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June, 2012

  1. Heading to Sin City

    June 29, 2012 by Jeff Forrest

    It’s nice to be back in Orlando for a few days. For the past three weeks I have been at OPM, an executive education program at Harvard Business School.  Many people describe it as an executive MBA but it is much more than that.  This was the second year of a three-year program and I enjoyed spending time with my classmates, studying, absorbing and sharing knowledge in order to improve the way we look at our businesses.  I’m looking forward to wrapping things up next year and graduating with my 160 plus classmates from all over the world.  A special shout out to OPM43 Group 15 and Group 51.  Thanks for your friendship and for helping me so much these past 2 years.

    In a few short days I head to the 2012 ARDA World Conference to network with new and existing clients, as well as consultants and venders in the resort and timeshare industry; many of which I call friends.  Having been a member of ARDA, (American Resort and Development Association) for many years, I always look forward to this annual meeting and this year should not disappoint. The conference alternates annually between Las Vegas and Orlando and this year it will be in Sin City.

    Vegas has become a second home over the past decade due to the amount of work we do there.  Just last week, our construction partner, Penta Building Group, broke ground on the final tower on the north parcel at The Grandview at Las Vegas.  WPC has been the construction manager/owner’s rep for this great client since the project started.  As we build the last 200 units of this 1,100+ unit project, we’re already planning the next 1,000 units for the south parcel.  Construction should begin there in 2014.

    In addition to Grandview, for the past 6 months we’ve been doing renovation work in Las Vegas on the Desert Club Resort for another fantastic, long-term client.  The grand re-opening of the sales building occurs during the ARDA conference and I’m looking forward to seeing the great work of our renovations division.

    What is interesting about these two projects, and more importantly these two clients, is that the relationship started out with WPC providing general contracting services in Orlando.  Because the WPC team provided an exceptional experience on the Orlando projects, these clients ask us to travel with them. They trust us to look out for their interest, to be fair with our pricing and to provide the same level of customer service and quality in other cities.  They appreciate the value we provide and in turn, we work hard to meet or exceed their expectations.  It is these kinds of relationship that we seek, develop, and maintain on a daily basis. Thank you for letting us be a part of your team.

    Time for me to pack my bags and head to Sin City. Even though my son is a professional poker player and lives in Vegas 2 months out of the year playing the WSOP events, I don’t go to Vegas to gamble. In fact in the past 10 years, I’ve spent less than $500 in fun at the casinos. I figure being in the construction business is all the gambling excitement I need.  I wont be writing about my adventures in next month’s blog.


  2. All-Stars

    June 17, 2012 by Jeff Forrest

    I decided I needed to take a more “warm and fuzzy” approach to this month’s blog, because apparently I ruffled a few feathers last month.  Even though that was the intent and I received more positive feedback from that piece than any of my others, I’ll stay on the “PC” path this time around…  but don’t get too use to it.

    Some of you might know that I am a huge NBA fan and have been a season ticket holder for the Orlando Magic for 23 years.  My son turned 23 last July and I have raised not only a great kid, but also a die-hard Magic fan.  I say all that because Orlando is getting ready to host the NBA All-Star game next week and my son and I could not be more excited.  Not just because I want to see the actual event, but because our city will come alive for that week and realize a huge boost of much needed income and spirit.

    As I read the list of “All-Stars” that will be here and playing, I started to think of our own All-Stars. i The WPC All-Stars that have dedicated their careers to working for this great company and who have truly made us successful.  We measure success in many ways, and obviously revenue and profits are one of those ways, but for me, one of the best metrics of success is how long people have been a part of the WPC family.

