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June, 2011

  1. Building Beyond the Blueprint

    June 27, 2011 by Jeff Forrest

    Building Beyond the Blueprint

    Throughout our 37 years, many people have tried to define the “WPC Way”  Is it a culture or an attitude? Is it what we do or how we do it? If you ask anyone who has been a part of this company, chances are you’ll get a multitude of answers. But, I suppose, we should ask why we do the things that we do in the first place. Now that’s a good question.

    One very good reason is the fact that, at last count, there were more than 80,000 commercial general contractors in the U.S. alone.  Not to mention some bad apples that have given our industry’s reputation a few bruises. That’s a lot of competition and predisposition to overcome.  To stand out in a sea of GCs and capture our fair share of work requires us to be special…to be different.

    A lot of contractors can build good projects at a competitive price. Frankly, following plans, specifications, and codes, and listening to your client should be cost of entry for any good contractor. We also do those things, but that’s not what makes us different. It’s all the other things we do that result in building beyond the blueprint.

    The short answer to why WPC builds beyond the blueprint is that, if we didn’t, someone else would fill the vacuum.  If we don’t stay ahead of the competition, if we don’t constantly look for ways to improve, we’ll end up stagnant or out of business. Why is it that companies like Apple, Facebook, Wal-Mart, Target, and Google continue to thrive and others like MySpace, Kmart, and AOL do not? The former have core values and fundamentals that they execute at the highest levels. They don’t rest on what they’ve done and strive to always keep improving.

    Building beyond the blueprint means more than I can describe in this article. At WPC we live it every day and execute it at the highest level. We must fight to keep our spot among the elite general contractors and not become a commodity.

  2. Stay Calm and Carry On

    June 20, 2011 by Jeff Forrest

    Stay Calm and Carry On

    Recently I was asked how our company has survived during this economic downturn and its lack of opportunities in our industry.  When reflecting on the last couple of years, I believe it has less to do with what practices enabled us to merely stay afloat, and more of what attributes our company possesses that have always set us apart.What is it that we do that continues to inspire us in times of uncertainty?

    Much of it has to do with innovative thinking and a switch in focus. We channeled most of our sales and marketing efforts into renovations rather than new construction.  It was an opportunity to enhance and perfect familiar projects while also helping set up our clients for success. It was a decision that paid off, as were able to complete more than $7 million in timeshare resort renovations during 2010.

    However, we believe that what defines us is something deeper. It’s about going “beyond the blueprint”.  This workplace focuses on BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS.  During the past few years, while timeshare construction was barely moving, we were given opportunities to build alliances with other general contractors from all over the country, which allowed us to geographically broaden our capabilities for future projects.  We continue to be dedicated to building projects that are carefully and strategically planned from the ground up.  Remaining focused on the quality of our work, rather than quantity, strengthens our relationships with our clients.

    WPC’s philosophy of “do the right thing, every time” stands true, especially during times when work is less abundant. Our strong mission, combined with our conservative mentality and continuous positive attitude, sustained us during a stressful financial period.

  3. What do I do for a living?

    June 18, 2011 by Jeff Forrest

    What do I do for a living?

    I was asked recently what I did for a living. I started to say that I’m a builder. Instead I said that I provide places for people to live, be cared for, go on vacation and raise families and I do it at a company that has amazing people who truly care about what they are doing. I said that when we are finished building a project, that we are proud of how we worked to make sure we did the best job possible and that everyone involved will remember having a great experience.  The answer to the question what we do… should be why we do it.  We do it because we want people to enjoy every part of the building process from the moment they meet us, while we’re building it, to the time someone lives, works or plays in or on our project and many years beyond.

    That answer was galvanized in my brain and my heart last week when I attended the ribbon cutting for the first home competed at our Heroes Manor project at Camp Lejeune.  Phase I of Heroes Manor is a military housing project on the Marine base in North Carolina consisting of 120 duplex buildings (240 units). Although on the Marine base, WPC is working for Lincoln Military Housing, a subsidiary of Lincoln properties.

    A young Marine, his wife, and their 3-week-old baby are the first occupants of the home and were there to commemorate the completion by cutting the ribbon along with Base Commanding Officer Colonel Daniel Lecce. (If you want the definition of a true leader and outstanding Marine, all you have to do is shake the hand of Colonel Lecce and listen to him speak. I almost enlisted on the spot.) The young Marine will be heading on his first tour of duty to the Middle East within a few weeks but he will rest easy knowing that his wife and new baby will be safe and sound living in a wonderful new home built with pride by WPC.

  4. The Story of Contractors Who Care

    June 13, 2011 by Jeff Forrest

    I was never shy when it came to asking my friends, colleagues, vendors and clients for contributions to whatever cause I was raising money for. I wouldn’t ask very often, but I always felt the causes were worth every effort when I did ask.  Yet in the back of my head, I knew more could be accomplished if I was able to reach a greater number of people. The idea was simple; it’s easier to ask 100 people for $100 dollars than to find 10 people to contribute $1,000. The key was reaching these100 people.

