Thirty years. It takes a long time to reach it—three full decades, for those who are counting—and that’s how long John Dotty of Dotty Brothers Construction has been building custom dream homes in the Brainerd Lakes area.
John is from the Brainerd Lakes area and has lived here for 44 years. It’s easy for him to sell people on the idea of living here, because he knows how great it is. “I love the small town,” says John. “I know so many of the local people and find it very welcoming.” And over the course of 30 years, John has built homes for quite a few of those people.
John started Dotty Brothers Construction in 1994 in large part because he enjoys the full process of a construction project. “It’s all very exciting and rewarding,” says John. “The progress of the project from clearing the lot to the framing being erected to the finished home—I find every part of the process enjoyable.” That passion can be seen in every home Dotty Brothers has designed and built over the years.
One funny aspect of Dotty Brothers’ story is the company name: you’d expect to find a pair of brothers, or maybe a whole family. John does indeed have a brother, and while John started the company on his own, he hoped it would eventually be successful enough that he could have his brother join him in the business. The other Dotty brother did indeed join John for about five years, but eventually, family and other commitments took him in another direction. So Dotty Brothers just has one brother!
While three decades as a custom home builder is certainly an accomplishment to celebrate and be proud of, it hasn’t always been as smooth as, well, a Dotty design/build. The 2008 recession and crash of the housing market made for the toughest conditions Dotty Brothers has had to face, and surviving that event remains John’s proudest business achievement. “That recession lasted a long time and had an overwhelming impact on our business,” he says.
But Dotty Brothers survived, mainly by doing the same things they always have: focusing on the company’s values of accountability, big picture thinking, being detail-oriented, doing whatever the job requires, and always remaining humble. That, and constantly being on the lookout for ways to improve building processes and better serve their customers.
That adaptability has helped Dotty Brothers stay in business even as the market has changed. “Homes are much more detailed and much larger than when we started,” John says. One of the ways he stays on top of industry trends is active involvement in a peer group of builders. He meets with them several times a year to share ideas, innovations, and help one another grow their businesses.
Another big change over 30 years has been technology. “That’s been a game-changer,” says John. Dotty Brothers offers their customers online portals so they can keep tabs on their project. All the details are there: schedules, job information, material and finishing selections, even daily work logs. It’s part of Dotty Brothers’ commitment to customer service and keeps their customers up to sped on the status of their project.
How does a person stay in business for 30 years as a custom home builder? By making sure all of the details are accounted for, and always maintaining open communication and access to their customers. “We always strive to communicate with our customers on a very personal level,” says John. Clearly, the process works. You only have to browse Dotty Brothers’ gallery of custom design/build dream homes to see how well.