The FORT Podcast: Chris Weekley

Chris Weekley is the Executive Vice President at David Weekley Homes, one of the largest privately-held home building firms in the country. On this episode, they discuss the culture at DWH, Weekley’s different product types in home building, the challenges and opportunities in home building, markets across the country, what 2020 presented for home builders, and what 2021 looks like.

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(02:13) – Chris’ Story

Acton School of Business | MBA

(06:41) – Growing up, was your father’s work/family separation intentional in light of running a family business?

(07:36) – How is ‘The Life of Meaning Class’ at Acton structured? How do they get the answer out of you?

(10:05) – Where did you go after you got your MBA?

(12:58) – How does David Weekly Homes’s approach to team culture allow it to be able to retain talent for so long?

(17:15) – What is David Weekley University and how did it come about?

(19:43) – What’s the application process to get into DWU?

(20:34) – How many markets are you in? How do you think about moving into new markets?

(23:19) – Where are the hottest markets in the country right now?

(24:52) – What are the ‘Encore and Imagination’ projects within David Weekley Homes?

(26:36) – Do you focus more on central or suburban living for ‘Imagination’?

(28:33) – For the active adult communities you develop, do they have to be empty nesters or are they able to have kids with them?

(29:31) – What are things that the 55+ age people want in a house & community?

(31:17) – Are you anticipating a trend of home-offices being built in light of COVID?

(32:44) – Are the millennials buying later in life? Are they requiring different things in their builds?

(34:44) – How do you think about designing communities and commuting as Uber and self-driving cars continue to become more popular?

(37:20) – How do you think about the growing asset class of single-family rental?

(40:55) – What are the specific differences between the single-family rentals and what you normally build?

(42:22) – How do you raise money to build all these homes if you aren’t public?

(44:04) – How do you think about the year following a sale with home builders having to eat a lot of costs after the fact with different warranties or finishes that arise?

(47:27) – How are you thinking about the high cost of lumber? Are you hedging your bet on that?

(49:50) – What are the biggest challenges that you think about on a day-to-day basis?

(51:53) – Is the USA under-built or over-built?

(53:01) – Is there any technology on the horizon that will have a dramatic impact on the speed of building or cost of homes?

(55:01) – Is there any silver bullet to combat the increased difficulty of working with cities?

(57:23) – Do you have a childhood experience that has changed the direction of your life?

Boy Scouts

Outward Bound

Amigos De Las Americas

(58:57) – What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

(1:00:16) – Are there books that have had an impact on you?

Clive Cussler – The Dirk Pitt Adventures

Grit – Angela Duckworth

Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

Adam Grant books

The Dichotomy of Leadership – Jocko Willink

(1:01:37) – Chris’ Book Club w/ His Management Team


Episode Summary

The dialogue starts with the candid acknowledgment of the chaos and complexity inherent in the construction process. Weekley not only provides a transparent glimpse into the ‘dirty’ behind-the-scenes realities but also strategically positions it against the pristine, finished product that is delivered to the customer. The emphasis is not merely on the operational aspects but also on the pivotal role of customer education, ensuring that while customers are apprised of the process, they are shielded from the chaos, ensuring a smooth and satisfactory customer journey. This commitment to customer satisfaction is not merely operational but extends into strategic adaptations, such as mitigating the impact of fluctuating lumber prices by strategically adjusting discounts, ensuring that the financial and qualitative promise to the customer remains unhampered.

The dialogue also explores the role and impact of technology in the industry. Weekley underscores a balanced approach, wherein technology is leveraged to enhance operational efficiencies, while the human, personal touch continues to steer customer interactions and relationships. The strategic use of technology, thus, becomes an enabler, enhancing operational capabilities while ensuring that the personal, relational aspects of customer interactions are not eclipsed by technological interfaces.

Strategic considerations also weave through the discussions on organizational culture, particularly in the realm of hiring. Weekley underscores the paramountcy of ensuring that hiring is not merely a procurement of skills but a strategic alignment with organizational culture, ensuring that every team member, from construction managers to sales teams, is not only equipped to deliver operationally but is also aligned with and contributes to the perpetuation of the customer-centric organizational culture and ethos.

As the dialogue ventures into market dynamics and future trajectories, Weekley, while acknowledging the inherent unpredictability of market dynamics, emphasizes the importance of strategic agility, ensuring that the organization is attuned to market signals and is strategically positioned to navigate through anticipated market landscapes. This strategic positioning is not merely in terms of operational strategies but extends into ensuring that offerings are aligned with evolving customer preferences, particularly in the context of shifts brought about by the pandemic.

An interesting detour into continual learning reveals the integral role it plays in both personal and organizational development. The collective and collaborative journey of learning, exemplified by the practice of engaging in book discussions, ensures that the organization perpetually evolves, adapts, and grows, navigating through the dynamic market landscape with strategic agility and adaptability.

In its entirety, the dialogue unfolds a rich and comprehensive exploration of the home building industry, navigating through various facets and providing insights into the strategic, operational, and customer-centric considerations that shape the journey. Weekley, through his experiences, insights, and reflections, provides not merely a glimpse into the industry but also subtly underscores the philosophies and ethos that have steered his and the organization’s journey.

The FORT with Chris Powers is produced by Straight Up Podcasts

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