Summer 2015 Small Developer/Builder Boot Camp in Dallas

Some of the very intense Rookie Developers at CNU23 in Dallas.
Some of the very intense Rookie Developers at CNU23 in Dallas.

Things are moving fast with the rapidly expanding Small Developer/Builders group.

I have heard from a number of folks via email and phone calls that they would be interested in a hands-on workshop on basic skills needed as a small developer builder. There is an effort percolating to hold a one day workshop for Small Builders in Atlanta the day before the National Town Builders Association (NTBA) Fall Roundtable in October 16-18.

But that’s all the way into late October and some are pressing for something much sooner.

I think we can put this together in the Dallas area rather inexpensively. If the folks attending cover their own travel, lodging and meals, we can find a venue at no cost. It could be a very Lean affair.  A meet-up with other folks consider or practicing as Small Developer/Builders. Connect with some mentors, roll up our sleeves and get some skills.

Here’s what we are thinking for content:

  • Building for-rent vs. building for sale projects.
  • How to do basic market research.
  • Pro forma basics, sorting out your deal on paper.
  • How to budget for hard and soft costs.
  • Operating expense budgets and the property management basics.
  • Site Selection – evaluating several sites to find the best one to start on.
  • How your financing request looks to your Banker.
  • Navigating the appraisal process.
  • How to pitch a deal to an Investors.
  • Deal Structures; aligning the interests of partners.
  • Pop-up Retail and Street Markets; cultivating tenants (when you have no money).
  • Understanding FHA Loan Programs 203(b) and 203(k) for 4 unit projects.
  • Dealing with construction if you don’t have a construction background (and even if you do).
  • Common Sense design strategies and working with Architects and Engineers.
  • Multiple on-ramps, scenarios for how to get started as a developer/builder.
  • A standard 4-plex deal; all residential or small mixed use building.
  • A standard Cottage Court deal.

What other content should we look at covering?

We are thinking folks would arrive in time for food and drink on Friday evening, leave after lunch on Sunday.
We are doing this on August 14-16,  Who’s in?

We are also looking at what topics should we tackle for a couple of webinars in the near term.  The intent on all of this is to find ways for Small Developer/Builders, (both rookies and more seasoned types) to reduce their learning curve, share lessons learned, pick up new skills, and find people to collaborate with.

What say you?  Post comments here or email me:

21 thoughts on “Summer 2015 Small Developer/Builder Boot Camp in Dallas

  1. Eric Kronberg May 16, 2015 / 1:01 am

    Sounds like a solid event. Can’t make it back to Dallas, but very much interested in the Atlanta event.

    • rjohnanderson May 16, 2015 / 2:48 am

      Eric, we should catch up on a couple items before too long. Have a look at the list of topics. Anything you think we should add?

      • Eric Kronberg May 16, 2015 / 9:39 pm

        John, zoning and entitlements are really important. It’s also an area that is my specialty, so less interest to me personally, but critical to a starting developer. It is also one of the first services we provide a client. If you don’t know how much you can build, you don’t know how much you can or should pay for a site. And honestly, we can’t put together a proposal for services if we don’t know either.

        I’ve got a couple blog posts on our website on the roll of parking and redevelopment (zoning), and will make a point to put one up on the roll of zoning analysis in determining a project’s viability. Happy to have you crib whatever is useful for the cause. Our blog is at

        Otherwise, pitching banks, budgeting for property management, and other nitty gritty components are high on my list of interest. These are areas where we have less experience.

    • Nick Panetta August 11, 2015 / 7:57 pm

      I would be interested in an Atlanta event as well.

  2. Dede Christopher May 16, 2015 / 1:25 am

    Count me in! Meeting with others to learn and connect is just what we need. Let’s do it!

  3. Ash Jackson May 16, 2015 / 2:16 am

    We’ll be in Dallas, for sure.