    When my father died in 1997, I thought it would be honorable to create a scholarship in his name for a student interested in the construction industry. In order to make that happen, I’d have to connect to another 100 people. This only meant one thing; I needed to reach more people.

    WPC regularly donates to worthy causes. At our peak when the economy was flourishing, we donated tens of thousands of dollars annually to various organizations. When the economy changed and we were forced to reduce our spending, I realized that it would take a collaborated effort in order to help those organizations in a time when they needed it most. One hundred people would no longer be enough. I would need to multiply the number of people I was connecting to. The only place I knew to turn was within my own industry. One with hundreds of thousands of companies, vendors and networked contacts, the construction industry was the answer. If I could reach out to a large portion of those people and get them to donate, on average, $100 each, then we could raise millions of dollars for worthy causes.

    Having had the idea in my head for at least ten years and having talked about it with friends and family for several years, the time had come to act. I presented the idea to my Harvard classmates in May of 2011 and received the advice, feedback and encouragement I needed to move forward.

    The question was how to galvanize such a large group of people behind the idea. How would I convince them that we needed to do this? I realized that the answer is in our DNA. It is our instinct to help people. Caring is part of who we are as humans beings. With that, I knew I needed to ask our industry to care, thus Contractors Who Care (CWC) was born.

    The next step was to cultivate a message with purpose and intent so that people would feel compelled to be involved with CWC. First and foremost, our goal is to give 100% of funds raised, back to our communities. Giving back to the communities in which we work, live and play is the cornerstone of this organization. We need to impact people that we see everyday and we want them to know we care.

    Initially, there are at least two areas where funds will be distributed:

      • Charitable Organizations:
        • Applications from people and charitable organizations requesting contributions will be accepted via the CWC web site, Those applications will be thoroughly screened to ensure their needs. The board will then vote on which ones will receive the funds raised during the calendar year.
      • College Scholarship
        • Funds will go towards scholarships named after my father, D.E. “Jim” Forrest. Applicants for the scholarship will be screened based on economic need as well as their desire to make a difference in our industry.
    • As the organization grows, we will revisit each of these to ensure we are making a difference in the right areas and adjust the way funds are distributed to make the greatest impact.

      Contributors will be considered Members of Contractors Who Care. Membership is considered a Badge of Honor that allows companies to display the CWC logo with pride on their websites, marketing propaganda and job sites. Brand recognition would be enhanced for both CWC and the Members.  Our industry will have a universally recognized symbol of caring that we can all be proud of.

      We will hold industry fundraisers allowing us to come together to increase awareness of the organization, to distribute funds to the selected charities and award the scholarship winners. The vision is that Contractors Who Care will grow to a national and, potentially, international level and caring will become synonymous with our industry.

      As I tell the story of Contractors Who Care to anyone who’ll listen, I receive resounding approval and anticipation from people inside and outside our industry. The idea has now become reality. I know together we will make a difference.

      This is just the beginning of the story and I look forward to having you help me tell more of it as time progresses. Today, I ask you to care by staying tuned as the story of Contractors Who Care unfolds.

      The following social media sites and websites are active.

  5. Competing Against Acceptable

    June 10, 2011 by Jeff Forrest

    Why is it that acceptable is…well, acceptable? Whether it is quality work or good service, why are we surprised when we see it or receive it? More often than not, we accept acceptable because it is more the norm than exceptional work or service. Perhaps it comes down to price. People are willing to pay less as long as they get an acceptable return. We see it everyday in the construction industry and for the WPC team, acceptable is not…acceptable.

    When we think of companies like Apple, Ritz Carlton, Disney and others that provide exceptional products or service, we realize that what people really are seeking is quality.  People pay more for an Apple product, a room at the Ritz or a ticket to go see Mickey but they expect their experience to be excellent. That’s how we want WPC to be thought of. When people see our logo or talk about our work, we want it to be synonymous with amazing customer service and outstanding quality.  We want them to feel good about the value they receive for the price they pay.

    Competing against acceptable is not easy because cost is such a driving factor in the decisions that our clients make. Estimating and pre-construction’s job is to show our clients what the “real” price is for quality work and to show them the value in every number we give them.  This includes costs for proper water intrusion details, higher quality windows, exterior paints and other quality materials that are critical to achieving exceptional. Using prices from subcontractors that will not only start the job but will finish it is part of the exceptional formula. Operation’s job is to provide enough experienced supervision to make sure all these things come together and that we execute with excellence. That is what WPC does and that is why people tell us over and over again that our work is the best they’ve ever seen. Why is that not normal? I suppose it’s better for us that it isn’t.

    It takes every member of the WPC team to provide quality work and exceptional customer service. It takes every member of the WPC team to Build Beyond the Blueprint. Whether answering the phone, paying subs and suppliers, interacting with architects and consultants, preparing status reports or on the front lines at a job, everything will be remembered. It’s how WPC is remembered that is the distinguishing factor.

