JEFFREY ORLEANS RUNS THE KIND of company that's the envy of a lot of production home builders. Orleans Homebuilders of Bensalem, Pa., is big and getting bigger, well on its way to $1 billion in annual revenues. But, while size matters, heft alone isn't what gives Orleans its appeal in the sector. In information systems, management, and capital structure and operational disciplines, Orleans and his executive team have built a company that looks and acts like a publicly traded, post-millennial corporation ought to look and act. At its cultural core, though, Orleans-the-younger has managed to preserve an entrepreneurial spirit and the distinct feel of a family business founded 85 years ago by his grandfather.
Just last summer, the company made business news with rapid-fire announcement of a pair of acquisitions that launched it into markets critical to a new level of ambition its third-generation CEO has set for the future.
In July, Orleans acquired Philadelphia-area builder Realen Homes for $60 million. As they say, the ink on that deal was barely dry when, in August, Orleans management announced their intent to acquire all the outstanding stock of Atlanta's Peachtree Residential Properties for an undisclosed sum.
“They were a sleepy little Philadelphia home builder,” says an investment banker familiar with the residential building market. “All of a sudden, they got religion and have created a lot of value for themselves.”
“Build An Organization” Since 2000, Orleans, now publicly traded on the American Stock Exchange (OHB), has been all trajectory. Revenues have more than doubled. Net income increased more than 500 percent. EPS multiplied by some 450 percent. Company revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, were more than $547 million, with net income in excess of $38 million. Revenues will top the$1 billion mark next fiscal year, Orleans says.
While making money, the company has also made news. Orleans was named to the Fortune list of 100 fastest-growing companies three times, and twice was listed among the 200 best small companies by Forbes magazine. It ranks 49th on the current Builder 100, up three notches from the previous year.
Jeffrey Orleans credits the arc of the trajectory—acquisitions, growth, and business media ink alike—to the fact that, early on, he was spending too much time on airplanes flying back and forth between Philadelphia and Florida.
It was 1986. Orleans' grandfather, with whom he ran the original family business, and his father, who operated a separate building company in Florida, had both recently passed away. Orleans found himself trying to run both businesses without much help. The management team in Florida wasn't very good, he says, and in Pennsylvania there wasn't much of a management team at all.
At that time, Orleans had an opportunity to sit down with a friend, Ed Snyder, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, who gave him simple but sound advice. “He told me, ‘build an organization,'” Orleans recalls.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Philadelphia, PA.