David Weekley is founder and chairman of Houston-based David Weekley homes, the second-largest private home builder in the United States. Known for its dedication to customer satisfaction, the company has won Builder of the Year awards in Houston, Dallas, and Austin, Texas, and Orlando. Weekley is married to his high school sweetheart, Bonnie, and is the father of three. Gene Randall spoke with him in December.
BB: If 2006 is a cool-down year for new home sales, how will it play out?
DW: It will hit markets that have had the most rapid appreciation and investor sales. I think those will suffer the most.
BB: Will this mean changes in sales strategies?
DW: Well, yes. In some markets it will mean learning how to sell new homes, because (until now) there have been lines waiting to buy. So it will mean getting back to the basics of selling and marketing.
BB: If the consolidation of large public home builders continues, what does that mean for private builders?
BB: What's the biggest advantage of being private these days?
DW: I think it is the ability to make needed decisions without being second-guessed by third parties or worrying about stock prices going up and down.
BB: You have said you think you can double your business in the next five years. Are you glad there are no stockholders holding you to it?
DW: Well, I probably wouldn't have said that in the first place if I had to worry about reaction from shareholders.
BB: Your company seems to be a fixture on theFortunemagazine list of 100 best companies to work for.
DW: Lots of great people love the home building business and want to be more than mercenaries in terms of going to the highest bidder. Our tenure is much greater than that at other companies. It really depends on the culture that is created. We try to balance compassion and financial results. I am not driven to have to maximize every dollar every day the way some public companies are.
BB: Twenty years ago, your company had to recover from a $2 million loss. You did—and the rest is history. How did that brush with financial disaster affect your outlook?
DW: It makes me risk averse … sometimes. I don't get all the reward that other builders do because I won't take “bet your life” risks on land or some of those kinds of things.
BB: You have been honored for spending about half your time in humanitarian causes. Why is that important to you?
DW: I've been blessed to be financially successful. I have a responsibility to give back, and when I execute on that responsibility it brings real joy to my life.
BB: You and your wife have put two kids through Vanderbilt. Another is there now. How important has your family been to your success?
DW: At the end of the day, that's what we look back on and make the decision whether we've been successful in life or not … so it's very important.
BB: When you pick up a book, what's it likely to be?
DW: I just finished a book, [France's] Hesselbein on Leadership.
BB: What book has influenced you most on leadership issues?
DW:Built to Last (by Jim Collins) is probably seminal.
BB: You enjoy traveling, and New Zealand is a destination for you. What's the attraction?
DW: Outdoors, hiking … we're taking the family, including a new daughter-in-law. The six of us are going to be in a minivan, staying in hotels, and, for 10 days, are going to have a pretty in-depth family time.
BB: How about your polar bear trip to Canada?
DW: It seemed a pretty neat thing to do.
BB: Any lessons?
DW: Don't get snowed-in in Winnipeg.