Brett Whitehead has been the engine behind Brandywine Homes’ growth for the last 12 years. But Whitehead certainly hasn't done it alone; it's a family affair.
Whitehead, along with his stepfather, brother and stepbrother, have charted a path that has made the Irvine, Calif.-based company competitive with large public companies, like Toll Brothers, that dominate high barrier-to-entry markets.
“[Being smaller] makes us more nimble, more flexible,” he says. “And maybe, we look at the market a little differently than the publics do," Whitehead says.
And, Whitehead may look at a piece of dirt differently than the publics. While a bigger public may look at a small site and wonder how to get the density to make it profitable, Whitehead sees opportunity.
“The publics wouldn’t do 15 units, or 28, it may be a stretch for them," he says. "They need larger projects.”
In Yorba Linda, Calif., specifically, Whitehead's flexibility translated into building an array of products on a smaller scale than the larger competitors.
“It’s in a pretty confined city--there isn’t much land left out there,” he says. “So, we thought that we would hit all segments because Yorba Linda can handle it. It’s that well-established type of a city and these are bite-sized projects, we can get in and out pretty quickly.”
In February, the company broke ground on a 3.24-acre community in Yorba Linda with the plan to build a 28-home urban infill community called Provence.
The company also has two additional housing developments
under way in the city, including a 51-unit townhome community and a high-end, custom
home project. When all of the projects are complete, the company will offer homes ranging from $600,000 up to $1.5 million, Whitehead says.
Brandywine was founded by Jim Barisic, Whitehead’s stepfather, in 1994. Barisic serves as chairman of the company while his three sons serve as the officers. “It’s interesting because they each fell into a niche that fits them perfectly,” Jim Barisic says.
When Barisic started the company, he brought on his stepson, Mark Whitehead, to help get it going. Whitehead now spearheads operations as a company vice president. His son, David Barisic, joined the company 12 years ago.
“At that point, we needed someone to run sales, marketing
promotions and customer service,” Jim Barisic says. Today David Barisic oversees those parts of the company as a
Brett Whitehead was brought on around the same time as David, and his background in finance made him a prime candidate to lead the company.
“It actually was a collective decision … ,” Jim Barisic says. “Numbers rule any business. They rule a business once it gets going. But in our particular business, you have to have someone who likes to go out and make deals and put them together. Brett loves the deal making. He loves structuring transactions. So it just made sense.”
And while some people say you should never mix business with family, the Brandywine executive team has learned how to separate the two spheres:
“We have a rule in the family; we never talk about business when we get together for family functions unless we’re joking about it,” Jim Barisic says. “And that rule is pretty ironclad. Each boy doesn’t get in the other boy’s daily work, so to speak. They respect each other. And I think, working together as adults, they’ve learned to respect and trust each other’s abilities.”