It's been little more than a month since California-based Fieldstone Communities underwent a leadership change that put former Irvine Co. executive William McFarland in the company's CEO seat. The transition, which also moved Chad Ogden, former regional president of the company's Texas and Utah operations, into a corporate leadership role as company president, has gone smoothly, according to Fieldstone co-founder and vice chairman of the board Keith Johnson. Johnson said he expected the changes to help the company "focus on being as operationally excellent as we can" both in the near and longer term.
Johnson said McFarland was a natural choice to replace Frank Foster, who retired from his post as company CEO in 2009. "Bill has known us for many years," he said. Not only was Fieldstone a guest builder at one of The Irvine Co.'s flagship communities during McFarland's tenure, but McFarland also was an investor in the company and sat on the company's board.
"He had retired, but he is a guy who likes to work," Johnson said.Johnson described McFarland as "seasoned and very capable" when it comes to running day-to-day home building operations. However, he also noted that McFarland is "very well known in capital circles."
"This is a time when the industry is short on capital--and we are, too--so in that regard, he'll serve us well," Johnson said.
Like many of its private builder brethren, Fieldstone management has had to find creative sources of financing to not only keep the wheels moving day to day but also to invest in attractive land opportunities that will position the company well in a recovery. While it hasn't been easy, management's been able to make it happen, said Ogden. In fact, the company looks to be on track to keep volumes in 2010 even with 2009, which would mean the company would close just shy of 500 homes.
"What we've found is there are enough players--land sellers, contractors, materials suppliers, individual investors ... we've gone to all of those sources and put together three or four deals," Ogden said.
But while senior management is scouring the landscape for new capital sources, field operators are focused on "fundamental blocking and tackling," said Ogden. The company has made its mark on its markets by aiming to deliver the best value to home buyers, and, despite the management shift, that commitment remains a company stronghold, he said.
While value used to mean more square footage for the money, Ogden said that's changed a bit today. The company's average square footage has come down some, and it has introduced some new single-story plans. In addition, management has worked closely with its suppliers to incorporate some upgraded features, such as cabinets, lighting, and masonry, into more of its home designs without adding a whole lot of cost, Ogden said.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Ogden, UT.