Serving Faithfully in the Storm with Paul Estridge
This episode of Bottom Line Faith features Paul Estridge, CEO of Estridge Homes.
“I like to think I demonstrate my faith through my contemplation and decisions and how I deal with everyday situations, and I think that’s the most Christ-like model as I read the Bible.”
Adam: Bottom Line Faith is back on and I’m Adam Ritz with your co-host, Ray Hilbert. Hey Ray, how are you?
Ray: I’m terrific today, Adam, how about yourself?
Adam: I’m excited for the iTunes capabilities that Bottom Line Faith has now. Do you have a smartphone, or are you on the flip phone?
Ray: I’m on a smartphone, and I’m on the Google platform, which we’re there in the Google Play Store as well. And we’re just seeing incredible growth for the podcast; we’re excited about it.
Adam: Excellent! So yeah, just search us out online, Bottom Line Faith. The website is bottomlinefaith.org. And you can download and subscribe to the shows through iTunes or Google Play, as Ray does. Ray, it’s good to see you here for Bottom Line Faith. And I always enjoy the guests that you bring on the show, to learn what they do and how their faith drives their success.
Ray: Well, Adam, you know, it’s really quite a lot of fun that we have around here. And, you know, this really is the show where we kind of – the metaphor we like to use is we want to lift the lid and tinker around a little bit in the engine of Christian business leadership. And I’m particularly excited about our guest today because God has really brought this man through an incredible journey.
Adam: Okay, you’ve piqued my interest, I cannot wait for this one.
Ray: Well, folks, it is our pleasure and an honor to welcome Mr. Paul Estridge as our guest on this edition of Bottom Line Faith. Paul. Hello, and welcome to the show.
Paul: Thank you, I’m glad to be here. Adam, good seeing you.
Adam: Hey, Paul. Nice to meet you.
Ray: For those of you that don’t know, Paul and I have probably known each other since the mid ‘90s. And I wish I had time on our show today to tell you the amazing story of how that all came about. But I will just tell you this, that of all the Christian business leaders that I’ve met across the country, this man’s in my top 5, top 10 at the least, and watching how God has used him, he’s been a huge blessing to me and thousands of others across the country. So Paul, how about we just get into the story? Why don’t you tell our audience a little bit about yourself and your background?
Paul: Well, you know, I grew up in the Midwest here in Carmel, Indiana, when Carmel was a small little town with one stoplight and two restaurants, and it’s changed considerably since then. But my father started his own business as a home builder in our home when I was 10 years old. So I got to experience he and my mother both starting a company. And I went to high school there and then went to college at the University of Evansville, and probably the most impressionable aspect of my childhood, which a lot of children today don’t get to experience is working alongside my parents and learning the lessons of what it’s like to start a company and the business, and I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. So that came later in my life. And we’ll probably talk about that.
Ray: Yeah, absolutely. And so tell us a little bit about the company today. And we’ll weave our way back through the past. But tell us what you’re up to today.
Paul: Well, we restarted Estridge Homes in 2013 because of the past. And today we’ve built about 200 homes so far since we restarted.
Ray: Absolutely. So, Adam, I’d kind of like to walk with Paul a little bit down memory lane here, if that’d be all right, for our guests.
Adam: Yeah, I’d love to find out more about that. It really interested me how you said we restarted in 2013. So now I really want to hear the story of where it was before 2013.
Ray: Walk us through that experience. Yeah, sure.
Paul: So it’s easier for me to start at the beginning. So I came out, I built my first time when I was 20. My father let me help him while I was young. And then he said, “It’s time that you built your first home.” And so I did that, learned a tremendous amount from that, and came out of college working for him for a few years. And he was young, younger than I am today, relative to my children. So he had a lot of career left in him. And, I was rearing to go, so he knew I was going to probably do something else. But I pursued learning about building whole neighborhoods. He was a custom builder, and I wanted to build entire neighborhoods. And so I started a company in 1983 when I was 25, and our first neighborhood was in Lawrence, Indiana. And it was a tremendous success.
