Get Inspired What's Happening...

Business transition for Generation Homes Northland

1 December 2021

Pictured L to R: Jacob, Jenna, Janelle and David

After 12 years at the helm of Generation Homes Northland, David Skudder’s legacy is more than 300 homes in the region, particularly at the coastal community of One Tree Point on the Whangarei Harbour.

David gave Jacob Pille his first building job when he left school and their relationship has come full circle with Jacob taking over the reins of the Generation Homes Northland business from David over the next year.

The transition is part of the management development programme Generation Homes has in place to promote from within and enable business continuity when Joint Venture Partners step aside.

Jacob is the first to come through this process and he’s enjoyed support from the national office with training this year on people leadership and business skills as he’s prepared to step up.

A Westpac Business of the Year winner, Top 10 residential home builder Generation Homes is celebrating 24 years in business and has constructed more than 6,000 houses throughout New Zealand, with company turnover reaching $228 million in the last 12 months.  They operate eight joint ventures across New Zealand. 

Generation Homes chief executive, Kevin Atkinson says, “It’s immensely satisfying that a local builder with great potential like Jacob, someone who has developed his management skills within the company over a number of years, is now a shareholder who will guide Generation Homes Northland from strength to strength.”

Jacob grew up in Kerikeri and it was there he had his first labouring job with David when he was 16.

When Jacob applied for a construction supervisor role in 2017, David asked him where he saw himself in the long-term, and he pricked his ears up when the answer was ownership.

Jacob stepped up to construction manager a couple of years ago and has now bought a shareholding for himself and his wife, Jenna.

David and Jacob will be joint managers for the next year and then Jacob will become Managing Director of the business, taking over the day-to-day operations, while David will retire.

David and his wife Janelle have been shareholders in Generation Homes Northland for 12 years and he has been involved in the building industry in Northland for 44 years.

“It was just after the global financial crisis and was a challenging economy for three years when we started the brand in Northland,” David says.

The region was unrecognisable then compared with the subsequent residential development.

“We were able to grow the business steadily, year in year out, just doing what we do – house and land packages at a fixed price.

“Now we are one of the leading group housing companies in Northland building in excess of 45 homes each year,” David says.

“I’m always proud to see happy customers and every day at One Tree Point I see evidence of how the region has grown in the last decade.”

Styles have changed from standard hip roof, brick and tile homes to a wide variety of roof lines and cladding types with less uniformity, he says.

The client profile has also evolved with customers now predominantly over 55 or young families.

There is a show home at One Tree Point in The Landing subdivision and the team recently moved into commercial premises at Marsden Point for the office staff of 10 people.

After his year labouring for David, Jacob’s love of hockey took him to Otago to study sports science. He attained a sports performance and personal training diploma, then returned to Northland and completed a carpentry apprenticeship and worked for 15 years on architecturally designed homes.

Carpentry is in his blood – his Dutch grandfather had a custom stairs factory in The Netherlands which is still operating today in the fifth-generation hands of one of Jacob’s cousins.

Jacob’s building career involved luxury, secluded seaside holiday homes on Northland’s east coast, ranging up to 1500 sqm.

He also spent five years as a Leading Hand and Project Manager, so at the age of 38 now he has 20 years’ experience as a hands-on builder.

“I have ambition to grow Generation Homes Northland and develop my personal skills within the company. I’d asked about professional development right at the beginning,” Jacob says.

“I’ll take over more and more responsibility over the next year while David mentors me. He’s got a lot of knowledge and I can learn from his experience and work ethic.”

Jacob’s wife Jenna is a passionate early childhood educator, and they have two young sons.

The family settled in Waipu in a Generation Home in 2020.

In Kerikeri Jacob served his community as a volunteer firefighter and he continues as a Senior Firefighter in Waipu.

“What I like about Generation Homes is that unlike any other building company, the values align with my personal integrity. The team walk the talk about the values and we’re truly building communities.

“We strive to deliver something that the customer desires but doesn’t believe until it happens – they can’t believe fixed price and on time is possible.”

In the last 18 months Jacob doubled the number of sub-contractors involved with Generation Homes Northland to 300 to allow for expansion in the business. He’s ambitious.

“My goal is to take the business to the next level, to double the number of homes we build in a year. I want to get to 100 per year within five years.”

To realise that goal, Jacob is looking to new development in the Mangawhai area.

If sceptics scorn the idea of taking over a business during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Jacob dismisses that pessimism.

“I only look forward. My opinion is if you work hard you can achieve anything and sometimes you just have to work harder.”

He’s resigned to the fact that game fishing on his boat at Whangaroa is more likely to be an occasional getaway in the next few years, rather than a regular occurrence.

Generation Homes People Development Manager Rachael Bryant says the management development programme is tailored for each individual to help them grow so they can transition and step up to be a Joint Venture Partner.

“People leadership and business acumen are the most relevant skills, plus we cover the legislation, liabilities, reporting and decision-making processes involved in ownership,” Rachael says.