Raising the bar across the industry, the 2006 APEX Awards honored not only top performance but also top talent. And with the downturn expected to last well into next year, the need to identify and retain that kind of talent is critical. Now is the time to take stock of your best leaders' accomplishments, keeping this competition in mind. This summer, Big Builder will once again start accepting APEX Award nominations, with the winners announced at the Big Builder '07 conference Nov. 27-29 in Las Vegas. For more information, please contact Sarah Yaussi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local Leaders: Ence Homes
Although they anticipated closings for 2006 to be at about the 319-homes mark, between Kim's superior sales skills, Tracy's construction know-how, and Troy's operations focus, the company expected to generate an average return on investment in 2006 of nearly 70 percent–a considerable increase from 2005.
In the past, the Ence brothers have been focused primarily on improving the quality of the homes, even moving toward more energy-efficient construction. However, with the market changing, they say price is a big concern. "One of the challenges we're running into now is affordability," says Tracy. "Our goal is to build a home to our [quality] expectations but make it still affordable."
Dynamo Divisions: Mercedes Homes
The boom time of the past few years has propelled Florida-based Mercedes Homes to new heights, making the 100 percent employee-owned company the second largest private builder in the nation. Despite solid overall company performance, two divisions in particular stand out, even as some of Mercedes' mainstay markets have softened.
Ginder says that with the downturn, he's focusing the division on gaining greater market share rather than growing just units or profits. And improving the customer experience is at the core of his strategy. He was "really excited" about the newest J.D. Power New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study results; his division made a "huge jump" in the rankings. "We moved the customer back to the center of our business," Ginder explains.
Barin says that the keys to good leadership during more challenging times are maximizing division strategies, exiting unprofitable segments, harnessing both customer and land developer relationships, and sticking to your core values.
Mercedes Homes' David Barin, 2006 APEX Award winner, shares his 11 guiding principles.
- Hire the best talent possible.
- Be a mentor every day to each employee.
- Rule with motivation; celebrate any and all successes.
- Discipline behind closed doors; praise in public.
- Develop daily and monthly systems for the division.
- Agree to disagree as a management team, but focus on the best idea no matter who created it; don't forget to give that person credit.
- Talk directly to the front-line staff to solve problems more efficiently.
- Stay mentally and physically fit; that means read and exercise.
- Give back to the community in which you build.
- Encourage family involvement; most top performers have happy home lives.
- Avoid becoming complacent; fire yourself often.
Regional Ruler: Standard Pacific Corp.
At the Big Builder '06 conference, Standard Pacific Corp.'s Southern California region president Scott Stowell proved to be the most bashful APEX Award winner. "I'm really embarrassed about this whole thing," he admits, noting that he was unaware he had even been nominated for the award until just days before the conference. However, with Standard Pacific CEO Steve Scarborough nodding in approval as Stowell collected his award before an audience of roughly 450 peers, it was clear that Stowell had little reason to feel self-conscious.
His major achievements include developing a scorecard to track the region's key drivers, implementing process improvement teams, creating employee satisfaction surveys, and launching a new supply chain initiative. These programs enhance the region's performance by improving the Standard Pacific experience for both customers and employees. And as proof of Stowell's commitment to this end, the region has a turnover rate just shy of 6 percent.
Stowell says his success in creating a positive group dynamic hinges on both communicating clearly and frequently with staffers and empowering them to make business decisions. "You have to make people understand how their work directly affects strategy," he explains.