In the first two years, we built 144 homes. And at that time, I was not a believer, wasn’t a Christian in any aspect, wasn’t interested in anything like that. But having made a lot of money, which I planned on making and being successful and well-known and all those types of things started happening. And I had always placed my plans on those types of things bringing me happiness, and it didn’t. In fact, when I realized that none of those things brought happiness, I basically had a nervous breakdown in my late 20s. And so one day, as a single man, with everything going for me, I basically gave my life to Christ in my apartment one night, and tears crying out, and I happened to have a Bible my mom had given me for reasons I really don’t know, but I had it. And I opened it up to what was Psalms 25, and I read it over and over and over again, through tears. And that was the night I gave my life to Christ.
Ray: And so you were 28,
Paul: I was 27, 28.
Ray: And by all accounts on top of the world, you’ve got a business that’s thriving: 144 homes in your first two years and making money hand over fist, and yet you found yourself alone in your apartment, broken down and open before the Lord. And he showed up, didn’t he?
Paul: He did show up. And you know, a lot of people have different experiences in those moments. I felt just a tremendous lift of weight and pressure off of me. And the next morning I woke up and made life-changing commitments. And the Lord brought me my wife within a year or so. And, and it’s been an amazing journey ever since – not always easy – but quite amazing and very fulfilling.
Ray: Well, I really thought what you might tell us is from that moment on, life was just sunshine and roses and never a challenge in business, but that’s not what we’re going to hear, is it?
Paul: No, you’re not. Well, there were many years in which it was very good, and you know, like everyone else, there’s rough days and tough days and things like that. That’s normal. But in the decade of the 2000s, that started off very, very good, and the first half was phenomenal. Yeah, in fact, our company made over $25 million in the first half of the 2000s and then all of a sudden, the tsunami hit in 2007, 2008, what would lead ultimately to a period of about five years when I would go through some very difficult times. Was able to endure a terminal aneurism, personal bankruptcy, losing my company that had built at that time over 8000 homes in the Indianapolis area, I lost both my parents, and it was a very difficult time.
Ray: Sounds to me like you might have felt a little bit like Job during that season.
Paul: Well, actually, just before we went out of business, I asked all the leadership in my company to read the book of Job. And I think it’s one of the most important stories in the Bible.
Ray: If I recall, somewhere in that time frame, what at least from the outside looking in might have looked like a pinnacle of success, your company was even featured on Extreme Home Makeover, right? You lead that initiative here.
Paul: That’s right. And we were the finale for that season, two hour special on ABC. And that was that was probably the highlight of my past company’s experience. It was truly an amazing event, building two homes in a period of 105 hours, and over 5000 volunteers. And it was a tremendous outreach of giving that I’ve never experienced before, in the midst of our storm. You know, we found it important that even though – and everyone knew we were going through a difficult time, and our situation was very public, it was in the paper – but we nevertheless felt it was important to live out our faith and to bring people together and build together even in the toughest of times. That’s what I find intresting about this, Adam, is just from a public or worldly perspective, all across the country, here’s a company being featured, an incredible outpouring of volunteerism and incredible blessing that’s occurring, and yet there’s a storm happening.
Adam: Yeah, and nobody knows what’s happening behind the curtain.
Ray: That that’s exactly right. So Paul, you know, we’ve got listeners here who are business owners and marketplace leaders, and moms and dads, and probably pastors – a wide variety of people that will listen to the program. So walk us through, help us understand the challenge, the darkest moment, the hardest moment when everything started crashing, what was that like?
Paul: Oh, it wasn’t a sudden event. It took place over the course of two or three years, really. And we were fighting it the entire time. And you know, the darkest of times for me was the imagining of the people that were going to be hurt as a result of us going out of business, the small people. Not small people, but small businesses – the vendors and suppliers – who would ultimately take some form of a loss. It still today haunts me, I think about it every day. And I still want to figure out some way before my life’s over to pay that debt. Now, you know, what’s been one of the most amazing experiences is when I came back in business, I needed to go back to those same people who had been with me for 20, 30 years and say, Would you help me lay flooring, or would you help me frame homes, or would you provide block and lumber to me? And they all said yes, every single one. And that’s been one of the greatest blessings that I’ve ever experienced. And I asked them why. Several of them I knew pretty well. And they said, “Paul, you know, we watched you do everything we thought that a person could do to save your company and prevent this from happening.