  6. Gratitude Built On Remembrance

    June 8, 2011 by Jeff Forrest

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed an increasing number of documentaries and TV shows on September 11, 2001 (9/11). As we approach the 10th anniversary of that life-changing day, I found myself contemplating the past 10 years and how that day changed our lives. I wont go into where I was or what I was doing on that day. We all have our own personal stories. But, as I reflect I realize that as a company, perhaps 9/11 made us more patriotic. Not too long after 9/11 we added an 800 square foot American flag on the front of our corporate office. In addition, as you walk into our lobby you’ll find a plaque memorializing the events of 9/11. It’s unfortunate that it takes something of such a catastrophic nature to open our eyes to what we take for granted everyday; the freedom that is provided to us by so many men and woman protecting us both on our own soil and abroad.

    What has become very apparent to me in the past decade are the choices we’ve made and the added meaning behind some of our charitable activities. Specifically, charities related to wounded veterans that hit a special cord in our sentiments. Perhaps they have more meaning because so many young men and woman are fighting wars that were motivated by 9/11. And, as a result, more and more of them are being permanently injured or killed.

    We were approached a few years back by the Johnny Damon foundation to sponsor his events. The idea that Johnny was the national spokesperson for the Wounded Warrior Project and that a portion of the proceeds from his events goes to the WWP made us far more willing to provide support. And when WPC was asked to participate in the Home at Last projects, a unique effort to honor combat-wounded veterans of the present military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan by providing them with mortgage-free homes, we jumped at the opportunity. We’ve proudly participated in the construction of three of those homes and, without hesitation, have signed up for the fourth. WPC will continue to support these efforts and others with honor and patriotic commitment.

    A considerable number of lives were affected far more personally than I was as a result of the events on 9/11.  Yet seeing how our charitable actions affect these wounded vets adds a special sense of pride.

  7. 2011 Comes to a Close

    June 7, 2011 by Jeff Forrest

    As I write this month’s blog, I am at 37,000 feet flying from Hong Kong to Manila. Ultimately, I will end up on Boracay Island in the Philippines for the wedding of two of my best friends, Angela & Eric. That’s probably more information than you need to know, but for me it is the culmination of a roller coaster ride of a year and one that ends on a high note – both literally and figuratively.

    The year began with hopes of a steady economic recovery and hopeful growth in our markets that include multifamily, student housing, senior housing, military housing and hospitality. At one time or another in 2011, we had new construction or renovation projects in every one of these market segments and were fortunate to be busy…perhaps busier than most. We started the University House Central Florida student housing project near UCF, the Serenades by Sonata memory care facility in Longwood, Florida; the Lost Creek Apartments project in Manatee County, Florida; and Heroes Village military housing at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina. In addition, we were already working with Vacation Villas at Fantasy World on their new water park and administration building as well as remodeling timeshare units for our long time client, Orange Lake Country Club.

    The outlook was very positive, especially compared to 2010. Our pre-construction and estimating department was busier than ever working on both certain and potential projects. Many of these projects, however, were stymied mid-year by the uncertainty of the US financial situation. The inability of our politicians to work towards a solution that was in the best interest of our country frightened many. This made decision making difficult as related to financing and development. The hesitancy continued for the remainder of the year with not only political bickering between parties, but the onset of next year’s election and the candidates sparring for position. Continued financial unrest both domestically and abroad did nothing to help the situation. Thus, uncertainty continued.

    In addition to all this, the financial strength of many subcontractors and suppliers was being tested as result of lower margins and tighter competition. Some of these venders, many seasoned with a history of fiscal responsibility, fell by the wayside effecting the schedules and economics of projects. This was not a recipe for success and, unfortunately, we have not seen the end of these failures.

    In spite of all the challenges we faced, we were fortunate to continue to capture work. We negotiated the second phase of the Heroes Village project, began pre-construction on the next Serenades at Sonata to be built in Winter Garden, Florida and started a renovation project in Las Vegas with our teaming partner, Penta Building Group Penta and WPC are also preparing to break ground on the next tower of The Grandview at Las Vegas. In addition, we were selected to provide pre-construction services for two downtown Orlando multifamily projects and have been working with a new client on multifamily deals in Tampa and South Florida.

    The old adage that people do business with those who they know, like and trust is very true for WPC. The opportunities continue to be there as we build on lasting relationships and cultivate new ones. Those developers that value what we provide over our competitors, who want exceptional rather than acceptable, will be who we work hard for and will be the ones that help us survive in these continually troubled times. Building Beyond the Blueprint is more than just a saying; it is the culture of WPC and our efforts will always be to strive to distinguish ourselves through something more than being treated as a commodity.

    As I prepare to land in Manila, I also prepare to arrive at gate 2012. WPC remains cautious about the future regardless of what we are faced with. We will always follow the words of my father; wake up everyday and work hard. Although I won’t share with you the shenanigans that will no doubt occur at this wedding, trust me when I say that it will be memorable. These are the kinds of memories I hope all of you had for 2011 and will have in 2012.