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June, 2013

  1. 2013: Different Challenges and New Opportunities

    June 15, 2013 by Jeff Forrest

    As was the case many times in 2012, I am writing this month’s blog while traveling. It is my first trip of 2013 and it’s a great way to kick off the New Year by checking out a fresh project opportunity.

    As we head into 2013, the vibe is definitely changed and one many companies haven’t had in many years. Just one year ago, many in our industry were still trying to endure the economic impact of the past four years. It was an unpleasant period of time, though we never abandoned our optimism.

    Due to market changes, rising costs present a new set of challenges for 2013. Lumber, for example, has risen in price more than 30% over the past 3 months. Labor costs are also going up and quality labor is becoming difficult to find for certain trades. It is yet another reminder that we trade one challenge for the next as we experience the ebb and flow of business in an economy that’s not quite yet stable. And although the tests of 2013 will be different, we’re hopeful that the industry is showing signs of recovery.

    As for WPC, we’re blessed to be working hard on new projects throughout our target segments. Two premier student housing projects have broken ground for new clients near University of Central Florida and Florida State University. We have multifamily projects in Celebration, Bradenton, and Tampa well underway and we’re wrapping up two senior housing projects in Lake Mary and Winter Garden, while preparing to start two more in Ocala and Lake Wales. In addition, we’re building two new timeshare buildings in Kissimmee, which is a positive indicator of growth for the hospitality market. Last, but certainly not least, our renovations division continues to work diligently on projects in Florida and Las Vegas. I can’t thank our clients enough for placing their trust in us and I promise we’ll live up to our reputation and exceed your expectations.

    Although we’re busier than we were last year and market conditions are improving, we still haven’t reached our capacity. Estimating is working hard on many promising opportunities and we remain steadfastly competitive while adding the value our clients have come to expect from WPC.

    WPC has yet to be deterred by a challenge, and the trials of 2013 will be no exception.

  2. The Season of Giving

    June 12, 2013 by Jeff Forrest

    We are already in the second week of November and Thanksgiving is fast approaching. You may have heard me say before that this is one of my favorite holidays; there is nothing better than turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie for days on end.

    This season is less about food, however, and more about gratitude and the WPC family certainly has much to be thankful for this year. In addition to the improved economic conditions that have increased our workload, we are thankful for our many clients who continue to put their trust in WPC and select us to be a part of their construction teams. We are grateful for the hard work of our subcontractors and vendors across Florida and the rest of the country, as well as their participation in our many philanthropic endeavors that allow us to give back to our community.

    Our most recent event was Canstruction Orlando, a design-build competition using canned and packaged foods as the materials for building theme-based structures. At the end of the competition, all of the food is donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Our design was the recreation of the Give Kids the World Village logo, a 70-acre non-profit fantasy resort in the Orlando area that provides weeklong cost-free vacations to children and their families suffering from life-threatening illness. Our design supported this year’s theme of Orlando Can Be Magical. It was so well received from our subcontractors and vendors that through our joint efforts we donated 2,500 canned and packaged foods, as well as donated $2,000 to Give Kids the World Village. We are pretty excited to have been able to support 2 non-profit organizations through one event.(We also took 2nd place for Structural Ingenuity and earned the Daily City’s Biggest Heart Award).

    WPC will continue to give back to our community throughout the holiday season and the rest of the year. We are blessed to be able to make an impact in lives of those in need and I am proud of those WPC staffers that volunteer their time towards these causes.

    On a personal note, I just completed my first half marathon at the Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon in California.  It was a very cool accomplishment and one I hope to repeat many times in the future. This marathon falls on the weekend before Veterans Day and celebrates the many veterans around the world who have served our country.

  3. President’s Log: Stardate 07-13

    by Jeff Forrest

    June 27th – 8:02PM
    I am on board a 5-hour flight to Vegas for my monthly visit to our projects in the western part of the country. The team has been working hard on our Desert Club Resort renovation for Holiday Inn Club Vacations. The latest work should wrap up by mid-August and the Orlando based staff can come home for a much-earned rest in their own beds. Tower 5 at The Grandview at Las Vegas is now complete and our construction partner, Penta Building Group, did another fantastic job.

