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  1. Wine…A Learning State of Mind

    March 4, 2013 by Jeff Forrest

    A special thank you to last month’s ghostwriter, Bethany, who will remain anonymous. I truly appreciate her stepping in for me while I was exercising my brain during the month of February. At age 49, I can finally say I graduated from college…kind of.

    A few weeks back I completed a program called Owner/President Management, or OPM. This is an executive education course where I spend 3 weeks a year, for 3 years, in a dorm on-campus at Harvard Business School reading case studies, talking about successful (and not so successful) companies, and going to classes on leadership, control, finance, marketing, negotiation, strategy, entrepreneurship, sales/operations and wine. The wine education usually happened around 8 pm when I got together with my study group for a few hours, opened a bottle of wine and talked about the case studies, our lives and received amazing advice and feedback from truly smart people on how to make WPC better. The relationships I built with my 160 classmates were half the value of being there. They are all owners and/or presidents of their companies from all over the world including China, India, Brazil, Thailand, Australia, Jordan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Canada, Bulgaria, Egypt, and Denmark. I could go on and on. Our professors are some of the smartest and brightest people around and challenged us to participate in an environment that encouraged us to learn and think beyond our comfort zone. Regardless of the subject matter, I found value in the process, gained key insights into our company, and myself, and hopefully will translate that into a strategy to implement now that I am home. In short, I realized that life is a constant learning process and I gained the tools to raise my intelligence level a few notches. It is a life changing experience to say the least.

    If I were asked to say two things about what I learned while being at Harvard, it would be a self-awareness of both my strengths and, more importantly, my weaknesses. The second would be how proud I am of the culture that exists at WPC. During the many conversations, both in and out of the classroom, it became clear to me that WPC’s distinctive competitive advantage is it’s people and their passion for providing an experience that is unique to our industry. Doing the right thing, taking care of our customers and vendors, providing exceptional customer service, having fun (check out WPC’s Instagram account to see some of that @WPCCo) and protecting our reputation are a few of the cornerstones of that culture. By living up to these values, we live up to our motto of Building Beyond the BlueprintTM. Maintaining and improving this culture will always be a critical part of preserving our advantage.

    Although I graduated and was greeted by warmer weather when I came home, the learning process will never end and my hope is that it will translate into actions that will benefit all of us by improving our company and ensuring our sustainability. Tracy is an Harvard OPM graduate as well and we see everyday the threads he has sewn into the fabric of our company to get us where we are today.

    A special thank you to all of the WPC staff for letting me sneak away from work these past 3 years and accomplish a little something that will make my mom proud…kind of.


  2. Personal Growth – a Smart Move

    February 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. And you can, too! (Shameless plug >> Plaza on University at UCF )


  3. 2013: Different Challenges and New Opportunities

    January 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. We are positive and eagerly anticipating the opportunities that we know the New Year will bring, poised and excited for every chance we get to Build Beyond the Blueprint™.


  4. Remembering our Roots

    December 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.

    Have a safe and happy holiday!


  5. It’s Always too Early

    November 12, 2012 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. He will long be remembered for his kindness.


  6. An Early Thanksgiving

    October 10, 2012 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. Building Beyond the Blueprint means many things and is defined by the WPC team doing the best job they can to maintain our reputation.


  7. Celebrating a Decade of Shared Knowledge

    September 7, 2012 by Jeff Forrest

    In a few short weeks, a few of us from WPC will be heading to Houston for the annual fall meeting with our construction partners. Although this collection of 8 General Contractors from around the United States began as an industry peer group, after 10 years of crying on each other’s shoulders, providing advice when times were tough, sharing lessons learned (some of them hard) and working together on projects, the relationships have blossomed into much more than that. Calling them partners is a more appropriate description.

    Without question, these are some of the finest companies and people I’ve met along my professional journey and without them WPC would not be the company we are today. Allow me to introduce you to the group:

    Anslow Bryant Construction, Houston, TX www.anslowbryant.com
    Aristeo Construction, Detroit, MI www.aristeo.com
    Bayley Construction, Seattle, WA www.bayley.net
    Dimeo Construction, Providence, RI www.dimeo.com
    Lechase Construction, Rochester, NY www.lechase.com
    Nibbi Brothers, San Francisco, CA www.nibbi.com
    Penta Building Group, Las Vegas, NV www.pentabldggroup.com

    As a member of this alliance, we leverage our collective strengths, resources, local and national knowledge, and individual relationships to address the ever-evolving service requirement of our clients. This group allows us to consider projects with clients from southern California to New England.

    Each company has a different skill set, and in some case market reach, but all them have a culture that is consistent with ours. That culture allows us to feel comfortable recommending them or even better, working side by side, to serve our clients.

    As we celebrate 10 years of shared knowledge, laughter, good food and wine, it is my hope that we continue to grow together and find personal and professional happiness and success for many years to come. I cannot thank James, Joe, Ron, Brad, Steve, Bill, Bob, Jeff, Ken and Blake enough for putting up with me and for being such good friends and partners. A special thank you as well to Kevin, Rick and Irenka with FMI for keeping us all organized and on track at every meeting.



  8. Home at Last

    August 7, 2012 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. Jim McQuillan, Fundraising.


  9. Watertight with WPC’s Seal the Box

    July 10, 2012 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. Without question, our Seal the Box program makes everyone sleep better at night and infuses a long-term difference in the value of our projects.

    I hope everyone enjoys his or her summer and we all enjoy another mild hurricane season.


  10. 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. Stay tuned for less rants (maybe) and good news in July.