  4. rjohnanderson May 16, 2015 / 3:51 am

    A good point from Ward Davis. -How about something on the permitting and entitlement process? We could frame the spectrum of minor to major efforts explaining the “degree of difficulty/brain damage for each. What can you do as-of-right, variances, planned development permits, rezoning, adopting new codes that support walkable urbanism…and the reasons to work in places that want what we do and have taken the steps to make it legal. We should explain how zoning is actually moderated through off-street parking requirements in many cases, (good policies notwithstanding)…

  5. Max Boschetti May 16, 2015 / 6:28 pm

    Thanks again for your webinar John.

    A few thoughts about the bootcamp:
    -Finding one site and building is one thing, but what if you slowly want to transform a block, lot by lot, over time? How can you approach prop. owners to go into developing their lots similarly to yours in a join effort, or hire you to redevelop their own land?
    -Your idea of bootcamp made me think of an on-the-job training program where a small 4-plex project is in process and people could volunteer/intern on it to learn the ropes in a real world environment, maybe with CNU/Lean Urbanism support, or hold a year long “class” of a project from beginning to end and maybe their payment for the training is what gets used to fund the project’s initial costs… or their labor through the year is their contribution and they get paid out at the end of the year for the success of the project.
    -Looking for small developer support groups (is there such a resource?) in cities around the country to join for local knowledge/help/support.

    Free flow of consciousness.

    Will make efforts to attend DFW or ATL.

    I want to be in the AP class! 😉

    • rjohnanderson May 16, 2015 / 6:55 pm

      Max, there is some early talk of setting up a Fellowship for rookie developers with a minor stipend that enables fellows to work with more seasoned practitioners for 6-12 months. When this gets a little further along we will get the word out. Sharing case studies in a common format will help reduce the learning curve. A framework for new developers to work on small projects next to more seasoned operators who have sorted out the local zoning issues could accelerate the pace of change in neighborhoods on their way up.

  6. Ryan Behring May 18, 2015 / 4:40 pm

    John, we are in. I know a few others in Dallas who would also like to attend.

    I was at the train stop in old Downtown Plano earlier this week and thought of you/Monte’s idea in Irving. They have similarities (preserved housing stock and small commercial center, neighborhood amenities, proximity to rail, historic street grid). I think you would have lots of buy in here from local rookie developer types.

  7. dp May 18, 2015 / 5:55 pm

    This Boot Camp should present ideas on how to form a group to engage the community, encourage partnerships between several organizations, work with the local government, and utilize media using Best Practices Management.

    • rjohnanderson May 18, 2015 / 6:07 pm

      Engaging the community as a private small developer/builder is a process typically requires the developer to under-promise and over-deliver at the project scale, in order to build genuine trust.

  8. Robert Kent May 18, 2015 / 6:44 pm

    John I’m very interested in attending the Dallas event!

  9. greengenuity May 18, 2015 / 6:45 pm

    I’m definitely interested. Let me know when the dates are final so that I can book a Megabus from San Antonio.

  10. Stanko Zovko May 18, 2015 / 7:15 pm

    I would be very interested in attending this event! The content looks very good.

  11. jgardner33 May 18, 2015 / 7:36 pm

    Hi there! I live in AZ and came across this post via Strong Towns. I was hoping you would be putting up a web version of the content from the conference! There is definite need for this kind of focus, especially in smaller towns.

    • rjohnanderson May 18, 2015 / 7:48 pm

      We are working on some webinars and finding someone to sponsor capturing the Dallas boot camp on video plus some post production to go up on the Strong Towns Video Channel. Lots of small town content is anticipated. Every town needs several small scale developers working to change the pattern of what is built, as there is no large development outfit that will come to two and fix everything. This work needs to be done at a fine grain, at the grass roots. There is a lot of interest in recruiting, cultivating and supporting small, local, developer/builders.

  12. Louis Burns May 22, 2015 / 4:27 pm

    I’m in Dallas but will be in Boston for a different real estate event that weekend. I would appreciate any type of recording or notes from the event.

  13. Greg Kiloh May 23, 2015 / 2:38 pm

    I’m interested in heading back up to Dallas mid-August.

  14. susanio3d June 5, 2015 / 6:29 pm

    Please keep me informed

  15. Derek Benedict June 20, 2015 / 5:25 am

    I’m excited for the event. I’m interested in learning about financing strategies – and would add to the list discussion of partnerships as a way to get started?

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