    June 29th – 10:00PM

    I’m at Tao Restaurant in Las Vegas. My son, who is a professional poker player, is playing in the World Series of Poker events for the 5th consecutive year. Although his 25th birthday is on July 1st, we decided to celebrate a couple days early with a few of our very close West Coast friends.

    June 30th – 5:38AM

    I’m eating breakfast with my son who decided we needed to see the sun come up before we went to sleep. Good thing he only turns 25 once.

    July 1st – 11:00AM
    I’m in a meeting on an exciting new project and will discuss that more in an upcoming blog.

    July 1st – 2:20PM
    I decided to drive to San Diego in lieu of flying. That won’t happen again. I’m meeting with a client based in San Diego who has some new and renovation projects in Florida and Nevada.

    July 4th – 11:40AM
    I’m in flight to Chicago and I notice a Marine in full dress. I figured it was appropriate attire for Independence Day. As it turns out, he is escorting a fallen Marine back home to his final resting place. It is a sad but honorable duty and one that all of us on board did not take for granted. We showed our respect as he exited the plane and it reminded all of us of the price of our freedom. Watch the movie Taking Chance if you want to learn more about the soldiers who volunteer to be escorts.

    July 8th – 8:32AM

    I’m back at my desk in Orlando finding it hard to believe that half the year is gone. Although the economy appears to be improving, we remain cautious and conservative. Our memories of the past 4 (challenging) years are still fresh and though we are busy, we are not busy enough and future work remains high on the priority list.

    Every month we build ourselves out of a job. The WPC team is challenged by the difficulties of a busy labor force, yet faces those challenges with the determination necessary to maintain our reputation. We have some exciting new projects on the horizon – with new clients that have yet to experience the WPC Way and with existing clients whose expectations are high, just as they should be.

    I could not be more proud of how hard everyone is working. The younger generation of assistant project managers and project managers like Curtis Husselman and Kevin Ivey, whose fathers worked for WPC, as well as newly appointed project manager, Ben Abernethy, are stepping up. John Russo and Sarah Makie of our pre-construction and estimating department are also rising stars. They have shown they deserve their titles and responsibilities. We’ve hired some great new talent both in the office and the field that will have opportunities to grow and learn, and our hope is this next generation of leaders will one day be running this company. The seasoned staffers are also working harder than ever and showing the newbies the ropes and helping them mesh with our culture.

    Watching my son turn 25, seeing the next generation mature, and realizing that time waits for no one can be a sobering experience.

  4. Blogging from the Beach

    June 11, 2013 by Jeff Forrest

    I suppose the title of this month’s blog might conjure up images of me sitting on the sand with my computer, drinking Mai Tai’s.  Although that would be fun, I’m actually sitting in the lobby of the Westin Diplomat Hotel in a suit taking a break from attending ARDA World 2013 in Miami Beach, FL. Technically, I’m in Hollywood, FL, but it sounds so much more chic to say Miami Beach. This is the American Resort and Development Association’s (ARDA) annual conference and one I truly enjoy. It gives me an opportunity to see old friends and clients, and meet new ones. If the activity in the main lobby area is any indication of how the timeshare industry is doing, then I’m very optimistic.

    WPC has been involved in the timeshare and resort industry since 1981, and I’ve been attending ARDA’s conferences since the early 90s If my memory serves me correctly, Tracy and I attended our first ARDA conference just a bit south of here at the Fontainebleau hotel.  In the past 30+ years, WPC has constructed over 12,000 timeshare units equating to 624,000 vacation weeks.  I think that makes us (unofficially, of course) the largest timeshare builder in the world. We are very fortunate to have worked for so many great clients, many of whom we are building projects for today. In addition, our renovations division has remodeled over 2,100 units. It’s no surprise that the hospitality market is one in which we stay well connected.

