Joseph C. McBride started St. Louis, Mo.-based McBride & Son Homes in 1946 with a simple mission: to provide affordable housing to GIs returning from World War II. Even with such ambitious plans, it's doubtful McBride had any inkling of what his company would eventually become. Now piloted by CEO John Eilerman who started with the company as an estimator, McBride is active in four markets, has annual closings in excess of 2,200 homes, and is ranked among the nation's top 40 home builders. In October, Eilerman shared his personal philosophies on family and running the company with a long-term perspective with senior editor Les Shaver.
JE: Joseph McBride [was working as] a carpenter and maintenance man for Carter Carburetor Co., and he saw the need to provide affordable housing for returning GIs. With a loan for tools, he built his first home in North St. Louis County.
BB: Your company takes a long-term view of the market. How has that helped in the downturn?
JE: Being a privately held company is a tremendous advantage to us, as we do not have to make short-term moves to satisfy a quarterly report. In 1988, McBride & Son's Stock Ownership Plan was implemented. The corporation became fully owned by its employees. And as an employee owned company, all of our employees have a vested interest in our success and look out for the company's best interests when making a decision. The employees have adopted the mantra, "We have chosen not to participate in the downturn."
BB: Human capital is a big issue right now as everyone in the industry tries to top-grade their organizations and do more with less. What's your strategy to motivate people in challenging times?
JE: We've always had the attitude of doing more with less. All of our people are cross trained to do multiple jobs and, being an employee owned company, we have a culture that does not allow a "that's not my job" attitude. Employees at all levels are on incentive compensation programs, and all of our key managers are incentive-driven on the bottom line.
BB: Is it an advantage or disadvantage to have a development company in these times?
JE: It has absolutely given us a competitive advantage in good times, and now, in more difficult times, it has become even more critical. Our development company team members are employee owners, too, so they keep the home building interests in mind from start to finish. By controlling land, we can control our destiny. When the market rebounds, we will be able to capitalize on the many opportunities that will present themselves.
BB: Can you tell me about your family?
JE: We consider our McBride & Son family an extension of our own [family]. Our children Jake, 16; Abbey, 14; and Sally, 9; have basically grown up in and around our McBride family. They have lots of "aunts" and "uncles" at daddy's work. My wife of 18 years, Lisa, is also a big part of helping to not only juggle family life and work life, but to combine the two.
BB: Other industry leaders have shared personal stories about everything from fishing and wine enthusiasm to international travel and racecars. What are your passions?
JE: I'm most passionate about my family, and being the father of three very active children takes all the passion I can muster. We have a cottage on a lake an hour southwest of St. Louis, and I can't tell you how many kids I have taught to water ski and how many slumber parties we've hosted [there]. It's a lot of fun.