    Take a look at this list:

    15 to 20 years…
    Shawn Maes
    Nick Transue
    David Cooper
    Robert Soper
    Charlie Cecil
    Mike Ferguson
    Mike Barton
    Rex Davidson
    Kevin Corrado
    Chuck Reynolds
    Harry Rogers
    Chris Ambrose

    20 to 25 years…
    Wes Vanderbunt

    25 to 30 years…
    Paul Caruana
    Dave Emde
    Holly Blankenship
    Mary Dussault

    Over 30 years…
    John McCahan
    Larry Muller

    Think about what that says about a company.  What it says about perseverance, loyalty, and dedication from the team members’ point of view.  What it says about the culture of our company and what it means to long-term clients who call us after many years and get to hear a familiar voice. For me, personally, it means that I wake up everyday knowing that I can tell the story of how we strive to be the best construction company in the business and that there are people that I can trust to work hard everyday to keep our reputation.

    Of course we have a lot of young talent that keep us old guys on our toes and push us to stay ahead of the curve.  The combination of new and seasoned staff makes for a great recipe and it also makes for sustainability.  The company is 38 years old this year, and I have no doubt it will be around for decades to come.

    So, as the city starts filling up with basketball stars, fans, and media, I’ll be cheering for more than just my favorite sport.  I’ll be cheering for the WPC team to keep running the plays that make us great.

    P.S.  I will not be cheering for Lebron.


  3. Are some companies taking a step back?

    June 15, 2012 by Jeff Forrest

    We are half way through the year and summer is in full effect. Traveling between Orlando and Las Vegas during this time of year puts me in extreme climates: hot and humid, and hot and dry, though it is hard to complain about having work in either of these vibrant cities.

    One thing is for sure: the competitive landscape remains as tight as ever. However, there is an uneasy trend developing and it should concern all of us. We are finding more and more general contractors and subcontractors cutting corners in order to compete. Whether this is with less manpower to supervise the work, alternative materials of lesser quality or paying less attention to important details that will become critical in the long term, it appears that some companies are taking a step back in order to survive. In the end, it will come back to haunt them and, without question, the clients and end user are getting less value. It is scary that some clients are okay with getting less because it is the only way they can make the “numbers” work.

    We at WPC ask ourselves this question: how do we compete when we’re not willing to do less? The answer remains complicated, but one thing is for sure – we will not compromise our values in order to capture work. We have been very fortunate to work with clients that appreciate the value we provide at a competitive price and are not looking for the cheapest price. They appreciate that we don’t move faster than quality will allow and trust that we will live up to our reputation. I tell clients my job isn’t to make money, but to figure out a way to keep it. In order to do that, we need to stick with what we know is right and work hard to provide our clients with a product of which we both can be proud.

    On a side note, and in an attempt to satisfy both my readers who like when I go on a rant and my own desire to keep it real, I thought I would complain a little about some people who need to be called out. I was going to write an entire blog about this entitled “Choosing Between Right and Wrong,” but I’ll keep it short and sweet (okay…maybe not so sweet). I was told that writing this piece was a bad choice, but it will damn sure make me feel better.

    That potential blog title comes from something I heard when I was younger from a much smarter and wiser man that I will ever be. He told me that knowing what is right and wrong is usually not the problem. Making the choice to do what’s right or wrong is what people seem to struggle with. People who know me very well know that I am no saint. I’ve made plenty of bad choices and decisions in my day. Suffice it to say that I won’t be running for any public office. I recently rediscovered a quote from Augusten Burroughs that fits me quite well,

    “I myself am made up entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

    There is a difference between being a decent human being who makes some bad choices from time to time and someone who is altogether a bad person. I seem to be crossing paths with the latter more often lately and it has become quite discouraging. By the way, I was advised to not mention the names and locations of the “bad guys” in order to avoid any possible backlash. I would usually ignore that advice, but I’ll use a little judgment in this case. I’ll be happy to fill you in should you choose to contact me.

    Let’s start with the crooks in New Orleans. Let me first state that I am not saying that everyone in NOLA is a crook – just half the people I’ve come across have been. I was jokingly told that the other half hasn’t been caught yet but I’m sure there are some very good people there. For some stupid reason, we decided to team up with another general contractor in this town known for its good music, good food, endless partying and mass corruption. The owner of this other firm and some of his employees turned out to be some seriously bad people. Lesson learned – don’t be enticed by a town that has good music, good food, endless partying and is known for mass corruption. I know what you’re thinking; I work in Vegas, which is known for all of these things as well. I don’t have good answer for you but I can say that I’ve been working there for more than 10 years and so far everyone I’ve come across have been good people.

