Being a business owner always comes with unique challenges, but as a female business owner in a male-dominated industry, those challenges can be exponential. However, that didn’t stop Lindsay Warren, owner of Citadel Signature Homes, from pursuing her passion. In fact, she has earned the respect of her male colleagues, built a team of trusted agents, and established a reputation for building high-quality custom homes with an unmatched client experience.
As a child growing up in Holdrege, NE, Warren knew at an early age she wanted to be a business owner. At age 12 she baked and sold cheesecakes for events and at age 15 she started a home organization and cleaning business. Her grandfather was a custom home builder in her hometown, and she lived through her parents rehabbing two farm houses, complete with having to wash dishes in the bathroom sink for a month. But it was her experience working in the hospitality industry—first in Kansas City and then at the Hilton in Omaha—that taught her how to provide excellent customer service.
In 2009 she transitioned into the home building industry where she managed employees, compliance, processes, and systems. “I saw a lot of discrepancy between clients who liked the end result but weren’t happy with the building process,” she said. So, she set the goal of starting her own home building business to provide clients with a different experience, adding, “you don’t have to hate your builder at the end of it.” With three small children at home, rather than rush into it, Warren took her time to ensure she had a clear business plan. In 2017, she finally felt the timing was right and “dove in.”
During a dinner out with her parents, her father suggested the name “Citadel” because it’s a synonym for “safety” and “fortress”—words that Warren felt accurately reflect a home’s purpose. The client experience that Citadel offers starts off with the real estate agents Warren partners with to represent her. “I want the agents to be industry experts,” she said. This includes having them attend walk-throughs with their client during the build process. “They learn something new every time, and it helps them sell better too.”
Warren also said she sets very clear expectations for the client from day one: deadlines for making decisions, what happens if weather causes a delay, and she can help accommodate a client’s busy schedule—such as bringing design items to their office—to make the process easier. She also ensures that she is reachable 24/7 to answer any questions the client might have.
Relationships with subcontractors is another area that Warren said she’s worked really hard to secure. With a shortage of laborers, it’s critical to retain the best subcontractors. “Subs are a reflection of us, and ours are the best in the industry,” she said. Because custom home builders often share subcontractors, Warren said communication is just as important with them as it is with clients.
Following the completion of a home, Warren continues to keep in contact with clients, because that’s a pain point for many new homeowners. “When I was previously in the construction industry, clients couldn’t reach their builder after they closed,” she said. “We aren’t going anywhere and won’t stop taking your calls. We want the relationship to last.” Citadel builds 10-15 custom homes per year in the $400,000 and up price range. There are no set floor plans or a model home, because they don’t build the exact same home twice.
Warren’s successes haven’t come easily, especially with the challenges she had to overcome. Before she launched Citadel, she was told by multiple people, even some she highly respected, not to go into the industry because she’s a woman. Despite the challenges of being questioned as to why she was on a job site or taken less seriously, she said she never questioned her decision to be in this business. “I had to prove myself, but I’ve done that now,” she said. In fact, she’s “found her people” as a member of the Professional Women in Building and the National Association of Homebuilders where she’s met other female builders. “It’s been very inspiring, and if they can do it, I can too.”
Warren recently mentored two high school girls interested in the industry, one of whom is now working for an electrician. She’d also like to create a non-profit that brings education and awareness to women for the trades and funds opportunities for them. “I’d love to see more women in the construction industry in general,” she said. “Women are usually detailed, organized, and have good people skills, and that’s what you need to be successful in this industry.”
Warren has taken her client experience and processes and extended them to a basement finishing company, Hawthorne Finished Basements, which she launched last year. Her goal is to continue building more homes and scale the basement company over the next several years. Her best advice for anyone in the market to build a home is to do your due diligence—get referrals and walk through other builders’ sites. “I back my product, we pick the best subs, and we’re not going anywhere in the end. I’m confident in our reputation.” For more information, visit