Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents Lennar Homes
Rose Law Group Reporter
In this week’s continuing Q&A series we spoke with Alan M. Jones, division president of Lennar Homes, via email.
You seem Like a guy who is really happy to come to work every day and be in this industry. Assuming that is true how did you get that attitude? Why do you enjoy the real estate business so much?
Yes, I love what I do for a living. I try to encourage everyone that I work with to understand that we are in the business of making people’s lives better. How great is that! If you go to work every day with the attitude of how can I be a part of making people’s lives better, your work can be exciting. We have a practice at Lennar of celebrating closings, our Construction Managers send us pictures of our customers when they are presented their keys. The pictures we receive are displayed in our conference room. If we are excited about making other people’s lives better, we will take pride in our work.
You are now a top the largest homebuilder in the nation. Give us the quick version of your ascendancy… What were the steps in your career that led you to this potential pinnacle?
I have been very fortunate over the years. I have surrounded myself with great managers and great associates that love the business and are committed to doing everything in their power to succeed. I currently manage approximately 300 associates, which means I am only one of 300 associates. Therefore, what I contribute every day may not be that meaningful, but if all my managers are performing at the highest level and all the associates that they manage are trained and committed to succeed, I like our chances to succeed. I feel that one of the most important things I can do, is help each of my managers succeed. If things are going well with one aspect of our business, then I don’t spend a lot of time focused on that aspect of the business or working closely with that manager. However, if we are struggling in an area of the business, then I focus more of my efforts and time on that aspect of the business.
I started out in the Homebuilding Industry in 1992 – 26 years ago by going to work for Homes by Dave Brown. I tried to learn everything I could about the business and will always be grateful that Dave Brown gave me a chance to get started in the business. If truth be known, I begged for my first job, I told Dave that if he hired me I would be the last associate he would let go one year later. I worked for Dave for four years and then realized I had the wrong last name, so I moved on to work for Ryland. Corky Houchard was the Division President, and was great for me because he gave me tremendous freedom. I took full advantage of that opportunity and we grew the Division from 400 closings per year, to 800 closings when I left four years later. I was hired by Lennar in 2000 to be the Land Division President. I loved working as the Land President and before the downfall, we had 40 associates in the Land Division and closed over 2400 homes in 2005. The Land Division was a separate profit center at Lennar. The Land Division was more profitable than our Homebuilding Division from 2001 -2005. I was made the Homebuilding President of Lennar in Phoenix in 2006, builders weren’t buying a lot of land in 2006. Lennar has been a great fit for me because of their entrepreneurial attitude. Lennar has allowed us and even encouraged us to develop our own product and we have experienced some great success with the product that the Division has developed. The financial capacity of Lennar has provided a tremendous opportunity for growth for me and the Phoenix Division. We will have more than 50 active communities by year-end and are on track to close over 2,000 homes in2018.
So, let’s talk merger. How’s it going? What’s the most challenging part about it? And what is the best thing that has happened as a result of it?
The merger has been a “Fun Challenge”. It has been a blur, to be honest, thankfully we’re building homes and not spaceships. We’ve made some mistakes, but I am very fortunate to have a team of managers that have a willingness to work hard and work together. We’ve learned to proceed from one mistake to the next with enthusiasm. I met with each CalAtlantic manager individually and explained that we had a choice; we could all work together and succeed or we could choose to not work together and fail. We have succeeded thus far and in fact, the Chief Operating Officer of Lennar two weeks ago stated to me; “the Phoenix Division is the Poster Child for how two large divisions successfully come together.”
I consider that compliment from the COO of our company to be one of the proudest moments that I have had in my career. The merger has been a challenge, but a very positive challenge because we are succeeding. The main reason for our success is that the managers have decided to “leave their egos at the door” and go to work on what needs to be done. The willingness of the Lennar and CalAtlantic associates to come together as a team has been fantastic. The best thing that has happened is that we have brought together two large groups of associates that are now working together as one. We succeeded in selling 625 homes in our first full quarter together. We closed over 500 homes in our first full quarter.
In 2011, the Phoenix Homebuilding market was very challenging. I was introduced to concept of building a “Home within a Home”, or what some people like to call “a home with a mother-in-law suite,” by Howard Perlman an architect based out of Las Vegas. We had nothing to lose and I loved the idea because there exists significant demand for this type of housing. We have an aging population in this country and a large number of those individuals have family and friends in Arizona. I knew that if the municipalities would approve of this type of housing we would fill a need in the market. We actually submitted our first plan to the Town of Gilbert before I informed the Regional President. I was glad that when we did introduce it to the Regional President, that the COO of our Company was there, and his comment was “why aren’t you already building this type of home?”
Tell us about the time where you built the house in the middle of a commercial parking lot? That is an amazing concept which We heard that you might just have come up with. How did you come up with that and then how in the world did you sell the company on implementing that crazy – genius vision?
We Grand Opened the home at Layton Lakes September 2011 and the Mayor of Gilbert attended the ribbon cutting to show his support. The response was fantastic. The traffic at our Layton Lakes community tripled. The Regional President suggested we take the home to the public. No other builder had ever built a home of this type. We felt strongly that if we could show the home to the general public that there would be significant demand. He asked me to talk to the owner of the Ikea shopping Center and thankfully after laughing at me, the owner agreed to let us build the home in the vacant lot between Ikea and the Dick’s Sporting Goods Store. The owner’s main concern was that we tear the home down within a year and completely remove it. The rest is history, we opened on Black Friday, November 2011 and had 14,000 people go through that home in 5 months. It was an incredible experience and has caused people in Phoenix to think differently about Lennar. 14,000 visits were more than we had at all our communities in Phoenix and Tucson the previous year. Ikea was fantastic to work with, they donated all the furniture in the home and co-marketed with us. The home was donated to Habitat for Humanity when we finished. We have now sold over 1,000 of these type of homes in Phoenix (approximately 7,000 nationwide). We refer to this type of home as a Next Gen Home because the home is an example of the Next Generation of innovative home designs by Lennar.
What is your favorite project and what is your favorite product that you have ever been involved in?
To date, the favorite community that I have been involved with is Layton Lakes. The reason this community would be a favorite is that we succeeded in having seven different products offering all at the same time and all of them were selling well. I mentioned to my boss that we had seven active communities at Layton Lakes, (I guess I had failed to point that out to him previously), when I mentioned this to him, he said he would be flying to Phoenix to see how that was possible. We did so by differentiating the product. We had one product offering at eight to the acre, Next Gen was offered in some parcels and not in others, and we built single story homes as large as 5,000 square feet on ¾ of an acre.
What do you like to do for fun? Do you even have time for fun nowadays?
In my “spare time” I enjoy water skiing and snow skiing along with golf. After the merger was announced I didn’t play much golf for six months, but thankfully things are starting to become a little more normalized. However, given that we have a need to purchase 200 homesites every month and we are on track to close-out of 25 communities and open 30 others this year, there is still plenty to focus on. Yes, I love the business and haven’t really considered homebuilding to be work.