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  1. The “It Factor”

    May 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. In the meantime, I better go walk the talk and make sure we are living up to our reputation.

  2. Heading to Sin City

    March 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. I guess that’s frowned upon…watch the movie Hangover to see what else is frowned upon.

  3. All-Stars

    February 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. 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. That’s against the law in Orlando.

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

    January 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.

    Alright… time for me to stop whining bitching and get to work making 2012 a darn damn good year.

  5. 2011 Comes to a Close

    December 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. I wish all of you safe and happy holidays and may hard work and the pursuit of excellence lead to much success in the coming year.

  6. Competing Against Acceptable

    November 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. We continue to surprise our clients with exceptional and have them never want acceptable again.

  7. The Story of Contractors Who Care

    October 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. Please care today by connecting with us:

      Contractors Who Care
      PO Box 940781
      Maitland, FL 32794

      P: 407-998-2050
      F: 321-594-6532

  8. Gratitude Built On Remembrance

    September 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. It is merely one way we honor those who were lost and those who are still sacrificing so much for our freedom today.

  9. What do I do for a living?

    August 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. As an added pat on the back to the workers on site, both Lincoln staff and the base staff stated, “this is the best quality they’ve seen on any of the military housing projects they’ve been involved with” and “WPC has set a new standard of quality for our projects.”

    What do I do for a living? That question was answered with the smile of that young family as they walked into their home.

    Camp LeJeune

    Jeff Forrest was honored to represent WPC at the Aug 4th ribbon cutting ceremony for the very first home, completed by WPC, at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

  10. Building Beyond the Blueprint

    July 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. We must constantly change in order to remain competitive and we must reinvent ourselves whenever necessary to keep up with the demands of an ever-changing economy.

    I’d love to hear from you about your definition of the WPC Way, so please email me your thoughts.