Jeff Kann: Building a New Path
By Matt Solis, Editor
SAN FRANCISCO – Many construction professionals spend their whole lives surrounded by builders, often learning the intricacies of the craft at an early age from family members or friends. Others come to the job organically from a related industry like painting or carpentry. For Jeff Kann, owner of HOUSEworks, the path to the construction industry didn’t reveal itself until later in life, but once he found it, he knew he was home. “I started HOUSEworks in 2005 after spending 25 years in banking,” he explains. “At a certain point, I realized I wanted to be involved with a service industry that was tangible; that created things you could touch and feel and see every day. I thought I could bring the business experience I gained from the banking industry together with quality craftspeople, and it turned out to be a great combination.”
Jeff says his years of experience in the business world give him a unique perspective on how to optimize the construction experience for his clients and employees alike. “In construction, good administrative and project management is just as important as good building skills. Most people have or have heard stories about remodeling projects gone awry, whether the work took too long or the construction company didn’t keep its promises. Often, these problems occur not because the people doing the work aren’t good at building, but because they don’t have the business skills to deliver the full package. I’m able to position my builders for success because I handle the administrative side and let them focus on the actual work.”
Delivering quality construction projects on time is undoubtedly made easier by the temperate weather of the Bay Area, but Jeff says it’s the housing stock of San Francisco that’s the most attractive aspect of working locally. “The buildings we have to work with are just amazing. San Francisco houses have a lot of character—most of them have been carefully and thoughtfully put together, with good bones that have sustained an incredible amount of use. The people are also fun to work with. They’re generally bright, entrepreneurial types with diverse backgrounds who take a lot of pride in their homes and want to invest in unique projects, which makes it exciting for us.”
When he’s not managing construction projects in the city by the bay, Jeff takes advantage of the Bay Area’s perpetually sunny days to indulge his other passion: golf. “We live in golf’s Mecca—not only can you play year-round, but the availability of beautiful courses is unparalleled,” he says. “I’m a big fan of the outdoors in general, and that goes hand-in-hand with golf. I walk every course I play, and I enjoy the walk just as much as I enjoy the game. Some of my favorite courses are Chardonnay in Napa, Boundary Oak in Walnut Creek and Half Moon Bay Golf Links.”
Jeff also enjoys exploring the Bay Area’s diverse food and wine scene with his wife, Ellie, who has recently started helping him with HOUSEworks’ day-to-day operations. “Ellie stayed at home with our kids when they were growing up, but now that they’re out of the house, she’s joined me in the family business,” he says. “Our son, David, attends Becker College in Massachusetts, and our daughter, Jacqueline, is at Santa Barbara City College. Actually, both of them have spent time working for the company. David usually spends his summers and breaks working for us or some of our trade contractors, and Jacqueline has worked for one of our designers. We’re a family business in every sense of the word!”
When he reflects on both his careers, Jeff points to one attribute above all as a catalyst for his success. “I believe it’s important to listen more than you speak,” he says. “Remodeling is a deeply personal process—we’re inside our clients’ homes, and they have specific ideas or visions about how they want to live in their homes and how they want them to look, so the only way to make that happen is to listen. That’s the most necessary aspect of any type of work.”
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Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite sport?
A: College ice hockey. My son plays defense for Becker College, and he played on the Junior Sharks when he was growing up. I’m also really passionate about baseball. I love the Giants.
Q: Have you ever read a book more than once?
A: Yes, Catcher in the Rye. I read it in high school, and then I read it with my kids when they were in high school. It really hasn’t lost its core meaning over the years.
Q: Have you ever had a conversation with a famous person?
A: I sat next to Betty White on a plane and it was sort of a bumpy flight, so we talked to take our minds off air turbulence and travel for a little while.
Q: What’s your favorite fruit?
Q: What country would you most like to visit?
A: Actually, I’d like to travel throughout the United States. There’s just so much I haven’t seen yet, like the Grand Canyon and Snake River.
Q: What’s the best James Bond movie?
A: It’s a three-way tie: The Spy Who Loved Me, Goldfinger, and Live and Let Die.