David Drees is president and CEO of The Drees Co., one of the nation's largest private home builders. Founded in 1928 by his grandfather and based in Fort Mitchell, Ky., the company constructs more than 3,000 homes a year with revenues topping $1 billion. The Drees Co. is the leading home builder in the greater Cincinnati area and also has operations in several other markets across the country, including Dallas, Indianapolis, Nashville, Tenn., Jacksonville, Fla., and Raleigh, N.C. The company credits much of its success to customer service and repeat customers.
Drees and wife, Karen, have 11-year-old twins, Paige and Scottie, and a 17-year-old daughter, Alexa, who's aiming for design school. A devout Cincinnati Reds baseball fan, David and his father (company chairman Ralph Drees) are part owners of the team. Drees spoke with BIG BUILDER in September.
BB: Cincinnati has a rich baseball tradition. When you and your family rode in the opening day parade this year, was that like a dream come true?
DD: It was a neat experience. What really made it special was that George W. Bush threw out the first pitch. As a part owner, I got a chance to shake [his] hand and get our picture taken, so it was a great day.
DD: I am surprised that it's as widespread as it is. We have seen a downturn in almost every market that we build in, so I am surprised at that.
BB: What's the key to turning the situation around?
DD: Working through inventory levels. Even if sales don't rebound, if they stay steady, at least [then] we can start working on improving our gross margins versus going through severe discounts to move homes.
BB: How does your experience in previous slowdowns help your business today?
DD: Well, every experience is a little bit different. but the great thing about our company is we've got a very deep, strong, experienced management team. We tend not to overreact. We tend to stay the path. That has kind of been our M.O.