And you personally took as big a loss as any of us did. And you put all the money back in.” And I did. And that was the tough business decision, do I keep it and shut the doors as many other companies did? Or do I put it all back in the game? And I put all of it and then some back in the game. My parents stepped in. And they helped out with some money that they had, and helped more with some land. And we were a family that was committed to doing whatever it took. We never felt that the money was ours. It was ours to use to in some way, shape, or form benefit our community, benefit other people’s lives and to, you know, be good stewards of it. I don’t know today if I could say that I did that. But I tried. But there’s a good news out of this. And that is that they can’t eat you. And going broke isn’t by any means one of the more difficult things to deal with. I can sit here and tell you that. The sun comes up the next day. It doesn’t lobotomize you. You don’t forget everything you learned and all your skills and abilities, and you just keep going on with faith, and you don’t give up. And one of the other things that I kept at the forefront of my mind is that throughout this entire experience, I was modeling what a man of faith does when faced with really, really difficult adversity, for my children and people in the community.
Ray: And I really want to talk about that for a couple of moments. Because I want to ask a question and then come back with a comment which will lead to another question. But when you were right in the battle, did you question God? Did you maybe shake your fist at him and say, “Why is this happening?” Or what was that like for you in your own spiritual journey in the midst of that valley?
Paul: I’m asked that question a lot. And I’m not so sure that people believe my answer. But for me, I never did.
Paul: I just never did. And I think it comes from an inner – one of my values at the core of my being is I really try to practice a selfless way of living and a selfless mindset within one’s faith, I think leads us to never believing that the worst times and circumstances can happen to any of us. And I never felt that I was above or deserving to not be someone that was subject to the same things that other people had endured. In fact, in our company meetings for the last couple years, I would say to people, you know, everything will crumble in this world. Everything will, and every company will eventually go out of business, and we’re all going to pass away, and those of us that believe we will have a long life after this one.
Ray: Yeah, that is that is really good. And I I want to come back because you and I have talked before, you were counseled to do something, but you did the opposite. And I’m referring specifically to public awareness. Would you tell us about that?
Paul: Yeah, so you know, when it was inevitable, several high-net-worth businessmen who I knew said, “Well listen, you gotta hire some public relations people, and you gotta figure out how to get this on the back page. Because this will kill you. This will absolutely crush you. And you just can’t afford to have this story out there on the front page.” And I thought about that, for not really very long, maybe a day or two. And I was kind of going that way. And then all of a sudden, something spoke to me. Maybe it was in prayer or just driving down the road. But my favorite verse is Romans 12:2, which is, “Conform no longer to the patterns of this world, but forever renew your mind and heart. And so I’m kind of a nonconformist in that regard, particularly when it comes to my growing faith. So that was worldly advice I was given, but it wasn’t spiritual. So I hired the public relations firm, and I said, “Okay, this is the game plan. We want to be on the front page.”
Ray: Not the back page, but the front page.
Paul: Front page.
Ray: Sports section, or A1?
Paul: A1 of the Indianapolis Star. They didn’t quite understand it. They said, “That’s really not what we do.” And I said, “Yeah, but it probably is an easy assignment, given our name in the marketplace.” And they said, “Yeah, it will be.” So they set up the meetings, and I met with them. And I was as transparent and as authentic out there as I could possibly be. And it’s the best probably the best decision I’ve ever made. Because people have come up to me through the years since then, and said, “You know, I just appreciate so much, because I’ve gone through difficult times, or I had had something similar to you, and to see how comfortable you were with living it out so openly made me feel comfortable in the events and circumstances that I faced.” So, you know, look, these things, this is life, this is just the way it works. And so why hide from it? You know, I’m not above it or immune from it.
