It’s the end of an era as Heather Wood retires from her role as owner/designer at Mountainwood Homes. She made the tough decision to retire from her career at Mountainwood Homes to focus on a new chapter in her life. While we will miss working with her every day, we look forward to seeing her (and her dog Rudy) often.
Heather’s touch is woven into everything Mountainwood Homes. Over the last 15 years, she’s created an exceptional business – from our systems and processes, the ambiance, the customer-centric focus, the design direction, Heather’s spirit, standards, and enthusiasm for doing our best and going the extra mile to make everything better is built into the foundation our company. We’re proud to keep it going.
We sat down with Heather to reflect on her career, the early days of Mountainwood Homes, and what’s next.
How did you get started?
I have been connected to homes since I was a little girl. My father was in the home development and real estate field, and I always went through open houses in the new subdivisions that he did. When I was six years old, I remember one model home: a little girl’s bedroom, and I can still visualize it in my mind – the colors and the fabrics. I loved art in school and still enjoy looking at beautifully designed things, from hotels, restaurants, airports, churches, and cars.
I worked in the hotel business for 11 years in catering/food and beverage and then in the real estate field. I took one class at PCC, Intro to Interior Design, and loved it. I did not go to school other than this one class. It is an innate gift if you are talented in art/design. Sure, school can help perfect your skills, but I never wanted to take the time to attend school; I was too anxious to work.
I started my own decorating business and went door to door with a flyer that said if they hired me, I would help them find furnishings, art, and fabrics. I networked and hustled as hard as I could, even if it was only finding one lamp. I knew it could grow to bigger jobs, and it did. A builder hired me to design their model homes, and I solicited my sister’s help since she is talented in design, too. We had a great response to what we did.
Then, I went to work for a large luxury homebuilder to open and manage their new design center. I oversaw the design department and did many model homes and Street of Dreams. The company was a fantastic place to work, and I gained so much experience in process and production in my eight years there.
I started my own interior design business, and various builders and homeowners hired me to specify products for their spec homes, model homes, and home staging.
When I married Robert, he lost his job due to the recession. I encouraged him to start a remodeling business since he knows everything there is to know about building and remodeling. He had been in the construction business his whole life because his dad had his own remodeling company. I had a client who was doing a major remodel, and I lacked the construction experience to be the general contractor, so I told her about Robert. Robert and I teamed up to take care of this client – with me doing the design and him doing the build.
We have always worked well together. We have the same work ethic and philosophy about business – put your foot on the pedal, and don’t let up. Don’t pull your foot off the gas even when you get there. It was a perfect partnership from the very beginning, as we respect each other’s talents and knowledge. We started our company in an upstairs bedroom in our home.
What were you excited about when you started Mountainwood Homes?
I did not even have time to think about it as we worked 24/7. We were trying to put food on the table and needed to provide for the family of 7 in a recession. I loved working with Robert daily as we learned from each other. I liked helping people beautify their homes and solve their space challenges.
What were you nervous about?
Not too much. I am an extremely optimistic person. My attitude was, we can do this! We did it before for our previous employer, so why not us? And if we can’t, we will do something else. There were no employees, so we wouldn’t hurt anyone if it didn’t work. We could find jobs as we both have great experience and are not afraid to work.
What were the early days like?
There were very long hours. I remember working up in the little makeshift office in the wee hours of the morning in my pajamas, sketching cabinet drawings. We were exhausted because we were doing everything ourselves, from networking to getting business, estimating, writing proposals, doing the books, and meeting clients. Robert was in the field with his tool belt on all day. We knew we needed to hire a field guy. I remember Robert’s comment to the new employee when he offered him the job and gave him a company cell phone: “Here you go… I am not sure if we can even pay for this phone or for you, but we are going to work hard to be able to. Are you in?”
We hired my niece on a very part-time basis to write a newsletter we could send out. She was starting her career and was an excellent writer. After her day job, she came over, and we brainstormed what we could put in the newsletter and who we would send it to. We didn’t have any clients – we just sent it to everyone we knew. We took the confident approach – pretending we are a big company – and made it appear that more than two people work at Mountainwood. The perception of a successful and larger company helped us get jobs. Robert had a truck, and we put a logo on it, and prospective clients would say, “Oh, I see your trucks.” I chuckled to myself because trucks are not plural.
Eleven years later, my niece still works at Mountainwood Homes as the head of marketing.
What’s been the most challenging part?
The long hours. However, it was exciting and exhilarating at the same time to sign up clients and see their homes change for the better. One of the hardest times Robert and I faced was when COVID-19 first hit. No one knew what it was and what to do. We had a very emotional night, deciding to lay off 11 employees. Making that list of 11 was heart-wrenching. We were fortunate and could hire most of them back.
Any stand-out memories?
Boy, so many of them are just swirling around in my head. One of the big turning points was when we decided to move out of our house and lease an office space in a business park close to our home. We were going out on a limb so that we could pay the rent. After hiring employees, our little home office was bursting at the seams. One employee was using a TV tray in a bedroom closet as a desk (and it wasn’t even a walk-in closet; they were bypass doors!) So, moving day was fun! Then, many years later, we moved to a new building and remodeled the entire space. It is a beautiful place to work.
Looking back, what will you remember?
The people. I will remember all the wonderful people I have worked with. I get weepy even thinking about it. There have been so many great employees, trade partners, and, of course, clients. I am grateful for all of them and have learned from each of them. I will think of the hardworking design team – amazing & talented women I have worked with trying so hard to help their clients through an emotional and stressful remodel or new home build. I will think of the hardworking Project Managers juggling trade partners’ schedules and doing everything in their power to keep the project on time. I will think of all our teams, from Marketing, Human Resources, and Warranty, that all care so much that the client is happy with the overall experience.
What are your thoughts as you approach retirement?
Actually, I am sad. It is hard for me because Mountainwood is my baby. I never had children of my own, so the company is my child. Creating the company, nurturing it, and then letting go must feel like how parents feel when their child leaves for college. Since we are owners of the company, I can still be involved behind the scenes for Robert to bounce ideas off. I can’t even be the plant waterer because the plants aren’t real. I have a lot of interests, and being a workaholic, I will keep busy, but not to the degree of working full-time. What would be the point of leaving?
What are you excited about?
I am excited to get healthy. My health has taken a toll from 45 years of non-stop working. It’s time I do some yoga. I may even get a Starbucks drink and walk around with my girlfriend in our yoga pants. I have passed on getting together with these women while I went to work for years and wonder what it would be like.
What’s your message to the Mountainwood Homes team?
When Robert and I started Mountainwood over 15 years ago, I never dreamed it would be the company it is today. Because of all of you, it has become a truly exceptional place to be Monday through Friday. I am proud of the work we have done together, from brilliantly designed and built homes and remodels to hundreds of repeat happy clients. Work certainly doesn’t feel like work when you love your teammates and your job. Our company’s greatest strength is our support for each other, so be sure to hold onto this and always help each other out.
Hopes for the future legacy of Mountainwood?
I hope Mountainwood continues to thrive and be the number-one choice for homeowners looking to improve their lifestyles. I am thrilled that we created a positive work environment that has been the avenue for employees to make a good living to support their families. Ten years from now, I hope that the core values that built this company are still in place and that it will be the ethical company it is today.
Please help us congratulate Heather on her retirement. Enjoy every moment of this next phase!