Chris Adams came from humble beginnings when he first entered the construction industry as a high school student pushing a broom on a jobsite to make extra money. But even from that slow start, those around him saw potential.
He was hardworking, eager to learn, and open to whatever opportunities came his way. By the age of 20, a builder from his hometown of Erie, Penn., paid Adams to relocate to Colorado to help him build custom homes in Steamboat Springs.
“At the time, I didn't know much,” says Adams. “I was just cleaning, picking stuff up, and crowning wood. Over time, he taught me more and more, and that’s really what got my foot in the door. For years, he paid my rent and bills to keep me on his team and train me.”
That early connection inspired Adams. A decade later, he still keeps in touch with his first mentor. And in his day-to-day operations now running his own custom building company, he continues to practice the lesson that he most valued from that experience: the importance of building lasting relationships.
It’s that personability that made Adams one of Pro Builder’s 2023 Forty Under 40 honorees. According to Kate Adams, co-owner and office manager at A4 Homes—as well as Chris’ wife—“his down-to-earth demeanor brings an element to the build process that is one of a kind.” It’s also what helped him build his business from the ground up.
From building relationships to building custom homes, like the Atherton Traditional Estate (above), Chris Adams attributes his success to networking and an insatiable love for learning.
Image: A4 Homes
After growing up bearing the unforgiving chill of Lake Erie and later braving the same cold weather in Colorado, Adams eventually moved west to warmer climes and found himself in the San Francisco Bay Area working as a project manager overseeing both residential and commercial construction projects. His operational talents quickly garnered interest from the architects he was working with, who urged him to get his building license so they could work with him one-on-one. He finally took the leap and branched out on his own when people passing by his jobsites began inquiring about potential building opportunities.
Not only did he attract the attention of his peers and Bay Area passersby, but he also established trust and credibility with his clients, and he maintains those same relationships even today. “Because I got along with all the homeowners, I still get to show and tour the homes that I built with the other company to potential clients today,” he says. “Those homeowners still let me in their houses to tour them, and they give great references.”
After building up his portfolio as project manager for a large Bay Area builder, Adams branched out and began taking on projects independently for his own custom building company, A4 Homes.
Image: A4 Homes
But for Adams, no relationships are more important than family. It’s why he and his wife started A4 Homes, a Bay Area custom building company named after his family of four, which he calls the “Adams four.”
“Above all, family is my motivation. My wife and I are a great team. We've been doing this for a good amount of time now and we're not at each other's throats every day. We trust each other,” he says.” Also having two little girls and watching them grow up is the best motivation to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Adams explains that what sets A4 Homes apart from other custom builders in the Bay Area isn’t any rigid, one-size-fits-all business model, but instead, the same flexibility and openness that got him started in the industry. He’s still actively seeking out mentors, learning new approaches to old practices, and, as always, keeping his connections close.
“A lot of seasoned builders have a ‘my way or the highway’ approach, but we don’t do that,” he says. “A lot of the subs we work with are older than us, and I take their advice and listen to them every day. That’s not to say we change our business every day, but we do adapt. We try to stick with the times while embracing tried and true methods that actually work. We get along with our coworkers, we get along with our clients, and we make the jobsite a fun place to be. That’s what sets us apart from our competitors.”