How I Work: 21 questions with Mary Ludemann, custom home builder and owner of New Old

How I Work: 21 questions with Mary Ludemann, custom home builder and owner of New Old
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New Old, an award-winning custom home builder, has built some of the most stunning homes around our city.

I could scroll through the New Old project gallery for hours. I love their taste.

So I reached out to  Mary Ludemann, who learned custom home building from her father, for a quick interview.

We met in the afternoon at New Old’s office in Fort Mill. I found her to be relatable, a little shy, direct and the type of person that you’d immediately trust because “they just get it.”

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New Old’s office is located in Fort Mill’s Baxter Town Center. Agenda related guides: Best builders in Charlotte and best architects in Charlotte

What’s your official job title?

Managing Member at New Old. It’s myself and my husband. We’ve got four people on staff.

What type of computer and phone do you use?

MacBook and an iPhone 7s. I think. I don’t do any of our technology, my husband just gives me the new stuff.

What apps do you use every day?

We use Buildertrend. It’s a construction project collaboration software.

What everyday thing are you really good at?

Multi-tasking and problem-solving. There’s five million fires all the time in this business.

I’d also say prioritizing. I’m very good at figuring out what the most important fire is to put out and telling the team – “OK, drop everything and do A, B and C first.” I learned this the hard way. If I don’t give that direction, a minor little fire can blow up into a forest fire.

What’s your best time-management practice?

The biggest time suck is not finishing something the first time you touch it. It sounds so obvious, but if you have 5 minutes to finish something while it’s fresh, do it. When I come back to items, I have to spend 10 minutes or more just reviewing notes to get up to speed on the issues.

Do you have any unusual habits?

I pace when I talk on the phone.

What’s the best job advice you’ve ever received?

I was the first employee of Ric Elias and Dan Feldstein, who you know from Red Ventures. It was Red F back then. We had a rented office suite off of Tyvola. It was just one room. I got a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how two very intelligent guys put their company together.

Ric is hard on you. He pushes you to be your best. He’d have me go do research and bring a single answer to the question he had. When I would present an answer, he’d shoot off 10 rapid-fire questions that were similar to the first but I didn’t have answers for. He’d then say, “No, you have to think this through full-circle and don’t come back to me again until you’ve thought this all the way through and you have imagined every response I’m going to have.”

At the time, I thought Ric was kind of crazy — but this has helped me more than you can imagine. Now as I sit down with clients, it’s a natural habit that I think through all their issues before they even come up.

What are your social media habits?

Instagram.

Why are there not more female builders?

I don’t know. There should be. It’s a similar skill set to interior design.

What’s a recent purchase of less than $100 that’s most improved your life?

Nespresso coffee makerI can’t get by without it. [Note: it’s $150, but we’ll let it slide]

How much sleep do you get each night?

I’m a night owl. I don’t sleep too much. I typically wait until Wednesday to pull any all-nighters.


OK, let’s take a brief break from this interview to obsess over these kitchens built by New Old. 

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What leads to new clients?

We’ve landed clients through Houzz. We get a lot of emails from Instagram. Word of mouth works a lot.

I’m actually very private, but I’m trying to get out more and meet more architects and brokers.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Every day is different. Every build is different. Every client is different. And I get to be creative.

I’m not afraid of hard work. You meet so many people in this industry — and it’s such an interesting range of people.

Where do you go around Charlotte to get away from the office?

I love wide open spaces. I go to Anne Springs Close Greenway, right down the street. We actually just started boarding my daughter’s horse down there. I love the long drive down their long gravel road.

We also go to Asheville a lot. I’m a mountain girl. My favorite place to stay there is the Grove Park Inn.

What’s your advice for an entrepreneurial parent?

It’s a constant struggle. Don’t beat yourself up; nobody can be the best at everything at any one time.

And be very present wherever you are. Whether it’s a glass of wine with girlfriends or spending time with your kids in the kitchen, put your phone down.

Parenting is full of crazy moments, but enjoy it while you’re in it and give it your all.

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If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing?

Realistically, I thought I would be an attorney. Law sounds fun.

What general advice do you have for people working with builders?

Clients need to be totally honest. Just cut through the BS. Try to say exactly what you want and how much you can spend.

There is no such thing as over-communication — we’re trying to make this intangible dream a real thing.

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What’s the best investment you’ve ever made?

Personal assistant. Hands down.

Advice to your 30-year-old self?

Keep trying to find the right balance, but it’s OK if you don’t. I don’t know if I’ll ever find the right balance.

What’s something small but meaningful that you’re working on?

I’m trying to do more handwritten thank you notes on how a person has touched my life, not just a thank you. It takes more time than just clicking a mouse.

What other Charlottean would you like to answer these questions?

Anne Springs. She’s 90 years old. On her birthday, she swims the same number of laps as her age.

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