    Next up, the mental midget – err, plumbing subcontractor who shook hands with me over a two-year deal and yet, three years later, decided to disregard the entire agreement even after I fulfilled my end of the bargain. Apparently, integrity and honor is not a valued part of his business practice. Lesson here? Never take someone’s word if they have a history of idiotic tendencies.

    Speaking of integrity, or lack thereof, my last rant is dedicated to the pseudo bar owner/restaurateur who was given our time, effort and intellectual capital, and in return used a different, unqualified general contractor at an extraordinarily cheaper price. Of course, we were assured payment for our services, but I will wager you have figured out that he did not get paid. The final lesson – never take someone’s word if they have a history of idiotic tendencies. Wait. I should already know this.

    Let me come full circle and bring this back to where I started. People are making decision today that they wouldn’t necessarily make if the economy were like it was pre-2008. Some of those decisions involve lack of quality, some involve lack of integrity and even worse, some involve criminal acts. We all have choices to make and we all must live with them. In each one of the cases I’ve mentioned, someone is going to jail, someone will no longer work for us and someone will have to live with the loss of a friend. I find comfort in knowing what goes around comes around. I’ve learned that lesson a number of times in my day.

    More importantly, I find comfort in knowing that the people at WPC that I work with everyday continue to pursue excellence in their work and in their decisions. We are not perfect but when we are faced with the choice to do what’s right or what’s wrong, we follow the path that allows us to sleep at night and be proud of who were are.

    So, I digressed a bit. Okay, a lot. But, I feel better and perhaps I’ve challenged you to think.


  4. Time to Stop Bitching (I Mean Whining) About the Past

    June 12, 2012 by Jeff Forrest

    When I sat down to write this blog, I had two titles for it…“Time to Move Forward” or “Time to Stop Bitching About the Past.” I like the second one, but some people have told me to be politically correct.  I’ve never been real keen on political correctness, but I’ll give it a try; and consider this a warning not to read further if you’re easily offended as my “PC” efforts may fall short.

    I’m getting a bit tired of talking about the past and how the economy has changed our world.  The idea that breaking even is a good thing, kind of sucks stinks.  Ok, so we have more money in the bank today than we did in January of 2010.  That’s pretty damn darn good and very few construction companies can boast about that.  In reality, and contrary to rumors that one local GC tried to spread about WPC, we’re stronger financially now than at anytime in the past three years.  If that GC would like to compare balance sheets, please give me a call.

    We can’t change what has happened but we can focus on what we’re going to do. Knowing what we know, we can stop bitching whining about the economy and go out and capture profitable work.

    WPC provides superior quality and service and there are clients–both new and existing–that appreciate that, and are willing to pay for it.  Those clients who are just looking for the absolute lowest price and are willing to treat contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers like a second tier society; and push them to the brink of insolvency so they can get a better deal and put more money in their pockets, aren’t the ones we want to do business with.

    Now that’s not saying that we aren’t competitive, because we are, and our repeat clients know that.  What I’m saying is that we provide a greater value for the dollar and we provide an experience that exceeds our clients expectations.  Very few GC’s provide “it” these days because of two things: 1) They aren’t any good at “it”, and that’s unfortunately a majority of our industry; or 2) They are forced to drive their prices so low that they have to change the way they do business, which in turn, changes the value provided.  The good news is that there are some GC’s that are good at “it” and aren’t willing to sacrifice their core values to scramble for breadcrumbs.  Those are the ones we want to compete against, because that’s who we are.

    So it’s time to stop bitching whining and get back to working hard.  Working hard for those clients that are fair, loyal, perhaps need a little help to make their project viable; and are looking for quality, customer service, a guaranteed good experience, and value. We’re doing business with lots of them right now and 2012 and beyond will be built on those relationships and the way in which we cultivate them.

