Frank McGuyer is chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Houston?based, 19-year-old private McGuyer Homebuilders (MHI). Earlier in his career, McGuyer worked for one-time public home builder General Homes for about 14 years. Today, MHI operates exclusively in four Texas markets, posting a record 3,450 closings in 2006. MHI maintains diversified operations within its markets and builds under separate brands for each product line: Pioneer Homes targets entry-level, Plantation Homes focuses on first-time move-up, Coventry Homes builds higher move-up and the recently revived brand of Carmel Builders delivers infill product. Born and raised in Houston, McGuyer and his wife Ann have two children. Brooke, 27, lives in Nashville and just started her own design and decorating business. Bart, 23, is pursuing a Ph.D. in physics at Princeton University. McGuyer spoke with senior editor Lisa Marquis Jackson in April.
FM: We've never really been about trying to just post numbers. In our previous experience with a large public builder (General Homes), [we went] after market share really to no avail. So, from the beginning, [at MHI] we were all about profits and not about volume.
BB: Human capital is a big issue right now and you are widely lauded for the tenure of your management team. What's your secret to keeping great people?
FM: We've always had a huge focus on the personnel and we've been fortunate since day one. In December 1988, we started with four people, and back then, the industry had a lot of available talent. At the appropriate time, we added the select people that we wanted. That's one thing in home building; if someone comes up with a new innovative product, it's not long before everyone has that same product. If you're really going to differentiate yourself, it's with the people. Just so no one tries to steal our people, [I want to say], we really overpay them [joking].
BB: The brand question is one that's constantly under discussion, so I'm interested in your strategy of having several versus having one corporate brand.
FM: It was something we learned from our experience at General, which initially went after the first-time home buyer in a large way. The last five years I was there, we didn't even have that product, because there wasn't a market for it. The company pioneered innovative product, but the public and realtor community had already stereotyped General as being this one dimension. [Maintaining several brands] has been more expensive and more complex since the beginning, but we felt it was important from the buyer's perspective. We found that our customers continue to appreciate that approach.
BB: Do you see this as an opportunistic time?
FM: We're always looking for opportunity. And, opportunities are always born out of hardship, especially in down times, but we've always been relatively conservative and cautious toward the markets.
BB: I understand you're active in an organization called the Young Presidents Organization (YPO).
FM: I used to be active in YPO. At [age] 50, you graduate. Now, it's [called] the World President's Organization (WPO). It's over 8,000 members worldwide and it's all about education and idea exchange in different parts of the world. It brings a very interesting perspective because you get so involved in your own little arena. It's nice every once in a while to step back.
BB: Outside the office, you're a golfer?
FM: It's fun. I was introduced to it later in life, and I didn't realize how time consuming it was–or how difficult. It's golf, so you have good days and bad days.
BB: Sounds like you are being modest. I've been told, 'He doesn't just enjoy it, he's very good at it.'
FM: Yeah, that's a great quote. Wish it were true.