Do You Have a Passion for Building?

In Bill Davis' voice, there is no mistaking the energy, enthusiasm and passion he has for home building.

By Patrick L. O'Toole, Senior Editor | August 31, 2002


Name: Bill Davis
Company: Grayson Homes, Ellicott City, Md.
Years as superintendent: 12
Customer willingness to recommend: 97%
Units carried per quarter: 20
Days ahead/behind schedule: 8 ahead
Homes delivered last year: 46
Value of homes delivered: $8.2 million
Hard-cost variance: +0.3%
Punchlist items on first inspection: 5
Average days to correct punchlist items: 3.9

In Bill Davis' voice, there is no mistaking the energy, enthusiasm and passion he has for home building. Asked to consider the relative importance of one aspect of the job over other aspects, he moves quickly from one to another. His underlying message: It is not just servicing the customer. Nor is it simply staying up to date on the detailed progress of every home on site. Nor is it simply the intricacies of getting the most out of trade contractor and vendor relationships. Rather, it is the totality of doing all aspects of the job correctly so everybody wins when a buyer closes.

Davis, who learned the construction business from his father, sees himself as bridging the era of flannel-wearing, butt-kicking superintendents and today's more sophisticated managerial style.

"Superintendents today are being recognized for just how important they are to the builder," says Davis. "Now they realize that it is a very professional position."

Seeing linkages: Grayson Homes is changing the way it conducts business, and Davis' enthusiasm is an extension of his ability to see how his role in the organization is linked to its success in instituting quality processes and practices.

The leadership factor: First, Davis is proactive in communicating with trades on the issues that affect the progress of a home or series of homes. "I am always on top of my game, so they know that they need to be on top of their game."

Second, he leads by example. On Friday afternoons, it is not uncommon for Davis to be on site with a plastic garbage bag picking up trash and getting the site ready for home buyers' trips out to monitor progress.

Third, he is upfront and clear about his rules, and he enforces them consistently but fairly. One rule is that innocent mistakes happen all the time, but mistakes out of apathy are penalized. If a window is damaged accidentally, Davis often absorbs the cost. But if a crew member tracks mud across a carpet, that crew member pays for a new installation.

Create a paper trail: Document everything so that no verbal agreements become lost and potentially anger customers. Young supes and assistant supes, Davis says, often make the mistake of thinking that they are doing what is best for customers by helping them with an undocumented problem. It usually comes back to bite the company through cost slippage or lower customer satisfaction.

What the trades say: "The only way I make money is if I am not making too many trips. In a perfect world, that means everything is ready for me when I get there. In that regard he is the best. I can look at a schedule and know I don't have to be double-checking the readiness firsthand. Very rarely does Billy's schedule slip. And when it does, he will give you a couple days' notice." -- Russell Shipley, Royal Electric, Sykesville, Md.


Audio Clips

  Bill on scheduling
  Bill on his typical work day
  Bill on walking the houses
  Bill on keeping track of multiple projects
  Bill on communicating with subcontractors via computer
  Bill on keeping a clean job site
  Bill on dealing with customers
  Bill on creating a paper trail


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