For Drees Homes and London Bay Homes, winners of America’s Best Builders for 2008, the last 12 months saw challenges met head on, new initiatives undertaken, and carefully thought-out processes leading to success.
This year’s winners were not shocked by the market downturn. Despite being in a number of hard-hit markets, Drees posted good—if not great—financial numbers, and continued a push to modernize its operation through technology and business process reinvention. London Bay defied all logic by posting its most successful year amid turmoil in Southwest Florida. While employee cutbacks were made, neither company gouged its workforce to improve its bottom line.
For Drees, 2008 marks its third America’s Best Builder title. This year heralds London Bay’s first time in the winner’s circle.
Perhaps the greatest value a company seeking to be voted one of America’s Best Builders will find is in the arduous application process. More than a few past winners have admitted that it took them several years of practice filling out the long and detailed application before they even had the courage to submit for the award.
What did they gain? Knowledge. An understanding about their company—how it was being run, what its deficiencies were, and where it was headed—that they did not have before, say several current and past winners.
“There are some people who don’t apply because they feel embarrassed about the performance of the company,” says London Bay Homes vice president and CFO Stephen Wilson. “From 2003 through 2005, we weren’t satisfied with our state of operations, so we didn’t feel like we were qualified to compete for America’s Best Builder.”
After entering in 2002, London Bay did not re-apply until this year. During that time London Bay found its groove, exploited its niche market in Naples, Fla., and now can proudly call itself one of America’s Best Builders.
“It’s a bit of a downer of an industry to be in at the moment,” Wilson says. “Other people’s friends and family members in the industry are being let go. For us to be able to say, ‘Hey guys, we’re America’s Best Builder, feel really proud about that,’ is a great motivator for our team.”