    In just a few short days I’ll be leaving Miami (I mean, Hollywood) and heading to Austin, TX – one of my favorite cities for food and music. There, I will be attending the Interface Student Housing Conference.  WPC has made quite an impact on the student housing market over the past few years and currently have off-campus projects under construction near UCF, in Orlando, FL as well as near FSU, in Tallahassee, FL. It has been our privilege to work with these two new clients and look forward to being a part of their team for many years to come.

    As I head back into my next session here at ARDA, I realize how lucky I am to be able to travel the country telling the story of a truly solid construction company.

  5. Personal Growth – a Smart Move

    June 7, 2013 by Jeff Forrest

    {WPC President, Jeff Forrest, is traveling the frozen tundra of the northeast, his fingers too frostbitten to blog this month. Normal rants, raves, and ramblings from Jeff will return next month.  In the meantime, enter ghostwriter – who shall remain nameless – to offer you a different perspective from the inside.}

    WPC recently broke ground on a new student housing development at University of Central Florida in Orlando. You may have read about this project, Plaza on University, on our website and social media. It’s pretty substantial and an incredible addition to the Knight campus…or should I say, off-campus.Said ghostwriter is UCF alum, and though this is certainly a great job for WPC, I don’t say this out of pride, rather of sheer coolness because this type of housing didn’t exist when I was a student. Way back when, you know – the 90s – UCF had Fox Hunt, which in comparison to this project should be condemned and demolished. You either lived in, knew someone who lived in, or had been to a party at Fox Hunt. I have the luxury of claiming all three. What can I say? I was committed to my UCF education.

    Anyway, I digress. Plaza on University is huge and it’s pretty. Yes, it looks good –something 90s UCF didn’t have. And, it got me thinking I wanted to go back to school just so I could live there, above one of the fancy stores that will reside underneath. And, then I snapped out of it and realized I’ve already been there, done that. And, I have a job. Here at WPC.  If I went back to school, there would be no one to write this blog. Believe it or not, that brings me to my point. Wait for it, wait for it…personal growth is critical to your relevancy. And stagnancy is stupid. Okay, so that’s two points. UCF peeps are overachievers.

    Fortunately for me, I am employed by a company who encourages growth, both in the organization as a whole and individually among staff. Not only is it encouraged, but provided on multiple levels. There is a consistent theme revolving around achievement within the walls of this building. Personal growth is less of an option and more of an essential principle in the culture of WPC. Training courses for employees, OSHA certifications, conferences and seminars for continuing education, and acquiring the latest software to manage projects with ease and accessibility for our clients are just a few of the ways WPC stays on top of internal growth.

    Why is this important? WPC is interested in sustainability as a company, relevant through all climates of economy and change, as well as in fair weather. It’s easy to sit on your hands and do nothing, especially if things are working. But, WPC doesn’t want to just be… we want to be the best, giving our clients not only a quality product but an experience unrivaled by our peers chock full of the greatest technology and best business practices.

    Just like other businesses, WPC measures growth by revenue. Simple concept. If you are making more money, you are usually busier, which indicates augmentation of your business. The truth is, or so WPC feels, the business is only as effective and relevant as the people who are driving the bus.  Smart people do smart things, ultimately leading to smart business.  Smart, huh? Who needs to go back to school???

    Kidding aside, seeking excellence and industry advancement is something WPC has strived for, attained, and offered to all who walk through the shiny, glass front doors. The goal is to provide our clients with a top-tier experience and deliver projects with innovative technologies. And for this ghostwriter, its one of the reasons I was attracted to WPC.

    I guess I will just have to resort to a PhD in Vicariously Living by watching the progress pics of Plaza on University.

  6. It’s Good To Be Small-scaled

    June 6, 2013 by Jeff Forrest

    The title of this blog certainly doesn’t apply to my height. At 6′-2,” I’m not exactly the shortest guy in the room. Unless I’m standing next to my brother or my son, who are both 2″ taller than I. The title actually refers to the style of our company – the small-scale approach in how we do our business and treat our people and clients. There’s something about the service and attitude you receive from a small business that elevates their level of appreciation, wouldn’t you agree?