    Thank you to those clients who have (or will) put their trust in us and appreciate what we do.


  5. It’s Always too Early

    by Jeff Forrest

    I know we’ve all felt it – the pain we feel when we hear of someone passing at an age that is far too young. The reality is, no matter what age we almost always wish for a little more time to say goodbye, I love you or thank you. I was reminded of this the other day when I learned of the passing of J.P. Ottino; he was 57.  J.P.  was a long time WPC supporter and friend. As a client, he put his trust in us for more than 14 years.  As a friend, he always greeted me with an energy and smile that defined him. He was an intelligent, decisive and loyal businessman.  His love for his family and friends was unquestioned; especially the love for his nieces and nephews, one of whom gave a eulogy that will not be forgotten by those of us who were there to hear it.  I can only hope that I am thought of and spoke about in this way when my time comes.

    The following quotes came to mind when I heard of J.P.’s passing:

    “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” -Bob Marley

    “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” -Albert Pike

    J.P. affected so many people in a positive way, including those of us here at WPC.


  6. The “It Factor”

    June 10, 2012 by Jeff Forrest

    Does time move faster as you get older, because I can’t believe that it is already May? The first four months of this year have flown by and given all my travels, it’s hard for me to remember very much of it.  My staff has been after me for this month’s blog for weeks so I’m finally taking a deep breath and diving in.

    Suffice it to say, the WPC team has been working harder than ever to stay ahead of the competition by doing that “thing” we do well.  Those efforts have been rewarded with new project starts such as Oakmonte Village at Lake Mary for Royal Senior Care.  This 114 unit assisted living facility adds to the 165 independent living units we completed in 2009, along with the surrounding luxury villa homes.  In addition, we started Serenades by Sonata in Winter Garden, FL. Serenades is a senior living memory care facility and our third negotiated project for Sonata Health Care.  On top of that, we began renovation work for The Berkley Group on a project in Ft.  Lauderdale, FL as well as site work on their Vacation Village at Parkway project in Orlando, FL. Our renovation division started projects for Hilton Grand Vacations, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Marriott International and Starwood Vacation Ownership in Orlando, FL. Thank you to all these clients for putting your trust in us and for appreciating the value we add.

    Speaking of value…at the urging of my new friend Elise Mitchell, I wanted to talk more about some of the things that I think good clients want and need, and how WPC is committed to providing those things.  Elise asked me what I thought the “It Factor” was all about, and what the qualities are in an ideal contractor and true partner for clients? I believe the “It Factor” at WPC is our passion and constant never-ending desire to cultivate and maintain our relationships.  I hear this talked about over and over again by other companies, but very few of them walk the talk.  These relationships include not only our clients, but also our subcontractors, suppliers, consultants, and corporate friends.  To answer Elise’s question directly however, I’ll focus upstream on our clients.

    We all know relationships can be difficult.  They involve people, emotions, trust, mutual respect, integrity, openness, a willingness to admit mistakes, and above all, the ability to deal with adversity.

    So what if you took a construction company and told your employees that there number one job, aside from providing a safe working environment, was to make sure they took care of the relationship with the client. Of course quality, schedule, and finances are all very important and a requirement in business, but if they focused on taking care of that relationship, they would be creating long term success.  Isn’t that what it means to be a true partner? I also think it’s what a client wants and needs.  They want us to care about their needs and their job and in turn we are rewarded with more work.  The “It Factor” at WPC is displayed everyday by the women and men that work hard everyday to build and keep our relationships.

    I know we’re not perfect and there are plenty of occasions where we could have done a better job.  I was recently interviewed for an article and was asked the simple question, “what makes your company different?” Instead of spewing out the usual sales and marketing BS like “we do quality work, on time, and within budget,” which is what every construction company will tell you—I told her, “we’ve been around a long time and made our fair share of mistakes and learned from almost all of them so we’ve got to be different.” She never expected that answer and she asked if I really wanted her put that in the article? I told her that if most people were honest, they’d tell you they weren’t perfect, but that if they apply their lessons learned, they will be better than their competitors. I call that “being a prophet of the obvious,” but then again I think most things are fairly obvious.  I’m just glad that most companies don’t do them because it makes us look better.

