wasn’t one to play favorites with his sons.

“It’s not like we started here and we were the head of operations,” Ryan said. “We were at the bottom of the totem pole and that was a great learning experience.”

Even before that, when they were in high school and college, Scott remembers the two of them sweeping out basements, picking up yards and shoveling snow.

“That really shows you from the ground up how a construction and development company operates,” he said.

That foundation is serving them well as co-owners of Tartan Builders, which celebrated its first anniversary last month. The brothers, who each owned their own companies and continue to do so, formed Tartan about a year after they lost their father in December 2010. He had owned James McNaughton Builders for more than 30 years.

“We wanted to come out with something fresh and a new brand and maintain the McNaughton name,” Ryan said.

In their first year, they have completed about 10 projects, ranging from small bathroom renovations to building a spec home on Grand Avenue in Western Springs, which they recently sold.

They think business will only improve as the market continues to gain momentum.

“We do find things are improving quite rapidly,” Ryan said “We are bidding probably two to three projects every week. What we’re seeing is people who are going to stay put where they bought and facelift the house or they are looking to build lots and buy now.”

Over the next five years, they hope to develop their brand and build their reputation.

“We want people to say, ‘Those guys know what they’re doing’ or ‘They build beautiful homes.’ We want the same reputation Dad had,” Ryan said. “That’s what we strive for.”

And they plan to earn that reputation the same way their father did.

“I found that the most important part of our business, in my opinion —and Dad was so big on pushing this — is the quality of the materials you use. In our business you don’t get far using cheap products that don’t work and are ineffective,” Ryan said. “It’s a referral-based business. You can’t cut corners with quality and with the trades that you use.”

Integrity, service, following through and treating people fairly are also critical, Scott said.

“Once you lose your reputation, it’s very hard to make it up,” he said.

The McNaughtons, who grew up Hinsdale and now live in Western Springs, said they don’t limit their work to projects of certain sizes or in certain geographical areas. They currently are bidding on a remodel
for a 5-by-7 powder room.

“You never know where a small project like that can lead,” Ryan said.

They are happy to have their mom, who helped found James McNaughton builders, pitching in.

“Mom comes in and helps with color and selection for any spec projects,” Ryan said. “She’ll take out pictures from Home and Garden magazine of cool kitchens.”

The fathers of young children (Ryan has a 2-year-old daughter and an 8-month-old son; Scott’s twin son and daughter are 2), the two are working to build a company they can pass on to the next generation.

“It’s a family business,” Ryan said. “Scott and I would love nothing more than for our sons and our daughters or a mix of them to take it over once the brand grows.”

“Business Profile: Tartan Builders”
by Pamela Lannom
The Hinsdalean, p. 14
February 28, 2013

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