Ray: Well, folks, we’re talking with Paul Estridge of Estridge Homes, and really walk through his journey and his story. And, you know, Adam, as I’m listening there. I think that so often when we’re in the midst of failure, we’re tempted to try to hide it and be shamed in that, and we’re hearing a totally different story today.
Adam: Yeah, that’s inspiring. And you’ve inspired me maybe to start my own PR firm, where we do that. We don’t take your laundry and put it on the back page. We’ll make it bigger and worse than it actually is.
Paul: Why not? Your comeback’s a better story.
Ray: And I think it’d be great if they did this in politics, too, right? So just imagine, every candidate, let’s just go out and get all the junk out on the front page and say, “Okay, I’m guilty of all that and a whole lot more. Now, can we get on with the business of solving problems?” And so Paul, you got through the dark stages and that sort of thing, you rebirthed the company. So now, what’s life like? How are you specifically working out your faith in your company? Now, what’s that look like?
Paul: I don’t think it’s any different than it’s ever been. You know I’m not a preacher businessman. I’d like to think that I demonstrate my faith through my contemplation and my actions and decisions, how I deal with everyday situations. And I know that it’s observed that way. I’ve been told so by many, many people. And I think that’s the most Christlike model as I read the Bible. You know, I can think of very few real sermons that he gave, but most of them were just everyday circumstances where he spoke into the situation, and that’s what I try to do.
Ray: Well, and, you know, Adam, you know this as well. But the reputation that Paul has in this community through this whole story is amazing. And I know God’s using him to share this story all across the country as well. It’s really powerful.
Adam: When I saw that we were going to have Paul Estridge on the show, and I know the brand, Estridge Homes, you know, I’m pretty well-informed on what’s going on around town. And I hadn’t really thought about any of that, any of those dark days, or that your company had closed down. And then there was a rebirth in 2013. I mean, I would think a lot of people that know you personally just know not only that you’re a man of faith, but Estridge Homes, that brand, that power behind that brand, it’s almost like to a lot of people, it never went away.
Paul: Well, that’s good, I’m glad. I hope that’s the case. And we were just out of business a short time, and I’m glad to know that that’s out there. You know, being asked to build a person’s home is one of the greatest honors, and by building whole neighborhoods, we are connecting other people’s lives and their souls together. And it’s just, on the way over here, I drove by one of our neighborhoods and snuck through just to see how it was maturing. And that’s very, very fulfilling.
Adam: If you see some trash on one of the lawns, do you stop and get out?
Paul: Well, I don’t do that. I think people should own their own lawns.
Adam: Maybe you have some hedge trimmers and in your trunk and you just, you see a hedge that’s out of place.
Paul: Well, I will tell you a funny, quick story about that neighborhood. Years ago, I was driving through that neighborhood, and I saw a crack, literally in the corner of one of the homes. And I went up to the front door and introduced myself – this is a couple years after we had built the home – and I said, “Do you know about the crack?” This is a structural issue; we need to come back and take care of this. And he was shocked. And we took care of it.
Ray: That to me is like Steve Jobs: “You got a crack on your iPhone. Let me fix that.”
Paul: Maybe he did do that. I don’t know.
Ray: That is great. Believe it or not, we are heading into the home stretch of our time here with Paul Estridge today. So Paul, just a couple other questions I’d love to dive into. And you know, we’ve heard your story and how you maintain your Christian walk in integrity through dark times. And now, coming back through, you know, successes as you’re rebuilding the company. But just one of the questions I’m just dying to ask is, what’s the best advice that anyone has ever given you? What was it? And how’s that continue to impact you today?