    There are plenty of things that go into the the “It Factor” and I’ll continue this conversation over the next few months.


  7. An Early Thanksgiving

    by Jeff Forrest

    2012 has been a hectic year and the third quarter has been nothing short of crazy.  Our estimating and pre-construction team have put in some very late nights for the better part of three months, preparing budgets, estimates and proposals.  The good news is that it has paid off with no less than five contracts and job starts – a refreshing change after a slow start to the year.

    With all this budgeting and estimating, we sometimes get too busy to thank those that help us get the work – the subcontractors and suppliers who bid our jobs.  The acknowledgment and appreciation goes to both those who have the best prices and those who continue to be competitive.  Without every one of you working hard on each project, we would not be successful. We truly appreciate your efforts and they do not go unnoticed.

    The new construction market is showing subtle signs of turning in the right direction. Our recent contracts and upcoming jobs that appear to be headed towards contracts are refilling our backlog, as well as the backlog of our competitors. Thank you to the private investors, banks, RIETS and lenders who are putting their trust in developers and funding these projects.  Although it takes longer to vet out the right deals, without money we wouldn’t be able to stick a shovel in the ground.

    Our appreciation must also be shown to the many design consultants who we’ve worked with on these projects. The desire shown by these architects, civil engineers, MEP engineers, and others who work with us to accurately massage the numbers are so important to the success of the deal.  Today’s market requires a cooperative approach to value alternatives and we’ve been fortunate to realize that cooperation.

    And, without question, we need to thank our clients and developers who have put their trust in us and appreciate the value that we provide. Our goal is always to provide a construction experience that exceeds our client’s expectations and we will work hard everyday to show our gratitude for the work we’ve been given.

    Finally, but certainly not in the least, we thank the WPC staff that fight day-in and day-out, in all departments of the company, to keep the machine running and prove why we’re one of the best contractor’s in the business.


  8. Watertight with WPC’s Seal the Box

    by Jeff Forrest

    I’d like thank you for the comments from last month’s blog. I appreciate everyone’s feedback and enjoyed some of your own rants, as well.

    I’m writing this month’s blog from an airplane at 38,000 feet with Charlie Cecil, head of our Renovations & Special Projects Division, as we head to Vegas for meetings on a new project in the west. Charlie and his team have been busy in many parts of the country making old things new again and it’s exciting to be part of these projects.

    It’s hurricane season and this time of the year always makes us worry a little.  No matter how well prepared you are, Mother Nature can do some serious damage as we have seen throughout the country. One of WPC’s selling points is our experience with water intrusion and the efforts we make in order to prevent it when building new projects.

    I’ve said it many times that we’ve made our fair share of mistakes, but we’ve learned from all (or most) of them. Those lessons are constantly being communicated, especially in the form of our Seal the Box program. This program is a compilation of processes and details focused on preventing Mother Nature from doing damage and we are very proud of how well we’ve executed this program.

    Experienced developers know full well the importance of implementing these types of processes. Developers that are new to geographical markets that can be affected by torrential rains appreciate what we bring to the table.


  9. Remembering our Roots

    June 7, 2012 by Jeff Forrest

    Signs of a changing market have been apparent to us for several months. Within our respective communities, we see emerging developments breaking ground and we are experiencing our own uptake in new and potential projects. No doubt, it is a much better feeling than the economic tone of the last few years, however, the market is still a bit fragile and we continue to exercise caution in our business practices.

