Schell Brothers wins bevy of awards; Builder focuses on culture of happiness

by Michael Short on February 24, 2011

Members of the Schell Brothers team include: Mark Moore, Matty Alder, Mark Fitzgerald, Josh Hay, Tony Forrest, Travis Ludwig, Debby Coughlan, Michelle Capaldi, Christina Harvey, Ivana Biela, Rebecca Fluharty, Jeremy Bell, Dan Kauffman, John Cristaldi, Kevin Stevenson, Tim Tice and Joni Hitchens.

By Michael Short

Local builder Schell Brothers has just won numerous  awards from the National Association of Homebuilders.

In an industry that has been experiencing hard times, Schell Brothers returned home with five Gold National awards for salesperson of the year, best product design of a single family home, best television commercial, best staging of a new home and best builder website.

The Rehoboth Beach based business also won several silver awards.

While the business emphasizes quality and personal attention to customers, they say there is something else that is responsible for much of their success.

Schell Brothers likes to talk about what it calls a “culture of happiness.” By trying to create a workplace where people enjoy coming to work, they say they create happy, productive and creative employees.

“American business has become so focused on profit as the only objective, that decisions are often made without consideration for the effect on morale and culture,” said Schell Brothers President Chris Schell. “Employee morale and company culture are far more critical to a company’s success than saving a few dollars by cost cutting measures . . .We focus purely on the happiness of our team and our customers . . . everything else just seems to take care of itself.”
That culture of happiness means that employees occasionally get to play kickball or frisbee golf. There are fun, silly Schilly Awards like the Sanjaya  given to the employee who can create the most versatile hairstyles.

There are barbecues at Schell’s home and meetings on the beach on Friday mornings in the summer. When the 25 employees finished with the serious business of seminars and learning at the National Association of Homebuilders Show in Florida earlier this month, they went to Disney World.

It may seem unusual, but it’s hard to argue with a bottom line that shows sales more than doubled last year.

“When you work for a company that has our kind of culture, it is impossible not to be attracted to it. And when people find that kind of happiness, they will purchase a home no matter what the market is doing,” said Dan Kauffman, who won the award as the national salesperson of the year.

Director of Marketing Debby Coughlan is very quick to dispell the notion that the office is a playground. “You have to be really good at what you do,” she said.

She stressed that Schell Brothers is always trying to build a better mousetrap, but that the emphasis on having happy, satisfied employees is part of that strategy.

“We are always trying to take it to the next level and not be satisfied with just being ok,” Coughlan said. “We’re not satisfied with the status quo . . .We’re always trying to come up with the next best  thing.”

She said that what she enjoys most about working at Schell Brothers is “the ability to be creative and to work with a team that is creative.”

The company also tries to be community-minded, taking part in efforts to support cancer research, autism, Habitat for Humanity, the Sussex County Land Trust etc. “We not only care about our customers, but we’re also passionate about the communty,” according to the Schell Brothers website.

Coughlan said they really try to get to know each customer and their individual needs before the first nail is ever driven.

Last year, the firm even hosted a homeowner’s appreciation party for over 500 guests.

Schell Brothers communities include: Independence, Breakwater, Heritage Creek, The Marina at Pepper’s Creek, Pinewater Woods, the Vineyards at Nassau Valley and The Reserves at Lewes Landing.

In addition to the five gold awards, the company also won silver awards this year for: best product design of a custom home, best unique space, best print campaign and best integrated Internet marketing campaign.

“Work hard. Play hard. Smile often. From cruises on the bay to the highly anticipated Schelly Awards, we make sure that in our focus on customer happiness, we don’t lose sight of our own,” according to the Schell Brothers website.

For more information on Schell Brothers, go to

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