Paul: Well, I think that the best advice I’ve ever been given was that relationships that we build and our reputations in this world are the two most valuable assets that we can ever realize. And that in combination with, you know, at the end of the day, it’s always about people. Yeah, it’s always about people. And so the fact that we’ve been able to come back so quickly, I attribute to the fact that the relationships that we had built were genuine and real and authentic, and the reputation, you know, was in part due to stopping and knocking on a customer’s door two years later and telling him, “Hey, you have an issue here, we need to take care of it.” And that’s caring first and foremost about people. And if I have a ministry, that’s it. It’s just about pouring into other people’s lives.
Ray: And to that point, you know, we were a customer before; we built the home with you. And I remember going out on the job site and talking to some of your subcontractors: your flooring people, your drywallers, carpenters, and every one of them said that that’s one of the reasons they loved working with you and for you. Because they know Mr. Estridge cares, and when you’ve got that at that level, then you know you’re doing some things right in a way that’s honoring the Lord. So that is really, really fantastic. I wish we had two more shows with Paul, don’t you?
Adam: Well, we can always bring him back.
Ray: We can always bring him back. That’s the beauty of a podcast. So, Paul, I would be remiss, there’s a favorite question we have here at Bottom Line Faith. And I hope this doesn’t throw you off your seat here. But I like to set the stage. This is what I call my “above all else” question. In Proverbs 4:23, we see these words, it says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it determines the course of your life.” So Paul, let’s hit the fast-forward button. And it’s toward the end of your time this side of eternity. You’ve got a chance to gather your loved ones, your family, your friends, your business associates, and it’s time for Paul Estridge to pass on his “above all else” advice, what would that be and why? Above all else…
Paul: Wow, that’s a powerful question. I can picture being there. I really believe that I would say, “Above all else, love one another.” And I know that that’s the words of Jesus. But I really believe that is the most powerful message I could leave for my children and friends and family and those that I would know, is to love each other. And you know, you go through tough market times and business times, but it’s those relationships and the love that you have, which you know, serves our purposes.
Ray: Yeah, that’s strong. I love you, Paul.
Paul: Thank you. I love you, buddy.
Ray: That’s awesome. That is good stuff. And so Paul, we’re just so grateful that you would take the time to join us here on Bottom Line Faith. And so I’d like to just kind of close our time together this way if we could. There’s probably a business owner or business leader right now who’s discouraged, who’s frustrated, maybe they feel like they’re in the pit of failure, and they don’t feel any hope, they don’t see any way out. What would you say to them as we close the show today?
Paul: Well, they need to surrender their life to our Lord and Savior. And they need to get on their knees and say, “Lord, I can no longer cope and manage the circumstances that I’m faced with by myself. And I ask for you to step in and take the steering wheel and steer me during these times because I don’t have that capacity.” And with complete and total faith that he will do that. And when they surrender themselves, that’s when selflessness leaves their body, and dependency on our Lord takes over.
Ray: It’s not theory for you. That’s been real life. Adam, closing thoughts from you, and then I’ll offer one as we wrap up today.
Adam: I liked when Paul said early on here, when you were talking about success, you said that the money and the money that you make and have with your family, you’ve never felt like it was yours. You felt it was something that you had to use and to steward in the right way. That really touched me.
Ray: Yeah, absolutely. And I think my takeaway that I would just leave today would be that in spite of dark times, in spite of what the world would call failure, that’s part of God’s plan. He’s trying to shape our character. It really is our opportunity to have our faith tested and to see if we’ll remain true to God’s call on our life.
Paul: I think it’s exactly the way it is, shaping our lives and our love for each other through these circumstances.
Adam: Paul, can we follow you on Twitter or Facebook or anything?
Paul: Facebook, I’m on Facebook mostly, and I love to see new friends and correspond that way.
Adam: And the Estridge Homes website?
Paul: Estridge.com is our website
Ray: Well, folks, this is Ray Hilbert and Adam Ritz with the Bottom Line Faith podcast. Our guest today has been Paul Estridge of Estridge Homes. And we are so grateful that you would join us today. Paul, thanks for your time, and as always, you’re such a blessing and encouragement. I know God’s going to use this conversation to bless leaders all over the country. Thank you.
Paul: Thank you.