    I suppose by most standards, a company that captures $100 million per year in revenue would not be considered small. Maybe that’s medium-sized, but let’s not get caught up in the numbers. This discussion is based around our management style, how we solve problems, and our ability to change and improve more fluidly than the big boys, ultimately increasing our ability in building long-term relationships.

    One of the things I like most about smaller companies is the management accessibility. The owners, leaders, and other decision makers are available and present. In many cases, you’re dealing with the founder or partner when conducting business with a small firm.

    As President and Managing Member of WPC, I’m typically the one who introduces the company and tells our story to potential clients and customers. Having been here for 35 years, I have a varied perspective of our capabilities I am able to communicate more genuinely about who we are and what we do.

    With our robustly staffed competitors, the initial introduction to their company usually comes from someone hired to make their pitch; they have little “real” exposure to the true culture of the company and may have minimal industry experience. And, sadly, you will rarely see that person again – if ever. You may never meet the actual owner or partners of the company, who may live in another state or in some cases, another country.

    On the contrary, all of the WPC partners work inside the walls of our Maitland office, and within just a few short steps of each other. We participate daily to ensure our clients are satisfied with our product and service. That small company management style is what makes us different and better, regardless of the size of our projects.

    WPC Partner, and Vice President of Estimating, Chuck Reynolds, is in charge of pricing our projects. He is committed to making sure that our prices include everything that is needed to build our projects and not just what is needed to get the contract. His 19-year tenure, as well as his ownership, adds to his commitment to our clients, giving them a familiar face that they know and trust.

    Kevin Corrado, WPC’s Chief Operating Officer and partner, is responsible for running the overall operations and making sure the WPC team provides an outstanding experience and lives up to our reputation. Having also been here for 19 years, Kevin knows how each person in our team ticks and what it takes to be successful. His ownership means he will be able to make decisions without having to go through the layers of bureaucracy that typically exist in conglomerate companies.

    Finally and certainly not least, WPC’s founder and CEO, Tracy Forrest, provides the wisdom and leadership that has put WPC on the map for almost 4 decades. His presence is felt throughout the company and he reminds us regularly what it was like to struggle as an even smaller company and lives by the creed that the customer is always right.

    As for the problem solving of a small-scale business, it’s all hands on deck. Regardless of the position at WPC, if an issue needs attention, everyone jumps in to help reach a solution, quickly and efficiently. If a client wants any of WPC’s owners to be a part of that solution, we are able to step up and meet that need. Some of the larger general contractors most likely would have to fly someone in from their corporate office. That person probably knows little about the project and has had little to do with the client relationship.

    Being able to change and be fluid in difficult economic times is also an advantage in a small company mentality.  As our client’s needs change, our ability to change with them is seamless. Without multiple departments and divisions spread over multiple states, we’re not limited to building projects of a certain size or product type. If a developer who has blessed us with a $10 million dollar project asks us to do a $100,000 project, we’re happy to oblige. Our experience is not based on what another satellite company has done in other part of the country. We learn quickly from our success, as well as our mistakes, and communicate that knowledge efficiently.

    This doesn’t mean we won’t travel. Quite the opposite, currently there are WPC team members in many different states. We are on these projects because our clients enjoy the experience they have received from WPC in a local arena and want that capability elsewhere.

    Most importantly are the relationships that we build with our clients. WPC’s leadership, including the partners, directors and senior managers play an intimate part in every project we complete. Our clients know they can reach out to us at anytime and will have contact with someone who cares about their interests and will do whatever it takes to exceed their expectations. We’re not perfect; no company is. Our goal, however, is to earn the next project. We feel that by treating every client with a little something extra is what makes us different and will help us reach that goal.

    By following this approach, we’ve been able to keep our small–scale feel, while being one of Central Florida’s biggest contractors.