    Regardless the state of the economy, WPC will continue to strive to be the best general contractor in the industry. In order to do so, we are beginning a reinvigoration process with our staff to remind us of what built our reputation of excellence. This reputation was built by the multiple processes and procedures already in place that promote a safe work environment and efficiency in our daily tasks. This framework illustrates effective communication (upstream, downstream and laterally), elevated levels of customer service, optimal relationships, exceptional product quality, proper time management and sustained profitability. Though these principles seem simple in nature, it is these fine nuances that make WPC stand out in the business. Combined with our quest to constantly improve, this strategy will allow us to stay ahead of the game.

    Executing excellence is a simple strategy that speaks volumes about what we must do everyday in order to live up to our obligations to our clients, consultants, vendors, and fellow employees. For those of you who have experienced this level of excellence from WPC, you have seen how this makes us different.

    As 2012 comes to a close, the pulse of WPC is stronger than ever. We truly appreciate the trust our clients place in us by inviting us to be part of their construction teams. We do not take these opportunities lightly and we will work diligently to maintain your patronage by providing unwavering dedication and outstanding quality.

    I hope all of you will have time to be with family and friends during the holiday season.


  10. Home at Last

    by Jeff Forrest

    This past Saturday, I was honored with an invitation to a small get together in celebration of the fourth Home at Last project we are co-building with Hensel Phelps Construction in Oakland, Florida. This gathering was exceptionally significant in that all four recipients of the homes we’ve built for Home at Last were there together, and being honored by a visit from Sergeant Major Bryan Battaglia, the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The hope is that this esteemed visit will bring awareness to the amazing work that the Home at Last team has done for wounded combat veterans – at the highest levels.

    Although I get to speak at the groundbreakings and dedications, the real work comes from people like John Russo and Paul Caruana, both employees of WPC. John and Paul have been involved with putting together the teams of subcontractors and vendors who have donated so much of their time and material to make these projects possible. We cannot thank these subs and vendors enough for their dedication to make a difference in the lives of these veterans and their families.

    If you’d like to see the impact firsthand, I encourage you to attend the upcoming dedication of the home for U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jeffery Kelly this coming Saturday, August 11th at 9:30am.

    Sergeant Kelly joined the Army Reserve in 2000 and transferred from the Reserves to the Regular Army in 2006. He served three tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. In 2008, while traveling in a convoy, Jeff was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and mortar fire. Despite a severely injured left leg, he completed his mission. Back at base, it was determined that his posterior tibial tendon was ruptured, so his leg was put in a cast and he was medevaced to the Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. From there he was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia. The mortar and RPG blasts also left Jeff with back problems, a brain injury and extreme chronic pain in his leg. He can walk short distances with the aid of a cane, but otherwise must use a wheelchair.

    Jeff’s home was built to accommodate his injuries and he has been involved in the design and construction of the home from day one. SGM Battaglia said it best, “Projects like these are a hand up, not a hand out.” WPC is proud to be part of giving a little something back to those who have given so much for our freedom.

    Although I’ve written about this project before, for those of you not familiar with Home at Last, here is a little recap:

    Home at Last, a special project of West Orange Habitat for Humanity, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization, was the idea of William C. Criswell, a World War II veteran of the U.S. Navy Seabees. West Orange Habitat for Humanity established the project in 2007 to meet the special housing needs of permanently disabled combat wounded veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. The project is dedicated to presenting at least one mortgage-free home each year to a veteran. The projects are completed entirely by donations and in-kind contributions of construction labor and materials.

    Mission
    For battle-weary wounded soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen, who have experienced the horrors of war first-hand, being Home at Last has its own special meaning. To those who wait – wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers – the long period of worry and anxiety for the safety of their loved ones ends when they are Home at Last. To the young son or daughter –gleefully jumping into the arms of a father or mother screaming, “I love you! I’ve missed you! You really are Home at Last” has to be a welcome home a parent will long remember. Home at Last was chosen as the project’s name because it portrayed the vision for this special project.

    Team
    William C. Criswell, Founder and Chairman; William T. Curdts, Home at Last Co-Chairman, John Russo, Construction Manager, Gary Atwil, Events Planning.