  7. Stress Less

    June 4, 2013 by Jeff Forrest

    We’re in the home stretch of 2013 with only one quarter left in the year. I’ve just returned from the NMHC Student Housing Conference in New Orleans and had a chance to catch up with some of our existing clients, as well as meet a few new ones. The outlook on the market remains optimistic which bodes well for WPC in the coming years. We’re also excited about the multifamily market as we continue to capture new projects in the urban infill, podium, wrap and garden style sectors.  As the market improves, so is the stress of managing the labor, schedule and cost escalation issues that come with everyone being busier. Projecting project costs has become increasingly challenging and imposes stress on developers, subcontractors and our staff as they manage the muddy waters of pre-construction and budgeting. It’s this kind of stress that our clients rely on us to deal with given our proven experience and solid relationships.

    Speaking of stress: in September’s blog I reported that my son, Jeffrey, decided to dive head first into a new career in construction at WPC. He took a few minutes to write a newsletter article about how he faced stress in his former career as a poker player and what it means to him now. Here is that article:

    Stress by Jeffrey Forrest

    As many of you know, I was a professional poker player for the last 5 years. I would spend 8 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week playing a strategic game of chance.  For a long time, I was able to sustain myself and remain independent with poker as my career. I entered tournaments all around the country thanks to sponsorship from other players and experienced a great deal of success.

    However, all the success came to a halt in early 2011.  On a day poker players know as Black Friday, the government shut down the three major internet poker casinos, freezing 100’s of millions in poker player funds and effectively ending my poker career (although I wouldn’t accept it at the time). What made poker fun and profitable for me was being able to play comfortably on the couch at home and control the environment around me, allowing me to focus completely on the game.  I was forced at this time to transition into a traveling player, paying for gas, flights, hotel rooms, food and other random expenses to compete at casinos around Florida and different parts of the country.

    This is when I was truly introduced to stress. Stress is a part of the game of poker, no matter how good you are it’s a mentally taxing game. For the first few years, playing almost completely online, I was able to handle all of my professional levels of stress. If I won or lost for days, weeks or months, I didn’t feel I was affected too much in my personal life. But once I turned into a strictly live casino gambler, my life became an emotional roller coaster. The new expenses and constant travel on top of the games existing stress plus a need to make a living was not a winning combination. My days as a winning professional poker player were over.

    The only way to escape the stress was to move on to something new.  When I was given the opportunity to come and work for WPC, I knew it would be a positive change for me. So far it’s been exactly what I needed, I still feel professional stress but it has more of a positive energy. It’s exciting to learn how to do my new job, to do it quickly and well, on top of proving that I’ll be an asset over the long run.

    I my overall point is that we can’t always tell how our mental state is and specifically how we are reacting to stress until we look back on it afterwards. I’m lucky to have learned a lot of lifelong lessons from my time as a poker player, but none more importantly then how I will let stress affect me on a daily basis. You may want to take some time and look up a Ted Talks video by Kelly McGonigal about how to recognize stress and make it your friend.

    That kid is pretty damn smart and a decent writer…must be in the genes.

    As we approach the end of the year, I’m sure the stress of the world won’t change much. From the political tensions both nationally and across the globe, to work challenges or personal battles, hopefully you’ll diffuse your stress in a positive way and avoid the pitfalls of letting it affect your health and success.

    On a final note, October is my birthday month. I suppose it is safer to say that 2013 has been my birthday year.  I turn 50 on the 25th and have enjoyed 43 birthday parties so far (7 more to go) celebrating all over the world…literally. From Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Chicago to New York, London to Belgium, I’ve experienced some amazing times with outstanding friends and family. There are a few parties left before the big Five-O and I’m sure they will be just as much fun. I am forever grateful to all those who have celebrated with me or sent your good wishes. Since I’m¬ halfway through with this life, I better figure out what I’m going to do for a living for the next 50 years. This construction thing is a young man’s game and we have some strong young leaders who will do an amazing job with our company in the years ahead.